The Back-Up Plan

The Back-Up Plan

The Back-Up Plan

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin
Director: Alan Poul
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance
Rated: M
Running Time: 104 minutes

Synopsis: The Back-up Plan is a comedy that explores dating, love, marriage and family "inreverse."

After years of dating, Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) has decided waiting for the right one is taking too long. Determined to become a mother, she commits to a plan, makes a doctor's appointment and decides to go it alone. That same day, Zoe meets Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) - a man with real possibilities.

Trying to nurture a budding relationship and hide the early signs of pregnancy becomes a comedy of errors for Zoe and creates confusing signals for Stan. When Zoe nervously reveals the reason for her unpredictable behavior, Stan considers his unusual future but eventually says he's in. Never before has love seen a courtship where a wild night of sex involves three in a bed - Stan, Zoe and the ever-present massive pregnancy pillow. The real pregnancy test comes when both of them realize they really don't know each other outside of hormonal chaos and birth preparations. With the nine month clock ticking, both begin to experience cold feet. Anyone can fall in love, get married and have a baby but doing it backwards in hyper-drive could be proof positive that they were made for each other.

Release Date: May 20th, 2010

Sometimes Destiny Has A Plan Of Its Own
Zoe has a very full life - great friends, a good job, and a fantastic relationship with the grandmother who raised her. But while staring down her late 30s, she comes to the realisation that the one thing that has evaded her, Mr. Right, may never come along. She decides to fulfill her dream to have a family on her own and makes an appointment with a fertility doctor. As luck would have it, mere moments after the procedure she meets Mr. Right.

The arrival of Stan, aka Mr. Right, in Zoe's life begins her romantic journey in love, in life, and in labor. He throws her plan off course in a way that has wildly comedic repercussions both due to circumstance as well as their contrasting personalities.

"Zoe is a planner," explains Jennifer Lopez who stars as Zoe. "She decides it's time to have a baby and she sets out to make that happen. Stan, on the other hand, is much more of a free spirit. He's not living out his dreams (he owns a cheese stand at a NY farmer's market) but he's relaxed into his situation. He's not really thinking about the future, and certainly not looking to be tied down."

Writer Kate Angelo derived the idea for her first feature from witnessing her close friends dealing with thirtysomething female issues. "There is an undeniable biological ticking clock. And, at some point, if you haven't met that right guy by a certain age, you have to consider other options in order to have a family."

Producer Todd Black (who produces alongside his Escape Artists partners Steve Tisch and Jason Blumenthal) brought the script to Amy Baer, President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Films. He credits the material's strength on Angelo's ability to understand where the joke is in a scene but also on her insistence that the script be about something. "It's 2010 and the way a person's life unfolds has no rules - you don't have to get married and then have children," notes Todd Black. "This project sends that message in a funny and beautiful way."

Castings: Finding the Right Talent to Put this Plan in Motion
"The script definitely rang true to me, having just gone through my own experience of having babies for the first time," reveals Jennifer Lopez. "All the little jokes about what it is to be pregnant - being tired, insatiably hungry and the hormonal changes. I could really relate."

Todd Black recalls his realisation after the filmmakers' first meeting with Jennifer Lopez that she was the perfect match for Zoe. "She literally embodied Zoe and she completely got the script. She understood the humor involved in this character becoming a new mom, and the humorous and scary nature of her having a new lover in her life at the same time."

Jennifer Lopez's grasp of the material was important but she also had the right chops for a role that requires the ability to play comedy, as well as more tender moments. "Jennifer Lopez can convey the perfect amount of emotion and comedy all at the same time," says Todd Black. "She's an all around solid actress. Most times you find an actor who can just do the comedy or just the drama. It's rare to find someone who is strong with both."

Director Alan Poul, who most recently produced and directed such television hits as "Swingtown" and "Six Feet Under," was particularly impressed by Jennifer Lopez's fearless approach to the physical comedy. "Jennifer Lopez has an extraordinary gift; she can go very far with physicality - with slapstick - while still keeping it grounded in the reality of the character." It's a talent aptly demonstrated in a scene in which Zoe can't resist an urge to down beef bourguignon using slices of bread as utensils.

When it came time to cast Stan, the filmmakers set out to find a fresh face - someone sexy, funny, strong, yet also vulnerable. It was going to be a challenge to find someone who had the whole package but when they met Aussie actor Alex O'Loughlin, they knew they had found their Stan.

"The minute we had him read with Jennifer Lopez, you could just feel it in the room - their chemistry was undeniable," says Todd Black. "Alex O'Loughlin also came in very prepared. He understood where the comedy was and he wasn't afraid to take it as far as it could go. It's so thrilling as a producer to discover someone new. I'm proud and excited. I can't wait to watch where his career goes; I think he's going to be a major movie star."

Alex O'Loughlin cherished his first turn as a feature leading man. "The cast and crew were amazing and the material is really good. Plus, starring opposite Jennifer Lopez was awesome. I had a ball."

With the two leads in place, it was time to cast the many colorful supporting characters.

"When you're making a romantic comedy a lot of screen time is focused on the two leads but it's important for the audience's enjoyment to surround them with a company of funny supporting players," notes Alan Poul. "When you see these characters appear on screen, they should be a welcome diversion."

One of the most memorable supporting characters in the script is Mona, Zoe's best friend. As comedian Michaela Watkins, who plays Mona, explains, Mona is a "sassy, straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is friend." She's also a mother and very forthcoming with Zoe about what she should expect when she's expecting.

Michaela Watkins, a recent "SNL" alum, admits there was a specific moment in the script that sealed her desire to play the part. "In their first scene together, Mona says to Zoe 'You don't want to have kids and I'm going to show you my vagina to prove it' - well, right there, I knew I wanted in!"

Despite Mona's testimonials, Zoe still proceeds with her plan to conceive and even tries to recruit as a potential sperm donor her friend and pet store employee Clive, played by Eric Christian Olsen. "Clive passes because he's young and still has many women to bed," says Eric Christian Olsen.

Zoe's other pet store employee, and friend, is Daphne, played by actress Noureen DeWulf (most recently seen in The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past). Noureen DeWulf describes her character as "somewhat sassafras."

Zoe's friends are like family but the person she's closest to is her grandmother, Nana, who raised her from an early age after her parents died. The death of Zoe's mom has held both Zoe and Nana back in many ways but significantly in their love lives. They both have clung to the past for too long. Accomplished theater actress and TV legend (she starred as Alice for 9 years in the hit sitcom of the same name) Linda Lavin plays Nana.

"It is rare to find a script where a woman of age is not a joke, demeaned by other people, or self-demeaning," says Linda Lavin. "I really love this part. I get to play a straight shooter who is funny and no-nonsense."

Another TV icon, Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham from "Happy Days" fame), also appears in the film. He plays Arthur, Nana's love interest. Their wedding, after a 22-year engagement, punctuates Nana's turn and provides one of the film's biggest comedic set pieces. Rounding out the main supporting cast are Anthony Anderson ("Law & Order") as a dad Stan meets in Central Park who offers him an honest recount on what it's really like to have kids; Melissa McCarthy ("Samantha Who?") as Carol, the leader of the Single Mothers and Proud support group who conducts each session with a dramatic worship for the beauty of the birthing process; Second City alum Maribeth Monroe as Lori, a member of the support group whose primal water birth is witnessed by a horrified Zoe and Stan; Danneel Harris as Olivia, Stan's ex; and comedian Robert Klein as Dr. Harris, Zoe's fertility doctor.

Alan Poul: A Director with a Plan
"When I read the script, I laughed out loud all the way through which doesn't happen often," recalls Alan Poul. "And then I cried at the end. I thought to myself 'if I can bring even just 75 percent of that experience to the screen, it's going to be a very satisfying movie.'"

Alan Poul appreciated the script's reflection that society has turned the traditional 'courtship, love, marriage, parenthood' sequence of events on its head in recent years. He was also thrilled that Jennifer Lopez was going to play Zoe (she was already attached to the project when Alan Poul received the script). With a great script and the perfect actress in the lead, he signed on.

"Alan Poul was a gift from the gods," compliments Todd Black. "He's one of the best directors I've worked with. He told us the movie he wanted to create in the very first meeting and he's been consistent in his vision from day one."

That vision was to create a modern romantic comedy. To that end, Alan Poul looked for every opportunity to elevate what he refers to as the material's "cutting edge contemporary comedic voice."

Alan Poul is quick to mention that Kate Angelo's script also has a nice balance of classic romantic comedy elements from which he pulled. Perhaps the most notable is the energy of Zoe and Stan which Alan Poul likens to the famous team of Hepburn and Tracy, whose witty banter and on-camera electricity made the genre iconic. Says Alan Poul, "From the moment Zoe and Stan's worlds collide upon hailing the same cab, it's a classic romantic comedy."

Though Alan Poul found Zoe and Stan's relationship to be "hilariously funny and genuinely romantic," he also looked beyond the two leads for entertainment value.

"He looks for comedy in the background and on the sides, wherever the camera is," says Todd Black. "He's always looking beyond the main actors for how he can make people smile watching the whole frame of the movie."

Jennifer Lopez prides herself on doing her homework before every shoot day. She always strives to be aware of each scene's whole picture, including the beats within the beats, in order to stretch the comedy further. Alan Poul makes a habit of doing the same. Together they were able to mine every scene to the maximum extent. Lopez enjoyed collaborating with the director. "Alan Poul had ideas for each scene I would not have thought of, and vice versa," says Jennifer Lopez. "Working together allowed us to maximise the value of the material."

New York and a Back-Up
Though electing to shoot the majority of The Back-up Plan in Los Angeles, the production filmed for two weeks in New York. While only in New York a short period of time, Alan Poul and his team utilised those two weeks to the fullest to ensure New York itself was adequately represented on screen. They shot at a wide variety of locations around the city including on Fifth Avenue along Central Park, in the Tribeca Farmer's Market, on Park Avenue, along the brownstones of Greenwich Village, and at Gray's Papaya on Sixth Avenue.

Shooting in New York was invaluable and the filmmakers made certain they didn't lose that quintessential Big Apple look when shooting in Los Angeles. They were determined that the sets wouldn't read like Los Angeles for New York. "We tried to keep it as authentic as possible so when we ultimately do end up in New York, the look is seamless," says Todd Black.

The filmmakers traveled to New York a couple times in the preparation process to identify key details of the areas they were about to portray. They, then, strategised on how they would recreate the areas in Los Angeles. "It's really about choosing locations very carefully," notes Alan Poul.

The Warner Bros backlot provided the perfect slate on which to build the diverse areas of Manhattan represented in the script. "It's unique among the backlots around town," says renowned production designer Alec Hammond. "You can actually look in every direction and see buildings - buildings that have the right amount of eclectic architecture to really feel like New York."

The Warner Bros backlot's versatility was due in part to the fact that it was a controlled environment. Lighting could be manipulated, color pallets could be customised and one 'street block' could be re-dressed to represent different geographic parts of the city depending on the scene. Creative design detail would also help Alan Poul and Alec Hammond achieve, as Alec Hammond puts it, "a magical look to New York."

A number of other LA-area locations served as New York including a farm in the Santa Monica mountains that doubled for Stan's farm in Upstate New York and Pasadena's Pasadena Elks Lodge which served as the interior of Nana's Shady Brook Retirement Center in Queens.

Hudson Mutts and the Production Goes Nuts
"Since Zoe meets Stan early in the first act, our only real window into what her daily life was before Stan is reflected in her pet store, Hudson Mutts," explains Alan Poul.

Zoe had been a successful executive for a prominent web company before giving the job up for a more meaningful career as the owner of a socially conscious pet store. Zoe refuses to sell bred puppies, instead catering solely to pet adoptions. Zoe's idea to buy the pet store came about after she bought a disabled puppy from a pet store and later discovered they sold her a puppy from a puppy mill.

"Buying Hudson Mutts is a turning point for her," remarks Jennifer Lopez. "It causes her to realise she wants a child, someone with which to share this new, meaningful part of her life." For Alec Hammond, Hudson Mutts' design would have to reflect Zoe's new take on life - particularly in its color scheme. "Zoe's lifestyle is not as sophisticated as when she was in her old job. That would naturally translate in the pet store she has created. So we used blues and oranges and purples and made Hudson Mutts a very lively place." Alec Hammond also peppered the set with Humane Society material and organic pet products to emphasise the store's, and Zoe's, commitment to healthy pet care.

Hudson Mutts is also a hip Greenwich Village gathering place. Making it a social environment created a setting for fun interactions between Zoe and employees Clive and Daphne. In the film, the pet store also hosts a book signing event which allowed for a cameo by world famous 'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan.Hudson Mutts reflects Zoe's love for animals, namely her own. Enter Nuts - Zoe's wheelchair-bound dog.

"This dog is the best," remarks Jennifer Lopez. "Even though Nuts is handicapped, Zoe treats him like he's normal. She's tough on him and she loves him. She's always there for him." It's definitely a loving relationship between owner and dog but it also has moments of push and pull. In the bathroom scene where Zoe learns she's pregnant, the news only comes after she has to fight Nuts, tug-of-war style, for her pregnancy test, which he has decided to use as a chew toy.

Three rescued Boston Terriers - named Nip, Tuck and Nubbins - were used to portray Nuts. "In order to train the dogs to do all they had to do, we had to go with completely healthy dogs," reveals Alan Poul. The dogs were trained over a number of weeks by Marley & Me trainer April Macklin.

Though Nuts only gives the illusion of a handicapped dog, the director appreciated theopportunity to put the puppy mill message on screen. The message is serious but, as Alan Poul notes, "Nuts provides a lot of comedy in the film. He has a big role - he's one of the go-to characters for funny!"

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