The new family dramedy “This is Where I Leave You” gives us Jason Bateman as a cynical lout, Jane Fonda as a towering matriarch, and Adam Driver as a garrulous wild card. Those characterizations are to be expected, but the surprising actor/role pairing is Tina Fey with her character Wendy Altman, who is more troubled and conflicted than Liz Lemon ever was.
Director Shawn Levy, who also helmed the Fey project “Date Night,” specifically chose Fey for her role because it would be a stretch for her. In fact, he enjoys pushing Tina Fey away from her comfort zone of wry humor.
“I have gotten to know Tina a little bit in real life. A fair bit,” Levy told us. “I know she has more colors to her. Different moods to her. I got really excited at the chance of bringing those out and encouraging her to show what more she can do and what more she can be. That's why I cast her first in this movie. I really wanted to showcase a different side of Tina.”
He remembered one scene in particular where he used information from the “SNL” vet's private life to bring out greater vulnerability.
“There's a scene on the roof with her and Bateman where she talks about how she'll never love her husband with the same amount of passion that she loves her true love from her youth,” Levy said. “The scene was going really well, but because I know Tina, I was able to say, 'You know what? You know how fiercely loyal you are to your husband Jeff, who you've been with since you were 24? I want to feel that. I want to feel that visceral loyalty.'”
Check out our interview with Levy in which we discuss the differences between directing Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda, the fun of dramedies, and how he created a cohesive, believable family from a pack of very well-known actors.