EXCLUSIVE: With "Cedar Rapids" opening this weekend, director Miguel Arteta has proven himself as a keen observer of subtle comic stories with a light touch. Of course, even with a body of work like his ("Chuck and Buck," "Youth In Revolt") there are bound to be a few films that fall by the wayside. When we talked to Arteta recently, we found that many of the projects he was considering were actually dead, as he's currently devoting his energy into the new HBO show "Enlightened."
Arteta had long been associated with a script called "Fat Man," with an interest in Adam Sandler starring, but it looks like it may not happen. "I got it sent to me with the option to do it in the next six months, but I haven't heard back," Arteta ruefully admits. "That was more than a couple of months ago! (Laughs) It's really a wonderful script. It's surprisingly sweet, intelligent. It beats every cliche you'd associate with a story like that. It would be an incredible movie if anyone got the gumption to make it."
"You Shall Know Our Velocity" was another project linked to Arteta, the adaptation of Dave Eggers' first novel about two friends who make a philanthropic cross-country trip. "I had a crazy idea for how to do it, but at the end of the day, I felt it would be a very difficult thing to pull off," Arteta lamented. "It would involve celebrities trying to fake their own death. I've moved on."
More conventional was Arteta's flirtation with "Date School," an older romantic comedy that had even courted Jon Favreau. "I talked to Owen Wilson a couple of times. I talked to Sacha Baron Cohen. It was with Ben Stiller's company. But we were never able to get the script together or the cast. It was going to be one of those straight comedies, but it never come together. It's one of those movies that was almost made for ten years. Regimes change every six months."
Had the timing worked out, Arteta could have also beaten "The Kids Are All Right" to the punch with a remake of the Lukas Moodysson film "Together." "I wrote a couple of scripts two years ago," he says. "One was called 'Together,' a remake of the Lukas Moodysson movie, a re-invention, about lesbian moms in Echo Park. Not the right time to be doing that. It's a wonderful script, Salma Hayek and I were going to do that a couple of years ago. After 'The Kids Are All Right' that's over."
Could Arteta have been interested in moving away from the world of comedy? "And then I did an adaptation with [Fox] Searchlight, of a novel called 'The Rug Merchant' about an Iranian man in a New York City love triangle. It was a complete drama, very different from anything I've ever done. There was a lot of interest in it. Emma Thompson wanted to do it. But I feel that it's too serious for our times right now. I think the country is in need of some laughs."
"Cedar Rapids" opens this Friday.