SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
"Home Again" is a rom-com where boy - or three guys, actually - meet a girl who's a single mother and old enough to be their teacher.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HOME AGAIN")
REESE WITHERSPOON: (As Alice Kinney) Hi.
PICO ALEXANDER: (As Harry) How you doing tonight?
WITHERSPOON: (As Alice Kinney) Me?
ALEXANDER: (As Harry) Uh, yeah.
WITHERSPOON: (As Alice Kinney) Oh, I'm doing great. Thank you for asking (laughter).
ALEXANDER: (As Harry) So I'd like to offer to buy your drinks, but...
WITHERSPOON: (As Alice Kinney) Really?
ALEXANDER: (As Harry) I think the bartender's slightly under the impression that I'm taking her home tonight.
WITHERSPOON: (As Alice Kinney) Oh. But you're not.
ALEXANDER: (As Harry) No, I'm not.
WITHERSPOON: (As Alice Kinney) And why is that?
ALEXANDER: (As Harry) Because then I'd have to stop talking to you.
SIMON: Reese Witherspoon as Alice Kinney - Pico Alexander as Harry one of the filmmaking trio of young men who need a place to crash while they try to make an impression in Hollywood. The film was written and directed Hallie Meyers-Shyer - her first film - and is produced by Nancy Meyers, who's written and/or directed signature romantic comedies that include "Private Benjamin," "Something's Gotta Give," "Father Of The Bride" - I could go on. They join us from the studios of NPR West. Thank you both very much for being with us.
NANCY MEYERS: So happy to be here. Thanks for having us.
HALLIE MEYERS-SHYER: Thank you.
SIMON: There are some mothers and daughters who love each other but can't have lunch together without getting into an argument.
SIMON: So what's it like to make a movie together?
MEYERS-SHYER: It was a great experience. I mean, she knows so much about making a film, making a romantic comedy. So she was the right woman for the job and my mother also, which was...
MEYERS-SHYER: ...A nice added addition.
MEYERS: You kind of have to put aside, if you can, the mother-daughter relationship when you're working together. It was interesting and unique and certainly was nothing I'd ever, you know - or Hallie'd ever done before. But...
MEYERS-SHYER: Well, I had never done any of it before.
MEYERS: Yeah. But we're in service to the movie. So that's always the goal. That's the endgame. So it's funny. We've been interviewed a lot, and you can tell somebody's relationship with their mom because they either approach us with, what was that like, or, oh, what was that like? You know, you can just feel tension or delight in the concept.
SIMON: Did you ever have to hold yourself back from saying, that's not how we do it?
MEYERS: Holding things back is not one of my strengths. So, you know, I very much wanted Hallie to make her movie the way she wanted to make her movie. But I did feel if I saw something going on that I knew I could help by just turning things a little bit one way or the other. I always said it. But I didn't try to impose my stamp on her work. No.
SIMON: And, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, did you ever have to put a cork in it?
MEYERS: I like how you phrased that.
MEYERS-SHYER: Well, you know, I welcomed her opinion and her advice throughout the whole process. I mean, obviously, there's times when you feel that you need to fight back. But, you know, it ultimately - those discussions help you arrive at an even better place, usually, in any sort of partnerships or collaborations. And making a movie is such a collaborative experience that there's always a lot of cooks in the kitchen when you're making a movie.
SIMON: It's a real Hollywood story. Alice, played by Reese Witherspoon, who's the daughter of a film director. The three lads who wind up in her guest house and then some - let me put that - let me put it that way...
SIMON: ...Want to make films. So, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, did you grow up with not perhaps that analogous situation but in a Hollywood household like that?
MEYERS-SHYER: Well, I grew up in a household that really valued cinema. So we watched lots of movies. Films were being cooked up in our guest house, where my parents wrote together. And then after their divorce, even more films were being written in my house. And when your parents are filmmakers, you actually get such a good insight into what actually making a film is all about. And, you know, I would see it from the writing process to the casting and pre-production and then shooting, post-production and marketing - you know, the whole way through.
SIMON: May I ask - did you ever slip and refer to the writer and director of this film, who happens to be your daughter, by, like, a family or childhood nickname?
MEYERS: I do call her Hallaway (ph) a lot. And I didn't stop doing that.
SIMON: That doesn't sound so bad on a film set.
MEYERS: That's the cutest question ever, by the way.
MEYERS-SHYER: I wasn't sure what to call her. On our first day, I said, should I call you Mom and - or Nancy? So I tried Nancy, and it sounded so weird. So I went right back to calling her Mom.
SIMON: Question for you both from the attitude, maybe, of different generations - what makes a signature rom-com? What are some of the elements?
MEYERS: Hallie just pointed at me.
MEYERS: So I'm going to answer that one. I know this sounds ridiculously obvious, but I do think romance is part of it. And I think comedy - really legit comedy - is part of it. And, you know, I've said this to Hallie quite a few times. But I've never been in a group of people when somebody says to somebody else, hey, how do you two meet? - where the whole group doesn't lean in to hear the answer. Everybody has that story. And everybody's interested in your story. The thing is that most movies - you know, the Tom Cruise action movie, whatever - you know he's going to be OK at the end. It's how you tell the story that matters. And same with a romantic comedy. You know they may end up together, although in some movies, that's not always true. But, you know, generally in a romantic comedy, somebody's going to end up with somebody. So it's how you tell the story and how smart you can be about telling the story and how entertaining.
SIMON: Hallie Meyers-Shyer, what do you think are the signature elements of a good rom-com?
MEYERS-SHYER: I mean, I think it's sort of the signature element of any good film - is being really invested in your main characters and caring about their journey and, you know, where they end up. Usually, in a romantic comedy, it's in a relationship. And, you know, that's why I think this movie is a bit more of a modern take on a romantic comedy - because it's really about this character finding herself and figuring herself out, versus finding love. But there's definitely elements of romance and, you know, comedy, which are the two big ingredients. I really think it comes back to character and really caring about that person and rooting them in reality.
SIMON: Is there such thing as a mother-daughter rom-com?
MEYERS-SHYER: There should be.
SIMON: I mean, you could make a comedy about the mother and daughter working - making a film together, I suppose.
MEYERS: We have no material. I think that one might be too close to home. We like guys in our movies, too.
SIMON: Oh, all right. Well, you always have to have couples standing around, looking pretty.
SIMON: Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who has written and directed "Home Again," produced by Nancy Meyers - they happen to be related. Thanks so much for being with us, both of you.
MEYERS: Thank you so much for having us.
MEYERS-SHYER: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.