In Just Go With It, a plastic surgeon, romancing a much younger schoolteacher, enlists his loyal assistant to pretend to be his soon to be ex-wife, in order to cover up a careless lie. When more lies backfire, the assistant's kids become involved, and everyone heads off for a weekend in Hawaii that will change all their lives.
ABOUT THE FILM
At the center of Just Go With It is an everyday guy who has let a careless lie get away from him. "At the beginning of the movie, my character, Danny, was going to get married, but he gets his heart broken," says Adam Sandler. "The night of his heartbreak he happens to have the ring on and a young lady is nice to him, because she thinks he's married and thinks he's harmless and won't do anything that other guys were trying to do. A light goes off in his head."
The ring becomes his scheme to avoid getting his heart broken: the ladies think he's off the table, and with no strings attached, no one gets hurt - especially not Danny. But when he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), the girl of his dreams, his lies come back to haunt him - she thinks he's married. Instead of coming clean, he chooses to weave an even more tangled web: he invents a fake wife - to be played by his long-suffering assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) - from whom he can get a fake divorce, clearing the way for smooth sailing with Palmer.
How does a single mom like Katherine, trying to get by and provide for her two kids, get roped into Danny's outrageous scheme? "She's just exhausted by him," says Aniston. "She feels she has to help him save himself from his own web of lies, even though she doesn't approve. When she's in the middle of it, you can see her thinking, 'How did I get on board with this?'"
But she does help, because Danny and Katherine have a unique relationship. "They work together and have a great relationship - she thinks he's funny and he obviously cares about her, and even though he lies to everybody else, he always tells her the truth. She's the only one who knows what he's really like," says Aniston. "She can't help but like him, even when she thinks he's been acting like a pig." When he convinces Katherine that he is done playing the ring game and ready to settle down with Palmer, she does what any friend would do and helps.
But that's just the start - as Danny and Katherine attempt to keep up the charade, the lie keeps getting bigger and bigger. "Every lie has a domino effect," says director Dennis Dugan. Dugan most recently directed Sandler in Grown Ups, the star's biggest worldwide hit to date, taking in more than $260 million.
Before Katherine knows it, her kids, Maggie and Michael, have been looped into the lie, but they'll need a little more convincing… especially when Michael sees a way to turn the tables on Danny. Before he knows it, Danny is on his way to Hawaii with a fake wife, fake kids, his real cousin (who's playing the fake wife's fake boyfriend) - all in an effort to convince Palmer that he's a stand-up guy.
Anybody could fall for the object of Danny's desire - schoolteacher Palmer Dodge. The role is played by Brooklyn Decker, who makes her big-screen debut in the film. Last year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl, it's easy to see why a guy like Danny would fall for her. (Obviously, it's that she's funny and charming.) "Palmer is a really sweet girl, a naïve, compassionate, and hopeful math teacher. She falls in love with Danny, Adam's character, and he decides this girl might be the one for him. So he gets caught up in this whole web of lies to try to convince Palmer that he's a decent guy."
Decker had auditioned for Sandler and was in the mix for the part when last year's Swimsuit Issue hit newsstands. "That was a total whirlwind," she remembers. While she was doing publicity for the magazine, "that week, I got a call asking if I could come out for the table read with Adam, Jen, Nicole, and Nick - so I came out to do it, and that evening I got a call from Adam saying, 'Hey, kid, you want the part - it's yours.'"
Dugan says Decker had the chops to hang with her more seasoned co-stars. "Obviously, she's extremely beautiful, but it turns out she's just a natural actress," says Dugan. "She's very sweet and a good actress."
"Acting is effortless for her," says co-star Nick Swardson. "She's just so funny, natural, charming, organic; it's so real. There's nothing corny about her - her performance is just genuine."
It might have been intimidating to take on such a key role for her first film, but Decker couldn't have asked for a better set. "I'm the new kid on the block, and I'm surrounded by these amazing people, but they were all very encouraging and made the set a lighthearted place. Everyone was so talented - everyone was funny - it was really an opportunity for me to challenge myself under the best circumstances."
Of course, it wasn't all serious work. "The guys were playing pranks on each other and making jokes and laughing all day. It's a really fun way to work."
Decker tried a prank of her own - but it didn't work out so well. "I had the fart app on my phone - you push the button and it makes this wretched noise," says Decker. "It was a scene where Adam and I were in bed together - it's incredibly quiet and the camera pans were very slow. I had the phone under the pillow, and I'm snuggled with Adam and when the camera panned over I was planning on releasing the fart app. So I do, and he barely hears it. He thinks it's my stomach growling, and he just says, 'All right, let's do that again.'" That was my failed prank."
Once in Hawaii, the lies get piled on top of lies: when Katherine runs into an old frenemy (Nicole Kidman), she cooks up a fake life of her own - she says Danny is her husband.
Kidman describes her character, Katherine's college nemesis, Devlin: "She's very ostentatious and very competitive, and that's what makes her so mean. It all comes from a deep-seated insecurity."
Kidman admits that she's "not a comedienne, so it's totally unusual for me to do something like this." Still, any actor will find it difficult to resist Sandler when he calls offering a part. "He called up and said, 'Look, I've got this completely outrageous character; do you want to do it?' I've always loved his movies, and I worked with him on 'Saturday Night Live' 20 years ago, and I thought he was great, so it was lovely to be asked. I just love doing comedy, but I don't get asked to do it very often. I did To Die For years and years ago, but that's a black comedy, so it was great to be asked to do something outrageous."
The outrageous comedy allowed Kidman to play out different kinds of scenes - for example, a hula contest, where Devlin's ultracompetitive nature comes out. And the result is unacceptable to Devlin: "She hates that it's a tie," says Kidman, "so the tiebreaker is a contest where we have to move a coconut up our bodies without using our hands. It was so goofy - it was fun to do."
But the biggest difference, Kidman says, is the low-key vibe of the set of a Sandler movie. "I just can't believe how relaxed the set is. I'm used to working on these sets where everyone has to be really serious. To work on something where you get to play it's been such a fun thing for me. It doesn't feel like you're making a movie; it feels like you're just hanging out, and at this stage in my life, I just want to have fun."
Playing Devlin's husband is musician Dave Matthews. Kidman says, "It's so wonderful working with Dave; he's unique and fun."
After taking cameo roles in Sandler's films I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Matthews moves up to a featured supporting role - and who could ask for more than playing Kidman's husband?
"He's earned it," says Sandler of casting the musician, a longtime friend, in the role. "The guy is funny as hell."
Acting opposite Kidman could have been intimidating, but Matthews says that while Kidman is every inch the actress that you expect, she was also a lot of fun. "What a good sport," he says. "Her power is obvious - even though this is a fun comedy, she's still astounding. She came in and stood next to me - this hairy-backed beast - and she was just game, all game. But I guess that's why she is who she is."
Channeling his character, Ian Maxtone-Jones, Matthews describes the role: "He thinks he's awesome. He has a great mind and he's not afraid to use it. He's mildly burdened by the prospect of having to stoop to socialize with people less qualified for the world than him."
Matthews admits that acting is outside his comfort zone, but that's OK - so is music. "I don't have confidence in a lot of the things that I do. It's nice to do things that are outside of your comfort zone. I'm not even all that comfortable in music - I'm still self-conscious about it - but I think that's healthy, right? I've always liked the challenge of something. They don't seem that different to me, music and acting." Music has worked out OK for Matthews; his eponymous band has been the most popular live music act in North America over the last decade.
"Here's a guy who plays to stadium-sized crowds, and he's doing his scene and he goes, 'I'm so nervous!'" Dugan remembers. "I said, 'Dave, you kill. You sell out the Hollywood Bowl. This is nothing, just look at them and talk.' He's playing a straighter part, a regular human being instead of some wacky character, so he had to be more vulnerable than he's ever done before, but he did great. He's a very funny guy, terrific - the kind of guy who hangs around the set even when he's not filming."
Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck take on the roles of Katherine's real (and Danny's pretend) kids. "My character really wants to be an actress - that's her main focus - so she's constantly trying to do accents," says Madison. Naturally, she sees being Danny's pretend kid as an acting job - so when Danny needs a fake kid, Maggie becomes Kiki. "She's so excited to play Kiki - she starts using her Cockney accent. It's just a really cool role to be able to play, because you get to be two different people in the same movie."
Of course, as much as Hawaii was a playground for the adults on set, it was doubly true for the kids. "The set was really not work," says Madison. "One day, we spent three hours in a swimming pool for a scene - you wouldn't call that work. Plus, we were in Hawaii. We learned how to kayak and ride horses for this film. It was just so much fun."
In an art-imitates-life moment, Madison admits that, like Michael in the movie, "I have asked my mother since I was little to take me to Hawaii to swim with the dolphins. And when I read this I saw dolphins, Hawaii - I was so excited. It was so much fun."
Playing her brother, Michael/Bart, is Griffin Gluck. "My character is very shy. He's in his own shell. He doesn't really talk that much, but he's pretty playful, and during the movie he gets to come out of his shell."
Naturally, Madison and Gluck spent many hours together on the set - developing a relationship like a real brother and sister. "Griffin's great. He has spent every day with me on the water slides, horseback riding. We're always together," says Madison. "And I've been able to take him as my little brother and he's so great. We're always constantly joking with each other. He's so much fun."
Gluck says, "We've been going on the water slides, horseback riding, kayaking, scuba diving. The dolphins, the kayaking, swimming in the waterfall."
What's it like to pretend that Jennifer Aniston is your mom - and to pretend to pretend that Adam Sandler is your dad? "It's amazing to be able to go on set and be able to look up to this amazing actress that you can learn from and she's so kind. She's like a mother. She makes sure she's right with you and she's funny and she's a great actress. It's a real pleasure to be able to work with her."
"Adam is a real funny guy," says Gluck. "He's nice to work with. We always play jokes on each other."
Of course, making a PG-13 movie required a freewheeling set that reflected that tone and spirit - and it fell to Madison and Gluck to hold the reins, which they did by instituting the "Curse Bucket." Gluck explains, "We have this curse bucket that Tim Wiles from Props - Teddy Bear we call him, he's such a great guy - made for us."
Madison continues, "It's fun to be able to walk around and say, okay, you cursed, you owe us five bucks. We're just constantly making charts and I feel like we're like little business people making sure that all the tallies are correct."
Gluck adds, "Nick Swardson owed us $145 dollars in one single half hour. It is $10 for the big one. It has four letters."
Madison continues, "And then $5 dollars for any of the rest of it. We made $1780 that we are going to give to charity."
Nick Swardson rounds out the cast as Danny's cousin, Eddie, who gets tangled up in the lies and is soon posing as Katherine's make-believe boyfriend, Dolph Lundgren (not that Dolph Lundgren).
"He puts on this character to get a free trip to Hawaii and maybe have a shot with Jennifer's character," says Swardson. "He adopts this alternate persona, but doesn't really plan it out - so when he gets to Hawaii he's confronted with so many questions about his Austrian background and what he does. All he can come up with is that he's an Internet sheep dealer."
Swardson has worked with Sandler a number of times. "He's a funny guy. He gets loose on screen and we try to reel that in," says Sandler. "Aniston kept it under control. She would give him the beautiful blue eyes look and Swardson would say, 'I have to calm down.' Aniston would nod her head. 'That's enough.'"
Laughing, Aniston adds, "It was very Godfather-like." But of course, Aniston is another Nick Swardson fan. "He's my new favorite person - at the table read, I couldn't handle the amount of laughter."
SHOOTING IN HAWAII
Overseeing the production is director Dennis Dugan, whose films have taken in more than a billion dollars worldwide. Dugan marks his sixth collaboration with Sandler on Just Go With It (and recently wrapped production on their seventh, the comedy Jack and Jill, in theaters this fall). The director says that he has enjoyed his fifteen-year relationship with Sandler. "We have a great way of working together," he says. "I try to figure out what he wants to see, what he wants, what he's picturing in his head, and then I try to put my spin on it and see how magnificent we can make it."
Dugan says that his role is to simultaneously keep everyone on the same page and on the right track, while at the same time keeping the reins loose. "If you're smart, you don't corral, you let them run free," he says. "One of the tricks is to let the actors feel as comfortable as possible - they can be goofy, they can feel like they can flop and won't be judged or have their egos bruised. A comedy director has an unusual role in that the actors he is given are already funny. The best way to get a great performance is to help everyone feel relaxed and brave."
One of Dugan's tricks of the trade - which has been made possible with the advent of digital photography - is extra-long takes, sometimes as long as 45 minutes, which become comedy jam sessions. "We do whatever we have to do to make it funny," he says, noting that these long takes become a technical challenge for the director; for example, the best reaction might come when the camera isn't on the actor, which requires Dugan to reverse the set-up and get the coverage. But as technically difficult as it might be to get all the pieces that will make the final film fit together, Dugan says it's all in a day's work. "Whatever you need to do to get it funny. You need to turn back around, you turn back around."
"There's a specific way that we work together," Dugan notes. "Adam and I have a similar approach to comedy. As crazy as it gets, we try to base it in reality. We tell all the actors who work with us that everybody can get as crazy as they want, but we try to keep it all in the same style."
The Kauai location was chosen because of its waterfall. "We looked everywhere in Maui first, since we knew we'd be shooting there," says Blake. "We looked on Hawaii. We looked on Oahu. And finally we found what we were looking for on Kauai. We walked around the corner and we saw this amazing waterfall. We had found the holy grail of waterfalls. We walked through the jungle about three miles - our guide said it was going to be about a half a mile, and three miles later through the bugs in the jungle we came to this waterfall, which was just spectacular. After looking at so many different ones, what was cool about this one was that it was cinematic - a lot of waterfalls are tall and have a lot of height and were spectacular, but for us we wanted something that spread across more in the format of a film screen. It wasn't a little thing coming down into a small pool - it was a massive wall of water coming into a big, beautiful pool. It was perfect."
Dugan says that this is the waterfall Sandler had in his mind's eye: "This is Adam's dream of a waterfall. In fact, when we showed him, he said, 'That's the one."'
Though the waterfall was perfect, the set would still require some design and decoration. Despite the location's jungle vibe, says Blake, "It wasn't really lush and beautiful, so we brought in plants and flowers. Everything we brought in was a plant that can exist in this environment - but you don't find everything you're looking for in any location. So, we made the jungle more jungle-y, but that's the way you do it in the movies."
In addition, the script calls for all of the characters to approach the pool and dive in. "But the water was much too shallow," says Blake. The solution was to bring in fake rocks to dress a deeper part of the pool." Brooklyn Decker's character also lounges on foam rocks after her dive into the pool.
The screenplay also requires the characters to cross a rope bridge. The filmmakers didn't find what they were looking for, and so, a bridge had to be built. Blake explains, "It seemed like the best solution - we could build it at the exact height we wanted, we could make it look rickety, and we could make it safe. So we found a great, huge mango tree, and on the other side, we anchored the bridge up into the rocks. We wanted it to look like it's been here forever, so once we built it, we aged it and threw plants all over it. It looks dilapidated, it looks dangerous, it looks scary, but it's completely safe."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
DENNIS DUGAN (Director) is a talented filmmaker whose diverse career in entertainment spans over two decades. Dugan is considered one of the industry's top feature film comedy directors, whose films have taken in more than $1 billion worldwide. He earned his reputation with such hits as Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, You Don't Mess with the Zohan and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Jessica Biel. His other films include The Benchwarmers, starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Jon Lovitz, National Security, starring Martin Lawrence, Saving Silverman, starring Jack Black, and Amanda Peet; and Beverly Hills Ninja, starring Chris Farley.
Dugan most recently directed Grown Ups, starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Salma Hayek. Dugan recently wrapped production on Jack and Jill, starring Sandler in both title roles.
On the small screen, Dugan has directed dozens of television projects including, "NYPD Blue," "Moonlighting," and "Ally McBeal," as well as the telepics "Columbo: Butterfly Shades of Gray" and "The Shaggy Dog."
Dugan is an actor-turned-filmmaker who began his career in the New York theater scene and first made his mark in Hollywood in front of the camera. He starred in his own NBC television series, "Richie Brockelman, Private Eye," and also guest-starred on such award-winning television programs as "M*A*S*H," "Columbo," "The Rockford Files," and "Hill Street Blues."
In addition to small, yet memorable, acting roles in his own films, the most recent being the taxi driver in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Dugan's feature-film credits include roles in Parenthood, She's Having a Baby, Can't Buy Me Love and The Howling.
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