Screenwriter and producer Steve Koren recalls how he and his partner Mark O'Keefe came up with the idea for CLICK. "There was a joke between me and my girlfriend," Koren recalls. "We got into a long argument, so I picked up the remote, pointed it at her and hit the 'mute' button. She didn't find my little wish amusing, but I thought a lot of people could relate."
They started with a simple idea: "What if you could actually control your life with the remote, what if you could raise the volume of the world or lower it." From there the story progressed. What if you could rewind your life and look back at your past? What if, instead of worrying about the future, you could fast forward and look at it? "There were many different areas for the character to explore and it was fun having him jump around while trying to maintain a consistent emotional arc," Koren continues. "In addition to exploring the past and future to find what he wants, he learns other things about his life along the way. In the end, it's really a movie about living in the present."
The easy part, says Koren, was sitting around with his writing partner O'Keefe and coming up with every joke they could think of about the use of a remote. "The tougher part," he contends, "was the emotional journey. It's not like most films where you start one day and you end a week later. You're constantly jumping around. The movie starts in the present, then goes to the past, then leaps ahead 30 years into the future and then drops way back to when the character is a child. Writing wise it was very tough to construct."
Adding to the degree of difficulty was the fact that, at first, many of the time jumps Michael makes are intentional. "At work, he wants this promotion without having to sit around and experience the day-to-day drudgery of getting there," Koren laughs. "With a simple press of the button, he's suddenly a partner. Who wouldn't be tempted to hit that button? "
However, problems arise when the remote starts to anticipate his intentions and makes jumps all on its own. For instance, every time he starts to argue with his wife, the remote jumps until the fight is over. "The movie presents a combination of those choices. At first, Michael knows where he's going, but soon he has no idea what's going to happen next. He just keeps waking up and suddenly it's 30 years later and he's in bed with someone he doesn't know," says Koren. "The autopilot aspect of the story came about to underline the more serious themes of the movie. You can be at an event, but not really present. You're either thinking about something that happened in your past or worried about getting somewhere else later. We decided to give it a name -- you're on autopilot, talking to people but not really there."
Koren's favorite segment of Click is when Michael first gets the remote and he hits the menu on his life. "I just love the fantasy of that happening to you. Somebody gives you a DVD and says, 'Here's your life,' and you pop it into the player and hear a running commentary on the making of you. That was really fun to write and even more fun to watch Frank direct and Adam act it. It's a real joke bag, literally one joke after another, after another."
Koren's relationship with Sandler dates back to "Saturday Night Live" where they worked on many sketches together. "Comedians like Adam are good at thinking on their feet, so they're always coming up with new jokes," explains Koren. "Adam and Frank have collaborated on a lot of big hits. He loves to hear ideas and he usually takes them and comes up with something even better. It's fun to throw stuff at him and he runs with it so that every take is different."
THE FAMILY CLICK
Director Frank Coraci says that what drew him to Click, was the chance to work with his buddies on such an exciting project. "I knew that I would be looking forward to how much fun I was going to have at work every single day," he says. "As I sat there reading the script, I kept dreaming up these amazing transitions through time. Going from one room to the next or fast forwarding out of a situation."
As he envisioned it, the premise of Click would enable him to be more visually adventurous than is usually the case with comedies. "For a director, it allows you to dream up these great visual moments, to storyboard them and then come to the set every day and execute them," he enthuses. "It's a really cool journey."
Coraci and the film's star and producer Adam Sandler have been friends since they were teenagers. They went to college together (Click producer Jack Giarraputo was Coraci's roommate) and have always had the ability to make each other laugh. "Another reason Click is so much fun is that it's filled with the kind of stuff that makes me and Adam laugh -- stuff about life we learned when we were growing up. As we're getting older, we're starting to make movies about things that we've experienced in life."
The on-the-set camaraderie and the trusting relationships formed back in college days paid off creatively as well. "During production, at the end of every day we'd kind of high five each other or regroup and say, 'Boy this script is funny, but the stuff we came up with on the set today was even funnier,'" says Coraci. "It was so cool, because Adam is so good at that. He makes it all look so easy."
Though Oscar winner Christopher Walken was new to the group, he immediately fit right in, according to Coraci. "When you see Adam and Christopher Walken side by side it's pretty cool. Walken is a genius actor, but the pairing of him and Adam together is even more amazing. It's rare you get to see two such great talents get together and do funny stuff like that."
Walken also brought his training as a singer and dancer to bear in the role of Morty, the enigmatic behind-the-scenes store clerk. "Walken does a little dancing and some singing in the movie," says Coraci. "But what was most impressive is that he can pick any word of his dialogue from the script and make it funny. Listen to the way he says the word 'remote' with such a dry delivery that's just hilarious. I don't know of any actor who can say one word like that and be funny."
For "the perfect wife," Coraci says, they found the perfect actress -- Kate Beckinsale. "The key thing in the movie is that Adam's character has two amazing kids and a wife who is supportive and gorgeous. She's the kind of perfect woman than anybody would want to be married to, strong and beautiful with a good heart. I don't know of anyone who's not going to fall in love with her in this movie."
To play Sandler's parents, Ted and Trudy, the filmmakers turned to two comic veteran actors, Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner. "They are the perfect blue-collar, sweet parents who get on your nerves because they love you so much. Henry and Julie did it so well. As soon as we put them together, we realized we couldn't have come up with a better combination. They both have the ultimate comedy chops. Henry, who worked with us before on The Waterboy completely understood our routine. And, Julie, what can I say? She got into the rhythm very quickly and when you have all these people that are comfortable with each other, things can get really funny."
David Hasselhoff plays Mr. Ammer, Michael's insensitive boss. Coraci describes him as an actor "who has so much energy you'd think there were seven of him instead of only one. Besides being an icon, the guy is really funny. And when he arrived he just came in, put his total trust in us and had a great time."
The production was no less lucky with the actors who took on the roles of Sandler and Beckinsale's children. "They were amazing," says Coraci. "Tatum McCann, (Samantha) is a sweetheart, you warm to her immediately. Joseph Castanon (Ben) is just this really talented little boy. He can do it all. Don't tell anyone, but despite what they say about working with child actors, they were the easiest people to direct. They learned so fast and did everything I said exactly right."
Besides their talent, McCann and Castanon connected emotionally with Coraci as well. "They were the most loving kids. At the end of the day they would come up to me and say 'Frank, we love you,' and give me a big hug. It was perfect for the movie because it created a real sense of family."
BEHIND THE SCENES: BACK AND TO THE FUTURE
"Perry Andelin Blake, my production designer, has done all my movies, including The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy and Around the World in 80 Days," says Coraci. "He was the one who said to me, 'Frank, you've got to do this movie because we're going to get to create these amazing worlds. We get to do the ultimate bachelor pad in the future.'"
Click not only gave Blake a chance to travel into the future and but also, via flashbacks, to the past. "From the start, Frank and I conceived the design of Michael's house, which is a very important set because a great deal of the movie is set there, and Michael is, by profession, an architect," says Blake. "He bought this '50s house that was decorated in a '70s style with plans to eventually redo it and have this really cool house. But, because Michael is a workaholic, he never gets around to it. It's his wife who clears it out and redoes it."
In creating where Michael will live in the future, Blake conceived "this crazy apartment that's really cold -- black with grays and blues. Since Michael changes as his life goes along, we wanted to create a strong contrast between it and his old life, a regular family life in which all the colors are warm and inviting -- tactile materials like stone and wood in very earthy tones. Then you see Michael's apartment and it's slick, shiny, and hard, very unnatural, angular, pointy and sharp."
The "Beyond" section of the Bed, Bath & Beyond store that Michael visits, which is where Morty resides, was designed to be "eccentric," says Blake, "like the character of Morty. It had to have this weird eerie feeling, like the whole world back there in 'Beyond' is kind of strange. So we mixed old and new, objects that looked very modern beside things that were very old. In a Bed Bath & Beyond store you're used to seeing bath items, beds, linens and comforters. Then you see this door with the sign 'Beyond Time' glowing at you and there's a transition. When you open that door and enter you definitely get the sense you're going to another place. It has this super-long hallway from which Michael sees Morty grinding on this key, though he doesn't know what it is. But there are sparks and it's very mysterious. When he meets him, Morty is singing a song and he's wearing these weird glasses that were designed to flip up so you can see his very strange eyes."
One of the essential elements of Blake's design was the universal remote that propels the story forward. "We figured we would make it simple instead of high-tech," he says, "because basically it's a remote for dummies, for the average guy. When I designed it, I wanted it to be comfortable to hold, not like so many remotes. I took a piece of clay and squished my fingers into it and then molded in where I thought the buttons should be. I wanted it to be super ergonomic, to feel good in your hand with a good weight to it and a very organic feel.
"All the cars used in Click are by General Motors," according to Blake. "We have the minivan of the future, which belongs to Bill, Donna's future husband. It's more than just a car you can pack six people into. We built the van so that the doors move up and slide out. It's even more comfortable to sit in than a living room because it's oversized with big Tonka truck-like tires. The way we saw it, the future will be more organic, more smooth and curvy as opposed to sharp and hard."
Blake worked closely with special effects supervisor John Hartigan in deciding how to cut up the new cars that were going to be made into futuristic autos. "We took a brand new minivan and made it look like a dune buggy in 72 hours," Hartigan explains. "We went through the car with plasma cutters and saws and completely cut it up. We used the cases, the frames and motors to totally re-fabricate it into a car of the future."
Another car, an ambulance, turned out looking like a fish, a carp or a catfish. "We conceived of it without headlights, just an opening in the front that looks like a mouth with lights that blaze out onto the highway," says Blake. "Instead of having a light bar on top of the ambulance, the whole back end just sort of glows and pulses with this blue light. You definitely see it coming down the road."
Michael's car in the film was a 2016 Cadillac called a Cadillac 12. The 12-cylinder auto is an actual Cadillac concept car (that GM says will never actually be sold) that can run on 12 cylinders or, when you get on the highway, goes down to four cylinders.
The 2016 period cars in the film are angular and conform with the sharp angles of Michael's house. As the film moves farther into the future, everything gets softer, Blake explains. The softness in the car designs mirror the curves in Michael's office and the lobby of his architectural firm. "I wanted to make sure that you related to Michael's life throughout the movie and that even though he moves into the future and there were some crazy elements in the sets, it always remained somehow grounded in reality, so you didn't lose your attachment to Michael and his emotional journey."
Overseeing the task of supervising the visual effects in Click were Academy Award® winner Jim Rygiel and Pete Travers from Imageworks. "What we did in this movie entailed what are called hidden effects," explains Rygiel. "Basically, what happens is that there are a couple shots in which Adam's character rewinds to his younger self, so there you have the younger Michael and the older Michael at the same time and I have to figure out how to get the two of them to look at each other and react to one another."
The way the illusion was achieved, Rygiel continues, was through the use of computer-controlled cameras "that repeated the same move many times. We would shoot Michael as his older self and then the younger Michael. Then we would combine them and you see them reacting to one another."
Rygiel worked closely with a number of different departments throughout the film. He constantly coordinated with the animal trainers and special effects departments to achieve the shots Coraci was after. "Visual effects has a lot to do with the look of the film and how the effects are going to appear visually on the screen, whereas special effects is more practical, like when rain is needed over a whole set. Special effects hang the giant rain buckets and rain hoses. They do all the explosions, either live or via green screen. They're more hands-on, while visual effects is achieved more by shooting bits and pieces, collecting them and taking them back to Sony Pictures Imageworks and putting them all together over a period of three or four months in post-production. When the editors get their cut list, they give that to us and we decide how it's all going to be put together."
Real-time film compositing is fairly old technology in today's visual effects world, Rygiel contends. "Today we have the new Genesis digital camera. With film things can get messy and unwieldy because you have to scan and color correct. With the new Genesis camera, it goes right into our system. Before, it would take us two to three days to get a piece of film into our system. Now I literally can walk from the set and have it on our system in an hour. It saves a lot of time. The quality is fantastic for blue screens, there's no film grain any more. That side of technology is really exciting."
For Rygiel and his crew, creating a futuristic look was a delicate balancing act, "because we were constantly having to weigh the pros and cons of how far we can go. Just because something is possible, doesn't necessarily mean it's right." Rygiel worked closely with the art department on when to use a TransLite (which are basically large photographs that are backlit), since TransLites can look quite static. So when he does use a TransLite, Rygiel is careful to add life-like elements to the backdrop -- smoke coming out of chimneys, birds flying, an airplane off in the distance -- visual cues to distract the audience from the fact that they are staring at a static image.
Special effects supervisor John Hartigan claims that although there are many challenges for his department when working on a Happy Madison project, it is always a great deal of fun. In one scene, a toy helicopter has to fly at Sandler's character and hit him in the head. Hartigan had to figure out how to make that happen. "We decided to make the helicopter out of a very soft foam and then find a way to fly it toward Adam and smack him in the head. The best way to do that was to use a wire, so we could control the motion of the helicopter. It turned out to be a pretty funny visual gag."
The special effects department used big cranes and big one hundred foot rain bars for a location shot outside a hospital set in Thousand Oaks. Hartigan and his crew brought in a couple of 300-ton cranes in order to rain across the entire expanse of the location. Another challenging scene for Hartigan was turning an entire city block in Glendale into an east coast winter wonderland. Working all night and through the morning, Hartigan and his crew flocked all the trees and snow-blanketed the streets and rooftops and added icicles to the eaves. About 100 tons of real crushed ice were mashed and turned into real snow, some of it plowed into snow banks. "You have these 300-pound blocks of ice, 40-foot trailers and five tons of ice blocks and we use big blowers to shoot the snow 40 or 50 feet into the air. When it falls to the ground, we shoveled it and made it look like it was the product of a recent storm."
For another scene, Hartigan and his special effects crew wired the character of Morty (Christopher Walken) in a "harness gag," which is to magically transport him to the beyond. "We used the harness gag again when we get into green screen. We built a rig to travel along the floor and go up and down with Christopher and composited scenes in the background. We wanted Morty to look like he was floating and what he's wearing was flowing. So we had to shoot him in green screen so that his clothes looked like they were floating down the street and chasing Michael (Sandler's character)."
Special make-up effects designer Rick Baker was taking some time off to be with his kids when executive producer Barry Bernardi (with whom he'd worked on Haunted Mansion), called and asked him to read the script Click. "The script really touched me," says Baker. "It was very much about appreciating the people around you while you have them."
Taking on Click was a real challenge for Baker, because "The hardest kind of make-up to pull off is realistic old age. Those are the kinds of things that fail most often. It's much easier to do an alien or some kind of monster because you don't see that everyday. But you do see old people and the movie covers the whole course of a person's life." Read more
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