After finishing Spider-Man 3 and TV’s Broken Trail, Thomas Haden Church had decided to take a hiatus. But actress/producer Sandra Bullock had other ideas. She desperately wanted him to play the self-serving news reporter, Hartman Hughes, in her new comedy…

Church recalls, “My agent phoned me and said, ‘Sandra Bullock has gotten hold of your phone number, and I think she’s going to call you.’ And sure enough, one day I was gong through my caller ID and there was a call from [Bullock’s husband] Jesse James. I put it together, called her back and we talked for two hours.”

Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper © 20th Century Fox

Sandra Bullock’s character Mary Howowitz is a crossword puzzle constructor, who after falling hard for Steve (Bradley Cooper), a blind date who is a news-cameraman, she thinks they’re an item; unfortunately, he thinks she’s a stalker. As she pursues him from city to city, where he and Hartman Hughes cover breaking news stories, the scenario amuses Hughes, who enjoys torturing his insolent cameraman, and he encourages Mary to fight for the relationship.

Church admits he didn’t ‘dig that deep’ into the character of Hughes, and certainly didn’t base him on any TV personality. “In my early conversations, when we got into rehearsal with Phil [Traill, the director] we just talked about how the guy was gonna look. Sandy was like, “He’s just gotta be super-blonde and super-tan.” Nothing else mattered. That’s all I had in my head. And, I think we succeeded. We completed that mission,” he laughs.

Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper and Ken Jeong © 20th Century Fox

However, Church was intrigued by the movie’s examination of press/spectator circuses that are daily fare on cable networks. “What really appealed to me about the script is its commentary on the media. It’s something that Phil, Kim (Barker, the screenwriter) and Sandy continued to discuss in depth. The script turns the idea of media manipulation on its head, in that the manipulators become in some way entrenched in their own machine.

The story exposes the manufacturing of drama in the media. Bradley Cooper made a comment a couple of days ago about how it’s over-taking primetime television, in terms of this entertainment fascination factor, which is so true. The movie is coming out now, with all of the hype surrounding the National Health Plan and Cash for Clunkers. Every single news item becomes a shark frenzy. And then, whenever the next thing comes up, it’s completely over.

Judy Sloane

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