If Dan Fogelman were any hotter, he’d have planets revolving around him. Fogelman is the screenwriter behind such hits as “Cars” and “Tangled” and “Crazy Stupid Love.” He’s also creator and producer of ABC’s “The Neighbors,” the subversively intelligent and subversively Jewish comedy.
He’s also in post-production of his first directing effort, “Imagine,” a film starring Al Pacino as Danny Collins, a successful but aging musician.
Fogelman does aging well. November 1 marks the release of his latest effort, “Last Vegas.” It’s about childhood friends — they call themselves the Flatbush Four — now all of Medicare age, who decide to throw a party in Vegas when the bachelor in their group announces he’s getting married — to a woman in her 30s.
It stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline. And while on the surface it might appear that the film targets seniors, at a recent screening filled with mostly young people, it has the entire audience laughing throughout. It will almost certainly be the comedy hit of the year.
Fogelman recently spoke to The Arty Semite about how his parents influenced his films, being the Hebrew School class clown and how his bar mitzvah screenplay started his career.
Curt Schleier: How did “Last Vegas” come about?
Shades of “Chrismukuh.”
That’s the blended holiday celebrated by the blended Cohen family on the TV show, “The O.C.”
It’s the holiday that will be celebrated on the October 18 episode of “The Neighbors,” a show about blended peoples.
When the Weaver family moved into the gated Hidden Hills development last season, they discovered their new neighbors were aliens from the planet Zabvron. And the two cultures had a lot to learn about each other.
The Zabvronian leader, Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) — all the aliens have taken the names of famous athletes — falls in love with the holiday of Hanukkah as soon as he hears about it. He decides he wants to combine it with his other favorite earth holiday, Halloween. When no one show’s up for the first seven nights, Larry decides to publicize the celebration by giving out candy to kids at the local playground.
This is not the first time Larry became obsessed with earthly holidays. Earlier this season he discovered April Fools Day, which he quickly and accurately describes as “a lot more fun that Yom Kippur.”
If it weren’t for Nicholas Ressler, Jennifer Aniston might still be waiting tables. A slight exaggeration, perhaps. But Nick’s mom is the actress Jami Gertz, who was originally offered the role of Rachel Green on “Friends.” Rachel became an iconic character on one of the grandest comedy hits in television history.
“I wanted another child,” Gertz told The Arty Semite, explaining why she turned down the role. “It just wasn’t the right time. I’ve never looked back.”
Nor does she have any reason to. She’s enjoyed a long and successful career that includes film (“Twister,” “Less Than Zero,” “The Lost Boys,” among others) and television (“Square Pegs,” “Still Standing”).
Gertz was still a teenager when she landed Square Pegs; she played Muffy Tepperman, by all accounts the first character to celebrate a bat mitzvah on TV. She currently stars in “The Neighbors” as Debbie Weaver. The Weaver family moves into a gated community, only to discover that all the other residents are aliens of the outer space variety. In an effort to fit in Earth style, they have all taken the names of famous athletes. The group’s leader is Larry Bird, and his wife is Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Gertz says there are apparently no Jews on the planet, but the season is young, and there may be a Sandy Koufax or an Al Rosen in the show’s future.
Curt Schleier: What attracted you to the series?