READ INTERVIEW WITH GERARD BUTLER
The battle of the sexes heats up in The Ugly Truth, a smart, sexy comedy about men, women and the giant abyss that stands between the ways we each think about, fantasize about and try to seduce the other.
Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, "Grey's Anatomy") and Gerard Butler (300) throw sparks as two co-workers destined to despise one another. She's out to find a sophisticated dream partner. He's on a mission to tell women to get real and admit that men have just one thing on their minds. But when he decides to help her get what she wants, they both learn something unexpected about how powerfully even the most defiant opposites attract.
Abby Richter (Heigl) is an ambitious morning talk show producer on "A.M. Sacramento" who prides herself on being able to find an instant solution to any problem - any problem that is except her own unhappily single status. When it comes to dating, the always-in-control Abby has a flawless track record of failure.
When her show suffers a ratings slump, Abby is forced to team with the newly recruited special correspondent Mike Chadway (Butler), a man who couldn't push more of her buttons. His "The Ugly Truth" segment promises to spill the beans on what makes men really tick. But his outrageously racy, gleefully chauvinistic, "shock jock" style rubs Abby in all the wrong ways and to make matters worse, becomes an instant ratings bonanza, sealing his network status.
Then Abby meets Colin, her neighbor, and he's a single doctor! He's everything Mike Chadway isn't -suave, polite, not remotely into jello wrestling -- and this time, Abby doesn't want to blow it. She hates to admit it, but she needs Mike's insight into the male mind to make the right moves. Now, as Mike coaches Abby and Abby puts Mike's provocative seduction theories to the test, they are both about to discover an ironic truth: as different as we might be, men and women share some of our most secret feelings in common.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MEN AND WOMEN: A COMIC PERSPECTIVE
For centuries, great thinkers have pondered the vast gap that exists between the male way of seeing the world and the female way of seeing the world and wondered if we can ever really connect. For Mike Chadway, former cable TV phenom and the new correspondent on Sacramento morning television, the answer is really quite simple: don't be an idiot. Of course men and women can connect . . . but mostly in between the sheets, and only if women will finally begin to understand that men are primal, carnal, simplistic beings who crave constant arousal.
Mike's risqué POV has skyrocketed ratings but it has also turned up the temperature for his producer, Abby Richter, a woman who takes the complete opposite position. In Abby's world, true love is the bottom line and the trick is finding a man who knows his own heart -- and she's ready to battle Mike to prove that such a romantically-inclined, knight-in-shining-armor actually exists in the real world.
But could it be that the real truth lies in combining Abby and Mike's competing POVs? That's the question raised with playful provocation and tantalizing results in the comedy The Ugly Truth, which teams director Robert Luketic (21, Monster-In-Law, Legally Blonde) with the tit-for-tat comic pairing of Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler.
Says Luketic: "I think we're all starting to realize that men and women are wired differently and it's liberating to be able to play with that in a movie that's honest and frank, but also outrageously irreverent, about what makes us different and what brings us together. We are certainly all equal but the ugly truth is that there are things men need and there are things women need - and sometimes they clash, and yet . . . it's that difference that makes romance so exciting and wonderful."
He continues: "I like that this movie is a chance to chill out and laugh over this stuff. Because at the end of the day, when you strip away all the myths and all the posturing men and women take so seriously, both sexes keep falling in love in spite of it all."
The Ugly Truth began with three women screenwriters: Nicole Eastman and the high-energy team of Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith. Eastman, who makes her screenwriting debut, says she was inspired by the idea of writing about two people who think they despise each other, but as their battle wages, are horrified to find they might also be magnetically drawn to one another.
"It's really about the two most unlikely people in the world to fall in love -- and what happens when they accidentally do," Eastman explains. "Abby and Mike have a lot of resistance to each other. She's the opposite of the brainless bimbos he says men want, and he's nowhere near the Prince Charming she says she's always wanted. Yet you end up rooting for them to come together because you can see underneath they both have similar vulnerabilities. What I love is that they're definitely not your cookie-cutter comedy characters. And what makes this story different from typical romantic comedies is that the obstacles that stand between them aren't external but internal. There are a lot of layers to what's really going on."
All of those layers were inspired by the actions and interactions of real men and women Eastman had observed. "I based Abby on someone I know who is great at her job but terrible at dating," she explains. "Mike was a completely fictional character I wanted to be as obnoxious and rude as possible, so I can't believe how much men say they relate to him!"
Eastman's initial script immediately drew Lakeshore Entertainment's interest. "We'd been looking for a comedy with romantic elements ever since Run Away Bride," says Tom Rosenberg, "and we felt this was it."
Adds Gary Lucchesi: "The concept was hilarious and topical and we felt audiences would greatly enjoy the battle between these two characters. The story has a lot of fun with how men perceive women and how women are aghast by it, and vice versa, which makes for a terrific date picture. We felt it could be a modern update of the classic comedy where you have two charismatic stars butting up against each other in very funny ways - whether it's Hepburn and Tracy, Gable and Lombard, or Lucy and Ricky."
The Lakeshore team then brought in Lutz and Smith, the writing duo who scored a hit franchise with Legally Blonde, to add their frank and flirtatious comic touch to the screenplay. "Lakeshore sent it to us and we thought right away it was a really funny premise and wanted to work on it," Lutz says. Adds Smith: "They talked to us about creating a kind of snappy Hepburn and Tracy repartee, but in an edgy and raunchy way, and keeping Mike and Abby equally matched all the way to the end. That really attracted us."
They did so by drawing on their own experiences on the battleground between what men and women want. The duo especially had fun exploring the 'ugly' side of the male psyche in crafting Mike's macho, libidinous banter.
"We both know a lot of guys, so we had that advantage," laughs Lutz. "And Kirsten is single and I'm married so we've got two different perspectives on men. Both of us agreed that we wanted Mike to be as strong, brash and funny as possible - but at the same time, we wanted to make him that kind of guy who, even if he offends you, you still like hanging out with."
Smith continues: "One of the things we needed to do with Mike is show how he also has a whole different side to him than just this tough guy and ladies' man, which you see in his relationship with his nephew. As for his show, we had fun taking it to an extreme. I definitely disagree with all his crazy, insane beliefs - and yet somehow I'm completely tickled by Mike."
The duo also drew on their own personal knowledge of ambitious and bright but uptight and controlling career women to create Abby. "We both totally connected with Abby because we both like to be in control," confesses Lutz, the married member of the duo. Adds Smith, who is single: "I especially related to the idea of Abby as a woman who's really got it together at her job but is a complete disaster in her personal life. I think it's a pretty common phenomenon in the modern world."
But the biggest challenge lay in blending just the right chemical mix between Mike and Abby - one that pendulums back-and-forth between combative and sexy, quarrelsome and steamy, until it becomes clear the friction between them is turning into something hotter than either of them expected.
"You start out where she despises everything he does and he thinks she's way too uptight. But we tried to build that subtle undercurrent that they are slowly, unbeknownst to themselves, falling in love," summarizes Lutz. "It turns out in the end that the real 'ugly truth' isn't that men and women want different things. The real truth is that we're all flawed, men and women equally so, but that doesn't stop us from loving one another."
The completed script thrilled the producers at Lakeshore and quickly drew the interest of Robert Luketic. "My very first feature was Legally Blonde, so it was wonderful to have this chance to get back with the same screenwriters and have that kind of fun again," says the director. "Then I heard that Lakeshore was talking to Katherine Heigl and I immediately said 'If she's in, I'm in.'"
HER SIDE: KATHERINE HEIGL IS ABBY RICHTER IN SEARCH OF MR. PERFECT
To play Abby, the filmmakers were looking for a leading lady with the smoldering silliness of a classic screwball comedienne, a kind of 21st Century Carole Lombard or Lucille Ball, able to deliver a crackling one-liner while simultaneously possessing a vulnerable sensuality and a slapstick sensibility. Such actresses aren't a dime a dozen, so the list of contenders was short and quickly narrowed down to one name. Recalls Gary Lucchesi: "One day one of the writers asked: 'Have you thought about Katherine Heigl?' The moment I heard that, that was it. It was a great idea, we knew she was right and we pursued her vigorously." Read more
HIS SIDE: GERARD BUTLER IS MIKE CHADWAY, A MAN WHO KNOWS WHAT HE WANTS . . .OR DOES HE?
Squaring off with Katherine Heigl on the other side of the sexual skirmish line is Mike Chadway, played by Gerard Butler, who won over audiences as a steely warrior in the action hit 300, did a romantic turn with Hilary Swank in P.S. I Love You and played an adventurer in the family film Nim's Island. Here, the Scottish star takes on a role he's never been seen in before - an unapologetically caddish relationship expert with a tongue like a Ginzu knife. Read more
ANCHORS AND DATES: THE SUPPORTING CAST
Surrounding Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth is an accomplished supporting cast made up of well-known comedy veterans who ratchet up the comic tension in the battle of the sexes. Chief among these are Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins, who play the unhappily married, perpetually competitive co-anchors of "A.M. Sacramento," Georgia and Larry, whose love life gets a sudden boost from Mike Chadway's interventions. Read more
THE LOOK OF TRUTH: DESIGNING THE FILM
For Robert Luketic, the look of The Ugly Truth was just as important to the playful, sexy mood as the unbridled comic performances. "The visual polish of a film has always been important to me," Luketic says. "We all appreciate beauty and I wanted this film to look really good and had some great collaborators."Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ROBERT LUKETIC (Director) made his feature film debut directing the smash hit comedy Legally Blonde. The film, which grossed close to $100 million, was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards. More recently, Luketic directed the critical and commercial hit Columbia Pictures film 21 inspired by the true story of the very brightest young minds in the country - and how they took Vegas for millions. The film starred Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturges and Kate Bosworth.
Prior to that Luketic directed the box office success, Monster-in-Law, starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, which was Fonda's first acting role in fifteen years. Luketic also directed the romantic comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, which starred Kate Bosworth, Nathan Lane, Josh Duhamel and Topher Grace.
Born in Sydney, Australia, Luketic won his first award at the age of 15, when he was honored for Best Film at the ATOM Film Festival. Luketic went on to study at the Victorian College of Arts - School of Film and Television (VCA), one of Australia's most prestigious film schools. His award-winning short film, Titsiana Booberini, screened at many film festivals, including Sundance, Telluride, Aspen and Santa Barbara and brought him to the attention of Hollywood.
He is currently at work on the film, Five Killers, starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl.
NICOLE EASTMAN (Screenplay by / Story by) an up-and-coming talent, is quickly becoming a favorite in the industry for fresh, funny and realistic romantic comedies. Eastman is making her mark with individualistic and irreverent humor, and strong roles for both male and female actors.
Eastman makes her feature film debut with The Ugly Truth. Other projects include The Gilded Lily, a remake of the 1935 Claudette Colbert classic from Universal; the ABC pilot The Girl Next Door; the Reese Witherspoon vehicle The Proposal; and the adaptation of I'm Fine for Paramount, with director Ken Kwapis. Eastman is currently adapting the bestseller Time of My Life for The Weinstein Company.
Eastman resides in Woodstock, New York.
KAREN MCCULLAH LUTZ & KIRSTEN SMITH (Screenplay by / Executive Producers) are one of the most prolific and successful female writing teams in Hollywood. They most recently teamed on the comedy House Bunny starring Anna Faris with Adam Sandler producing. Karen's independent drama, Long Time Gone, starring Christina Ricci, will go before cameras this summer, and she is readying the feature film adaptation of The Bachlorette Party. Kirsten's first film as an executive producer, Whip It!, starring Ellen Page and directed by Drew Barrymore will be released this fall. She also served as an executive producer on Virgin on Bourbon Street, directed by Clare Kilner and starring Rob Schneider and Jenna Dewan, due for release this year.
Karen and Kirsten got their start as screenwriters in 1997 by selling 10 Things I Hate About You as a spec screenplay. In 1998, the movie was green-lit by Disney, starring then-unknowns Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. They went on to write the hit comedy Legally Blonde, which was nominated for two Golden Globes and won multiple MTV Movie Awards. Their other credits include the fantasy comedy Ella Enchanted, starring Anne Hathaway and She's the Man, an update of "Twelfth Night" starring Amanda Bynes.
In addition to their work as a writing team, they are both novelists. Karen's novel, The Bachlorette Party, was published by St. Martin's Press in 2005, and Kirsten's, The Geography of Girlhood, a novel-in-verse for young adults, came out through Little Brown in 2006.
THE ART OF ORIGINAL FILMMAKING