Now, you’d think an advertisement for Confess, Fletch would write itself. Something along the lines of, “From the director who brought you Superbad and Adventureland, and Jon Hamm, the co-star of the biggest movie of the year, comes … Fletch!” But, no, there’s been almost no marketing for Confess, Fletch at all. Which is surprising for a few reasons. But, mostly, because Fletch is a character that filmmakers have been trying to get back into theaters for over 30 years, and until now, failing. And, also, this is a movie that critics love, currently sitting at 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, I still see an occasional tweet like, “Wait, there’s a new Fletch movie out?” (Look, this is my job and even I didn’t realize until right before this interview with Mottola that Confess, Fletch was actually in movie theaters and not only a digital download.) So, what gives?
As you’ll read ahead, Greg Mottola pulled off somewhat of a miracle to get Confess, Fletch even made. But even he doesn’t quite understand what’s going on right now with the lack of marketing. Even more frustrating, this was exactly the movie he wanted to make and the reviews are great … yet people don’t even seem to realize they can go to a movie theater right now and watch it. Anyway, he hopes you, somehow, get the word that it’s out there and, the people who have seen it seem to be enjoying it.
So what is going on here?
You didn’t notice the zero marketing?
Oh, I did notice the zero marketing. Coupled with all the positive reviews, I don’t understand.
Yes, it is.
I’m not going to lie. It’s pretty weird. I’ll try and explain from my side of things, what’s going on: Basically, the project started with Jon Hamm coming to me and saying Miramax has the rights to all the books except the first one. Unbeknownst to Miramax, Jon, when he saw the first one back in the day, he went to read the book it was based on because he loved it so much and then found out, oh, there’s more than one. And he, according to him, stole them – whatever copies there were from a Walden Books at a mall. A shoplifter.
In the meantime, even before Jon had approached me, a writer, Zev Borow, had been hired to adapt Confess, Fletch, which Jon thought was the most interesting one to try and crack. So I said, I’m into it – then turned in a script that felt like a really, really great, funny script for Chevy Chase, but not for Jon. Zev loves the original Fletch and he really just, I think, wrote his fan fiction of the Fletch script. And while it had a lot of really good stuff in it, it didn’t really have the tone that Jon and I had been talking about. So I took over the script, and brought in characters and elements from the book, and tried to turn it more into this kind of comedy of manners – very talky, verbal comedy – as opposed to the more straightforward slapstick comedy and all the other things. I was very intentionally not putting in the things that I see a lot of in comedy today, which is a lot of pop culture references.
So, I finished a draft, and Bill Block at Miramax has been the champion of this project since the beginning. I don’t blame anything about the release of this movie on him. He’s tried everything he could try. Basically, he said, “Up to a certain amount of money, I can fully finance this film,” but it was the kind of amount of money that would mean 27 days of shooting, which seemed especially challenging. So we looked for partners on the movie, and everyone passed. Everyone said, “I don’t know that this kind of comedy works in this day and age.” They just had a kind of like, “Who’s Fletch? I don’t think anyone cares anymore.”
So, basically, what we did is Jon gave back 60 percent of his salary to the budget. I gave back some of my salary, not as much as Jon because he’s richer than me and I’ve got three kids. And we bought three more days of shooting. We got it up to 30 days in Boston and one day in Rome. And we said, fuck it, we’re insane, we’re dumb. We’re going to make this movie. And then Miramax really supported us, creatively. They didn’t fight us on people we wanted to cast.
It seems like you made the movie you wanted to make, too.
I really did make the movie I wanted to make. Basically, Bill Block was like, “If you can get in for this number, I’m going to let you guys do your thing.” So, we finished it and Bill shopped it around to a lot of different people, studios, and streamers … and nobody wanted it.
There’s so much stuff out there, yet no one would want the movie people have been trying to get made for 25 years?
It was depressing.
And now no one wants it. How is this possible?
It was really depressing. I was kind of like, yeah, I think we actually cracked it. I wanted it to feel a little more adult and a little more character dialogue driven, which is just something I love. And I see a lot of things that make me laugh, but often take place purely in comedy worlds. And I thought, well, let’s do the thing that movies institute, which is to straddle a genre…and try and find an interesting tone for it.
I spent a lot of time wondering, should I approach Chevy Chase to be in it? I spent time with Chevy, we did a table read [in ’99 for a different project]. This is logically the time to ask the man to show up. And then talking about it with Jon, we just felt, ultimately, it just seemed like it was going to make it harder for it to be its own thing. If there are too many Easter eggs, if there are too many links? And I’m also personally a little tired of movies that rely too heavily on nostalgia. Plus, there wasn’t a great role for him. We didn’t want to just walk through the movie and distract everyone. If I wanted him to be in it, I wanted to give him something really good to do. And the only other challenge, which you may or may not know of, is that the beloved character of Flynn who’s in the novel? The rights were separated by the estate. Miramax would have had to pay more money for us to have included the Flynn character because he’s in a series of other books.
What a wild web you’ve got yourself involved in, just trying to make a nice Fletch movie.
I really feel like, yeah, it was really threading the needle, trying to make this thing work. And yeah, Jon and I were like, I think there’s an audience for this. And then we were told no, we don’t think so. We got a lot of, yeah, in a different time, a couple of years ago we would’ve bought this, but we’re making our own stuff and we don’t need it. And believe me, I’m glad Paramount’s doing something with the movie, because I really didn’t know what was going to happen. And I thought most likely we would go straight to streaming no matter what, because there are so few movies, like medium small comedies in theaters anyway.
Still, you’d think maybe a couple of commercials might help.
I have encountered millennials and younger who don’t know what Fletch is.
They didn’t know Maverick (from Top Gun) before this year either.
Our aerial photography wasn’t quite as impressive. We did make the film for a number, and all in, it was a $20 million film. Enough money that Miramax obviously wanted to make it back, but there was a road they could have taken of going to selling rights around the world, and letting a smaller company distribute it. And it turned into this sort of hybrid token theatrical distribution with no real support. And on demand at the same time. And I don’t know yet, but I think on-demand is going okay, and then it will be on Showtime. So I really feel like this is a product of: nobody knows what works at the moment and they’re trying stuff out, but it is very weird for me.
In about a year everyone will have seen this movie. It’s getting word of mouth.
Yeah. My wife, she’s been keeping me from Twitter because she doesn’t want me to get obsessed, but she’s looking and she keeps sending me the nice ones. And she’s getting the same way as you’re saying. She’s like, “What the hell is going on?” Yeah, it makes me sad. It makes me sad about what we’re going to get to see in movie theaters. Because I have nothing against superhero movies, tent-pole films. They’re great. They’re fucking great. I just want the rest of the stuff we use to have, too. And that’s my frustration as a movie lover. And I love art house films probably more than anything. If I could get someone to give me money for one I wrote that I’d love to make, hopefully, I’ll get that distributed by an A24. But it’s just … it’s weird. It’s sort of the middle ground of Hollywood. When the blockbuster was sold out, you’d go to another screen at the multiplex and see this and go, “Oh, I’m glad I saw that.”
It’s really interesting to hear you talk about this because you always hear that they don’t make movies for this budget anymore. And it’s like, well, what if they did? And you’re kind of telling the experience of, okay, we did and here’s how it works and it’s not pleasant.
Yeah, it’s not. I really don’t have any issue with my distributor. I think they can’t see a way around how to make that profitable as a theatrical experience, without just spending more money to buy it to box office. That doesn’t make sense.
But there haven’t really been movies. So, Confess, Fletch coming out in mid-August would’ve been perfect with the campaign to be like, “Hey, from the director of Adventureland and Superbad, and one of the stars of the biggest movie of the year… now he’s Fletch!” I don’t understand why that’s so hard.
Yeah. I can’t really argue with that. It felt a little, at the various junctures we were trying to show in the script or the movie, it was kind of like, yeah, too late. The window for that is closed. And it was like, yeah, but the window for entertainment hasn’t closed. Is that not still a thing?
So what happens now?
Yeah. I don’t either. Bill Block, once again, he’s been really loyal to this. He’s actually hired me to write a sequel. Will it ever get made? I’m not sure.
Okay, that’s a positive sign that, at least in the early stages, he’s interested.
He loves the movie and he’s the one who said, from the beginning, people will want this. And then he was in the same boat as the rest of us. Why don’t they seem to agree with us?
With the positive reviews for this one, maybe the next one will get some promotion?
Yeah, I know. Or maybe it will end up on a streamer, but at least promoted on a streamer with publicity.
Which one are you writing next?
Fletch’s Fortune. And Fletch’s Fortune all takes place at a journalism conference, so I’ve got lots of ideas how to bring that into all the insane worlds of today.
Well, I’m glad you’re not the only one baffled by what’s going on here. I have no stake in this, and I’m like, what is going on here?
Well, so you’re the first person I talked to since it was “released.” I was told I bet you’re going to get questions about this, about how it got released. I’m like, yeah, I’m going to tell the truth.
You are test subject A on how to release a mid-budget, IP-driven movie in 2022, and it’s hard.
Yeah. Or how not to do it.
‘Confess, Fletch’ is currently in theaters and streaming via VOD. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.