Interview: Vince Vaughn, Ron Howard, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum of ‘The Dilemma’

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CHICAGO – After a 12-year hiatus from comedy (his last was “Edtv” in 1999), the legendary (and typically dramatic) director Ron Howard is back to crack you up with “The Dilemma”.

Kevin James (left) and Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma
Kevin James and Vince Vaughn in “The Dilemma”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The Chicago-filmed dramedy is part comedy (with the well-cast chemistry of Vince Vaughn and Kevin James) and part drama (with Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly). Queen “Lady Wood” Latifah supports with Channing “Tatoo” Tatum and Chicago stage actor Amy Morton. “The Dilemma” opens everywhere on Jan. 14, 2011.

Much like “The Dark Knight” features Chicago as one of its primary stars, “The Dilemma” clearly looks like Chicago both with its sweeping metropolitan shots and its intimate scenes only locals would recognize. The film also stars Chelcie Ross, Grace Rex, January Stern, Debbi Burns, Rebecca Spence, Heidi Johanningmeier and Talulah Riley from director Ron Howard, writer Allan Loeb and producer Brian Grazer.

“The Dilemma” held a world-premiere red carpet and screening in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2011. Back on June 12, 2010, Ron Howard walked another local red carpet where he was awarded for career achievement from the 46th Chicago International Film Festival. was present on both nights. We now bring you the following interviews with Ron Howard and his leading men and women.

Interviewer: Which one’s funnier: “The Dilemma” or “The Switch” (a 2010 film also written by Loeb)?

“The Dilemma” writer Allan Loeb: I would say they’re both about equally funny. They’re both dramas and comedies put together. They’re not broad comedies. A dramedy is a harder and more challenging film to do. Hopefully I’ve given them a good enough script and structure that they can go off and do what they need to. The greatest thing is if they shoot the script and the improvs, you can decide in the editing room which one wins out.

Left to right: Winona Ryder, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly and Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma
Left to right: Winona Ryder, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly and Vince Vaughn in “The Dilemma”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Interviewer: Did you write the controversial line in “The Dilemma” about electric cars being gay or was that improved?

Loeb: It was in the script.

Interviewer: Is this film based on experience? Have you had experience with infidelity?

Loeb: I have had no experience personally because there’s no one who would cheat on me, obviously.

Interviewer: You’ve been doing drama for so many years now, but you’ve been involved more recently in comedy with “Arrested Development” on TV as an executive producer…

“The Dilemma” director Ron Howard: I was really relieved when we put “The Dilemma” in front of audiences. We were getting laughs in all the right places. Why comedy and why now?

Howard: This story is very unusual. It doesn’t feel like a movie that’s trying to copy something else or cash in on anything. It’s a story with some surprises that people might go home and talk about when it’s over. You have Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, who are known for comedy, and Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly, who are known for drama. You have a split between comedy and drama with these actors…

Howard: This is a real relationship story. We’re playing things for real. In some ways, that makes things even funnier. They’re really enjoying participating in that. Vince and Kevin are very giving and there’s a lot of improv. Jennifer and Winona are throwing themselves in that as well. It’s fun going to work every day to try to generate laughs. Talk about your Chicago filming locations…

Howard: It’s all script driven. Allan Loeb is a Chicago boy and Vince helped develop the project. It wasn’t hard. It was pretty well delineated in the script. We’ve gotten great cooperation and got to shoot the places where we wanted to shoot.

The Dilemma director Ron Howard
“The Dilemma” director Ron Howard.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Interviewer: How has Chicago changed since you’ve done “Backdraft” here?

Howard: It’s even more beautiful. The architecture here has always been great. It’s an ongoing feature of this city that really landed me. Everybody in this crew did that Chicago architectural tour on the boat. As corny as that sounds, it’s the thing everyone talked about. I don’t know another city in the U.S. that really offers that.

Interviewer: Was it your idea to film in Chicago or…?

Howard: That was really developed by producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Allan Loeb. It really made sense for the movie. Chicago is modern and the movie is modern. There’s edge and bite here. This movie is also about friendship and heart and Chicago offers us that humanity. It’s that human face.

Interviewer: How many times a day do people ask you about your “Arrested Development” movie and when is it coming?

Howard: I was talking to (“Arrested Development” movie writer and director) Mitchell Hurwitz the other day. He’s always a little on the elusive side, but he’s under way with the script. It’ll arrive when he believes in it. “Arrested Development” and its fans represent more than a business opportunity for him. He really wants something that reflects the TV show but also stands as a movie.

Interviewer: How often do you look back and wish you were the Fonz (in “Happy Days”)?

Howard: (Laughing) Well, probably never. I don’t think I ever could have been. But who wouldn’t want to snap their fingers and make anything happen? Even then I was aware enough of the value of typecasting to realize that I was not the Fonz.

Interviewer: What was the most difficult shoot for “The Dilemma” in Chicago?

Howard: Probably the (hockey) stuff we shot inside the United Center. It wasn’t because there was a particular challenge or anyone making our life miserable, but what we were doing was physically challenging for the actors, logistically challenging and really expensive. We had to be ultra efficient. We were doing some straight-out comedy, some suspense, some emotional stuff and some physical comedy. That was all happening there.

Interviewer: What’s the recipe you use to pick a winning script?

Howard: For me, it’s about the characters, the situation and if there’s something fresh. One of the reasons it’s been so long since I’ve done a comedy is because I haven’t been finding comedy stories that I thought were fresh. This one is such a cool ride for audiences with so many twists and turns.

I loved the creativity and the invention with this cast. It was exciting to see where these scenes would go. We’ve got some funny stuff that, as a director, I’m very proud of. So many of the very best and hottest laughs came out of moments of improv and bursts of invention. As a creative person, that was really thrilling.

Left to right: Kevin James, Queen Latifah and Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma
Left to right: Kevin James, Queen Latifah and Vince Vaughn in “The Dilemma”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Interviewer: Why’d you decide to remove a controversial part from the trailer?

Howard: Within the context of the movie, it said a lot about our characters. It flamed up our characters in a way that allowed you to accept a lot of the really extreme lengths they’re willing to go to get to the bottom, solve the dilemma and preserve the friendship.

Because of the levels we were going with the story, you had to establish early on that things weren’t always going to be absolutely appropriate. These characters were going to say and do things that would make you wonder. Other people wouldn’t necessarily approve, but their logic was taking them to that place. Among other things, popular entertainment is meant to stir conversation, test boundaries and push buttons.

It’s up to the individual filmmakers to decide if what they’re doing is appropriate for the story. Everyone’s not always going to agree. Over my career, I’ve always tried to take the characters and the story into account first and foremost. Not everything every character says or does is a reflection of my morality or judgment. Often it isn’t, in fact, but that’s what stimulates the conflict and propels the story. What happens when you get this foursome (Vince, Kevin, Winona and Jennifer) together?

“The Dilemma” star Vince Vaughn: They’re all great actors. What has made Kevin so successful is that people connect with him. He’s very real, genuine and considerate. That comes across in his acting. You really can root for him. It’s great for someone to be funny, but he allows for some really real scenes. While being the conductor on this, it’s fun to be able to give ideas and have fun with each other as Ron guides it all. How much leeway have you had to improv?

Vaughn: I’ve always written on the movies I’ve done. At its best, it’s collaborative in that people are listening to each other.

Interviewer: What team do you really hope the Chicago Bears don’t have to play in the playoffs?

Vaughn: Bring ‘em all on. Why not? I’m not afraid of any of them. Having a bye is great. It’s a testament to the players and what they’ve done. The games we lost were close except for the Patriots game. I think we grew up a lot with that game. On any given Sunday, I think the Bears can beat anyone. I’m 100 percent behind them.

Interviewer: The electric car line in “The Dilemma” suggests that they’re gay because they’re lame. Why is that not derogatory?

Vaughn: With comedy, we’ve gotten into a climate now where if you start dividing what we can and can’t joke about it starts to divide people. I can make fun of this but not this? Who decides that? You have a choice, but I have a good track record where I don’t intentionally try to be mean.

Channing Tatum in The Dilemma
Channing Tatum in “The Dilemma”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Interviewer: Do you think that joke is funny?

Vaughn: I do. I do think that joke is funny. We’re in such a PC environment, and when you say stuff that goes against, it’s fun to have that shock. That’s part of the reason we go to the movies. As for the moral questions in this film, do you think people are made to be monogamous or polyamorous?

Vaughn: That’s such an individual question to ask yourself. I wouldn’t say the movie deals with that moral question. (Laughing) I’ve got the hard-line reporters here and I like it. You guys are bringing the hard-edge stuff to the comedy. That’s your job and I appreciate it.

This movie is really about a friendship. The question in “The Dilemma” is: How do you tell your friend something he needs to hear when he’s not in a place to hear it? He’s already on tilt. That becomes the comedy.

Interviewer: As a Chicagoan, what are you most proud of in this city?

Vaughn: The people. The people here are the best.

Interviewer: Favorite pizza place here?

Vaughn: It’s hard to say. There’s too many good ones. I eat at too many of them. I keep trying to find out what it is. It’s hard to find a bad meal in Chicago.

Interviewer: What was the best part of being home to shoot?

Vaughn: It’s nice to be able to come home and not be away for three months. Now I’m just looking forward to being a dad.

Interviewer: In the film, you get caught red-handed doing something. What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told to get out of something?

Left to right: Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in The Dilemma
Left to right: Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in “The Dilemma”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

“The Dilemma” star Winona Ryder: Gosh, I don’t know.

Interviewer: How was the intensity of “The Dilemma” as compared to the intensity of “Black Swan”?

Ryder: We can’t really compare the two. They’re such different genres. I was on for three or four months in Chicago for “The Dilemma”. With “Black Swan,” I just came in for 10 days and did my thing. I didn’t have the intense training that Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis had in “Black Swan”. They were both totally different experiences, but both were really amazing. One was challenging in a very fun way and the other in a darker way.

Interviewer: What’s something Chicago does better than anywhere else?

“The Dilemma” star Jennifer Connelly: We can swim in your water.

Interviewer: You’ve been in a couple movies recently where the men playing opposite of you don’t realize what they have and they can’t commit to you. Why don’t they realize what they have (in “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Little Children)?

Connelly: I don’t really know. I’d have to sit down and think about that one, but everything works out OK in the end.

Interviewer: What was your favorite scene to shoot in Chicago?

Connelly: I did a lot of inside studio work and inside an apartment. We shot at a restaurant on the water where fireworks went off and no one anticipated that.

Interviewer: Is this a bro movie?

“The Dilemma” star Channing Tatum: It has to be a bro movie. I’m sadly not taking care of anyone’s bro except for the bro’s girl. (Laughing)

Interviewer: How much research did you do about homewreckers?

Left to right: Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin James and Vince Vaughn in The Dilemma
Left to right: Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin James and Vince Vaughn in “The Dilemma”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Tatum: I watched a lot of YouTube and Hulu.

Interviewer: Do you have any marital advice?

Tatum: She’s always right. It’s always a gimme. Truly. Honest to god. If she wants to go right, you go right. editor-in-chief and publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2011 Adam Fendelman, LLC

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