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Director Lorene Scafaria Reveals How 'Life Is Beautiful' Influenced 'Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World' & More About The Film

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 20, 2012 at 9:58AM

There won't be any comedy arriving in theaters this summer boasting a higher concept than "Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World." The story begins with a few weeks left to go before life on planet Earth is wiped out by an asteroid, and follows an unlikely pair -- Dodge and Penny -- as they head out on a road trip, so he can reunite with his high school sweetheart. And while comedies generally don't come in this kind of packaging, writer and director Lorene Scafaria rounded up one helluva cast to help her tell the tale.
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Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World Keira Knightley
The unlikely influence of "Life Is Beautiful"
Being a film that touches on both apocalypse and relationships, perhaps it's not a surprise that Scafaria drew on a wide range of influences as she was penning the film. "There's a film called 'Happy Accidents' that nobody's ever seen that has this high concept time travel thing through it, it's a dark romantic comedy and I sort of love that idea. 'Defending Your Life' was another one that was huge for me, I just love that film so much," she said. "There's a Swedish film called 'Songs from the Second Floor' that was pretty inspiring. And there's this Paul Auster novel that I love, 'In the Country of Last Things' and so I took from that a lot for concept, but I'd say comedically, I mean even movies like 'Annie Hall' or 'Manhattan.' It's not like they end happily ever after, you know what I mean? And yet there's something so relatable and sweet and uplifting about that."

However, the most unlikely inspiration was from a film that Scafaria had Carell and Knightley watch to get a better idea of the kind of balance she was trying to achieve. "I gave them 'Life is Beautiful' to watch because that to me is sort of magic realism and what could be darker than the Holocaust and what could be more uplifting than a father just trying to get his son through something? So that film to me was a huge inspiration in terms of wow, how did Roberto Benigni capture that? How was he able to do that? And move so smoothly, I thought, from this romantic world that it starts in with him and his woman and then it turns into this whole world and now you're here and it's the same character in that environment. So how does that person handle it? So I just loved that."

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World Keira Knightley
Lorene Scafaria is thrilled that female comedies and stories are back on the map, but hopes it's not just a passing fad
With a certain ensemble comedy last summer doing huge numbers and riding its way through the awards season too, and a certain recent HBO show receiving equal acclaim, many are calling it the renaissance of the female-driven comedy. And while Scafaria is thrilled to see her colleagues succeed, she hopes that the moment isn't just that and marks a new understanding about material conceived by and for women. 

"...I do think it's having a moment. It's a shame that it's a genre. It's a shame that female anything is so unique that it's a genre and 'Bridesmaids' is an amazing example of that obviously because it's such a good script. But it’s become that anything you pitch has to be 'Bridesmaids' meets something, you know? If it has a girl in it you can say 'Bridesmaids' now because there's been something that's been proven to work that's relatable and good, but I do think it's a sham that it's a genre at this point. The same way that you go see comedy and they couldn't possibly book more then one female comedian without it being female comic night. And so that is sort of strange to me and yet I'll take it," Scafaria said. " 'The New Girl' and 'Girls' getting all of this attention, I guess why I'm excited is, I think it's great that female writers and directors are getting more attention and opportunities or whatever it might be. But the real problem all of these years has been that female stories don't get that attention."

"But it takes someone like Lena Dunham who has such a voice, also. It's these unique voices that seem to get through one way or another," she added. "Someone like her, so young and amazing and to be able to tell a story about a girl that is so unique and yet every moment is very relatable. I hope that it stays that way and doesn’t just seem like a fad. Like 'the year of the girl' -- I feel like every five or six years people say it's the year of the girl and I wish we could get a whole decade sometime."

This article is related to: Lorene Scafaria, Seeking A Friend For The End of The World


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