Chris Columbus © 20th Century Fox
Chris Columbus © 20th Century Fox
Chris Columbus © 20th Century Fox

For his new movie I Love You, Beth Cooper, writer/director Christopher Columbus has returned to his roots. He directed his first movie Adventures in Baby Sitting, a teenage comedy, in 1987.  And after helming such mega-budget blockbusters as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the director admits that his current film, about one crazy night in the life of a group of high school graduates, is a nice change-of-pace.

Can you talk a little bit about what attracted you to this material?

After doing films like Harry Potter, I wanted to go back to that, not bare-bones approach to film-making, but the way I felt back in the Eighties when I was first starting out as a writer, when I was writing movies like Gremlins and the Goonies, and then when I did my first movie, Adventures in Baby-Sitting.

I thought this could be sort of a companion piece to that. And I thought if I strip away the budget and we do it for a fairly small budget, and a small amount of shooting days, with a relatively unknown cast, with the exception of Hayden Panettiere, that it was an opportunity for me to put myself back into that situation and, in a sense, reignite my passion for making those kinds of movies.

In an odd way I felt more pressure than doing a Harry Potter movie, because it was a limited schedule, limited budget, the potential of a blizzard in Vancouver when we were shooting a summer film, all those things add to the intensity of it, so it was a great experience. I also wanted to do an homage to a man who was responsible for my career in big way, John Hughes, movie like Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller, I wanted to do a movie that although it wasn’t set in the Eighties, had a bit of an Eighties vibe to it. It was kind of like Sam Raimi going back and doing Drag Me to Hell. It was the kind of movie I started out making and wanted to go back and just try it again to see what it was like,.

Did you lose your passion for film-making for awhile?

No, it’s not the passion, there’s a different creative process when you don’t have an unlimited budget, or certainly on the Potter films, a huge budget where you can do whatever you want. You know if you don’t get something right the first day you can go back to the Great Hall, because it’s going to be there for the next seven years, and shoot it again. That didn’t exist on this movie; it was a situation I hadn’t been in since the late Eighties.

Did you like those days where you had to rush to finish the work?

I loved it, I don’t think it would have been effective for me if there were stars involved, these kids were very excited about being in the movie and they wanted to give it 150 percent, so there was that general sense of enthusiasm about let’s make this, there was a completely different energy level on this movie. I just wanted to get a touch of that hunger again, that energy.

Was part of that not having the spectacle of special effects where you had to rely on your actors to create the emotion for the scene?

Yeah, and you really carefully pick and choose your actors. When we were doing Potter we basically hired three kids who had never been on a movie set before, so [with this movie] I wanted to deal with actors who although they were slightly green had a real history of performing, who could work within the confines of three or four takes as opposed to twenty. Part of that was the lack of visual effects, but that was the nature of the movie, which is a more innocent version of a teen comedy, it’s an Eighties version of the kind of movie I used make

It’s the sexiest we’ve seen Hayden be, but it doesn’t go too far, was that a fine line to walk?

Lauren London, Hayden Panettiere and Lauren Storm © 20th Century Fox
Lauren London, Hayden Panettiere and Lauren Storm © 20th Century Fox

I think so. Hayden had a go-for-broke attitude, but I do know that there was a sense that we were still working within a PG-13 environment, and how far could we push it? The thing that intrigued me about Hayden is seeing her on Heroes was completely different than working with her, because there’s a kind of façade about her, she is Beth Cooper in a sense, and what was fascinating for me as a director was trying to break down that façade to get to the real emotional core of who she really is, and I don’t think she has taken it that far in a movie before.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.