BEVERLY HILLS, California — Do you buy Jude Law and Kate Winslet as troubled loners, unlucky in love? How about Jack Black as a dramatic leading man?
Forget what you think you know about so-called chick flicks, because writer/director Nancy Meyers ("What Women Want," "Something's Gotta Give") is at it again, tapping the unlikeliest of casts to reinvent our notions of romantic comedy in "The Holiday," out December 8.
Finding herself in the middle of a romantic comedy was a welcome change of pace for Winslet, who, as an Englishwoman vacationing in Los Angeles, finally got a chance to let her hair down — literally.
"It was sort of oddly intimidating to find myself with absolutely nothing to hide behind — I didn't have a wig or an accent, and I certainly didn't have a corset," the four-time Oscar nominee joked. "It's a genre I have never explored. I got to play a contemporary English person, which is something I've never actually done in a film."
With Winslet's Iris occupying her SoCal home, Amanda (Cameron Diaz) heads to London, where she meets and falls in love with another romantic-comedy newcomer (see "You Won't Believe Who Cameron Diaz Would Like To Trade Places With ...").
"It was hard work," Jude Law said, explaining what surprised him most about the genre. "There has to be a life and a fresh quality to it and a loose kind of energy that's hard to sustain. And there was a technique to delivering some of this dialogue. I was learning on my toes."
Fresh from making sexagenarians sexy in 2003's "Something's Gotta Give," Meyers pulled off an equally remarkable feat in "The Holiday": turning Black into a plausible love interest.
"When I read the script, I could not think of another person who could play Miles better than Jack," Winslet insisted. "[But] I was genuinely surprised [because] I thought Jack was going to operate much more like a comedian. But he doesn't. He has this sensitive side to him — he doesn't fall into false sentiment."
Meyers said the four starring roles were written specifically for Law, Winslet, Diaz and Black. "[It was] probably a dumb thing to do," she admitted. "What if you don't get them? What if they retire? What if they have a baby?" And yet the four showed up according to plan. As usual, it was all about the writing.
"I think other romantic comedies are sometimes very premise-y. [My films] are told from the woman's perspective, even the ones that have big male leads in them," Meyers contended. "Sometimes other romantic comedies, even though they are chick flicks, are not always centered on the female characters, or the female characters may not be as interesting as the men."
But Meyers' appeal might just be as simple as this: "She has a wit and intelligence and finds reality in [her films]," Law said of the director. "I think her [films] are good, and a lot of others aren't."
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