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Director Rob Reiner Talks Flipped

By Hannah Goodwyn Producer - Rob Reiner's career launched with his Emmy-winning role as Michael "Meathead" Stivic on TV's All in the Family in the 1970s, but he'll be known for years to come for the memorable movies he's made... The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally..., A Few Good Men (for which he received an Academy Award nomination). His latest film, Flipped, a story about young love, is what he affectionately refers to as a companion piece to his '80s classic Stand by Me.

Recently, spoke with the filmmaker about Flipped, the fun the cast and crew had on set (including an explanation of his "Swear Box"), and why, as a proud dad, he likes making movies that matter to families. You co-wrote, co-produced, and directed this new movie, Flipped. As a storyteller, how important was it for you to be involved in a project like this one?

Reiner: Well, what I like to do is find things that I can connect with. When I read the book--actually it was brought home to me by my son, who was 11 at the time, he's now almost 17, and we read it together--and it just hit me how the feelings that I had when I was that age. And if I can find a way into a project through the characters and that they're experiencing things that I have felt, then I know how to tell the story. So I usually look for things that I can connect with and either the feelings or the thoughts that the characters are having are something that I've felt in my life. So in this one, it really was very insightful as to what you go through when you first fall in love.

Flipped on Family You mentioned you were spending time with your son, reading the book together. And besides the aspect of first loves, the film deals a lot with the father-child relationship.

Reiner: Yes. It's not just about first love, but it's also about the influence your family has on you, the people that are.

As a kid growing up, it's those very important influences that you get from your family. In this case, you have two families living across the street from each other. In one case, the Loskis, the boy's family, the father is kind of bitter, and he's kind of resentful of the people across the street, even though he has all the money and he has a seemingly perfect life on the outside. Inside he's lost his soul in a way. Then across the street, you've got the Bakers, who, even though they don't have as much money and their house is kind of unkempt, they have these really strong family values, the things that really are important in raising a kid, showing the love that they have and how the father takes care of his brother, who is retarded, and does whatever he can to help him. This is the atmosphere that the little girl Juli is raised in.

So we see the influences that the families have on their kids, and what kind of foundation they give their kids, and how it affects them as they grow up. And even back in the 1960s, some families didn't fit the mold of the "model" family in that, Bryce's grandfather was more of his moral compass than even his two parents.

Reiner: He is. And Bryce is very lucky in that his grandfather comes to live with him at a time that is very critical when you're moving from 12 to 13. He has a great line in the movie, which, to me, is really the essence of the whole movie. And he says, character is built a very early age, and I hate to see you swim so far out you can't swim back. And so he basically helps Bryce, the boy, discover how great Juli is and what great character she has.

Movies that Matter I was reading an article that Penelope Ann Miller, who acts as Juli's mom in the film, wrote for The Huffington Post. Have you read that yet?

Reiner: Yes. "Making movies that matter"…

Reiner: I make the joke that I like to make movies about human beings that live on earth.

When I turned 60 a couple of years ago, I made this movie Bucket List, which is all about embracing life and appreciating life, because it's so precious. And as you get older, you realize how precious it is. And so I want to make these kinds of films that are uplifting and that embrace life.

My favorite film of all time was It's a Wonderful Life. And as I've gotten older, that film has meant more and more to me, because you know the film, when the angel comes down and shows Jimmy Stewart what his life would have been like had he not been born, and he realizes how his life has touched so many other people's lives. And so that film, as I've gotten older, has meant more and more to me, because the more you realize how precious life is, the more you cherish it.

So I want to make films like that, and this I think falls in that category. It's certainly a film that parents and grandparents and kids could all go see together and will each get something out of it, and that's the kind of films I want to make. Like you said, it's a movie about the two main characters, who are kids, but it's also for adults, too.

Reiner: Yes, absolutely. Kids can watch the movie and relate to it, because they're going through it now. But adults I think even get more out of it, because they can look back at that time when they first fell in love. You never forget it. It stays with you your whole life.

Making Flipped a Movie Now, the narrating dialogue between Bryce and Juli is the point of view between boy versus girl, and it really shows the differences between boys and girls starting at a very young age.

Reiner: What I loved about the book is that it does give you both perspectives. You see the scene played through Bryce's eyes, and then you see the exact same thing through Juli's eyes. She has a completely different take on it. It's interesting, I think we as men, boys, we spend our lives trying to figure what's going on with women, and hopefully women are trying to figure out what's going on with us. Going from the perspective of Juli and then Bryce and back and forth, how did you do that without losing the momentum of the story?

Reiner: I was actually very worried about that. When we sat down to write the screenplay, I thought, "Oh, I don't know if the audience is going to sit still for this, because we're basically showing the same scene over." But obviously there's different information in Juli's perspective. But I kept going back to the book and how it kept my attention. When I was reading it, I was completely enthralled by it. [When] Bryce's chapter was over, I was dying to see what Juli was going to think about that. So I knew if I felt those things when I was reading the book, I felt that that would translate into the film.

The Music of Flipped Just setting it in the '60s, you said that The Everly Brothers captured the period in their music.

Reiner: Well, I love The Everly Brothers. There are a few Everly Brothers songs in there, but my two favorites are "Devoted to You" and "Let It Be Me." He says, "I bless the day I found you." Those songs are my favorite of The Everly Brothers songs. In Stand By Me, I used a lot of the '50s music, which was appropriate for that film. These songs are I think appropriate for this. The "Let It Be Me" song, you've said in past interviews that it sums up the message of Flipped. Why do you think that one captures it so well?

Reiner: Well, because, here's a boy who until he is put on the right path by his grandfather and by seeing what a great girl Juli is, he's kind of running around like an idiot. It's not until he realizes how great she is and what a terrific girl she is that he says, "I bless the day I found you." In others words, he's seen her since he's seven years old, but he didn't really find her until he becomes almost when he's 13. He says, "I bless the day I found you. I want to build my world around you. Now and forever, let it be me."

On the set of Flipped, and the "Swear Box" You found two great actors to be Juli and Bryce.

Reiner: Yes. Both Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe are absolutely terrific. I wouldn't have been able to make the film unless I found two kids that could carry the film, because ultimately, the film rests on them. Even though there are some great actors with John Mahoney, and Aidan Quinn, and Anthony Edwards, and Rebecca De Mornay, and Penelope Ann Miller, it's really the two lead kids that carry the film. You've probably been asked about the "Swear Box" a lot during interviews lately...

Reiner: Not all the movies I make are with kids, so I always have a thing on the set where if your cell phone goes off during a take, you've got to put 20 dollars in the box, right?

But this time, because we had all these kids, there were so many kids on the movie, I said, "Well, if you swear in front of a kid, you're going to have to put 20 dollars in the box," right. So now we're doing a take, and one of the camera assistants, his cell phone goes off during the take. And I go, "That's 20 dollars." And then he goes, "Oh, (blank)", you know. And I said, "That's another 20 dollars." It cost him 40 dollars in one second. What happened to the money?

Reiner: What we did is every week, we would draw. We have a thing called Five Dollar Day, and people put five dollars in a kitty. And we put all the swear money and the cell phone money in there, and then we'd have a drawing at the end of the week. And you put your name, your initials, on the bill. And whoever drew it would win the money. A fun game.

Reiner: Yes. I guess some people who won that week were probably hoping people swore more that week. I read somewhere, too, that Callan had said he's owed what amounts to be $600 for not finking on people.

Reiner: Oh, really? He heard someone? Because I was like the arbiter. If I didn't hear it, I couldn't have known it. He should have. He should have finked on people. We would have had more money in the swear box. After hearing about the "Swear Box", I was kind of surprised by the few words that made it into the movie.

Reiner: Well, there's really only two. And one is a very dramatic moment where the daughter says something to her father. And he slaps her at that point. It's a very dramatic moment in the movie. And then there's only one other time.

Connecting with a Story Has this process of turning this story into a movie brought any books that you read as a kid to mind that you want to share on film?

Reiner: Our company has made The Polar Express years ago, and that was a book that I read to my kids when they were little growing up.

To me, I've got to find something that I can connect with that also I feel that the kids would like. Even though a lot of times there are movies made for kids, the adults have to sit there, and kind of get bored and kind of sit their way through it and not really want to watch. But if you can find something that works for both of them, like when I did Princess Bride, it kind of works for both kids and adults.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment and Family producer for For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.

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