Sean Hayes (Thomas), Alan Greisman, Craig Zadan
and Neil Meron (Producers) Q&A
Sean, in The Bucket List, you got to give back to Jack as good as he was giving to you.
SEAN HAYES: Yeah, it was as good as it gets.
Did you have a little bit of trepidation?
SEAN HAYES: No. I mean, at the beginning, you're a little leery about acting with icons, as anyone would be, but he was very open to suggestions. So, it became very easy and became kind of an unspoken thing that we did. I tossed out an idea and he went back, and it worked very nicely.
For everybody, what was it like to have these two icons on set in this movie, just to see them every day and working with them?
ALAN GREISMAN: It's kind of amazing. You would see them work, and it was just a privilege. You're a few feet away from the best actors on the planet and it was just mesmerizing. I mean, the scene that sticks out in my mind is the day that Jack did that eulogy. I thought, ‘Whoa.’ It made you cry just watching him do it. It was amazing.
NEIL MERON: There are joys that you get when you produce, and to be able to say that you produced a movie starring Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman and Sean Hayes is one of the joys of this job. You can look back at a body of work and say that you've worked with these gentlemen, and Rob Reiner certainly, and take pride in that. So, it kind of validates you as a producer. But not only that, you get the great joy of being there every day and being witness to things that people will see and experience on film but we see it in person.
CRAIG ZADAN: What we didn't know going into it was how short the days would be. They would do one or two takes and Rob would turn to us and say, ‘Is it going to get better than this?’ And we said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘Let's move on.’ Most movies, you do take after take, which is fine, which is normal, but Jack and Morgan, they do it once or twice and it was sort of perfect, and so we went home early. It's the first time I've ever made movies where we went home early instead of going into overtime every day.
What is it about them? Why are they so great? And what do you get back from working with them?
SEAN HAYES: They’re so great because it's effortless for them to produce genius. You can just stand back and watch it. I mean, every day I had to stop my brain from thinking, ‘Oh, my God, oh, my God, I'm in a movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman,’ and just shut that part of myself off so I could act. They're great at what they do because it's always real and they put the effort into it and you can see it, and they choose great projects. It’s all of those things. It's a pretty easy answer.
Sean, is this really the first big or popular thing that you've done since the end of Will and Grace?
SEAN HAYES: I've done several things here and there. But, yeah, I did Martin and Lewis with Craig and Neil. Probably other than that, yes, this is probably the biggest since then.
Was it important for you to break out of your role from Will and Grace?
SEAN HAYES: I don't know that I'd define it as that. But like any actor, you try to make intelligent choices that will both challenge you and propel you forward, as opposed to staying kind of stagnant and choosing the easy road and doing things you're comfortable with. It's always important to get outside of your comfort zone and do things that challenge you.
Alan, what went through your mind when you were first approached with this project?
ALAN GREISMAN: Craig, Neil and Travis Knox, who works with them, sent us the script. There was something both really interesting about the writing and very moving about the end of the movie. Frankly, it's just about finding something good. It's so hard to do. Rob read like ten pages of it. He was walking around with it, and he said, ‘Okay, let's do this movie.’ I said, ‘Don't you think you might want to just finish the script?’ He said, ‘No.’ He was right. You don't find writing that has a kind of interesting twist to it. Rob did do an enormous amount of work on the script with Justin and put it into the shape that it finally was in, with the help of Jack. It was just good. Our thought was if it's good and we have these kinds of actors, we can find an audience for it.
CRAIG ZADAN: The truth of the matter is that before we even approached the studios, we had Rob, Jack and Morgan. So it wasn't merely a movie about two old guys. It was about Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, directed by Rob Reiner. So, it became something a little bit different than two old guys. And we knew that this was the only way to get the movie made.
NEIL MERON: To what Alan was saying. It made me think of when actors come in and audition for parts, you literally know the second they open their mouth if they're right for the part. It’s the same with scripts. You can read ten pages and from there determine, ‘Okay, this guy can write and this is a great script.’
CRAIG ZADAN: It also applies to everything when you make movies in general. What happens is that there are those movies that are really simple to get made and there are the movies that are difficult to get made. The ones that are difficult are always the best. Whether it was like Chicago, which had been in development for ten years. Everyone said a movie/musical is not going to work at all and look what happened. Then, then when we did Hairspray, they said you can't break into song in a film. In Chicago, we had these excuses because it was in Roxie Hart's mind. When they did Dreamgirls, it was a performance piece. They were in a concert or in a recording studio until later in the movie. So there is a lot of ‘You can't do this, you can't do that, no one will accept that, nobody wants this.’ Yet every single time you do it and the audience likes it, then that rule is gone. This movie had similar impediments. The truth is if you're moved by it and it touches you. We all were moved by the script. We all thought this was something that we wanted to really make. Then you just hope that that taste that you have in saying ‘I love this,’ that the audience will like it too.
Do you guys have a Bucket List in your career? Is there something that you haven't made yet?
ALAN GREISMAN: No, it's only about really making good things. I mean, Rob and I have a Bucket List. We'd like to do another movie with Greg, Neil and Sean. No, but seriously, we would. We had such a great time making this movie. It was wonderful. Except for, as I'm fond of saying, Neil's strange eating habits, we would do it all over again in a second. I'm sorry. I just always tease him about that. He eats very healthfully - strangely, but healthfully.
Sean, with the success you’ve had on television, does it give you more comfort in waiting for the right projects?
SEAN HAYES: It does afford you the luxury of waiting for only good things to come. And like I said, I read, just like these guys and everybody, thousands of scripts looking for a great one. It’s nice when you don't have to jump. You don't need the paycheck so you're fortunate enough. Actually even when I was living in an apartment, I didn't need the paycheck. I mean, you do it because you love to do it. You don't do it for the dollars. So, it's nice to still feel passionate about wanting to wait for the right thing.
Sean, did you know either Jack or Morgan prior to making this movie? And what was it like when you first met them?
SEAN HAYES: No, I did not know them and they were warm and gracious when I met them. It was an honor to be with them.