Brilliant filmmaker Chris Columbus who first directed the phenomenal Harry Potter films namely Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and produced the third Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban brings in a new raucous set of teens in the upcoming I Love You Beth Cooper starring Hayden Panettiere.
I Love You Beth Cooper is based on the novel by Larry Doyle that centers on a graduating academic teenager, Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust). This nerdy, bookish valedictorian suddenly and unexpectedly proclaims his love for the hottest and most popular girl in school, Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), during his graduation speech. He has sat behind her for years and has always been obsessed with her. Yet much to Denis's surprise, Beth turns up at his door that very night.
With Columbus' passion for (film) storytelling, I Love You Beth Cooper comes out as a crazy teen adventure with a strong vibrant young cast. Columbus further talks about filming this latest teen comedy that relates to popularity, crushes, friendship and fitting in.
Q: How did you get involved in the project?
A: "I loved the book I Love You Beth Cooper, but originally I had no desire to direct the movie. I was looking for a bigger project. Then I realized it had been a while since I had done a comedy. So I looked at it and really, really fell in love with the book and the material and suddenly it became a priority for me to direct the film."
Q: Why did you cast Hayden Panettiere as Beth Cooper?
A: "I'd seen a couple of episodes of Heroes (she stars in the TV series) and I actually remembered her from Remember the Titans. I thought she did a great job in that picture as a little kid. I thought she'd be great in this film so she came up to San Francisco and we met for a couple of hours. And immediately I thought, well, she's Beth Cooper. She actually made my job incredibly easy because she's such a professional."
Q: What is the audience do you think for this kind of movie?
A: "Well this is a teen film and they are a genre unto themselves. They've become almost as big as westerns or musicals. But in this film it was the characters that intrigued me and I am hopeful that the film will appeal to everyone because we've all experienced high school. So older people can go back and see this film and remember how awkward they felt in school, how insecure they were and what it really felt like to fall in love for the first time. They will remember what it was like to experience what they thought was love.
Q: What was it like working with teenagers?
A: "It was great because I have four kids of my own. My oldest is nineteen years old. And I felt in an odd way like the father on the set even though we're dealing with some stuff that would make most fathers uncomfortable. I was more concerned about dealing with them in terms of who their characters were. So on the first day of rehearsals I asked the actors to each go off and write down their own history. When were you born? How did your parents treat you? Where did you grow up? Where did you move to? So they spent a week doing that and then we sat around a table, and everyone read the character descriptions and that helped them understand who they were."
Q: What was your own high school experience like?
A: "I was living in a very small factory town in Ohio. My mother was a worker at the GM (General Motors) factory and my father at an aluminum factory and that looked like my future. A lot of my friends left school and went to work at a factory and did not go to college, and they realized that high school was the highlight of their life. For me it was different. I knew I had to get out of there and do something else."
Q: So having grown up poor, do you still sometimes pinch yourself that here you are working as one of the industry's leading directors?
A: " Yes I do, I've been extremely lucky in my career because part of it is just to do with having the right person pick up the screenplay at the right time and read it. Of course part of it is about talent, part is about ambition and perseverance, but a big part of it is about luck, so I understand that. I also wake up every day thinking it's all going to go away at some point, I worry that every film will be my last film. The key is to remain passionate about the job."
Q: Do you feel any responsibility when you're making a film for teenagers in having some sort of positive theme?
A: "I honestly think its entertainment but because I'm a parent there is also a sense of responsibility. So I refuse to have the kids drinking in a car. You see kids drinking at a party or something but some time elapses before anyone's back in the car. I wasn't interested in showing the kids smoking at all; I didn't want to encourage that in the film. I didn't want that to feel cool in any way."
Columbus is currently directing the fantasy-adventure Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lighting Thief for Fox 2000 Pictures, based on the best-selling novel.
I Love You Beth Cooper opens very soon in Philippine theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.