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'500 Days Of Summer' Writers Discuss Their Offbeat And Charming Film

July 15th, 2009 10:15am EDT
500 Days of SummerScott Neustadter and Michael Weber, the writers of the film "(500) Days of Summer" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel -- a film we saw last week and make no apologies for our unabashed love of it; tomorrow we'll have an interview with the director, Marc Webb, and a separate full review -- sit down with us to discuss the film's offbeat, yet quite charming, boy meets girl and is happy; boy loses girl and is sad; perhaps boy can get girl back; jump from Day 1 to day 400 then back to Day 1 storyline.

Mike: Everyone keeps asking me about this movie. I don't know exactly what to tell them because when a film is custom made just for me...

Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber: (Both laughing)

Mike: Well, with how it's written and every pop-culture reference, it's hard to be certain someone else is going to agree with me. Does that make sense?

Scott Neustadter: I literally kept [the script] in a drawer for six months because I did not believe that anyone else would ever want to read something like this. It was the thing we were most proud of, but there was no way anyone else was ever going to like it. Exactly what you're saying. It's a little too me. It's a little too singular. The way to describe it, I guess, because we discovered this subsequently, is that there's a lot of us out there. A lot of people who've gone through this and don't like to talk about it. They come up to us now and they say, "blown away by it," and it's really cool.

Mike: On Saturday night I was at a birthday party and we wound up at a karaoke place and my friend Mo and I sang "Here Comes Your Man." How cliche is that going to be in three weeks? I think I even said that this is the last time before this movie comes out that this song can be chosen.

Scott Neustadter: That is true. But if they have "Sugar Town," you're allowed to sing it (laughs).

Michael Weber: I hope maybe on the DVD they'll put the uncut of each one them singing the full song.



Mike: You know, when you go to the movie screenings with the hard core critics, no one shows that much emotion. It's kind of like sports reporters not being able to root in the press box. So, I try not to laugh too hard but when [a "Star Wars" character I was asked not to mention yet during a Hall & Oates song] winks at Tom [Joseph Gordon-Levitt] in the car window, I couldn't help myself.

Scott Neustadter: I have a lot of family and I want to get them to see the movie so they were like, "Oh, do you want to come to a press screening or whatever?" and I said "Eh, fine." So I let my cousins go to a press screening and I knew the critics weren't going to laugh like an audience is going to laugh and they came out and they were howling. Everyone was hooting and hollering and they were getting really into it.

Mike: It was much more boisterous than a regular screening.

Scott Neustadter: That's cool. That's so good to hear.

Mike: It's funny, the only thing I didn't like about the movie was that I couldn't go see it again the next day.

Scott Neustadter: We should put that on the poster!

Michael Weber: (Laughing)

Mike: (Laughing) Oh, really? I can get quoted?

Michael Weber: Totally! I think so.

Scott Neustadter: That was a good thing to say.

Mike: (Laughs) If you want me to send you that later...

Michael Weber: [As he calls for the Fox Searchlight publicist] Judy!

500 Days of Summer

Image © Fox Searchlight

Mike: It was perfect casting for Tom and Summer [Zooey Deschanel]. As a viewer you really like hanging out with both of them when things were going well at... well, I don't want to say, "the end," because the film jumps back and forth throughout. Zooey's almost too good because [when the relationship changes] that's still almost always going to be who he's going to remember. No one can compare.

Scott Neustadter: Well, I think that's sort of true to life. It's good that he'll remember that. It's also good that he's able to move on because that would have been torture. If that would have continued on any more I don't think the roller coaster was going to be done. So, it's important to not completely dismiss it from your memories; erase it from your memories and say, "I don't want to think about that anymore." But, to be able to look back fondly and say, "I'm glad I went through that, but I'm more glad I went through that because it's made me this person now who can be with someone new."

Mike: Was it always written where the [time-frame] jumps around as much as it does?

Scott Neustadter: Yeah. That was the thing that kept it from being a diary entry from me being like [in a crying voice],"I'm so lonely!" We set out to write this kind of a thing and we didn't know what we were going to write about. I went through this kind of experience and said, "We've got to write about it somehow." We didn't know, still, what we were doing but this thing clicked. I was like, "I think I know how we do this and other people might want to read it, too, as opposed to just the two of us." And that was "408 Days of April." And I was like [using a rushed, excited voice], "That's her name! And we'll tell the story like day one is when they meet and then it goes all over the place" ... That was really the only way I thought that maybe there was something there. Otherwise, there's no way we would have showed it to anyone.

Mike: How did the name get changed?

Scott Neustadter: We thought about it and I think I said to [Michael Weber], "People will want more days of Summer than of an April."

Mike: Especially in these parts where it's still 35 degrees out.

Scott Neustadter: I grew up in a beach town and Summer is Summer. When we grew up it's all we looked forward to.

Mike: Was this always set in L.A.? For a movie that's set in L.A., it's like the least L.A. movie I've ever seen. It's got a very New York feel to it.

Michael Weber: I'm from New York; I live here and Scott used to live here. It was originally set in San Francisco, that's what it is written for. For awhile they thought we should make it "Anytown U.S.A." because San Francisco was too expensive. And then we settled on L.A. We wanted to show a different side of L.A.; we didn't want to see the L.A. you see in "Entourage." We didn't want to show the L.A. you see in "L.A. Law" or Hollywood Sign and that L.A. We'd seen that before and I think Tom sees beauty in things a lot of other people miss...

Scott Neustadter: He romanticizes everything, everything is romanticized; we had not seen L.A. as a romanticized city in the way that you see Rome in a Fellini movie or New York in a Woody Allen...

Michael Weber: Or San Francisco, too. It probably worked out better because we know San Francisco is beautiful. For me being a New Yorker, I didn't know. I'd never seen that side of L.A.; I like that side of L.A. We would joke while we were shooting downtown: 'Entourage" was shooting a block away but they were shooting downtown but making it look like West Hollywood.

Scott Neustadter: Or Beverly Hills.

Michael Weber: And we were embracing downtown.

Mike: Right! Because there was so much focus on the architecture which you don't see in movies set in L.A. You don't often hear about the nice architecture in Los Angeles.

Scott Neustadter: [Director] Marc Webb [says] when he talks about downtown, that whoever built downtown had a lot of hope that it was going to be the center of L.A. and it's forgotten and it's left; no one goes there anymore. They're trying to do a resurgence but it's taking a long time. Tom's someone with so much hope and there's sad but happy thing there. Beautiful things come out but there's also this sense of loss. Something missing.

Mike: Last thing. There's a scene where Tom and Summer are talking on the phone and Summer is doing this, "Do Do Do D-D-D Doo," [In reference to a theme song] sound. It wasn't explained what that is. What was that? Was it the beginning of the game "Tron"?

Scott Neustadter: (Laughs) No. When you watch the movie again, one of the ways that they're bonding at the karaoke scene is when they try to remember the "Knight Rider" theme song.

Mike: Ohhhhh! OK.

Scott Neustadter: I can't remember what it is.

Michael Weber: [Starts singing the "Knight Rider" theme song]

Scott Neustadter: Yeah. And a little while later we see her singing when she remembered it. Which, by the way: based on a real situation.

Mike: I remember the "Knight Rider" scene because I was thinking, "I hope they're not talking about that new version that came out. I hope it's the original."

Scott Neustadter: Yes. Well, it's "The A-Team." "The A-Team" wouldn't give us the rights.

Mike: No way?! Why wouldn't they?

Scott Neustadter: (Laughs) I don't know! They wanted Marc [Webb] to direct the movie version but they wouldn't give him the theme song. You know, it's tougher to get rights to the stuff than anyone would have thought. A lot of the music, for example, I would have thought they would pay us!

Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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