Recently named by Variety as one of the ’10 Writers to Watch,’ Scott Neustader and Michael H Weber met in 1999, when Weber applied for an internship and Neustadter hired him for the job. (500) Days of Summer is a semi-biographical movie that was sparked when the two writers began reminiscing over romances that could have been in their lives.
How did you manage to create a romantic comedy in a way that’s never been seen before?
Scott There are certain topics that romantic comedies always hint around and never really tackle directly. Questions such as: is there really such a thing as ‘the one’? And, if there is, what happens if you lose her? What do you do now? Can you still believe in love? Do your beliefs about love change? These were the questions Weber and I wanted to write about even though we don’t quite have the answers.
The idea we had for the screenplay was sort of a romantic comedy meets Memento. We wanted to follow a guy sifting through the memories of a relationship, moving backwards and forwards through time as he starts to see things he might not have seen while he was going through it. You watch him gaining perspective and learning something about himself and about love. Tom realizes he is someone who is in love with the idea of love and that’s why his story becomes a very hopeful one. He sees something about the nature of love. It’s not your conventional romantic comedy, but it is a very romantic story.
Michael Jumbling the chronology of the movie was a lot of fun for us, but there was also a method to our madness. By pulling out certain moments on their way up and on their way down, you see things you might not otherwise notice and from a new perspective. And, if you think about it, that’s how memory really works, where something will trigger your mind to think of an amazing, wonderful moment and then that will trigger the memory of a bad moment and then comes a revelation of how they were all connected.
When you were writing this how did you keep track of the romance – did you have all the days and what happens in order and then mix them all up?
Scott We’d always written it out of sequence, I had a yellow legal pad which I should have kept, but we had organized it, and the film that you see is 95% close to the original organization of it. It just came together and made sense.
Michael We wanted to tell a story like this, we were just looking for the way how, and Scott sent me an e mail with the general idea of telling it out of order, and it wasn’t something random, it wasn’t a gimmick. It was our intention in that that’s how we remember relationships. No one remembers them in a linear way, you walk down a street and see something and it reminds you of an ex-girlfriend and you remember the good times and then you remember the bad times, and more bad times!
What’s interesting about the film is that it’s all from Tom’s point-of-view, we never really get Summer’s take on it.
Scott That was a conscious choice from the very beginning. The logic of the movie is everything’s happening from his perspective, so if there are gaps in his knowledge of why things are happening, why she’s acting a certain way that’s because there’s a breakdown of communications between them and that’s part of the problem. We at one point said we were going to have Summer interrupt and say, ‘That’s not how it happened actually,’ and tell her version of a scene, but we just couldn’t do it because the logic of the movie from the outset is this is all from his perspective and everything that we know is what he knows or thinks he knows or is remembering.
She says from the beginning that she doesn’t want a serious relationship, so why does Tom get so involved with her?
Scott It’s an interesting question, if you’re having a good time with somebody and you know what they told you in the back of your mind that there’s no future here, do you want to sacrifice the current enjoyment that you’re having or do you want to ride the wave and hope you don’t get too caught up?