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“Love” Finds Larry Doyle

“Love” Finds Larry Doyle (photo)

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Inspired by writers like Woody Allen and Donald Barthelme, Larry Doyle began his writing career with humor pieces for the New Yorker and then moved into television, where he wrote for “Beavis and Butthead” and “The Simpsons.” He also started scripting film, among them “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” and “Duplex.” Doyle estimates that for every four or five screenplays he writes, one might make it to the screen, and so the rejection of one of those scripts — the story of a nerdball high school senior who blurts out his love for the school’s alpha cheerleader during his valedictory speech, and the aftermath of his outburst — wasn’t that unusual. What was was his decision to turn the script into a novel, 2007’s “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” a crossover publishing hit (attracting high school readers and post-grads alike) that immediately drew Hollywood’s attention, as well as that of director Chris Columbus. In a recent interview, the very funny Mr. Doyle spoke about the classic teen comedy’s circuitous route to the screen, the perils of movie marketing, and why some of us never really leave high school.

“I Love You Beth Cooper” started out as an idea you had for a movie that you wrote up into 100 pages of a script treatment that was rejected for being “execution dependent,” and “not castable.” Then an agent convinced you to turn it into a book and it was almost immediately snapped up as a film as well — why do you think the story had to take that journey to the screen?

Well, they like shiny things. Movie people are all about — and these are all executives and studios — they’re all about not having to have an opinion. And so they tend to not judge things on the material, they judge by other things they can ascribe to it that might be commercial or not commercial. And a book — even an unpublished book — is a property, whereas a movie script, as far as they’re concerned, is nothing.

It’s not even an idea?

Well, if the idea is something that can attract talent, that might get a studio interested. You used to have the big idea that could attract the big actor, but now you have to have the actor saying he’ll be a part of the big idea before it will sell. In other words, you have to do the studio’s job for them. I think that a lot of executives feel that their biggest job is to say no, to look for a reason to say no — it’s like, the only way they’ll make movies is if they’re forced to. They operate primarily from fear. They won’t do an idea because they’re afraid of it and the only things they will do are out of the fear of what will happen if another CEO does it.

After the book came out, it got some very generous reviews, including an “A” in Entertainment Weekly. After that, I got calls from 15 different producers and studios interested in the book. [Fox Atomic had bought it before it was published.] I thought that was almost a perfect example of Hollywood, which is: If you can reduce something to a single letter, they get it. It wasn’t too much information: A.

The book seemed positioned to straddle both young adult and contemporary fiction — do you think the audiences for the book and the movie will differ at all? The marketing for the movie obviously plays the cards it has.

The book has a pretty broad audience; the movie, I think, is being targeted to a younger one. I think adults will enjoy it, but that’s not what Fox is doing. It’s probably a good date movie.

You told a story about Danny DeVito making it known that he didn’t want you on the set of “Duplex,” and said his attitude about writers is the prevailing one — that “once the script is written, it would ideal if the writer could just turn into a large pizza and a six pack.”

Yeah — that didn’t happen on this one. This was, by far, my most pleasant experience. Of the three movies I’ve now done, this was ten times better than either of the other two. You’re still the writer, though, no longer the authority on anything. It’s no longer your vision. You can contribute to it and make suggestions and make arguments when you need to, but you’re not necessarily going to get your way. I think the movie turned out really well, but I definitely wasn’t the final authority.

I loved this quote from you: “I wrote a screenplay that later became associated with a film called ‘Duplex.’ ” That says it all. How close is the screenplay you wrote for “Beth Cooper” to the completed movie?

From the screenplay, it’s pretty darn close. I can’t say that [Columbus] undermined the movie in any way — the problem, of course, in making a movie as opposed to making a book is things come out the way they come out. All of these issues of how an actor is going to say a line or the pacing of a scene — and even in a perfect world, you can do thousands of takes and maybe still not get that thing you want, especially after the first 50 or 60 takes. You can ask Danny DeVito about that. So you end up with the movie that you have. And does it match exactly what I thought of in my head? No, but I don’t know that it could.

It is a sort of classic coming-of-age high school story, and the success of the book is largely in the telling. Do you think the movie achieves the same thing? Or did you agree that it’s an “execution-dependent” story?

What the studios mean by execution-dependent — it doesn’t mean there’s going to be a good movie one way or another. They mean they’re going to make their money back even it’s shitty. Technically, all movies are execution-dependent. What they mean is, if the only way this movie is going to make money is for it to be good, we don’t want to be in that business.

I was thinking more along the lines of a disagreement my friend and I had after seeing Greg Mottola’s “Adventureland” — the lights came up and he said something along the lines of, “Well, big deal, I could have written that. Any of my friends could have written that.” And I don’t think that’s a valid reaction. First of all: But you didn’t. And second: Of course the story is a classic narrative, but it’s all in the execution. It’s the way you sing the song.

Yeah, I would also say that the feeling that you could have written the movie is probably one of the successes of the movie that you don’t realize. What he means by that really is that it captured some aspect of his life. I thought “Adventureland” was a great movie — very poorly marketed.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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