Will : “My life is made up of units of time. Buying CDs – two units. Eating lunch – three units. Exercising – two units. All in all, I had a very full life. It’s just that it didn’t mean anything.”
Evolving is not an easy thing. From the moment I was brought into this world I had two parents that guided me with every step – taking care of all the growing up aspects. Then came school, college and adult life and – I don’t know about you – but I’ve always felt as if I’m in the deep end of the pool when it comes to maturity in the emotional department. There are aspects of self-growth that I have to continue to work on – and do inventory. Intimacy is one of my biggest issues. I’m not talking about sex – just relating better and communicating better – being less isolated. I’ve always been in touch with my emotions – but could do better in expressing feelings to family and close ones. I’ve always been okay with being a loner – some might say cut-off – and I’m awfully awkward in a group. It has taken the dramatic turns of this year to help me come to terms with a lot of these issues in a more determined and meaningful way.
“All men are islands. And what’s more, this is the time to be one. This is an island age,” professes Will in the clever, touching and amusing “About A Boy” (2002) – starring Hugh Grant in a career best. It’s a coming-of-age tale of two men – one happens to be thirty eight and the other one twelve – and the way they make a significant impact on each other’s lives and development.
It is an adaptation of a novel of the same by famed novelist Nick Hornby – whose acclaimed fiction debut – “High Fidelity” was also terrifically transferred to the screen by Stephen Frears in 2000. Hornby is an impressive screenwriter – nominated for the Oscar for “An Education” (2009) and again for “Brooklyn” (2014). “About A Boy” focuses on Will, who has been set for life living off the royalties from his dad’s one-hit wonder success. Will is content spending his days watching TV – dating women and dropping them the moment they get too needy, and buying trendy things for his bachelor pad. When a close friend suggests he be the godfather to her child for she believes he has hidden depth, he retorts, “No, no, you’ve always had that wrong about me. I really am this shallow.”
After dating a beautiful mom who dumps him after she fears he might be getting ready for commitment, he determines that chasing single parents might be the way to go. He pretends to be a single dad and joins a group called SPAT (single parents alone together) and invents a child called Ned. The messiness of life intervenes. On his way to another conquest, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult in his screen debut) and his suicidal hippie mother (Toni Collette – in another compelling turn) cross his path. Marcus – who has a habit of singing out loud without knowing it – seizes on Will as a date for his mom. When that doesn’t work out, Marcus follows Will to where he resides and starts to hang out in his apartment after school – willing himself into the bachelor’s life. Will becomes a cool mentor – able to help the young kid’s nerdy qualities and buying him enviable sneakers. Both affect each other in more ways than one. When Will meets and actually falls in love with a single mom – Rachel – she’s led to think that Marcus is his son. Eventually, Will is forced into some reckoning.
The script – co-written by Peter Hedges and co-directors Paul and Chris Weitz – is hilarious and tart and quite touching without ever becoming cloying. It provides Grant a chance to move away from all the ticks and mannerisms that he showed in his early roles. He displays a great deal of range in this role of rake who has a Peter Pan syndrome. Hoult makes a memorable first impression. He seems to have the soul of an old man – with his expressive eyes. It’s quite stirring to see him as a newcomer and think he will go on to poignant adult acting in “A Single Man” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Rachel Weiz is appealing as the woman who may finally get Will to change his ways.
The Weitz brothers – responsible for “American Pie” (1999) – have a great touch for balancing the tonal shifts in the material – never pushing its potential sentimentality or relying on cheap humor. They know how to get this cast to do great work. They also do not tie everything in tidy ribbons for its conclusion. Life is muddled – though made easier by the unexpected connections we make along the way.
Marcus: “I used to think two was not enough. But now things are great; there are loads of people… I don’t know what Will was so pissed about. I don’t think couples are the future. The way I see it now, we both got back-up now. It’s like that thing Jon Bon Jovi said: ‘No man is an island.’”
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Available to rent on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNOW, FlixFling, Redbox,, Microsoft, Google Play, YouTube, iTunes and Vudu.
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby
Screenplay by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult
Hugh Grant on Bringing “About a Boy” to the Screen
“The whole slacker thing, I’ve had huge phases of that, particularly pre- ‘Four Weddings,’ ” he says. “My long months of unemployment between jobs, I know very well what it’s like to sit around and watch afternoon television and save up going to the news agent as your treat. “And all of that stuff about any cheap trick to get girls,” he continues. “That whole shallow thing I’m sure I’m guilty of and have been guilty of. Island living, in terms of not connecting, particularly given the charms of fantastic television and gadgets and all the sort of paraphernalia that late- 20th century life offers you, I’m certainly familiar with that problem, as I think most people are. I think that’s why it touches a chord for a lot of guys.” In fact, Grant was so wedded to this material that he tracked it for years – – it was initially developed with another director and star — and then insisted on being involved in “casting” the directors as well as the other actors. He became, as he puts it, “extremely interfering,” “a kind of Barbra Streisand figure.”
To get the movie made (it cost $25 million), he even took a pay cut, as did the Weitz brothers. The Weitzes might not seem like a good fit for this film, given that their claim to fame is the crude “American Pie,” but, as Grant says, “they’re the most erudite, scholarly, highbrow directors I’ve ever come across. Certainly the only ones I’ve ever met who read Thackery on the set between setups. And that combination of highbrow people with a lowbrow sense of humor I thought was quite appropriate for this film.” He might be talking about himself. And while the Weitzes are not as adolescent as they seem, neither is Grant as breezy as his manner might suggest. The bumbling quality is not just an affectation or shtick but also a man wound tight. “He’s incredibly hard on himself,” Paul Weitz says. “He’s always thinking he’s done a terrible job and beating himself on the head and swearing at himself. Part of it (directing him) is trying to get him to calm down.” (sfgate.com)
Hugh Grant on Nicholas Hoult
“I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never done a film with a child in a leading role before, so I was very keen that we got it right and was very interfering in terms of casting. I was there throughout most of that process. It was rather like casting a girl to be your lover – I had to make sure the chemistry was there and that he wasn’t going to be annoying, which he’s not. But, I didn’t want to click too much with him. We talked a bit in pre-production about whether I should hang out with him, get to know him, but I was against it because my character is someone who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing around children, really, and I thought, well, that’s me naturally in life so, I think I’ll stick with that to play the role.” (bbc.co.uk)
Nick Hornby on the Soundtrack
“I think it was the first time I met the directors, Chris and Paul Weitz, and there was still the fear that it might turn into an ‘American Pie’-type film. One of the first things they said was that they were thinking of getting Badly Drawn Boy to write the music, and that seemed quite spooky to me as it wasn’t an obvious choice, and certainly wasn’t an obvious choice from two American directors. It felt like a mystical moment. I love that soundtrack album. What’s interesting is that it must have looked to some people like a dangerous commercial decision. But over the last couple of weeks I keep seeing what I think are adverts for the film but turn out to be adverts for the album. The album is everywhere and in the charts, so I’m sure it will make film companies think again – you can do something so interesting musically and help sell the film.” (theguardian.com)
About Author Nick Hornby
“I started by writing plays. They were sort of screen-cum-radio-cum-TV plays, and they weren’t very good … When I left university and I tried to write, everything came out sounding like bad essays, so I thought I should stick to dialogue. I hadn’t done enough reading – not of the things I wanted to emulate – so it took me a while, a long while, to grapple with voice … everything changed for me when I read Anne Tyler, Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and Lorrie Moore, all in about ’86-’87 … voice, tone, simplicity, humour, soul … all of these things seemed to be missing from the contemporary English fiction I’d looked at, and I knew then what I wanted to do’.” In the Beginning, Nick established himself as a journalist, with features published in the Sunday Times, Esquire, Elle, Vogue, GQ, Time Out, Time, the Literary Review and the Independent. Nick’s First book was a collection of critical essays on American writers, entitled Contemporary American Fiction (1992)…Nick’s best-known books are the internationally bestselling novels “High Fidelity,” “About A Boy,” “How To Be Good,” “A Long Way Down” and “Juliet, Naked.” Nick’s non-fiction books include the football memoir “Fever Pitch” and “The Complete Polysyllabic Spree,” a collection of Nick’s essays on books and culture. He is also the author of “Slam,” which is vintage Hornby for teenagers. “Fever Pitch,” “High Fidelity,” “About A Boy” and “A Long Way Down” have all been made into successful, and much-loved, films, starring Colin Firth, John Cusak and Hugh Grant. “Fever Pitch” was also released as a movie in 2005 starring Drew Barrymore. Nick has also scripted the adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir “An Education” as well as “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin. Nick is a huge pop music fan. Read the soundtrack of his life (and some of his New Yorker columns) in “31 Songs” (2003). (nickhornbyofficial.com) His most recent projects include the TV series “About A Boy” (2014-2015), “Love, Nina” (2016), “Slam” (2016), “State of the Union” (2019) and most recently “High Fidelity” in 2020.
About Co-Writer and Director Paul Weitz
Screenwriter and director Paul Weitz, like his younger brother and creative partner Chris Weitz, came from a Hollywood background. Their mother was Academy Award-nominated actress Susan Kohner, father fashion designer John Weitz, grandfather famed talent agent Paul Kohner, grandmother Mexican actress Lupita Tovar, and uncle producer Pancho Kohner. Before achieving success in film, Weitz received some acclaim as a playwright, with “Mango Tea” produced by New York’s Ensemble Studio Theater (EST) and performed off-Broadway featuring Marisa Tomei and Rob Morrow. Other plays of Weitz’s produced by EST include “All for One” and “Captive,” the latter leading to his first film credit. The lurid story of a couple who finds that taking a hostage serves as romantic inspiration was adapted by writer-director Karl Slovin into “Sex and the Other Man” (1995), starring Kari Wuhrer, Ron Eldard and Stanley Tucci. The brothers first gained notice when they co-wrote the screenplay for the computer animated feature “Antz” (1998), after which they introduced a new generation to the teen sex comedy with the “American Pie” (1999) franchise. Although Weitz only directed the first film, the brothers would go on to executive produce two sequels, “American Pie 2” (2001) and “American Wedding” (2003) before taking a more hands-off approach to the series. After co-writing the pilot episode of the remake series “Fantasy Island” (ABC 1998-99) and Eddie Murphy’s hit sequel “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” (2000), Weitz co-created the short-lived sitcom “Off Centre” (WB 2000-01) starring Eddie Kaye Thomas. The following year, the brothers teamed with screenwriter Peter Hedges to adapt British novelist Nick Hornby’s cult novel “About a Boy” (2002), which the brothers also co-directed.
Weitz next tackled a solo project, serving as writer, director and producer of the serio-comic “In Good Company” (2004), starring Dennis Quaid as a successful middle-aged ad salesman who suddenly finds himself with a new boss half his age (Topher Grace) who also begins seeing his daughter (Scarlett Johansson). This was followed by the same triple-threat work on political satire “American Dreamz” (2006), which was unrelated to his previous franchise and fantasy “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” (2009). Weitz also served as producer on “The Golden Compass” (2007) and teen romantic comedy “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (2008) and as director of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro’s comedy sequel “Little Fockers” (2010). Weitz’s TV work during this period included producing Mike White’s sitcom “Cracking Up” (Fox 2004), police drama “Lone Star” (Fox 2010) and musical drama “Mozart in the Jungle” (Amazon 2014-2018), for which he also occasionally wrote and directed episodes. Weitz wrote and directed dark drama “Being Flynn” (2012), directed Tina Fey and Paul Rudd romantic comedy “Admission” (2013), and wrote and directed Lily Tomlin vehicle “Grandma” (2015). After a small role in White’s “Chuck and Buck” (2000), Weitz resumed his acting career in films written and directed by longtime friend Jeff Baena, appearing in small roles in “Life After Beth” (2014), “Joshy” (2016) and “The Little Hours” (2017). (tcm.com) His most recent projects include writing and directing the films “Bel Canto” (2018) and “Fatherhood” (2021).
About Co-Writer and Director Chris Weitz
Chris Weitz was born in New York City, the son of actress Susan Kohner and Berlin-born novelist/fashion designer John Weitz (born Hans Werner Weitz). His brother is filmmaker Paul Weitz. He is the grandson of agent Paul Kohner and Mexican actress Lupita Tovar on his maternal side. His grandmother, Lupita, starred in Santa, Mexico’s first talkie in 1932. Weitz was educated at the Allen-Stevenson School in New York and St. Paul’s School in London and went on to graduate with a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from Trinity College, Cambridge. Weitz began his film career as a co-writer with his brother Paul on the 1998 animated film “Antz.” In 1999, he and Paul directed and produced “American Pie,” which became a major box-office success. In 2002, the brothers co-wrote and directed “About a Boy,” which earned them an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Chris went on to direct several other feature films, including the 2007 adaptation of Philip Pullman’s bestselling fantasy novel, “The Golden Compass,” and the second film installment in the “Twilight” series, “New Moon.” His feature… “A Better Life” …garnered an Award nomination for its lead actor, Demián Bichir. More recently, Weitz has written several feature films, including “Cinderella” (2015) for Disney and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) for Lucasfilm. His young adult novel trilogy, “The Young World,” has been published by Little Brown beginning in 2014. He has produced a number of films through his and Paul’s company “Depth of Field,” including Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” (2009) and Peter Sollett’s “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” (2008). Their most recent production is the filmmaker Kogonada’s feature debut, “Columbus” (2017), starring John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards. Later this year, production will begin on the Disney live-action film “Pinocchio” from director Paul King; Weitz wrote the script and will produce it through Depth of Field. Weitz most recently directed the film “Operation Finale” (2018), starring Oscar Isaac and Sir Ben Kingsley. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children. (2019.filmfestival.tcm.com)