In the new film “Stuck in Love,” novelist Dad (Greg Kinnear) is so stuck that he still sets a place for the wife (Jennifer Connelly) who walked out on him, years before, but not so hung up that he can’t carry on an affair with a married neighbor (Kristen Bell).
His son Rusty (Nat Wolff) is stuck on the pretty girl (Liana Liberato) with pretty big (hidden) problems in high school.
His daughter Sam (Lily Collins) is brilliant, publishing her first book at 19. But her cynicism has made her promiscuous — just another way of avoiding love for her — even when Mr. Might-be-Right (Logan Lerman) throws himself in her direction.
All that is, as the many indifferent reviews for “Stuck in Love” suggest, “a lot for one film to handle.” But it is part and parcel of what an aspiring writer-director has to do to get his first film off the ground, says Josh Boone.
“I wanted a story that high schoolers could relate to, kids in college could relate to and adults could connect with,” Boone says of the film he pitched to agents and producers as “Writers.” “You can hit a lot of audiences when you do that. I hope that people see it, and maybe stumble across it again on Netflix five years later and relate to a different character.”
Boone, 34, was another trooper in the legions of would-be writer-directors who make the journey (from Virginia Beach) to Hollywood with dreams of film fame and movie credits. But after ten years of struggle, Boone hit on something like the magic formula for an indie film breakthrough.
First, pepper your script with a lot of characters covering a wide age range, each with his or her share of juicy, dialogue-heavy scenes. Track down a producer (Judy Cairo of “Crazy Heart”) who has done other first-time filmmaker’s movies.
And get your script into the hands of a hot young starlet (Liberato).
“She and I had just worked together,” her co-star Nat Wolff says. ‘Liana said ‘READ it,’ and bugged me about it until I did.”
Wolff, another rising young star (“Admission”) suggested the script to his friend (who shares an agent) Lily “Mirror Mirror” Collins. With hot young talent on board, Oscar winner Connelly, along with Kinnear and Bell soon followed.
Boone frankly admits that he set out to make a film that would appeal to actors as well as audiences. And after a decade of working in record stores and having scripts optioned but never produced he decided to shoot the moon with this one — using up every clever, heartfelt idea he could think of in one screenplay. He poured all he remembered about his parents’ own divorce, his and his siblings’ reactions to it.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever get a shot at making another film, so I put in everything that I’d ever felt or thought about divorce and love and writing and Stephen King (Wolff’s character is a huge King fan) and the music and books I love.”
Wolff, 18, the son of actress Polly Draper (‘thirtysomething”) and musician Alex Wolff and whose own career is just now taking off, says that many actors are just looking for that first-time writer-director “that we can make a leap of faith with.” An actor doing mostly supporting roles becomes a lead, and a would-be filmmaker finally has enough “names” in his cast to get the movie financed, filmed and distributed.
“I related to the idea of a family of writers, because I come from a family of musicians and actors,” Wolff says. “When you’re in a family that shares the same creative outlet, you have a lot to talk about…
“But when I first saw the finished film, I loved the fact that it’s a romantic movie that’s not trying too hard to be hip,” Wolff says.
Boone says that “I was just trying to make something sincere and honest.”
And, if he’s honest, he was just trying to jump start his career. Which he did. “Stuck in Love” is earning a fairly wide release July 5, based on that cast. Wolff, Liberato and Collins are moving on to bigger, meatier roles as their careers ascend. And Boone has landed the directing job for the film of “The Fault in Our Stars,” based on John Green’s best-selling novel, with Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”) in the lead and the “(500) Days of Summer” writers scripting it. And there’s Boone’s own script, “Pretenders,” that will star Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) and Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”), that will follow that.
“You move to LA wanting to write, and everybody tells you, ‘It takes ten years,'” Boone says. “Turns out, they’re right.”
Roger Moore, left, interviews Nat Wolff, center and director Josh Boone of “Stuck in Love” at Maitland’s Eden Bar/Enzian theater.