Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

How ‘The Family Plan’ Became a Hit for Apple

January 13, 2024
Notes
Transcript
This week, I’m re-joined by David Coggeshall to talk The Family Plan, AppleTV+’s high-concept action-comedy about a dad, Mark Wahlberg, who has to take his family on the run when his past life as a hitman rears its ugly head. Released over the Christmas holiday season—as David notes in today’s episode, the perfect time to capture families looking for something everyone age 10 to 100 can enjoy—the film “debuted as the most watched movie ever,” according to Deadline’s sources at Apple. But the film was far from a sure thing. Find out why David’s agents dropped him when they got the script, why the film’s breakout character almost got cut from the picture altogether, and why Ciarán Hinds is one of the best in the business. 
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Welcome back to the Bulwark Coast of Hollywood. My name is Sunny Bunch culture editor at the Bulwark. And I’m very pleased to be rejoined today by David Kogashaw. We’re gonna be talking about his new movie, the family plan, the the best viewed movie ever. On Apple TV plus is my understanding.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:21

    We could talk about metrics and all that sort of stuff in a minute. Of course, I’ve had David on the show before to talk about orphan first kill. Which was a a very fun episode of fun movie, and I I hope this episode will be fun as well. David, thank you for being back on the show.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:35

    Really appreciate you having me again. It’s nice to see your face.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:38

    So let’s let’s talk the family plan because I have been I’ve been riveted by your Twitter feed because you keep dropping little hints about the the long gestating nature of this film and, it coming to fruition. So let’s go to the beginning. Okay. Where did the family plan come? When did you write the family plan?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:59

    When? Where did it come from?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:00

    I think I wrote it during COVID, like, everybody was locked down. And it’s an idea that I’d been sitting on for a while that I hadn’t done because it’s a broad comedy. And I’m traditionally a horror guy. My my background is in horror. I’ve written some action movies, or, you know, action scripts in my time, but, predominantly, I was known as a horror guy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:22

    So you know, when you’re trying to figure out what your next idea, your next project’s gonna be that you wanna spend months on, you tend to go with what your reputation is and what your agents know how to go out and sell. And, and so, you know, this was an idea I had that sort of came out of a feeling that I think is pretty universal of when you’ve been married, for, you know, a long time. You can have all the love in the world I think it’s a pretty universal feeling to feel that, like, you know, occasionally your spouse thinks you’re kinda lame. You know, your kids think you’re uncool. And there’s this feeling I think that a lot of people have of, like, do the people in my life?
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:05

    Do my loved ones have any idea how cool I used to be? I think every dad has felt that. We were all wild in our twenties. We all did all sorts of interesting stuff, and now we’re dad, you know, who drives kids to school and you know, isn’t perhaps as fit as he used to be. And so I think there was just that real feeling of, like, you know, how you still feel like you have that guy inside of you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:34

    Yet you have to repress that guy a little bit to be a good dad or a good mom. And I think that’s a universal feeling. And so I I sort of wanted to play with that. And I thought, how do you pour gasoline on that concept and make it a movie. So I was like, alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:49

    What if I used to be a Jason born type? And my wife had absolutely no idea about that. And I then went, okay, what does that look like? You know, what’s a way of doing that that hasn’t been done before? Because we’ve certainly seen you know, guy hiding bad ass past from parents.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:05

    That’s a, sorry, bad ass past from their family, you know. But really, what this is is it’s a family road trip movie. And that’s really the hook of it. It’s like, what if, you know, I mean, I I don’t know if your audience knows the basic concept of the movie. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:20

    You should
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:20

    you should tell him. I
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:21

    Yeah. I mean, basic concept of the movie is that is what if a guy who was a top assassin for the government twenty years ago had this crisis of conscience and decided to leave that life behind and disappear himself and moved to Buffalo and he got married and had kids and, you know, all the responsibilities that came along with that ended up selling used cars for for eighteen years. And let those skills atrophy a little bit. You know? And what happens when his old life comes back and finds him?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:54

    And Basically, the concept is what if instead of telling his family the truth? In order to get them out of danger faster, he pitches them on the idea of a family road trip to Las Vegas because he knows he can sell that to his wife. She’s always wanted to go there. And so the movie is basically a road trip movie where the family has no idea they’re in danger. And that is really the fun of the movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:18

    It lets you have scenes, I think, which is a goal in all of my movies, like, to to to come up with an idea where you have scenes that could only exist in that movie. So you have fun moments of. I mean, there’s a a scene that’s in a lot of the trailers is a freeway chase where he’s, you know, a dad is driving a minivan with his sleeping family inside of and has to fight off three trained assassins on motorcycles without waking up his family. And it’s one of those scenes that I think can only exist in this movie. And it was just a lot of fun to to play in that space.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:51

    Well, there there is one member of the family awake in the in this scene, which is the the baby, the youngest of of the children. So I my under so again, I like I said, I’ve been I’ve been it’s been fun watching your your Twitter feed, and and watching you kind of talk about the making of this movie because one of the notes that you got, my understanding, is, you got you gotta lose No babies can’t have the baby in this movie. And the baby is like the breakout star of the family plan.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:21

    Yeah. I would agree completely. I mean, that’s a note I gotta couple of times. It was never it was never the baby’s not working. It was always the baby’s awesome.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:29

    But, you know, if you wanna sell this screenplay, You know, when you try to to sell a screenplay, one of the goals is to limit the number of reasons to say no. Because it only takes one for someone to say no. And having a baby in, you know, central to practically every scene in the movie is, for experienced filmmakers, kind of a no no because it is difficult, in terms of production. And so I would get the note occasionally. Like, hey, the baby’s awesome, but it may hurt the sales potential of of the screenplay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:05

    And I just remember thinking You need the baby. You need the baby because having the baby as the only member of the family who knows the truth about dad, is is just too fun. And also I think it’s the baby is important to the the the launching point of the marriage between Mark Walberg’s character and Michelle Mona Charen character, Dan and Jessica, because, you know, they have two teenage kids who are a couple of years away from being at, you know, in college and out of the house. And you know, maybe you’ll find that spark, you know, your spouse you’ve been missing once that happens, and then you have the baby. The surprise baby who comes along when your other kids are, like, seventeen and fifteen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:50

    And so it just it created this wonderful launching point of a couple who has so much love in their lives and many blessings in their lives, but it’s also like, oh my god, we got a new baby again. You know, and I think everyone who’s been a new dad or a new mom understands that feeling. And the idea of bringing a baby along in an action movie is something I haven’t seen before.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:14

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:14

    And I I was I took the risk and said the baby stays. It was a complete non starter for me. I was like, if it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell, but I think the baby is part of what makes this movie. Yeah. Special.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:26

    Well, let let’s talk about selling it because I I am I am always fascinated, to to get the the back the inside stories, the background stories here because, you know, what do we hear about Hollywood over and over again? It’s impossible to get original stuff made.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:39

    You can’t
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:40

    get you can’t get original movies made. They don’t, you know, nobody nobody wants to, risk it on something that isn’t franchised isn’t a franchise, isn’t, you know, doesn’t have that pre awareness built in. So when you when you you sit down, you write this thing during COVID, you send it to your agents. How do they how do they respond to it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:02

    They dropped me. That’s a true story. My it wasn’t because of the script, but, you know, I wrote it in a vacuum. I didn’t really tell anybody I was doing it because, you know, I’m a horror guy. And people will tell you stay in your lane a little bit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:17

    So this is the kind of thing you kind of have to do when nobody’s looking. And you know, I wasn’t a big client at the time. And basically, I’d sent the script in and when I was expecting to be a notes call turned into a a parting of WasteCall. And here I, you know, I was really surprised, by that, but it it was not about the script. It was just about they had huge clients who needed to be service service.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:43

    Yeah. And I’m I wasn’t one of them. And I actually appreciate being told the truth, even when it’s a hard truth, and what’s cool. I remember saying that, you know, having this crisis of faith in the script because a was my first comedy. I was extremely insecure about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:04

    And b, then having you know, giving them a brand new spec that they didn’t wanna take out. It was also a blow to my con my confidence in this one. But I’ve I’ve a manager who said, no, this thing’s a winner, and we’re gonna take it out. And they took it out. And and it it sold in a bidding war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:22

    I mean, we had multiple offers for multiple studios, and, this is my first. I’ve been doing this for twenty five years, and that’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. And, you know, Skydance came in hard and they I was thrilled because they’re really good at making this kind of movie. And I was psyched to get into business with them. And it was just guidance at first.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:43

    It wasn’t Apple. Yeah. And there were no attachments. Mark wasn’t attached at the time. It was just a screenplay with no attachments.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:50

    And so it was really satisfying to have sort of what I consider a huge career blow, followed almost immediately by the biggest career high yet, for me. And then the script ended up making the Bulwark list, which is I don’t know if your audience, you know, what the blacklist is, but it’s a it’s a list of annual list of Hollywood’s favorite unproduced screenplays. And so to have that script sell and then make the Bulwark list, like, made me realize that, you know, maybe I was on to something with it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:21

    Did it, did it make the black list first and then sell or nope. And then make so it’s sold and then then Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:27

    It was like It was still in development and nearing production when it made the Bulwark list.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:31

    That’s funny too because it’s I mean, usually you hear the stories about, you know, these unproduced screenplays that haven’t haven’t been picked up by anybody, and then, you know, labels go and and find what they wanna make, and they’re like, we we should do this. But this is
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:44

    I’ve had that happen too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:45

    I mean, that’s but it’s it’s just funny because it’s like, well, it’s like, alright. Now you really have to make it. You guys, you you got you have this. It’s it’s great. You gotta you gotta get out there and get it done.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:54

    So the the Skydance is is interesting too because I, so was this always intended? It was so Skydance picks it up before Apple comes on board. But was Skydance always thinking of this as, a movie for streaming as an Apple TV movie, or what were what was their plan to you Do you do you know? Do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:16

    I think their plan was to get it to the most number of eyeballs as possible, whether that was streaming or theatrical. Mhmm. Which is valid. I get that. And I’m not really sure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:29

    I’m not sure what their initial plan for it was. You know, they quickly attached Mark. They attached Mark. I didn’t even know. They called up and said, hey, guess what?
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:38

    Mark’s on board and he’s gonna produce. And I thought, oh my god, thing’s gonna get made because he’s one of those guys that when he signs on to something, it just gets made. Yeah. Which is terrific. So know, when that happened, I thought, hey, sky’s the limit.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:52

    You know, we might get theatrical. We might and then Apple bought it, which is terrific. I am a fan of anybody buying my material who will make it you know, especially at the place I was at when this went out. I didn’t have the luxury of, you know, being upset about no theatrical. You know?
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:10

    I’m just thrilled that somebody was actually willing to spend the colossal amount of money that this movie took to make. Which is it’s gotta be the most expensive family road trip movie in history.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:21

    Well, I I I was curious. And I, you know, if you don’t if you don’t know or can’t say, don’t don’t feel pressure to answer, but how how much, what was the budget on this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:31

    Significant. I’m, I’m not sure I’m at liberty to say what it actually was, but I would say in the higher lane of of action movies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:41

    Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:41

    It’s in that sort of higher tier of budget.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:43

    And
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:43

    a lot of that is over the line. I mean, you know, Mark’s an expensive actor. You know, he is he’s worth it. He brings eyeballs and Michelle Manahan is terrific. And so you spend, to get the right, elements in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:56

    So that’s all budget as well. So I can’t say the entire budget went to you know, explosions necessarily. But, you know, I think it all ended up on the screen, which is all you can say for a budget. Is, like, if every dollar ends up on the screen, you did your job.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:12

    Well, it’s it’s it’s interesting too because I I am I have this theory. I have this working theory about the the world of streaming, which is that it is the last it is it is a it is a more reliable place for the high concept star driven, movie than than theatrical certainly at this point, that that when you are dealing with tiles on a screen and you see a face you recognize like a Mark Walberg or another Apple TV movie, ghosted, right, with Anada Armas and Chris Evans, you’re you’re you’re flipping through. You see, like, oh, I recognize these faces. I will I will watch this. This is something that works, and it makes that it makes that worth it in a way that is harder to quantify or harder to, I guess, capitalize on theatrically.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:59

    These days.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:00

    That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that, but I I think there’s merit to that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:04

    It’s I sorry. There’s no real question there. I’m just I’m just, talking off the running two things in my head.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:11

    Everybody wants their movie on the big screen. You know? So when you learn it’s gonna be on a streamer, there is a part of you that’s like, you know, it won’t. So my way around that was, hey, I got to see it at the premiere on a ginormous screen, which was terrific. And then I also rented out a theater, on opening day and invited, you know, a whole bunch of people friends and colleagues and family.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:34

    And, so that was that was terrific because I was like, I want, you know, the people in my life to see this thing on the big screen. So, yeah, that was fun. It’s rented out a regal.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:44

    That’s fun. That’s fun. I mean, did you guys have to, did you have to work with Regal and Skydance and Apple to, like, you gotta, you gotta send them send the DCP. We gotta we gotta get this out there. Or Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:56

    It was funny. I they’re one they’re one, caveat was you can have it and we’ll give it to you for free, which is terrific. But you have to give a disclaimer beforehand that no one can record the movie on their phones. And I remember saying, this movie’s out now. It’s on Instagram TV on on the planet.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:14

    Anybody who has Apple can see this movie and they’re like, Look, we’re giving it to you for free. We just do it. I said, yeah, you bet. Absolutely.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:22

    So I I actually
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:22

    gave that disclaimer to to you know, hilarious laughter from my friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:30

    That is very fun. That I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a press preview screening, but they there will often be five or six members of the press in a in a in a theater. And there there will be a security guard who comes out and says, don’t record this on your phones. And it’s like, weird, the press. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:45

    We’re not we’re not running Hong Kong servers, pirating movies all over the world. You know, be don’t but they are they are understandably, worried about that sort of thing. Alright. So let’s let’s alright. Let’s go back.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:59

    Let’s go back to the to the making of the movie. You sell it to Skydance. They bring on Mark Walberg. How did, the director Simon Kaitlyn Jones get involved?
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:11

    Simon directed Mark’s previous movie that’s actually coming out after this one. Arthur of the king. It’s a sort of an overland journey movie about extreme athletes and a dog who’s along for the journey as well. And by all accounts, it’s great. My I I had heard that Simon came in at the last second and directed the movie, when a previous director dropped out and coming in and crushing it under those circumstances is no small feat for a director.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:41

    And I believe that, son, Mark sort of rewarded that with with the family plan. I believe that Simon was Mark’s choice. Because they had worked well together before, which certainly makes sense. And I immediately liked Simon because he called up, he’s he’s well. She’s just a terrific guy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:02

    And he He called up and one of the first things he told me, was he told me that he had been reading through previous drafts. And I in my head, I thought Who does that? No. Who ads work for themselves by reading previous drafts? And there had been there was a scene that I actually mentioned earlier, where the families in the minivan in the middle of the night on the highway.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:26

    And Dan, Mark’s character sees three motorcycle riding assassins riding up to kill all of them, and he’s gotta fight these guys off without waking up his family because his family has no idea. That they’re in danger at all. And we had actually cut that scene. One of the somewhere along in the process one of the notes had been to cut that scene. It was partly because of budget.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:49

    I mean, it’s a extremely expensive scene. And partly, I think they were sort of trying to level the amount of action in a particular section of the movie. And it it crushed me to cut it. Even if I understood the reasons. And in that first conversation with Simon, he’s like, I was reading through all drafts and I’m like, oh my god, I already love this guy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:10

    And he goes, there was this incredible scene where, you know, that he has to fight off these guys on motorcycles without waking up the family. He’s like, why on earth? Why on Earth was that cut? And I was like, I you’re you’re preaching to the choir, man. I love that scene.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:25

    And his his immediate reaction was, well, screw that. We were gonna find a way to bring that back, even if it means cutting budget elsewhere. And I pumped my fist and said, I just I like this guy immediately because he He gets what we’re going for with this movie. And he understands the idea of this is the kind of scene that can only happen in this movie. And the more of those we can have, the better.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:47

    I one of my I gotta say one of my favorite scenes, came from an exec from the president’s guidance, Dana Goldberg, during one of our calls. She had she had the idea. She’s like, I wanna ask, I would love a scene where, the son Kyle challenges his dad. Basically bets his future. On a game of laser tag with his dad having no idea that his dad used to be Jason’s born.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:15

    And as soon as I heard that, I’m like, why did I think that? It immediately I knew where to put it. There was a perfect spot for it, and it’s working with Guidance was great because they’re very, very good at making this kind of movie. I don’t think I got a bad note the entire process. Every note made it better, which is terrific.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:33

    And it makes you wanna work with them again. And to have them just, you know, drop a scene like that in my lap Ron DeSantis say, what about this? And you go, that’s terrific. Let’s do that. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:44

    Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. You always I mean, you always hear about, you know, studios meddling, and it’s usually bad, but it’s it’s always nice to hear a positive studio. The studio meddling story.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:55

    This has been a really positive experience. I think all of us had a good time making this movie. And that was on set, in development. I I I don’t remember ever having any heartbreaks. I mean, there were certainly cut this scene.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:10

    You go, man. But there was always a good reason for it. And then I think the vibe on set was very, very positive. I was there for a bunch of it, and I just really liked what I saw. Everybody had a good time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:25

    The actors had a terrific rapport. Everybody hung out, And, you know, there was really a feeling of, like, this is this is a group we’d like to work with again. Don’t know. Positive is it’s a big part of the movie, and I think that’s a big part of what’s resonating with people is that this is a sort of a uncinical movie. Sort of the kind I grew up with, an action movie that doesn’t have a message.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:49

    It’s it’s about family fun. It’s about Yeah. Falling back in love with your own family in an uncynical way.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:57

    Yeah. It definitely it it definitely has a kind of throw throwback vibe to it. It feels very much like a high concept, late nineties, early aughts, star driven picture of the sort. You don’t see a ton of these days. I mean, I I do think it is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:14

    I I can see why it is resonating with with audiences and with families for sure. So what was it? I mean, what was it like on set? You, I, you were you, you, you were there you know, on and off, were you there for for rewrites? You know, what what what were you, what were you up to on sale?
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:29

    Was there on and off? Was, I was on the clock. I mean, I had what’s called an all services deal where they can call you pretty much anytime. And you, you know, you’re you’re on retainer. And then they keep flying you to the set every now and then to look at locations and just be part of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:46

    I know I was on location. We we’ve shot the movie in two places. We shot almost all of it in Atlanta. And then, the final few weeks were in Las Vegas because there’s a, the whole sequence of hyperx, which is the gaming arena luxor, and they ended up actually shooting at Hyperx, which is really exciting. But part of it was, you know, they had to have a real there’s a there’s a the the son’s character is a is hiding the facts from his parents that he’s, you know, he was forbidden to keep gaming, because he got way too obsessed with it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:20

    And it was, you know, bringing out tendencies in the Dan character who was afraid of his own violent tendencies coming out in his son. So he actually forced him to stop gaming, but the son is carrying on this complete secret life as a top gamer, from his parents. And, So there is, you know, there is a sequence at hyperx where we needed to use an actual video game because, you know, the gameplay in that sequence is pretty important. We ended up using the game Valoren. A very popular game.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:50

    And we brought in, you know, top gamers to be part of this scene, but of course, You know, the screenplay isn’t written for Valor. It isn’t written for their game their gameplay. So there was really a feeling of You know what? Cogs, you better you better become depressed for a week and just be around because we’re we’re changing things in real time to match this game that we’ve chosen and these these at these professional gamers that we’ve cast as themselves.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:16

    That’s funny. I see see this is one of those things that goes totally over my head because I am also not I mean, look, I’m I’m I am a middle aged dad. I don’t play Valorant. I don’t I don’t know any of these. Names, but it is, but it is one of these things that as a kind of cultural, writer, viewer, whatever, I am, like, vaguely aware of.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:36

    So it was it it it it it it was it was a great sequence because it felt authentic and it felt real without me having to know all of these people Yeah. And have it have it make sense.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:47

    And it’s interesting. It’s a sports scene, basically.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:49

    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. I mean, that’s the
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:51

    It’s a sports victory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:52

    It’s the it’s the winning, it’s the championship game. It’s the, it’s the, and it’s it’s it’s it’s also interesting to hear that you say you so you were on on set on location in Vegas Mhmm. For that sequence, and also it it felt like maybe correct me if I’m wrong. The sequence in, in the casino where they’re going into I couldn’t I couldn’t I I can’t remember which one it was. Where they’re going into the casino and then they’re in the suite.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:20

    Yes. But I but it it’s it’s one of these things where, like, with modern movies, I’m always trying to determine if they’re actually there or if they’re shooting in front of giant blue screens, and they’ve got everything in. So let me let me let me know. Was that was that actually in a Vegas suite overlooking the strip? Was that all done in post?
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:39

    And honestly, that was the high point of my entire process was walking onto that set because in the screenplay, The idea is they get to Vegas and they’re presented with this incredible suite, that they weren’t expecting. And I remember writing the scene where they they walk off the elevator, and they walk into this suite, and they have this feeling of, oh my god. Is this all for us? And they see this, a gift basket because this has all been done through the machinations of this triple a employee named Levon, who’s helping Mark’s character throughout the movie. And, there’s this gift basket.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:17

    And I remember writing the throwaway words that would be on the card in the gift basket, I remember writing, please enjoy this suite to which, you know, for which all possible counts have been applied. Thank you for being a loyal member, Levon. You know? And I remember sitting there in my bathrobe, writing that moment. And then I went to Atlanta for the first time to the set and I walked into this enormous sound stage where they had built this entire Vegas suite.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:46

    I mean, multiple rooms, kids room, living room, bar, bedroom, bathroom, elevator. Like, they built the whole thing. And you’re correct. It was surrounded entirely by blue screens. And the attention to detail was stunning.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:00

    You you just walk in there. You go, oh my god. Is a Vegas suite. And I remember walking and thinking, I can’t believe this whole game out of my head. This is such a strange feeling, and it really hit home when I walked I followed that same path that I had written where they walk into the street into the suite, and I saw the basket, and I saw the card.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:18

    And I remember thinking, I know exactly what’s written on that card before I even look at it. And I walked over and I picked up the card and sure enough it said, Please enjoy this suite for which every possible discount has been applied. Enjoy your stay, Levon or whatever it was. And I just had this mind blowing moment it wasn’t even the suite that dazzled me. It was the card of going Holy crap.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:42

    This movie’s really happening. And so I told that story to Michelle Mona Charen mean, probably months later when we were shooting in Vegas. And without telling me, she went to the props master and who approached me, you know, a couple of hours later. And he’s like, Michelle told me this might mean something to you. And he gave me the card.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:04

    He still had it. Months later. And that has become one of the my most prized possessions. It’s such a tiny, dumb little detail in the movie, and I have so many other big things that, you know, have been sent to me from the movie, but like the one that means the most is this dumb little card from a gift basket.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:22

    Oh, that’s great. You mentioned Michelle Mona Charen and you, you you had you had said something on on Twitter or Instagram about her appreciation of the role, which is, you know, it’s a it’s a, it’s a weighty, but also fun role that you don’t necessarily see a ton of for actresses. I mean, it’s just it’s just a great role for an actress.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:45

    Mhmm. I think so too. And she’s terrific. I’m gonna be writing roles for her forever. We’ve become friends.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:51

    She’s a terrific actress, and she’s very cool to hang out with such a pro. And so, yeah, I think her character, you know, the movie is very much a dad fantasy, but I think it’s also a mom fantasy. You know, she’s somebody her character Jessica is somebody who was a top college decathlete back in the day, you know, who could have meddled in Athens, but tore her ACL. And, you know, similar to Mark’s character, she still has she has that same feeling he has of, like, does my husband have any idea how cool I used to be? And I think that’s something moms feel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:28

    You know, someone who was an an elite athlete who is now, you know, working as a physical therapist in Buffalo and spending her days you know, shepherding kids around, to, you know, to after school activities. And then having her be able to go on this journey, learn, you know, a dark, dark truth about her husband, but also discover through the journey much like he does that she had been holding herself back much in the way that he had been and that the true. I think the message of the movie is that, you know, to be your happiest self, you need to find balance between who you were and who you need to be now. And I think that’s sort of the arc for both of them is is discovering that balance. I mean, I I think personally people say that the baby steals the movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:21

    I think Michelle steals the movie. She she has the biggest crowd leap to their feet moment for sure, at the end, which I won’t give away, but it really pays off everything she used to be. Yeah. And it it just made me so happy. That line, there’s, you know, there’s a
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:39

    Yes. Yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:40

    The nine other events line, is I think the one line that has been in every draft of the script from, you know, twenty early twenty twenty writing it in my bathroom it has always been there. And so I think I had her arc figured out, even before I had his.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:56

    Yeah. No. It’s great. It is it’s great. And it does kind of wrap it ties her whole, arc together.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:04

    I will say the other the other, button performance in this movie. A guy you always like to see show up as Kieran Hines. Always, you you know, I ever since Rome, the HBO show. I’ve, a been a huge fan. So it was nice to have him, on on set for for a handful of days for that for that mostly the finale sequence.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:25

    It’s he’s great.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:26

    It was a thrill to meet him. I’ve been a fan of his for years. And What’s really cool is he’s this very soft spoken, big, smile, nice, totally approachable guy. Who I sat with in the green room for two hours just picking his brain about theater. Because I, you know, I come from a a big theater family.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:49

    And, and then to, you know, to get to know this soft spoken guy, and then they say, you know, Karen ready for you, and then you go out there, and onto onto the set and you watch and, you know, the director Simon would set, you know, it’s it’s a scene where Kieran walks into a room in a very imposing way. And I would I was watching him on the monitor, and I watched him transform in the lead up to action. From this guy who’s smiling at everybody at the crew, and then his face just morphs into this cold, threatening scary guy. And you’re like, wow. That guy can really turn it on when he wants to just with his vibe, just with his body language.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:34

    And so the I I always love that moment where he walks on to the private jet because I was like, I was watching right before he watched that, and I watched him transform, his entire demeanor and become this evil character he needed to be.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:48

    Yeah. He’s great. Love him. So writing writing for the kids. How how old are your your children?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:55

    My children are eleven and nine. So
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:58

    I’m a little younger. Are you when you’re writing, are you imagining like, okay. This is what they’re gonna be like in five this is what I’m dreading in five or six years? Or was it is it, you know, a little little different?
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:10

    I guess so. I mean, I like to think that the kids are sort of universal in, you know, in the things that they’re into. And so, yeah, I’m I’m not sure. I just feel like, you know, each of the kids is hiding something from their parents. You know, the daughter is hiding the fact.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:29

    I mean, she was someone who dreamt of going to Stanford and studying journalism, and now she’s become very, very jaded, about that, partially due to the influence of this toxic shitty boyfriend that she has, who treats her like crap, but she adores anyway. And, you know, she’s been lying to her parents. About having quit, you know, the school paper. Everybody’s lying in his family. Dan is lying about who he used to be.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:55

    Michelle you know, Michelle’s character is sort of lying in a way about, you know, what would make her happy. The son is lying about you know, keeping this entire career as a top gamer, well, not top, but he’s getting there, from his parents. And, you know, the And I think the only one who’s being completely honest in the family is the baby. One of the things that you deal with about the approach to the kids is of course, the kids, like every kid in America, they’re obsessed with their devices. And we all are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:28

    I mean, everybody has their devices going in this movie. You know, in the world, in their families. And it’s, you know, the kitchen table is filled with devices. And I think one of the wish fulfillment things in this movie, especially with the kids, is there is, you know, there is a moment where Dan realizes for his own security reasons. I mean, phones can be tracked.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:46

    That he asks for, you know, they’re driving across a bridge and he asks for everybody’s phones. And you think he’s just gonna, you know, do the dad move of putting them on the floor of the car. We’re gonna have a, you know, family vacation, device free. We’re gonna actually pay attention to each other. But instead he chucks them out the window.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:03

    All of the family’s devices go out the window. It’s one of my favorite moments in the movie, and It is such a dad fantasy, and it’s such a mom fantasy. And it’s it’s, you know, it’s one of those moments where people are like, God, I’ve always wanted to do that. And it forces the family. I think it’s the number one thing that forces the family to bond.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:22

    And I think that’s one thing that audiences are are responding to. So it’s just
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:26

    This is very much I mean, look, this is very much a movie that I think appeals to, people between the age of thirty to fifty in unique, but also universal ways. There there are many there are several moments like that in the in the movie for sure. I one one screenwriting question. Actually, since you mentioned the cell phones, do you, you’re writing a movie in which, you know, there there are things that, cell phones would make more difficult do from a screenwriting perspective, when you’re dealing with the problem with cell phones, I absent just touch checking them out the window into the river. How do you how do you handle that problem?
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:10

    I mean, they it it definitely having a microcomputer connected to the global information system makes everything both easier and harder?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:20

    Certainly as a screenwriter, it makes things harder. I find it way harder and horror. I feel like it’s way harder to pull the, like, I’m, oh, I’m in a place that’s creepy. What am I gonna do? It’s way easier to you know, you you now have to come out with all these contrived tricks Mhmm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:39

    For taking phone. I mean, the easiest one is, shit, there you mean, every every every movie has the There’s no resolution line.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:45

    My battery’s dead.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:46

    Yeah. Exactly. My battery’s dead. You know, here, I think we did it in a real wish fulfillment kind of way. And what’s funny is even though it’s one of the most memorable moments in the movie, it almost didn’t happen because one of Apple’s notes was you can’t do it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:00

    You can’t throw you can’t destroy Apple products on screen. And, we’re like, but it’s an incredibly important cathartic moment of throwing the cell phones out of the and so we had this week long back and forth of trying to come up with different versions of it, and none of them were as visceral. You know, we had the phones landing on a passing barge. You know what I mean? Like, we we had all sorts of ridiculous fixes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:27

    And eventually we compromise with let’s not show them hit the water. And that was a compromise that everybody agreed to and we thought, yes, we can keep this scene.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:36

    I will say, alright. So this is this is interesting because this is something that jumped out at me while I was watching it, and I hadn’t actually thought about this part of it here, the destroying destroying the phones. But at the end, there is a moment where, the family shows their phones right on the screen. I was like, oh, those are all Apple phones. That is Those are those are definitely all iPhones.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:57

    I and and then I got to thinking about the previous scene. I was like, Oh, were those? Samsungs? What would what did they track out though?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:04

    That would be pretty much pictures. I was like, what if they what if they, you know, toss Samsungs out out off the bridge and they have Apple phones at the end. You know? You know? It’s not in the screenplay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:14

    That moment at the end, but I can see that sort of behind the scenes that was part of the compromise.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:18

    Yeah. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:19

    It was like, well, they gotta get new phones at some point. Let’s You know? Yeah. So, you know, it’s not something you write in. It’s an improv on the day of.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:26

    It’s, you know, you know, I I just assumed that was part of the compromise, and it doesn’t bother I mean, product placement is a a a reality, yeah, in this movie. I mean, you’ll notice that the bottle that flies through the air that Mark shoots sets everybody on fire is a bottle of his his branded to get me. It’s it’s fun stuff. And I actually like That stuff doesn’t bother me. I I kind of like knowing the stories behind those things when done right, I think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:55

    Yeah. Well, it’s like anytime you see a bottle of Sengani sixty three in a Mhmm. Stephen Soderberg movie. That’s his brandy, his his his personal brandy. Brand.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:06

    The, that’s funny, god. That’s funny. Alright. So so the movie movie is out, big hit, it’s it’s on streaming and, everyone is watching it. I’m, I’m just curious, like, what what is what is the process like with Skydance and Apple?
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:22

    I mean, are you getting, updates at all, or is it just like, you, you got the same kind of press release that everybody else got, like, biggest movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:32

    Yeah. I mean, I got I got text messages, from from execs, which is great to, you know, and that’s where you learn. And then, of course, it came out on deadline. It’s Apple’s biggest movie. In all the the metrics that they really care about, in terms of views and completions and rewatches and new subscribers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:56

    So when you hear that, you go, well, damn, I’m not sure how how how we could have done our job any better. Know, which is which is really validating. It’s nice to hear that because it it means it’s finding an audience. And I I knew that it would because We tested this movie several times, and it tested through the roof. And so I knew we had something that audiences would like.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:19

    Going in. I didn’t know it was gonna be as big for Apple as it was. Let’s see here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:26

    Let’s talk about the testing process. So so when you did you were you there with the audiences? Were you there in the did you were you reading the cards afterward? Was that No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:34

    I wasn’t privy to any of that. I just got excited phone calls saying, hey, tested great.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:38

    Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:39

    Which is exactly the call you wanna get, you wanna hear.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:42

    Well, it’s it’s it’s always a good one. No, I I love I’m again, another thing I’m just fascinated by is the whole process of testing and how it how it works. So that is that’s good to hear. I mean, look, that was I I I I guess my my my last question here is, you know, is there is the family plan to in the works? Or is SkyDance coming to you and saying, hey, we need we need another one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:06

    What’s what’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:07

    I can say I’m really hoping. You know, we’ve been on it came out in December fifteenth, and everyone’s been on vacation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:14

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:15

    So if people are slowly filtering back this week, I’m I’m very much hoping to do it too, and I know that, the stars are all looking forward to doing it too. And so I’m know, I feel like we’ve done everything we possibly can to earn one. And so I’m very hopeful. And I’m optimistic. But, you know, we will we will find out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:36

    Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that was everything I wanted to ask. I as you know, I always like to close by asking if there’s anything I should have asked. If there’s anything you think folks should know about the movie, about making of the movie, the process?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:48

    Any anything like that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:52

    No. I I mean, I just I hope people I hope it will find an audience. You know, I would hope maybe there will be a physical release at some point. That would be terrific. But, you know, I just really hope it finds an audience of people who are looking for a movie that again is uncynical.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:08

    And is just fun and that you can watch with your whole family. You know? There aren’t a ton of movies that I hope, you know, that I hopefully can entertain everybody in every generation. And that’s why they really wanted to release it at the holidays because everybody, all the college kids are home everyone’s looking for something they can watch with their whole family. You know, this was not we didn’t design this to be something you watch alone on your phone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:33

    You know, we’re this is something that you’re supposed to gather loved ones together and watch, or that at least that you can. You can still enjoy it on your phone, but, you know, you’ll be missing some of the scale and scope of it. And, I I I really think it’s best enjoyed with people so that you can laugh together and and enjoy the experience together.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:53

    Yeah. Yeah. Alright. Well, the the movie is the family plan. Again, it’s on Apple TV plus.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:59

    Which you you you may be a subscriber even if you don’t know. If you have purchased an Apple product in the last six months, you have a code somewhere. In your email or on your phone or on your computer that will give you access to it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:11

    If you go to Mark’s Instagram, he has a several I think a two months free, link there that you can sign up for Apple for two months free.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:20

    Yep. So Mark Walberg’s Instagram. I’ll maybe I’ll try and link to that in the email, for this. If I I don’t yeah. I should be able to do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:28

    But, but check it out. It’s fun movie. It is a it’s a good family movie. You got, you know, teenage kids at home looking for something to do on the weekend. It’s a it’s a good good watch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:38

    So, make sure you check it out. David, thank you for being on the show again. Really appreciate it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:43

    I really appreciate you having me back. Let’s do it again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:45

    I am, I will be happy to do that. Alright. I am Sunny Bunch. I’m culture editor at the Bulwark, and I will be back next week. With another episode of the Bull Bulwark Coast Hollywood.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:54

    We’ll see you guys then.