Second Act director Peter Segal: It's the right time for a story like this

Published: Jan 11, 2019, 17:09 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Director Peter Segal speaks about his upcoming movie Second Act

Second Act director Peter Segal: It's the right time for a story like this
A still from the film. Pic: Instagram/@petesegal

Why Second Act? / What was your thought behind making Second Act?

"This is the kind of movie I love," he said. "It reminded me of Working Girl, Tootsie, The Secret of My Success – wish fulfilment movies where someone gets a second chance, and a disguise through the storytelling to become a different person. And then of course they have to deal with the fall-out of their lies while achieving their goal. The audience knows you're heading towards a cliff. They enjoy it, but also cringe at what they know is about to happen."

What can people expect from JLo's character Maya?

"Maya really is an every person," he said. "We all have dreams and often don't achieve them all. Maya is a person who made certain choices because of things that happened early in her life. There was a lot of regret about how it could have been different. As she tries to climb the ladder and things don't go her way, she sees some of those past decisions as the reason. I think a lot of people can relate to that."

We heard that Jennifer wanted to work with her best friend Leah Remini. How did you feel about getting her on board?

"It was an absolutely natural choice because in real life they are two of a kind," he laughed. "They're hilarious. Leah does not hold back. She will punch Jen, push her in the face, it's no holds barred. She brings moments that are not on the page and you suddenly forget you're watching a movie."

As Jennifer and Leah are best friends in real life, what do you have to say about their chemistry on and off screen?

"The chemistry is real because they're best pals,It reminds me a little bit of a Spade and Farley in TOMMY BOY. They would have their routines at the "Saturday Night Live" offices and then we kind of wrote them down and put them into TOMMY BOY. And likewise, these guys had routines off camera where I guess Leah would pump up Jennifer before she went out on stage to perform in Vegas or wherever; 'who's the champion? You're the champ!' But then on the day on the movie, suddenly it escalated to face slapping and then Jen, after a couple of slabs from Leah to Jen, Jen popped her hard and she was not expecting it and one time way too hard but the one that wound up in the movie was just shy of the way too hard and it was just hilarious."

Having a mega star like Jennifer Lopez and shots in public places, how difficult or easy was it to shoot?

The production frequently found itself interacting with the public. "Many locations were public spaces," Segal explained. "You can't shut down the High Line and you can't shut down Central Park. While we were out there trying to shoot, 400,000 other tourists were trying to get their shot of Jennifer Lopez. So, we did our best to move quickly."

You have a perfect way to combine comedy and emotional genre into your films. How do you do that?

That's actually one of the challenges that I like the most. I started my career doing Joke Book comedy with Naked Gun, which is only about the joke. But then I learned fairly quickly with Tommy Boy, that if you can add some heart to the story, and make people relate to the characters in a different way, other than just the jokes, it may resonate more. The story may resonate more, and last a little longer. So, I am sort of drawn to stories that have both laughs and something else. And this one had certain issues that it was dealing with, and it was also from a female point of view, which was different for me, because most of my films are male-oriented, and I enjoy those challenges. That's what's fun about filmmaking.

What drew you to tell this story of Maya to the audiences?

I feel like it's the right time for a story like this. I mean, obviously this is a very specific and important time for women in the world. And this is a story about strong women and friendships between this group of women, but it's also, like you said, it also is funny. And with every message and with every serious story that you tell, I think there's always a way to weave in comedy and make people laugh. And then the other bit of timing, is we're the first comedy in the last five weeks that will be in the marketplace. There's a lot of other things out there, and especially at Oscar time, a lot of the stories tend to be very serious and dark, and so this is just another flavour of ice cream for people.

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