Olive Penderghast (EMMA STONE) was a typical American high school girl, until she decided to be, well, A-typical.
I mean, what's your average, everyday girl to do when her popular, detail-seeking best friend Rhiannon (ALY MICHALKA) wants the 411 on Olive's weekend, and the boring reality is nothing to brag about? Can't a non-entity, a perceived zero, an anonymous girl like Olive tell a little white lie if it gives her just a tiny taste of that magical prize sought by every teenager: popularity?
Some status updates, however, just cannot be contained, especially when Marianne (AMANDA BYNES), Ojai High School's very own Tammy Faye Bakker, overhears Olive's words. Soon, rumors of Olive's promiscuity are being greatly exaggerated.
Within minutes, the student body is all a-twitter, linked-in and face-booked over Olive's supposed indiscretions. While it's not necessarily the kind of notoriety Olive was looking for, becoming the center of attention proves to be tantalizingly addictive, so much so that Olive decides not to deny the rumors. In fact, she embraces them, further playing the part by sporting a sexy new look and biting new attitude. After all, she knows the real truth, and her non-judgmental parents (STANLEY TUCCI, PATRICIA CLARKSON) trust her. So she's not really hurting anyone, is she?
Sure, her favorite English teacher Mr. Griffith (THOMAS HADEN CHURCH) feels the need to express his well-meaning concern, while his wife, the school guidance counselor (LISA KUDROW), offers her own brand of advice and protection. But the spotlight feels pretty good to Olive, who even devises a creative use of her newfound reputation to help some of her status-challenged fellow students, including fellow peer pressure victim Brandon (DAN BYRD).
As her story continues to mutate and take on a life of its own, Olive can't help but begin to identify with the notorious plight of the classic literary character Hester Prynne from "The Scarlet Letter," the book she just happens to be studying in Mr. Griffith's class.
But when Olive begins losing control of the raging rumors, she finds it's not all that easy to put out a wildfire. Unless she's able to clear things up, other people's lives are going to suffer greatly as a consequence.
"Easy" does it, Olive.
HOW A STORY SPREADS
The world of Easy A first arose out of a concept screenwriter Bert Royal had to fuse a timeless work of literature with a contemporary milieu.
"I had this idea to take three American literary classics, set them at the same high school and make that world more modern," says Royal, who chose Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" -- about the public ordeal a 17th century Boston woman named Hester Prynne goes through over an act of adultery -- as the first of those classics. "I never intended it to be a strict adaptation of the book," says Royal, "but to use thematic elements as an inspiration."
"The major theme of the piece," continues the writer, "is about puritanical values versus being yourself. Olive is an extremely liberal person and feels like people should be true to themselves, but unfortunately she's growing up in a society that condemns people for stepping out of the norm. Her goal is to loosen up the town a little bit, which she does, but not in the way she intended."
The screenplay made its way to producer Zanne Devine, who, having just returned to Los Angeles from several rigorous months of location shooting on her production of Mardi Gras, was not particularly inclined to read anything. But a phone call from her assistant, who'd read only thirty or so pages and urged her to dive in immediately, proved tantalizingly persuasive. "I read it that night," recalls Devine, who called her colleagues at Screen Gems the next morning. "I brought it over, they read it, and we bought it. Using "The Scarlet Letter" as source material, and his understanding of the deeper themes, Bert wrote a screenplay that was wonderfully suited to modern day high school, and demonstrates in a funny and meaningful way that these themes are as relevant today as they have been for centuries."
Much like producer Devine, director Will Gluck had just wrapped a movie of his own, the Screen Gems production of Fired Up. Gluck was given the Easy A script by his colleagues at the studio, and was immediately wary. "I usually write and direct the material I do, and after finishing the last film, I never wanted to do another high school movie again," recalls the director. "But when I read it, although it takes place in high school, it goes way beyond that. It's really about morality, how rumors get started, and about the importance people attach to how they are perceived by others. It very quickly leaves high school and becomes a story about the entire town. It's also a very funny movie with some very touching emotionally dramatic moments. It's far from being just a high school movie."
Gluck also responded to the female-centric nature of the screenplay. "It was great to see a script that's written from the girl's point of view," adds Gluck. "Most films are about the lengths that the guys go through to get the girl. This is about a girl that doesn't want to be 'gotten,' but still wants a boyfriend."
What also struck a chord with everyone who read the script was the language of the characters. Royal made the conscious decision that Olive and her peers were going to talk like real teens, that he wouldn't shy away from dialogue that could earn the film a US "R" rating. Although the writer was several years removed from his adolescent-aged creations, he had no shortage of examples to draw from in conveying their unique worldview.
"My mother was a teacher, so I got to spend a lot of time with kids after I had graduated and moved on from high school," says Royal. "There was something about teen dialog and angst that was very unique to them. When I lived in New York, I would overhear kids on the subway. They were so overly dramatic about the tiniest things. But when you start really listening to it, and hearing what's underneath, you remember that when we're teenagers, we have this way of thinking that the world is going to end if anything goes wrong."
"With most PG-13 (US) comedies, I think that often times, they don't totally get the way the kids speak. Even hanging around the set and listening to some of the background actors, the language they use is far worse than what I put in the script. If you look at some of the great classics, like Heathers, 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club, they were all R-rated (US). This was a script that I felt needed more realistic dialogue in terms of the story I was trying to tell."
Of course, talk and action are two different things, and for Gluck, the fact that this was a movie about the hot-button topic of sex, but with no actual sex scenes, made the experience uniquely fun. "In a weird way, it's kind of conservative," admits Gluck. "The lesson of this story is to wait, but sometimes you've got to take a crazy path to get to that answer. It's interesting how sexuality in America has become about what people think about it, and less about the actual act. This movie gets rid of the act, as there is no act whatsoever, and is about how people talk about it, and how you feel about yourself if you're perceived in that way."
"The morality of this movie is actually a morality I think would be great for my eleven year-old daughter to understand," says Zanne Devine, "which is a girl's empowerment about making decisions about her sexual behavior, and her choices about how her level of intimacy she's comfortable with in her life. Olive spends a lot of the movie reacting to what other people are projecting on her, not what really happened, and that morality is well within a PG-13 (US) mindset, because the moral of the story and the ultimate lesson of the movie is one I think that any parent of a young girl or boy would want them to take away."
Adds Royal, "Olive is the kind of person who doesn't need to have sex. She's mature enough in that way to wait it out and do it when she's ready, but her immaturity comes from the idea that she's lying about it, perpetuating the lie, and thinking that it's important in how others perceive her."
"A" LIST ACTING TALENT
On paper, Olive was a dynamite part: intelligent, funny, observant, surprisingly tough and heartbreakingly vulnerable. The big question for the filmmakers, then, was who could make this vital role come alive on screen. The success of the project depended on the perfect casting for Olive.
"Olive is an extremely smart girl," explains director Gluck, "but she doesn't annoy you with her smartness. A lot of people and characters that are really smart who know everything and talk like adults are so annoying that you want to punch them in the face. This is a girl who is smart like a whip, but doesn't know she's smart, and if anything, she's embarrassed by the fact that she's smart. You feel for this girl so much, because she's trying to figure out who she is." Read more
FROM RUMOR TO REALITY
Principal photography on Easy A began on June 9, 2009 in the town of Ojai, California. Located to the north of Los Angeles in a small valley, Ojai's most prominent appearance in motion pictures was as the mythical 'Shangri-La' in Frank Capra's production of Lost Horizon. Many years later, the city's picturesque intimacy proved an important visual element to the overall feeling director Gluck sought to convey. Read more
About the Filmmakers:
WILL GLUCK (Director/Producer) is a filmmaker with a uniquely authentic voice and an aim to create projects that reflect popular culture and captivate audiences. Gluck is currently in production on his next feature, also with Sony / Screen Gems, Friends with Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, and Richard Jenkins. Additionally, Gluck is lined up to direct Rehab with 20th Century Fox, and he has also written the comedy Taildraggers with Participant Media producing. Gluck made his feature directorial debut with 2009's darkly funny Fired Up.
On the small screen, he is currently developing an untitled show about the Catskills gas rush for HBO with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo. Gluck, a New York native, started in television as a staff writer for the NBC series "The John Laroquette Show." He went on to serve as writer and producer on the shows "Working," "Grosse Pointe," and "Andy Richter Controls the Universe." Gluck created and executive produced the 2003 Fox television series "Luis," starring Luis Guzman and co-created and executive produced "The Loop," also on Fox, from 2005-2007.
Gluck lives in Los Angeles with his family.
BERT V. ROYAL (Writer) began his career in entertainment as a casting assistant, working on television shows such as NBC's Emmy award-winning "Third Watch" and the highly controversial, three time Emmy-nominated Comedy Central powerhouse, "Chapelle's Show." After several years in the casting business, he left to devote more time to his writing.
His first play, 'DOG SEES GOD: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,' premiered at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival and won the Overall Excellence Award. It went on to win the 2004 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Play, the 2006 HX Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, the 2006 Broadway.com Audience Favorite Award for Best Off-Broadway Play and was named the Best Play of 2004 by Theatremania.com.
'Dog Sees God' has been produced all over the country and been performed by such talent as America Ferrera, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eliza Dushku, Ian Somerhalder, Michelle Trachtenberg, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Jennifer Esposito, Lindsay Price, Becki Newton, Lizzy Kaplan and Andrea Bowen. The play continues to be performed worldwide.
Other theater directing credits include 'I DIG DOUG' (Winner of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival for Overall Excellence) and SING!, concert of Duets to benefit Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and Children's Hospital Los Angeles in the spring of 2010.
Royal also wrote Parents on Strike and A Treasure's Trove two films in development at Paramount Pictures and sold his spec script, Easy A to Screen Gems.
After writing on the TeenNick television show "Gigantic," Bert's adaptation of the hit Argentine TV series "PATITO FEO" has been green-lit by MTV and the pilot will be filmed this fall.
Currently, Bert is creating an original one-hour series for CBS Television Studios as well as adapting the Japanese horror film 2LDK for Relativity Media and Atlas Entertainment.
He lives in West Hollywood with his partner, Clay, and his two dogs, Lucille and Hamilton.
THE ART OF ORIGINAL FILMMAKING