About The Production
Prepare for the Ultimate Paternity Quest
The last time Kyle and Peter Reynolds were headed in the same direction was in
delivery room, and someone was yelling "push!" From that moment on, through
dating, teams and family vacations, to work and every major life decision, they
couldn't be more
at odds in every possible way.
As director Lawrence Sher sees it, the brothers are the exception to that notion
being mystically connected. "Kyle and Peter grew up different from each other
and are even more
committed to their points of view now, because life has a way of reinforcing
that. I believe you
get back the energy you put out; if you think life is awesome, despite its
problems, it will be
awesome. That's Kyle. If you think it's hard, then you're probably going to be
stuck in the slow
lane every time, and that's Peter. He expects things to be difficult and unfair,
and he can't catch
a break, whereas Kyle has been very lucky and feels the world is full of joy."
But when the guys come home for their mother's wedding, they get a shock that
galvanize them to a single purpose.
"It turns out their father isn't remotely who they thought," offers Ed Helms,
who stars as
the tightly wound, glass-half-empty Peter. "The story their mom gave them all
these years was a
fairy tale, when, in fact, she might not even know for sure who he was."
Though Peter typically reacts with indignation, and Kyle with curiosity, this
revelation lands them both on the same page... more or less. It also sends them on
odyssey of disaster and discovery to find their real father, wherever it takes
whoever he may be. In other words: road trip.
"Growing up with brothers, I have some experience in the way that you can love
they can drive you crazy," says Owen Wilson, who stars as the perpetually
Kyle. "It's a very thin line. I think the only real fights I've ever had have
been with my brothers.
Family trips were memorable for the arguments and my dad swearing he was never
going to do
it again because 'Something always happens when you guys get together.'"
A lifelong fan of road trips and what they can reveal, Sher says, "The fun thing
road is its forward momentum and the fact that you just keep going to the next
an allegory for life. You may have a plan, but there will be stops and turns and
side trips. Part of
the adventure of this movie is about how we can take for granted the people who
are closest to
us-and what better way for these two to be reminded of that, than to be stuck
together and forced
to confront their differences? Sometimes, pressure produces diamonds."
And sometimes, pressure just builds up until it explodes.
"Father Figures" is Wilson and Helms' first big-screen pairing, and since their
is the backbone of every scene there was a lot riding on their chemistry.
Luckily, there wasn't
much of a learning curve. "Owen Wilson is one of the funniest people I have ever
met in my entire
life," Helms proclaims. "Any time you meet a co-star, you spend about a week or
two figuring out
how they work and what makes them tick. With Owen, it took about two days for us
to find this
rhythm and be in sync and crack each other up."
"Whatever I was doing, if I said A, guaranteed he would say Z," Wilson adds.
Though Kyle and Peter come a little unglued upon learning the photo they
kids was not actually their honorably deceased dad but some random actor, it
also starts them
looking at their mom in a new light. This woman they thought they knew so
well...who is she,
really, and who was she, back then? Such was the germ of inspiration for
Malen. Describing a moment familiar for many people, he says, "The story came
from my looking
at old pictures of my parents and wondering what I didn't know about them and
who they were
before I came along."
Starring as the boys' intrepid single mother, Helen, Glenn Close points out,
"She has a
good heart. It's just that she was a wild child in the '70s in New York City,
partying in places like
Studio 54, and sowing her wild oats when monogamy wasn't a priority."
Helen feels their quest is a bad idea and tells them so. But, having had her big
she no longer holds the high ground. Still, her presence figures into every step
"Father Figures" marks Sher's directorial debut, following a catalogue of
credits that include many of the sharpest and most successful comedies in recent
twin himself, he was drawn to the script not only for its mix of warmth and
raunchy humor, but its
portrayal of the sibling dynamic-in all its glory and insanity. "I have an
identical twin and we are
very different and have been so all our lives, so I'm very much interested in
the way siblings
interact," he says.
"Alcon has worked with many first-time directors," notes producer Broderick
think the most important thing with any director is their storytelling acumen,
and their sensibility in
communicating with actors and crew. Larry brings a great combination of talent,
as someone who
thoroughly understands the filmmaking process from a technical standpoint and is
also a genuine
Citing a "very funny screenplay" as another huge appeal, Alcon producer Andrew
Kosove adds, "These are characters you can really care about. You care about
and the journey they're on. Plus, we liked the fact that fundamentally it's a
mystery. You don't
know what's going to happen. At each turn you've had some good laughs, but it's
toward a big reveal."
Sher and Malen worked together on some of the story's finer points. Malen then
on set during production, to help capture the exchange between the film's improv-savvy
giving them the freedom to run with their ideas and bond believably as brothers.
"Larry brought some personal experience into the mix," says producer Ivan
was very passionate about the story and wanted to be sure it was told with
authenticity. There are
a lot of very funny moments but you always believe in the truth of it, and in
That relationship was always their touchstone. "We knew it was going to be the
of the movie," affirms producer Ali Bell. "But first they have to let out
everything that's been bottled
up inside-and that's the fun part. This script made us laugh out loud but it
also resonated in how
siblings deal with each other and the way families come apart and come back
As the guys follow a trail of 40-year-old bread crumbs delineating their
history across four states, all in pursuit of their paternity, there's not a lot
they can hold back.
"Essentially, this movie is about putting human beings in human situations,"
It just happens that some of those situations are outrageous and chaotic, but
all the while we're
trying to keep it as honest as possible. Unlike friends, it's hard to escape
OPERATION WHO'S YOUR DADDY
"There is NO way that those two jackasses are my kids."
"As a parent, you do your best and hope for the best, and I think that's what
Helen did with
her boys," Wilson suggests. "But kids can grow up in the same family and process
own way, and that's the case with Kyle and Peter. You just chalk it up to
"Kyle has no complaints with the universe," Wilson expands. "He lives in Hawaii,
a fortune without doing any real work, and has a beautiful girlfriend he's
planning to marry. Life
is good and everything is turning up aces for Kyle. He has a kind of oblivious
can be slightly irritating, especially to his brother, but always in a
good-natured way. He doesn't
realize he's irritating because he's in his own world and just
happy-go-lucky-like a Labrador
puppy is loveable but he can still chew up the furniture."
Not even Peter's relentless cynicism cramps Kyle's Zen, and that's saying a lot.
Peter, is an uphill battle, made all the more galling by what he sees as his
fantastic and totally unearned run of dumb luck. "Peter's a proctologist. It's
not a glamorous
profession, and he takes a lot of flak for that," says Helms. "He's divorced,
with a 13-year-old son
who can't stand him, and he just puts out a lot of negative energy. The lesson
for Peter might be,
'Hey, maybe I'm responsible for some of this bullshit in my life and I can turn
Sher agrees. Also, as set as they are in their ways, he feels that Kyle and
facets of each other's personalities within them. "As much as he's this bon
vivant who trusts the
universe to take him where he needs to go, there's more depth to Kyle than is
apparent," he says. "Still waters run deep. And despite Peter's misanthropic
attitude and his focus
on the straight-and-narrow, he's a guy who really yearns to loosen up. What they
need is to
borrow from each other, and see that life is all of those things. Sometimes you
need to be a little
more responsible, and other times you have to go with the flow."
"There's a cadence and a kind of natural, improvisational quality to how real
would speak," says Reitman. "They would finish each other's sentences, and
that's the dimension
Owen and Ed added to it, each of them being writers and with a vast improv
Larry did a great job in both encouraging and directing that."
"We knew these characters would really come off the page with Ed and Owen,"
attests. "Peter's carrying a lot of baggage but Ed makes it funny and you want
to root for him.
His arc in the movie is compelling. And Owen is so witty and irreverent, he has
a way about him
that just makes you want to laugh. He and Ed together are a lot of fun."
That warmth especially shone at times when, despite the disagreements and
it's clear that there is still a massive amount of love between Kyle and Peter.
Of course, there is. Just look at who raised them.
Says Sher, "What we initially know about Helen is that she single-handedly
two boys, and that's been her priority. Whatever sacrifices she's made along the
way we can
only guess but she still has that air of a loving disciplinarian to her, as she
tries to talk them out of
this quest to find their father. She seems at first a bit more like Peter, but
we soon see that,
underneath it all, she has a great open spirt that more resembles Kyle's
approach to life. As with
meeting anyone new, what's interesting is discovering all those layers, and
Glenn brings amazing
nuance and power to the character."
Helen's life is not only the through-line for Peter and Kyle's trek through the
but, says Close, "she's the emotional heart of the story. Coming to terms with
who she was, this
young woman who chose to raise two boys by herself and give them a good life, is
part of their
And that little white lie? "She made the decision that they needed a father
to look up to, so she created one," Close continues. "She was trying to be a
good mom, and now
her lie is coming back to bite her."
Indeed, once the cat is out of the bag, there's no leaving it alone. If Helen
lifetime of good intentions, capped by a vague blame-it-on-the-'70s confession,
would satisfy them
and let her get on with her wedding and her life, she has another thing coming.
Now that Kyle
and Peter know their dad is alive and out there somewhere, they won't rest till
they track him
down, and they won't let her rest till she coughs up a name.
And what a name it is. Terry Bradshaw. The Terry Bradshaw...four-time Super Bowl
champion, Hall of Famer, the legendary quarterback whose photos once hung on the
young Peter's room. Peter doesn't know now whether to be ecstatic that he might
from such celebrated loins, or outraged that this momentous possibility was kept
from him all
The role was initially written as a fictional famous football player, what Malen
combination of someone like Bradshaw and Joe Namath." But, Bell recounts, "Once
we set up
the movie at Alcon, one of the brilliant ideas Andrew and Broderick had was,
'Why don't we just
cast Bradshaw and have him play himself?'"
That the gridiron great could act was a given for longtime fan Sher, having seen
"Failure to Launch," and Bradshaw's natural charisma was well-suited to the
improvisational exchanges with Ed and Owen.
Ironically, for Bradshaw, it was his ability to toss the ball to his potential
on shifting terrain that caused him the most consternation on camera. "I must
have thrown 100
passes," he recalls of the scene in which he, Kyle and Peter bond on the beach
of his oceanfront
home. "You don't forget the grip and the motion, but if you haven't done it on
sand, it's not the
same. I was pulling back on my passes because my feet were slipping so much.
my excuse. Yeah. I'm gonna go with that," he laughs.
Starring alongside him is Ving Rhames as the fictional Rod Hamilton, a fellow
player and now Bradshaw's Miami neighbor. In what Kosove declares "one of the
I've ever seen in a movie," Hamilton clotheslines Kyle a split second after the
eager Kyle finally
catches a pass off Bradshaw. Says Rhames, "Rod sees the football in the air and
has a flashback,
and winds up putting Kyle on the ground. Force of habit."
As Bradshaw shoots the breeze with Kyle and Peter, Rod joins in with his own
recollections of Helen before he is clued in about who he's talking to. "Rod has
to say a lot of
nasty stuff and be a little bit ribald," Sher concedes, "but Ving's charm is
such that he makes it
OK. He's a big personality but there's a gentleness to his manner, even when
something like smashing Owen to the ground. He can say the most outrageous
things and still
be charming, and he had a great rapport with Terry. You could believe they
But if Bradshaw is the guy any lucky bastard would love to call "dad," the guy
up next on
their list of candidates represents the opposite end of that spectrum.
Roland Hunt, played by J.K. Simmons, is a wary and volatile tatted-up recluse
questionable motives and a hair trigger. Simmons suggests, "Who Roland is,
depends a lot, I
guess, on the decade in which you meet him. In the '70s, when Helen knew him, he
was a Wall
Street wunderkind-slash-party guy, hanging out in discos. It's the party aspect
that probably got
him into trouble, so when we meet this later incarnation of him, he's not what
the boys expect to
find. He's an ex-con, living with his mom.
"They're not sure when they first encounter Roland, who he is," Simmons adds.
they think they know, but then they're still not sure."
Simmons contributed significantly to Roland's edgy persona, as Sher describes.
a character we knew in spirit but it wasn't until J.K. said yes that the
character began to form itself.
He understood we were looking for a guy who has taken the track that Peter might
go if he doesn't
take a turn. Life has been hard for Roland since his peak and there's a lot of
regret under his
badass shell, and J.K. was able to express that without saying anything. You
just feel it."
Supporting Roland in his latest endeavors is his devoted mom, Mrs. Hunt, played
Squibb in full Ma Barker mode. Says Squibb, "She's one of those wonderful women
absolutely adores her son and believes that he can do no wrong. Whatever awful
things he does,
it will always be circumstantial or some bad influence, because it's never his
It's safe to assume it's not as hard to leave Roland behind as it was to bid
farewell, as Kyle and Peter head for the next possible pop on Helen's hit
parade. But first, they
take one of Sher's glorious detours by picking up a hitchhiker in a hoodie,
played by Katt Williams,
whom Sher calls "a masterful comedian. Having seen his stand-up, I knew he was
going to be a
good actor because he always comes at the comedy from a genuine and personal
By now, the growing tension between Kyle and Peter has reached its zenith.
about to blow. It's almost as though Kyle knows this, instinctively when he
insists they pick the
hitcher up, knowing full well it's the last thing in the world Peter wants. The
encapsulates their divergent worldviews. "What do you think when you see a guy
on the side of
the road?" asks Sher. "Well, if you're Kyle, you likely think, "Here's a chance
to help out a fellow
human,' and if you're Peter, you think, 'We're going to get murdered.'"
For Sher, the scene's humor and bite is in how it plays these kinds of
Williams concurs, saying what attracted him to the role was "the fact that it
I'm for things that are off the beaten path. As a fan of movies, that's what we
We like to be misled, we like to not know where this is headed and be surprised
at the outcome,
and that magic was all through the script and very potently in my character."
For example, how often does a hitchhiker accept a ride and settle in, grateful
to be safely
off the shoulder, and then face the prospect of getting T-boned by a train?
From this point, all bets are off as to what else may happen, including a brief
stop at a
motor inn where Peter attempts to break his dry spell with the enigmatic Sarah,
played by Katie
Aselton; and later, a glimpse into some other, equally screwed-up family
dynamics at the
O'Callaghan home in Wooster, Massachusetts. There, Jack McGee as one of
patriarchs reads Kyle and Peter the riot act following a knock-down, drag-out
Reynolds boys and what could well be their half-witted half-brothers Liam and
Sean, played with
roundhouse abandon by Ryan Cartwright and Ryan Gaul.
Finally, the road brings them back home for an encounter with bachelor number
five, depending upon how you're keeping count: veterinarian Dr. Tinkler, played
Walken. If Tinkler is Kyle and Peter's biological father, he's certainly not in
the mood to talk about
it. Luckily, the boys catch him at the office where there's a handy tranquilizer
"The question is, how do you make this outrageous thing still honest and
truthful, and still
go to that place of silliness," Sher poses. "When you're going for a mixture of
dark comedy and
sublime, there's nobody better than Chris. Because in his own way he's sublime.
watchable. When he's on screen you just want to pay attention. It's his cadence,
his voice, his
eyes; he's a fascinating personality."
Rounding out the film's main cast, Harry Shearer appears as Helen's eminently
understanding fiance Gene. Sher notes, "Harry delivers a generous and restrained
as someone caught up in a situation he didn't expect and is trying to make the
best of it."
Mercifully, it's just what Helen needs. "Gene loves Helen," Shearer says. "I
think he tries very
hard to see Kyle and Peter through her eyes. Maybe a year or two down the line
he'll give himself
permission to judge them. Maybe not. But right now, he's not doing that."
"Father Figures" also stars Jessica Gomes as Kaylani, Kyle's so-called perfect
girlfriend, who has a unique way of greeting new friends; and Zachary Haven as
Peter's teen son,
Ethan, who-not surprisingly-prefers the company of cool Uncle Kyle over his own
"We wanted to surround Ed and Owen with a great and versatile cast of characters
would make fun and interesting contributions along the way as they search for
Johnson sums up, "whether it's one of their possible dads, or friends, or people
they meet on the
road. We had a tremendously talented supporting cast, and each one of them
brought their own
brand of humor and insight and excitement to the project."
"Uh...there's a train coming, and it ain't the Soul Train, guys."
Leave it to Kyle and Peter, who haven't really communicated with each other in
finally let it all hang out when their car is stopped on railroad tracks. In the
pitch darkness. With
an innocent passenger in the back seat, tied hand and foot for good measure.
"They get hit by a train because they're so engrossed in their argument that
hear it coming. They're so angry they're deaf," Sher explains, "It was such a
dramatic thing that
I was interested in how we might turn that on its head and make it a little
funny, while also giving
these two an opportunity to see they could lose each other in a moment."
"We're lost. It's the middle of the night. We're just going at it and by the
time we see the
train it's too late," Helms helps set up the action.
"It's a very impactful scene," Wilson puns. "We were fortunate in how the
out. We were filming at night and it was very foggy, so, exactly the type of
night in which
something like that could happen. And it's metaphorical. Sometimes it takes a
train to hit you, to
get you to wake up.'"
The train was genuine, and the scene staged on a privately-owned track near
Georgia, with no traffic scheduled and bumpers on either end for extra security.
Additional "Father Figures" action includes a classic brawl that unravels on the
of a suburban home-fueled by alcohol, grief, insult, and Peter's realization
that he just did
something terribly, unspeakably wrong. In designing the fight, stunt coordinator
"Ed and Owen had such brilliant comic timing and the fight developed with their
input and Larry's
input. Unlike wire work that's precise and timed, this was something we could
have fun with."
The Bradshaw portion of the story was shot mostly in Miami. There, a working
dealership was dressed as the scene of an autograph-signing event, while a
mansion doubled for his estate. This, as well as the other homes appearing in
the film, were all
occupied private residences the production borrowed and adapted. Production
H. Carter notes how each space was meant to reflect its owner's personality.
Thus, "Terry is open
to a fault, so his home is open and airy, whereas Roland's house is closed up
and dark. That one
required the most work, clad with a lot of woodwork. We wanted it to look like a
home. The boys' childhood home, representing Helen's influence, was creative,
warm, with lots of layers and detail."
The rest stop where Kyle gets into trouble was a build. But, apart from that,
utilized practical locations almost exclusively and mostly in and around Ed
Helms' home town of
Atlanta, including the Hartsfield International Airport and the Garden Plaza
Corners Hotel in Norcross, serving the city's nearby Technology Park. A house in
Marietta stood in for the O'Callaghan homestead; Roland Hunt's place was
discovered in the
Druid Hills/Candler Park area; and the Reynolds' home was found in Midtown. For
clinic the filmmakers were scouting a working vet office in the Vinings area
that didn't quite work,
when they spotted a yoga studio further down the hill that fit the bill.
As the story takes Kyle and Peter from their mom's place in Ohio to Miami, from
New York to Wooster, Massachusetts, and back home again to close in on who their
is, Sher hopes audiences will come to realize what the guys themselves are
beginning to suspect:
that it's the distance between them they're really closing.
"We do things for all kinds of reasons and, even as adults, we're often still
trying to figure
out our lives and our direction, and what's really important," the director
says. "Being on the road
can sometimes stimulate a fresh perspective and this is what Kyle and Peter's
journey is really all
"Whether it's your parents, your siblings or your kids," he continues, "we all
shut out the ones we love. But having a family is a blessing. I would hope that
after people have
their laughs and leave the theater, they might be reminded of that and maybe
call some people
up and tell them how much they're loved. And that, to me, is the most important
idea in the
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