Andy Tennant had been looking to explore new territory on screen when he was given an early draft of the script "Fool's Gold," by John Claflin & Daniel Zelman. "I read the material and I thought it had really good bones, no pun intended, and was a golden opportunity to make a really big, fun movie with all the elements I would want to see in an adventure comedy," Tennant recalls. "I felt I could bring a lot to it, so I embarked on a seven-month rewrite during which time, I admit, I became a little obsessed. I did quite a bit of research into the legend of the Queen's Dowry, things that have happened with real treasure hunters and what they've found."
Producer Bernie Goldmann offers, "When I read the script, I thought it was a great concept for a romantic adventure movie. I have always found Andy's movies to be highly entertaining, so I sent the script to him. I knew it would be a great fit."
Producer Donald De Line adds, "You look at the body of his work and, obviously, Andy is wonderful with comedy. He's got an incredible instinct for where the humor and the heart is and has great affection for his characters. I knew that what he does so brilliantly with relationships combined with a great adventure story would make for a really fresh take on a romantic action comedy."
Tennant notes, "I think part of the reason I was attracted to this particular story is that the treasure hunt is not only about the money. It's about this couple who fell in love over a shared passion for research and discovery. But in the real world maybe that wasn't enough, so when we meet them they are on the brink of a divorce. For them, the treasure may be finding a way back to each other. That, to me, was fun."
To play the lead roles of Ben "Finn" Finnegan and his now ex-wife, Tess, the filmmakers reteamed Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, whose proven chemistry had already won the hearts of moviegoers in the 2003 hit "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."
"It was great to come into this and already have that comfort zone with Matthew," states Hudson. "I have a total soft spot for him. He's so endearing; there's really not a mean bone in his body. We can goof around and have a great time, but we also know how to push each other's buttons perfectly. We both have a little bit of a competitive nature and throw little jabs at each other, which suited our characters and the dynamic of their relationship."
"Kate and I fight and flirt really well," McConaughey smiles. "Chemistry is more about what goes on between the lines than what goes on during the lines and, for whatever reason, it seems to work between us. Kate has a special sparkle that's very easy to be attracted to. She's also very sharp with great comedic timing, so it keeps the comedy buoyant, but with a little edge to it."
"We needed a couple that could spar; they had to be equally balanced so you'd know that each could give as good as he or she got," Tennant remarks. "Matthew and Kate are both so talented and they embraced their characters so completely, there was an immediate spark. And because of their previous collaboration, the audience has sort of seen what they're like when they fall in love, so we could skip right over the marriage and go right to the divorce," he laughs.
In fact, the story begins on the very day that their divorce is to become final. But while Tess is an emotional wreck convincing herself that she's doing the right thing, Finn is dealing with a wreck of a different kind. Underwater and oblivious to the disaster developing on the surface, Finn has managed to sink his boat and, with it, any hope of making it back to town in time to try and stop Tess from ending their marriage once and for all. But out of the disaster, a shard of hope emerges--a piece of a plate that proves he is closer than ever to finding the Queen's Dowry, an untold fortune in gold and jewels that has mystified treasure hunters for almost 300 years.
McConaughey says, "As it so happens, the same day that his wife is divorcing him, Finn finds a new clue--a big clue--to the treasure they've been searching for for the last eight years. It's proof that the treasure is there, and if he can show her that they're on the right track after all, maybe she'll give him another chance and won't go through with the divorce. Finn has a gift for talking his way in and out of things, and luck--or is it fate?--is on his side more often than not. If you stick with him long enough, you'll be okay…it's just that you're not quite sure where he's going or how the hell he's going to get there. He screws up all the time, but that's part of why Tess fell in love with him, I think."
As it turns out, Finn's instincts are right. The couple had fallen in love while researching the Queen's Dowry and spent their entire marriage searching for it. Now that they may be on the brink of finally unraveling the mystery, Tess finds herself drawn back into the hunt. Try as she might, Tess can't ignore the importance of Finn's latest discovery any more than she can resist Finn.
"You get the sense that Finn makes Tess crazy," Hudson admits. "She loves him, but he is completely irresponsible and doesn't think before he acts and Tess has a difficult time trusting his judgment. As you get to know their relationship, you understand why it's that kind of 'I love you, but I can't be near you, but I can't walk away from you' kind of thing. Of course, when Tess finally makes the leap to end the marriage, Finn manages to work his way back into her life and continues to drive her insane," she laughs.
NEW FRIENDS AND OLD FOES
With her divorce decree in hand, Tess has set a new course for her life, working on the fabulous luxury yacht Precious Gem, owned by billionaire Nigel Honeycutt. To the delight of the filmmakers, award-winning actor Donald Sutherland accepted the role of the wealthy tycoon, who got more than he bargained for when he hired Tess to serve as a steward on his yacht.
De Line, who previously collaborated with Sutherland on "The Italian Job," says, "I've been fortunate to work with Donald Sutherland twice now, and he brings something special with him every time he walks onto a set. We were thrilled when he loved the script and the role. Everyone knew he was a brilliant actor, but then he wrote a beautiful, impassioned letter about how he saw the character of Nigel and that just sealed the deal. It was really something."
"There are times in a director's life when you meet actors that transcend their roles, and working with Donald was one of those times," states Tennant. "This is a man who has done an amazing amount of work. He doesn't have anything to prove and yet he came to the read-through and had the entire script memorized--not just his lines or his scenes, he knew the whole script. It was just amazing and it immediately raised the bar for everybody else. He is not only a consummate professional, he is a fascinating guy. I could listen to him talk all day, so it was quite a treat to work with him and to spend time with him off the set."
Tess had just begun to believe that she had made a clean break from Finn when, to her utter consternation, he manages to finagle his way on board the Precious Gem with a daring at-sea rescue of a wind-driven hat belonging to Nigel's spoiled celebutante daughter, Gemma.
Gemma is played by up-and-coming actress Alexis Dziena, who, Tennant says, "has a real gift for comedy and is as sweet as they come. When we were casting the role, Alexis came into the room and was just the best of the bunch. She was fun and funny and nailed the character, so it was an easy decision on my part to cast her."
Dziena observes that while, at first glance, Gemma might appear somewhat shallow, there is more to her character than meets the eye. "The challenge with this character was to make sure she was coming from a positive place and did not come off completely vain and one-dimensional. One of the things Andy and I talked about was her 'Gemma-isms,' the little things she comes up with that define her more than what was on the page. We also had a really fun time defining the character by the outfits she wears. She has very expensive taste, so I got to wear things I couldn't afford to buy."
Costume designer Ngila Dickson offers, "We wanted to make Gemma as outrageous as we possibly could, in contrast to Tess, who is more sporty and practical. We could get very creative, even with Gemma's swimwear, like that red-stripe suit with the suspenders, which just jumped out at me. It was perfect for the character, so we dropped everything else and put her right into it."
Dziena adds that another side of Gemma emerges through her relationship with her father. "I think it's one of those things where you love someone and you know they love you, but you don't quite know how to interact. They haven't spent a whole lot of time together over the years and have never really talked about things. I wouldn't say they have an estranged relationship as much as an awkward one."
Once on board the Precious Gem and having earned the eternal gratitude of Gemma for the salvation of her hat, Finn sees a golden opportunity to get new backing for his treasure hunt. Before long, he is enthralling Nigel and Gemma with the story of the doomed 18th-century ship the Aurelia and her lost cargo, the legendary Queen's Dowry. Finn's zeal reignites Tess's own, and their shared passion proves infectious, leading Nigel and Gemma to join enthusiastically in the quest.
Unfortunately for Finn, he had previously infected a less-scrupulous investor and clued him in to the fact that he was getting close to the treasure…in fact, a little too close. Now that one-time backer--a powerful local gangster with the deceptively warm and fuzzy name of Bigg Bunny--has claimed ownership of the treasure and with good reason: everything points to the fact that it is hidden somewhere on the small Caribbean island that Bigg Bunny bought and paid for with the money he made as a rap star.
Kevin Hart, who plays the part of Bigg Bunny, explains, "Bigg Bunny was making it in the music industry, but once he did all there was to do, he decided to invest his money in an island. And it just so happens that there's treasure there, but you can't come into somebody's backyard and just take it--and when I say backyard, I mean island. Bigg Bunny bought this island. It's his, and anything on it, under it or around it is his. That's how he feels."
Making matters worse, Finn is already deep in debt to Bigg Bunny, who has run out of patience with him. "Finn has become a constant pain in Bigg Bunny's behind because he has a way of always getting out of situations," says Hart. "Bigg can't catch him, he can't kill him, he can't get rid of him--every time he sends his guys after him, Finn keeps popping back up and it's frustrating."
Tennant comments, "It's a tricky business when you're doing an adventure comedy like this because there has to be some danger and suspense, but the villainy can't go too far. The tone has to be slightly skewed. Kevin Hart was perfect as Bigg Bunny because he is really funny even when he's trying to be ruthless."
Bigg Bunny's two henchmen, Curtis and Cordell, are equally hapless and are more likely to trip over themselves than trip up Finn. Brian Hooks and Malcolm-Jamal Warner appear as Curtis and Cordell, respectively.
Finn doesn't get much help from his own right-hand man, a Ukrainian transplant named Alfonz, played by Scottish actor Ewen Bremner. Once on the Precious Gem, Alfonz proves better at having eyes for Gemma than keeping an eye out for Bigg Bunny.
What Bigg Bunny has in money and power he lacks in expertise. So he wastes no time in enlisting the help of the one person with the experience and know-how to beat Finn to the treasure: Finn's former mentor, Moe Fitch. A veteran treasure salvor, Moe taught Finn everything he knew before, from his point of view, Finn betrayed him. Now their one-time partnership has become a heated competition. And to the winner goes the spoils--namely the Queen's Dowry.
Ray Winstone, who plays Moe, observes, "You start out figuring Moe to be a bad guy, but people are not always what you perceive them to be. Moe must have seen something in Finn as a kid that he really liked, so he took him under his wing and taught him the game. But Finn, being very strong-headed and maybe lacking in morals at the time, disappointed him. It broke Moe's heart in a way. But underneath, he still has a soft spot for Finn. It's kind of like a father-son relationship."
In researching the role of an inveterate treasure hunter, Winstone says he gained a great respect for those who dedicate their lives to uncovering relics of the past. "The people who devote their lives to salving and hunting for treasures have to be part scientist, part oceanographer, part gambler… And once you make your first find, you get a fever for it. If you love the sea and love exploring and love learning, it's a great way to live."
The allure of finding untold wealth beneath the ocean has long captured the imagination of would-be treasure hunters. Tennant says, "The amount of jewels and riches that are still hidden under the sea is staggering. To uncover it would be like finding a needle in a haystack, but there are people who spend their whole lives trying. It's a crazy bunch."
"They say the earth is about 75 percent water and 95 percent of it is unexplored, so there's a lot out there that has never been found," poses McConaughey. "If you can put together a few clues, then anything is possible…and it's going to be an adventure no matter what."
Hudson adds, "When you start hearing the stories of people who have actually discovered old shipwrecks, it's mind-boggling. The challenge of finding these things that have been preserved for hundreds of years beneath the ocean is thrilling. It's that same type of thrill-seeking passion that Tess and Finn share."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ANDY TENNANT (Director/Screenwriter) helmed the romantic comedy "Hitch," starring Will Smith, which broke box office records upon its February 2005 opening on its way to becoming a worldwide hit. He previously scored a hit with the romantic comedy "Sweet Home Alabama," starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas and Patrick Dempsey. In 1999, Tennant directed Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat in "Anna and the King." He earlier co-wrote and directed the romantic fable "Ever After," starring Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott and Anjelica Huston. He made his feature film directing debut with "It Takes Two," and subsequently directed Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek in "Fools Rush In."
A native of Chicago, Tennant studied theatre under John Houseman at the University of Southern California. For television, he directed such hits as "The Wonder Years," "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" and "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."
Tennant will next helm the romantic comedy "Around the World in 80 Dates" for producer Reese Witherspoon's Type A Films.
JOHN CLAFLIN (Screenplay/Story) worked as a development executive for producer Frederick Zollo on "Quiz Show" and for Albert "Cubby" Broccoli on "GoldenEye" before turning to screenwriting and selling his first spec script, "The Longest Night," to a major studio. He and Harvard classmate Daniel Zelman then partnered for several scripts, including the USA Network movie "They Nest," the production rewrite on "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," the original spec screenplay "The Tomb" and the original pitch and screenplay "The Watch."
In addition to his work in film and television, he has a background in theatre. With noted Broadway composer Laurence O'Keefe, he wrote the music and lyrics for "La Cava," which opened in London's West End and ran for eight months.
Claflin is currently working on another spec screenplay and an original television pilot. He resides in Los Angeles.
DANIEL ZELMAN (Screenplay/Story) is currently executive producer and co-creator of the critically acclaimed FX series "Damages," starring Glenn Close. The series, which just completed its first season, was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Drama. Additionally, Zelman is a co-nominee for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best New Series.
Zelman began his career as an actor, receiving his MFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program. He went on to appear in film and television and on stage in New York, including the Broadway production of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America."
Since then, he has co-authored several projects with John Claflin, including a TV movie for USA Network, the production rewrite on "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," the original spec screenplay "The Tomb" and the original screenplay "The Watch." In addition to his collaborations with Claflin, he is the author of the original screenplay "Cowboy Dad."
READ MORE ABOUT FILMING FOOL'S GOLD
READ AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR ANDY TENANT
Next page home