Francine Brokaw examines the parallels between the creator and his creation
Although Steve Carell plays the title character, Dan, in Dan in Real Life, the character is actually writer Pierce Gardner, with a few changes. In the film Dan is a widower, but Pierce is very happily married. The main characters in the film are based on Pierce's own family and family get-togethers. He brought a photo of his family and explained that while some of the instances in the film are purely fiction, his large family gathered together like the family in the movie, and enjoyed their getaways in Rhode Island, just like the fictional family.
"I wanted to make a family film," Gardner explains when he sits down for the press conference to answer questions. "I love to go to the movies with my kids." The kind of movies he likes the best are those about "human relationships with a little bit more in the background." And that is exactly what he wrote in the story of Dan.
In the film Dan is an advice columnist. Does he read those columns in the newspapers? "My wife reads Ann Landers every day, and Dear Abby," he says, while admitting he doesn't usually look at them.
The story has Dan doing his best with his three daughters, although sometimes he has a trying time of it. Dan's main concerns with his girls are that they be safe drivers, tell the truth, and remember "you can't fall in love in three days," says Gardner. "He breaks all the rules that he sets up for them." But he does it in a comical way. After all, it is Steve Carell. However Carell shows a different side in this film. He is both comical and dramatic.
As for being a screenwriter Pierce Gardner had a lot to say. For those prospective screenwriters out there, take note. "Write the first draft. Don't stop. Don't be scared." Gardner goes on and says, "Find the director who 'gets' your movie." Being in synch with your director is the key to making a good movie.
For his final piece of advice, Gardner says he listened to what his father told him. "Do what you want because that's what you'll love." And for Pierce Gardner, he wanted to be a writer and he loves doing it. His excitement about this film is contagious.
Dan in Real Life opens October 19.