Director Garry Marshall hit box office pay dirt with his 2010 ensemble cast warm-your-heart romantic comedy, Valentine’s Day. Take the love story vignettes on an all important day for lovers winning formula and move it across the calendar to New Year’s Eve. Several key players of Marshall’s new ensemble cast -- Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, and Michelle Pfeiffer -- sat down with Buzzine to discuss the new film, losing themselves in the characters, and having crushes on their co-stars.
Josh Duhamel: Yeah, Cherry Jones'... That was barely a dog. It was like a little tree frog. He was kind of sitting right there. The dogs are good. Meatloaf is getting slow, there are days, but he's happy and hungry.
Hilary Swank: Your dog's name is Meatloaf? That's awesome.
JD: Meatloaf and Zoey.
HS: Zoey? Zoey's like...what? Meatloaf works. Zoey...hmm...
IH: Michelle, what was the biggest challenge for you – dancing, flying in the harness, or driving the motorcycle?
Michelle Pfeiffer: Riding the motorcycle, but not because I actually drove it. I think it was the elements that were a bit challenging. The weather was one (challenge). The paparazzi were also out in full force, in the scene, in the shot. Garry (Marshall) was constantly talking Zac (Efron) and I off of a ledge.
Zac Efron: But, on the plus side, it was basically just us, snuggling very close.
MP: Yeah, that was nice.
ZE: I felt very comforted.
IH: What was it like to play a non-glamorous role like this?
MP: I've actually done that a lot. I really like it. It's what I love. One of the things I love most about acting is just disappearing in the role as much as I can. I think that's one of the things that intrigued me about it. Just trying to figure out, "Who is this woman who's lived in New York City all of these years and never been to any of these places?" That's where it led me.
IH: With so much pressure attached to that one night, have you ever had a particularly miserable New Year's Eve experience in your own life?
JD: You have to keep expectations low.
HS: Exactly. When I stopped wanting my New Year's Eve to be perfect, to bring in the New Year right, is when it started working out right. When I was young, I was always looking for the best party to be at to ring in the New Year, and I always ended up in the car going, "Happy New Year."
JD: Or you're asleep at 10:30 p.m.
IH: With such a big cast in this, can you talk about the experience of working with your scene partners?
HS: I got to work with Robert De Niro and, for me, he was on my bucket list. He was on the top of the list of people I have to work with before it's all said and done, so I got to check that off. I also do mostly dramas. I usually die in my movies. I don't live to see the credits, but this was to work with Garry Marshall in a comedy. They had already started. They were working three weeks, and then I came in. I was thinking, "What's it like? What's the vibe? Am I going to be one of those things that's not like the other?" And yet, I started with a dramatic bit with De Niro. My first two days were with him, and it was the real dramatic stuff. I thought, "This isn't really funny. I'm not being funny." So I got onto the set, and it was the latter half of the day. I went in and Halle Berry and Robert were in the room. They'd been working all morning and they had their thing going, and I was the outsider there. I didn't even know the crew or anything. I walked in and was just trying to get a sense of the vibe before I started working. I walked in and Robert was in the bed laying there. I hear his method. You hear all this stuff about Robert De Niro, and he's method. This is a comedy, but he's dying. I didn't want to get in anybody's way. So he was laying there and he saw me, and then he shut his eyes and I was thinking, "Wow, he's giving it to me. We're connected here. We are connected. Me and De Niro are method." I started getting a little emotional. The camera was not on me, but we were just getting into the mood of the father-daughter relationship and the father dying. I was feeling it, and I was going deep with De Niro. The next thing I know, he's like, "Anyone got that coffee?" I was like, "Oh my god, he was sleeping!" I thought he was going deep for me. The truth is, he'd been in that bed all day and he took a nap. If I was sleeping all day, I would take a nap too. But I was thinking, "Yay!" So that was that. But getting the opportunity to work with him was an absolute highlight for me.
ZE: I met Michelle (Pfeiffer) a few years ago during Hairspray, and had a huge crush on her always, from day one. Back then, I was very, very young and very bashful, and around her, I tended to put my foot in my mouth a lot. I didn't really know what to say to her, and everything just came out wrong. It was like, "Do you want to rehearse the scenes?" I didn't know what to do. I was very shy. But then I got to talk on the phone with her about this part. She said, "I think we should take this to the next level. We should really push it. Let's get a kiss in there." I was like, "I am in! I'm in this movie! Put me in! Sign me up! Let's do it!" It turned out to be awesome. It was lovely working with her. Every single time, every second with her was amazing.
MP: Well, I'm the envy of every girl across the planet, I think. I got a kiss in there with Zac Efron, which was pretty clever of me at the ripe old age of 53. I was sitting here thinking, "Okay, there must be something negative or awkward about working with Zac," and there was nothing. I signed on to do the picture, and a pretty impressive cast was assembling, but (the role of) Paul was not cast yet. And then I heard that Zac was possibly doing it. He called me and I was in the middle of a class, and I screamed and yelled in the middle of very quiet environment. And we started talking.
ZE: I'm screaming in my trailer.
MP: Anyway, it was just a blast. We had so much fun. He's so collaborative and so talented. I loved his Paul and that goofy haircut he showed up in. We didn't really talk that much before at all, until we showed up (on set). I think he was a little disappointed when he opened my trailer door and there sat Ingrid. His little face just fell and I felt really bad. But I think probably the sweetest thing about him was that he never let on, and he still won't admit how disappointed he was.
ZE: She looked absolutely stunning.
MP: But he grew to love her anyway. He's just a great guy. I love him.
JD: First of all, I had a blast working on this movie. Like Hilary said, when there are so many people in a movie like this, you want to be able to go in and do your best work right away, and feel comfortable and contribute as best you can.
IH: Hilary and Michelle, what's your favorite way to spend New Year's Eve? And do you have any special plans this year?
HS: I'll be eating pie and drinking champagne and cheering you on. I stopped trying to chase the perfect place to be and realized the perfect place is with your loved ones and your closest friends around the dinner table, over a good meal, talking about the past year and the year to come and things that you want to change in your life. You hear their stories and talk about things you'd like to see happen in the world. That's what we do. And I never make it to midnight, ever.
MP: I also never make it to midnight. I celebrate New Year's at 9:00 p.m., west coast time. I watch the ball drop in my jammies with some champagne and maybe some pie, or whatever happens to be around. I stopped setting those unrealistic expectations for New Year's Eve many years ago.
ZE: We're going to change that because she's coming out with me this year.
MP: Zac is threatening to take me out for New Year's Eve. I'll have to run it by my husband first.
ZE: The parties seem to get better and better every year. It should be fun. I'll show you how we do it, Michelle.
IH: Did you draw on anything from your own life for your character?
MP: When I read this part, I said, "Who is this person?" I talked to Garry and was like, "Garry, come on, this woman has been living in New York for 30 years and she's never been to any of these places?" I realized I'm actually very much like her, but that happens quite a bit actually. I don't realize how much I am like the characters until years later. Actually, I came to that conclusion during this press junket. We were sitting there together talking, and Zac was Paul and I was Ingrid. I thought, "Oh my gosh, you knew?" I didn't. So I think there's a bigger part of me...I tend to be a little more of a hermit.
ZE: I thought it was really fun to play with Michelle because I basically got to push all of her buttons. Everything. How am I like my character? At the beginning, he's a bit of a douche I think -- a little self-absorbed and narcissistic. I don't know. I'm digging a hole here. I guess I'm a narcissist. It was really fun. What happens in our relationship is that we fall in love and he realizes that there's much more than just a party.
MP: You are actually fun-loving like Paul. I would not call you a narcissist.
HS: (Screenwriter) Katherine (Fugate) and I were looking to produce this other project that we were doing, and Katherine said, "I just finished writing New Year's Eve, and I wrote the role of Claire Morgan for you. I just see you in it." It's such an honor to have a screenwriter say, "I saw you when I was writing this." It's so touching, to be thought of in that way. When I read it, I fell in love with Claire, and the idea of feeling like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You can't imagine New Year's Eve without the ball drop, right? There is no New Year's Eve without the ball drop. The idea of this woman who really takes her job seriously and is responsible, I felt very in touch with that. I take a lot of things pretty seriously. But I also love that speech that I had because it's so universal. I can't imagine one person not thinking about the year that just passed and the optimism for the next year, and the idea of being able to have a second chance to be a better person, and to love more and to forgive. Essentially, that's life in a nutshell, right in that monologue. I was so thankful that Katherine thought of me for this role, and I was so thankful that Garry was like, "Yeah, Hilary? Sure!"
IH: What was it like to work with all of the confetti?
ZE: Every actor performs three scenes in a movie – the one that you rehearse the night before in your bedroom, the one you actually get to do when you're filming, and then the one you wish you would have done, afterward. I remember that I was in my hotel room the night before, imagining how I was going to kiss you (to Michelle Pfeiffer), and it was awesome. I was the man in every way. I just saw it and it was glorious. Confetti started to come up, and the wind swept up newspapers, and there was electricity and a big dip. I went to execute on the day, and right when I got to the crucial moment, a huge piece of confetti landed in my mouth and I just pulled it out.
MP: And take after take, confetti would fall in (Zac's) mouth.
ZE: It was everywhere. It was in (Michelle's) eyes.
MP: It wasn't sexy.
ZE: Yes, it was. It was awesome.
Warner Bros. Pictures' 'New Year's Eve' is released on December 9, 2011.