Hallie Meyers-Sheyer made her directorial debut with Home Again starring Reese Witherspoon but she has been in the business for years. Meyers-Shyer practically grew up visiting film sets and even making some fun cameos in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films.
Daughter to filmmaker Charles Shyer (“Father of the Bride,” “Private Benjamin,” “Baby Boom”) and Nancy Meyers (“Something’s Gotta Give,” “The Holiday,” “The Intern”) it is no surprise that Meyers-Shyer was drawn to the family business so to speak.
The screenplay that became her directorial debut follows a 40-year-old with two children (Reese Witherspoon) who is newly separated from her record executive ex (Michael Sheen). She moves from New York to L.A. to start over, settling in the home of her late father, who just so happens to have been a famous filmmaker. But just as she’s embarking on a new career — as an interior designer— she crosses paths with three young Hollywood hopefuls (Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff and Jon Rudnitsky) who are trying to make it big. The group strike up an unlikely friendship and the trio of men move into her guesthouse, which, of course, does not go smoothly.
I had the privilege of speaking with Hallie Meyers-Shyer via phone to discuss Home Again earlier this month and had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make a film.
Having grown up with filmmakers as parents, did how did you chose to go into writing and directing rather than veering into acting?
I always wanted to be a writer and directing is an extension of writing. My parents were great example growing up so becoming a female director seemed like a possibility, it never seemed as something that wasn’t attainable or impossible to reach.
How did you come up with the idea for the screenplay for Home Again?
The character of Alice was in my head for a while. I wanted to write about a woman who had been divorced early in life. A woman that was brave enough to make that change earlier in her life. She questions the choice of leaving her husband once she’s alone in a new city and being a single mom. As far as the three millennial, I got the idea from a friend who took in three guys and decided to incorporate it into the script.
It was a very LA movie. My way of romanticized got the city and bringing it back into a place I love.
Did you write the role of Alice with a particular actress in mind?
Well, I didn’t write the role for anyone in particular thinking that I would get that actress for the film. I hoped Reese [Witherspoon] would be in the film because she’s very colorful on screen and she’s also not afraid to be very vulnerable. So when she said yes I was very excited.
How did you go about casting Michael Sheen as Alice’s estranged husband?
It would have been easy to make Austen (the husband) a jerk but we needed someone you could picture being with her and someone who could intimidate the boys. Michael Sheen added a lot to the part. He made the character come alive and was terrific with Reese. He wasn’t afraid of going there in scenes or looking bad. He embraced it. He worked hard at making [Austen’s] personality layered. He’s a terrific actor. Some of my favorite scenes where between [Reese and Michael].
How did you go about casting the roles of the three millennials played by Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff and Jon Rudnitsky?
Nancy [Meyers] helping as producer helped. She advised me to make specific, good choices and take the time to cast for a long time and be very specific in my choices. I wrote the part of Teddy specifically for Nat Wolff and Jon Rusinaki who plays George was seen on first day of casting but was not cast until three months later. When we first did his screen test he was comedic and full of heart but we thought we should keep looking just in case. Eventually we came back and chose him for the role of George because we kept thinking he had something we liked for the part. The role that Pico [Alexander] plays was hard to cast. We were looking for a young movie star but also wanted to cast an unknown person. I wanted someone fresh feeling.
Most actors go after the drama angle [when auditioning] but Pico had good instincts and was very unique and charming and funny.
The girls who play Alice’s daughters are almost miniature versions of Reese, how did you go about casting them?
Eden (who plays the youngest daughter, Rosie) looks like Reese and caught my eye. She was terrific and had good comedic timing and an understanding of what she was doing. She was a natural and cool and funny.
Lola [Flannery] added depth to the character of Isabel and you don’t see that a lot. For that role I wanted someone who had life. Who had all those layers that a kid her age would have, being serious and nervous but also be someone you could laugh at in her comedic moments.
Considering most of the film takes place in one location, Alice’s childhood home, how did you find the perfect residence to film in?
We filmed in Brentwood in Los Angeles. It was hard to find the house because we needed it to be beautiful and majestic and a place where they wanted to spend the time. This house had so many rooms it was interesting enough so as not to be claustrophobic for the actors. It has a lot of Hollywood history to it.
Are there any upcoming projects you’re currently working on?
I’d like to stay on romantic comedy, character driven stories. I have a new script I’m currently working on but it still has a ways to go before it’s finished.
Going forward, do you have any dream producers or actors you’d like to work with?
That’s a good question. There’s a long list of people but, it may be the girl in me or not but…Ryan Gosling.
I would have to agree with you there. Ryan Gosling is definitely a good choice. He oozes that man’s man persona and is a very dedicated actor. Not only that but he also has great comedic timing and is a great actor.
Home Again is now available to stream and out on DVD and Blu-ray. The bonus features contain commentary with Hallie Myers-Shyer and Nancy Meyers, who served as executive producer on the film. They provide a lot of fun facts and insightful data that give the viewer an inside look and new perspective on how films are made. One of these being that all the “old” photos of Alice’s mother are actual photos of Candace Bergen, who plays Alice’s mother in the film. Another being that some of the film used for the movie posters are titles from Meyers-Sheyer’s first screenplays when she was in school.
Having grown up surrounded my filmmakers proves that the apple does not fall far from the tree as Home Again is reminiscent of some of Nancy Meyer’s work which is not a bad thing, rather what Hallie Meyers-Shyer has managed to is is give us a feeling of coming back to an old friend, of being home again.