In & Out: About The Production

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Howard Brackett's high school English students are astonished. Is it really true that their favorite teacher might be gay? But hey, he can't be gay; he's about to get married! Then again, he also teaches the drama class and boy, does he love those Barbra Streisand records...

It all happened to Howard (KEVIN KLINE) faster than you could say "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." One of his former students (MATT DILLON) became a Hollywood superstar, and clumsily called Howard's sexuality into question--on the Academy Awards® telecast, no less. Instantly Howard's tranquil life in Greenleaf, Indiana has turned upside down. Greenleaf has now become the scene of a media feeding-frenzy, with Howard as the bait. Peter Malloy (TOM SELLECK), a slick and aggressive TV reporter, is determined to move in for the kill and get Howard to speak the truth. Meanwhile, Howard is only days away from his wedding to Emily Montgomery (JOAN CUSACK), the fiancee he's managed to hold at bay for a full three years.

"In & Out," a comedy directed by Frank Oz, is a Scott Rudin production for Paramount Pictures and Spelling Entertainment. Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley, Matt Dillon, Bob Newhart and Tom Selleck head the cast. Adam Schroeder is executive producer and the original screenplay is written by Paul Rudnick. Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc.

Like the comedies of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra, "In & Out" centers on a small-town hero who inadvertently snags national attention. However, Obie Award-winning playwright Paul Rudnick ("Jeffrey") has infused his screenplay with his characteristically wry 1990's point of view. Rudnick was first approached by Scott Rudin with the idea for the screenplay: "I started to think about someone being outed the week they were to be married," says Rudnick, "and a comedy came into view. And I liked the idea of setting the film in the small town where he lives and works and has spent his life. It's a story that really could only exist at this moment in an age of global video and grand movie stars." He adds, "We've had a lot of Manhattan cocktail parties on screen recently, but how many barn raisings?"

Rudnick, who grew up an hour outside New York city in New Jersey, definitely had a Howard Brackett or two for a teacher during his high school years. "There was one in particular, an algebra teacher," he says. "He would go hunting with his dad--and then go off to New York to see musicals with the school librarian."

Rudnick loved the opportunity to take the subject of "outing" and use it as the springboard for a comedy, rather than an "issue" film. Director Frank Oz warmed instantly to Rudnick's comic take on the material. "There have been great movies about how society deals with homosexuality, like 'Philadelphia,'" says Oz, "but this one is unique. This one is the flip side, the one you can laugh with. The questions remain the same, and the situations remain the same, but this is entertainment; this is a romantic comedy. Paul is such a great writer, and I love his script because it has this spin on it. It's a challenge to introduce this subject matter in an entertaining way. No one wants to be preached to. No one wants to be told what's good or what's bad. If you're doing a comedy, of course, you have a responsibility to make people laugh, but I think comedy is hollow without feeling. You don't want only laughter, you want to be touched by the characters. And I think in this movie we have some terrific characters."

"The movie has much more to do with comic misunderstanding than with hatred," adds Paul Rudnick. "It's about people really just grappling with what the right thing might be, and how do we do it? I hope these people are quirky enough, and real enough, and wild enough, that audiences will have a wonderful time watching them and empathizing with their problems. To me the essence of romantic comedy is the excitement of pure happiness--acquiring joy, and realizing that even though you thought this was going to be the worst day of your life, you've ended it with your head in the clouds."

Frank Oz and Scott Rudin were able to land a superior cast for "In & Out," all of whom were attracted to Paul Rudnick's script and the chance it gave them to stretch their boundaries as actors.

"When I read it," says Kevin Kline, "I laughed out loud many times, which doesn't happen that often with a script. And there was something in it that was touching, a kind of poignancy. No big political agenda, no real polemics. It's not didactic in any way." Kline gets several chances in "In & Out" to display his knack for outrageous yet graceful physical comedy, particularly in the "Exploring Your Masculinity" scene where he performs Michael Jackson-esque gyrations all over his living room. "Sometimes you have to forget about appearing foolish," he explains when asked about the filming of that sequence. "That's one of the therapeutic indulgences that actors are allowed. Taste, judgement, self-consciousness--for certain scenes, you have to check them all at the door. You have to let yourself be utterly spontaneous, and do things that are horrifying upon reflection!"

Paul Rudnick gave Joan Cusack a plum role with Emily, Howard's myopically devoted fiancee. "Emily's a great part for a woman to play," enthuses Cusack. "First and foremost she wants to get married and have a life with somebody. That's just so she's not alone. And she's really interested in seeing the world and living a full exciting life, where you travel and do things and have kids--sort of a romantic dream of going off with Prince Charming, and everything being wonderful. But she's overlooking one big thing..."

Tom Selleck has been no stranger to the press during his career, and the character of TV reporter Peter Malloy gave him a chance to have fun with the type of newshound that often plagues him in real life. "I've dealt with a lot of journalists over the years," laughs Tom Selleck. "And the overwhelming majority of them, it's important to say, have been ethical people. But there's a significant percentage to whom ethics is a foreign word, and who are after whatever it takes to get a story. And it's fun playing one of those kinds of characters because this guy is aggressive and unscrupulous and rather ruthless. He tries to convince Kevin's character to do what he thinks is the right thing for all the wrong reasons, so he can get a good interview, because my guy really wants to be Barbara Walters! But the trick to doing a character like this is that he oughta be the guy you love to hate, or the guy you hate to love."

Debbie Reynolds came to "In & Out" fresh from the triumph of Albert Brooks' "Mother," her first major film role in twenty-five years. "Mother" was released while "In & Out" was in production, and cast and crew got to witness the rebirth of a star. In fact, during the filming of the wedding scene, word came to the set that Ms. Reynolds had just received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actress, and she immediately found herself engulfed by a whooping, cheering crowd of extras, cast and crew members.

Berniece, the mother she plays in "In & Out," is a warm, loving lady who happens to have a will of iron. "This particular mother has a childlike dream of a marvelous wedding ceremony," explains Ms. Reynolds, "and she's looking for her children to fulfill her dream. Everything is done very sweetly by Berniece, but what she wants, she definitely is going to try to get, in a nice way. She lives a lot through her son Howard, because he's everything she ever dreamt of being. He dresses beautifully. He's very funny. He dances. He sings. He's just the most clever man in town. She idolizes this child."


Location scouting on "In & Out" began six months before production. It was the job of production designer Ken Adam to create Howard Brackett's grassroots-America world of wheat fields, roadhouses and pot luck suppers. With production based in New York City, all locations had to be within a sixty-mile radius of Manhattan. "The biggest challenge," says Adam, "was to create a midwestern look. We did this by filming in a number of locations in upstate New York, New Jersey and Long Island. What we wanted was a truly beautiful American small town, with a church, a main street, and a nice-looking high school." In total, over a dozen different small towns in the Northeast made up the fictional Greenleaf, Indiana. "For me it was a test because I tend to express myself much more freely," says Adam, who also served as production designer on the baroque fantasy "Addams Family Values." "But I had a certain discipline imposed on me by the setting of this story." Adam began his work with a research trip to Indiana and Ohio with Frank Oz, then returned to New York and began developing his set designs based on what he had observed.

Meanwhile, casting was being finalized, locations continued to be scouted, and costume designer Ann Roth was hard at work creating the Greenleaf look. She cited Bill Forsyth's 1983 film "Local Hero" as a kind of inspiration: "That means non-costumes, costumes that blend in. Howard wears clothes you could buy in any midwestern mall, the clothes a teacher could afford. These are real clothes. If pockets bulge, they bulge. Howard wouldn't spend two thousand dollars on an Armani suit. I don't think he rushes out and buys GQ." As for the devoted, self-effacing Emily, Roth said, "Her jewelry and dresses are the ones you see everywhere. Her wedding dress, for example--I got it from Weddings by Sandra in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. It was right on the nose."

Production on "In & Out" commenced September 17, l996. Throughout the filming, the working relationship of Scott Rudin, Paul Rudnick and Frank Oz was intensely collaborative. At Oz's request, Rudnick spent a great deal of time on the set tweaking the script to take full advantage of the cast's comic talents. "I love to have writers who can help make the picture as good as it can be," says Oz. "I said to Paul in the beginning, 'Look, I'd love to have you as much as you can possibly be there.'"

It isn't often that a writer spends as much time on the set as Rudnick did during the filming. "I think there's some sort of an offshore prison where they usually keep screenwriters during filming," laughs Rudnick. "But this time, I found a rowboat." As a playwright, Rudnick has always enjoyed the process of re-writing and re-tailoring specific scenes to the talents of the actors at hand, and considers himself lucky to have been offered such complete access on a film set.

One of "In & Out's" major locations was Northport, Long Island, which served as downtown Greenleaf. Its early twentieth-century main street and lovely park made it ideal, but care had to be taken not to reveal the town's oceanfront setting, or all illusions of Indiana would be dispelled. At all times, the camera was turned away from the water. Northport required only a few modifications to be transformed into a small midwestern town. Adam had a facade put on a corner building that turned it from a one-story bar into a two-story hotel. A few sign changes on the local shops and--presto! Greenleaf, Indiana was born. "The bar, and the diner next door to it, were worried that they might lose business," says location manager Joe Iberti. "But due to our filming, they were packed!"

The exterior of the church where the wedding takes place was in the town of Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, not far from Northport. Outdoor scenes were done there in the early fall, while interiors were filmed in winter at an early nineteenth-century meeting house in the town of Warwick, N.Y., some seventy miles away. The building had no central heating, and huge heaters had to be brought in for the comfort of cast and crew during the chilly week of shooting that took place there.

The ideal high school was found in the town of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, a forty minute drive from midtown Manhattan. Pompton Lakes High is a beautifully-preserved red brick school dating back to 1935. Principal Ernest Fisher was extremely forbearing and patient in the face of the 500-pound gorilla that is a film crew. "He shuffled classrooms and teachers and students around to accommodate the filming," explains Iberti, "but he was still able to maintain a very pleasant demeanor throughout. I'd definitely say that we gave the staff and students of Pompton Lakes High a good education in the less glamorous aspects of filmmaking." The student body was, in fact, remarkably tolerant of lights and cameras clogging the hallways, not to mention cast and crew members conducting trans-continental meetings by cellular phone. As it turned out, several hundred Pompton Lakes High students acted as extras in the film, including the entire school band. "It's been phenomenal," said one student during the filming. "We've had something to look forward to every day." During the climactic graduation scene in the school auditorium, several hundred Pompton Lakes residents were used as well.

To turn Pompton Lakes High into Greenleaf High, some temporary changes had to be made. The red-based color scheme of the gym and the auditorium--inspired by the school symbol, the bird known as the Cardinal--was made over into Greenleaf green. Walls, seats, moldings, curtains--everything was greened up, then restored to the original red once filming was completed. In addition, the entire front of the school was dressed up in full spring bloom for exterior shots, which, although filmed in September, were meant to take place in April. These elaborate plantings were left intact after filming as a gift to the school.

"Creating Indiana in the Northeast is a challenge," said Joe Iberti at the film's wrap, "but it's definitely doable. You've got to take the best parts of a lot of different small towns, instead of expecting to find everything you need in just one. Of course, Ken Adam's eye was what unified it all. He was driven to keep it pure."

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