Making Unfinished Business
Unfinished Business filmed for three months. The project took the production
first to Berlin, from mid-September 2013 through the beginning of November, then
moving on to Boston until mid-November, filming for 13 days in freezing
temperatures. Additional scenes were also filmed in Los Angeles.
Boston capably portrayed both St. Louis, Missouri and Portland, Maine, with
Boston's historic waterfront easily resembling Portland's.
While in Portland, the Apex men begin to take advantage of some of the
shenanigans that often take place on business trips. In this case, while in the
hotel, Timothy has ordered up a "maid" to come and provide, uh. . . services.
Unfortunately, the one he has ordered shows up at Dan's room, while one of the
hotel's matronly real maids is in with Tim - though he hasn't quite figured that
"It's very funny," laughs Scott. "It's sexy, yet it still remains very
kind-hearted. It's Timothy in a fairly late stage in his life trying to explore
his sexuality in a very naive way."
Production began in Berlin, working both on location and at the historic
Studio Babelsberg, the oldest film studio in the world, which opened its doors
in 1912 and has played host to productions including Fritz Lang's 1926 silent
classic, Metropolis, The Bourne Supremacy, and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious
"I loved Berlin," says Dave Franco. "It's beautiful, but it's also artsy,
weird and raw. Anything goes - there's no judgment." James Marsden, like most of
the others, found the arts presence especially appealing. "There's such a great
arts movement there," he says. "You walk down the street and see a bus stop -
even the attention to detail in a bus stop makes it a piece of art."
The group was surrounded by history - much of which is included in the film.
"I took a half a day off and went bicycling around the city with my girlfriend,"
notes Scott. "We had a guide who brought us everywhere - the Brandenburg Gate,
the Reichstag building, the Potsdamer Platz, the Victory Column. And I realized
we were shooting in all of those locations. We got a lot of production value out
No one appears to have fallen into the clutches of legendary business trip
debauchery - least of all Tom Wilkinson. "We did some karaoke," reports Sienna
Miller, "and we went bowling, which I was not particularly good at. But Tom
Wilkinson - he is a demon bowler. Who would have thought it?"
Hoping to improve their chances, Dan rents a car and drives the team to
Hamburg to meet with a supplier, Helen Harlmann (CHARLOTTE SCHWAB). The drive
takes them on the legendary Autobahn, with Dan ending up on the wrong side of
the highway, due to Mike's having ordered a rental car with a German-language
GPS, whose voice keeps attempting to direct Dan to something called "Flugelschlagen."
"That literally means something like 'spread your wings,'" informs Scott.
"But, in this case, it's simply the name of a street, which the GPS would like
Dan to turn left on. But the message, as Mike takes it, is simply to take it
easy, to relax, to kick back. That's something they all need to hear, and is a
big theme of the movie."
The script originally called for Dan's meeting with Helen to take place at
the pier, but the filmmakers later realized that there was plenty of room for
comedy elsewhere. "We put them in a mixed-gender spa instead," laughs Scott.
"Dan will do anything it takes to get the deal, even if it makes him a little
uncomfortable," such as getting naked in front of strangers for a "shpritz."
The steamy scene was filmed in late January this year at spa in L.A.'s
Koreatown (another scene, featuring Dave Franco rolling along inside a giant
clear hamster ball, was also shot at that time, in nearby MacArthur Park).
The team finds its appointment bumped by a few days - and a city full of
visitors: the G8 Summit, the Folsom Festival, Oktoberfest and the Berlin
Marathon are all going on at the same time. In other words, there's no place to
stay. But things like that never stop our industrious heroes.
Tim and Mike find their way to some floor space at a nearby youth hostel -
one filled with young anti-business protestors. "It's very ironic for Tim, being
68, to find himself staying in a youth hostel, surrounded by all these young
people that are part of the G8 protests," explains Scott. "Yet his character
embraces the situation by getting close to these kids and enjoying being there."
Mike, meanwhile, directs his boss to the Dandlin Art Museum for lodging. Upon
his arrival, Dan is informed that he will be part of a "habitable work of art" -
whatever that means. He soon finds out.
"He books the room, believing it's a real hotel, and then suddenly realizes
there is an audience watching him," explains production designer LUCA TRANCHINO.
Adds Black: "Dan checks in to one available room in Berlin, and he has no idea
he will be living in a hotel room that is exposed to an entire museum, where
thousands of people look at him every day. He's on display as a work of art,"
specifically "AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN 42," as the sign on the display says.
"He's not able to get any privacy," notes Steve Conrad. "Dan is actually less
alone than he is in the rest of the film. He's being studied as a piece of
performance art at a museum."
Though it looks uncannily like a location shoot at a real museum, the display
is actually a set designed by Tranchino, built onstage at Babelsberg. Tranchino
came up with a design that looks like a modern Berlin art gallery, complete with
modern art pieces. The room itself, though, he says, is inspired by the German
Bauhaus-style architecture and furniture. "I made it a little more modern and
stylized, so the character is standing in this very monochromatic space, with
playful sculptures in there. But it also needs to be believable as a hotel room,
because there's a moment when he gets in the room, and he still believes he's in
a real hotel environment. And then suddenly, we break the illusion," with
museumgoers walking past a Transilite studio backing outside his window, which,
a moment before, appeared to be a view of Berlin.
The setting has an existential element to it, Tranchino states. "It's a
reference to the modern life of a businessman. It's almost like a cage, where
somebody's trapped and can't get out." He's on display, warts and all, says
Scott. "This character is not only going through difficult times in his business
and at home, but he has those difficult times exposed in an art exhibit! I love
that idea. The movie is a fish-out-of-water story - American businessmen in
Germany. We wanted to make sure we felt they were surrounded by German culture.
And Dan can't get more surrounded by Germans than this."
In order to get the edge over Chuck to make the deal, they team has to get
their newly-crunched numbers in front of Bill Whilmsley - who, it turns out, is
busy spending the evening as an active participant in the Folsom Festival, an
actual gay fetish festival that attracts thousands to the event in Berlin each
year. "Steve wrote it so the guys have to go that festival to find Bill," says
Scott. "Again, fish out of water - and this is about the most extreme fish out
of water situation we could put these guys in."
The shoot was close enough to the recent Folsom event that many participants
were still available to return and participate as extras - some bringing their
own outrageous leather attire. For those who were not so fortunate, costume
designer DAVID ROBINSON, having taken reference photos weeks earlier at the real
festival, scoured Berlin's many sex shops and loaded up on leatherwear.
The guys narrow their search for Bill to a gay bar called the Pampelmuse.
Having no success finding him in the bar itself, Dan checks the restroom. He
leans against the wall, and is promptly poked in the back by. . . uh. . . a
penis. Another appears through a "glory hole," followed by a third, which, it
turns out, belongs to Bill Whilmsley.
Dan, as always, keeps his eye on the target - not the penises - and sticks to
the business at hand: locating Bill and asking if he'll look over their bid
We know you're wondering: Yes, those are real penises. "We thought about
using prosthetics, but they just don't hang properly," Black explains. Like any
"member" (sorry) of the cast, they had to be. . . cast. The producers consulted
local porn production houses and scoured dozens of photographs until appropriate
candidates were selected - especially important for Mr. Whilmsley's formidable
appendage. "The joke was having this short, pear-shaped man with a large penis.
So we went to the porn companies to find the largest penis we could find," says
Another outrageous piece of business takes place in the bathroom. Mike comes
in, looking for Dan, and, not wanting to be rude to those present, stops and
introduces himself, and shakes - well, he'd shake their hands if that was what
was being extended. So, yes, Dave Franco shook hands with a penis. Two, in fact.
"I just said, 'We gotta do what we gotta do, right?'" the actor quips. Adds
Scott: "That's what comedy is all about, pushing boundaries and going where no
one's gone before. . ." Franco delivered, in fact, in full Mike Pancake fashion,
with excitement and sincerity. "He's a brave actor - what can I tell you," Black
notes. "That's real commitment. Dave just said, 'If I'm going to do it, I want
to make it the funniest thing I can, so let's go for it.' He made everybody
comfortable - including the guy whose penis he shook."
"I know it'll probably be on the internet forever," says Franco.
Having convinced Bill Whilmsley they have the winning pitch, and almost
certain they have won the contract, the lads get into some degree of debauchery
- apparently a staple of the end of a business trip.
"Because these trips are so pressurized, you have a fixed period of time
where you've got to wrap up business and then get home to tend to things,"
Conrad explains. "And because of that, there's a 'lid-off' thing that happens at
the end, where they just release the built-up pressure that the trip puts on
them." Adds Black: "When you're away on business, sometimes rules get bent a
little bit - and it's just fun to watch, as we do in our film. It's fun to peek
behind the curtain and see what that is about."
Mike, meanwhile, has been hearing talk between the other two of something
called a "wheelbarrow" - a sexual position that he can't quite get a grasp of.
"He keeps hearing Tim and Dan talk about it, but he's kind of confused how it
actually works," Franco explains.
The charming "head of sales" ends up meeting two different young women,
offering two opportunities to figure it all out. "When he first tries it
himself, he kind of has it backwards," the actor says. "He ends up in the
position the girl is supposed to be in, and it's not too comfortable." Mike
eventually gets a second chance with his other new companion, and, as Franco
says, "He finally redeems himself," providing yet another success story - that
of losing his virginity ("Twice," as Mike is quick to point out) - for his
buddies back home.
Celebrating aside, Dan actually learns from the obnoxious Jim Spinch that
what he thought was now finally a done deal still will be given to Chuck after
all, causing him to all but lose hope. After sleeping on a park bench, he comes
upon the aforementioned Berlin Marathon - and slips himself into it, using it as
a launching pad to reinvigorate his swarf-selling spirit.
Unlike the make-believe Folsom Festival, the Berlin Marathon in the film is
the real Berlin Marathon. "That took months of planning," Black says. "We had a
whole team for that alone," working with the race's organizers. "Vince was
nervous - we were all nervous wrecks, but also excited. We knew we couldn't
duplicate the scene - we had one shot at pulling it off."
Notes Scott: "We were very fortunate - the marathon organizers were very
generous with us. We shot during the entire marathon, and put cameras
everywhere," hidden, of course, to avoid having runners looking directly into
the lens and spoiling shots. "We tried to be as invisible as possible."
The team has one last shot at winning the prize, which can only happen if Dan
can get a few moments with the head of Spinch's parent company, Gelger AG, whose
chairman is staying in a hotel surrounded by G8 protesters.
The raucous riot scene was shot at the Gendarmenmarkt Platz, a public square in
the center of Berlin, taking three days to film.
The deal done, the three gladiators return home winners, each having achieved
their goals: Mike has tales of glory to tell his housemates, Timothy has gotten
a divorce and is beginning a new life, and Dan can take care of his family the
way he wants to. And they did it together. They've got their flugelschlagen.
"These are three guys who would never have hung out together otherwise," says
Dave Franco. "But because of their situation, they're experiencing things for
the first time in their lives they would never have by themselves or with
like-minded people. And I think that's what makes the movie so much fun."
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