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You hear all the time about writers who really want to direct, or directors who gain enough creative control to be producers, or producers who move on up to being studio heads. But it's pretty rare to hear the one about the producer who decides what he really wants to be is the guy who spends his day chained to his laptop, trying to make the right edits on page 40 and wondering if anyone will ever read his screenplay.
Peter Chiarelli, the former head of Kurtman/Orci Productions and head development at MGM, is now just that-- a producer-turned-screenwriter, with his first produced screenplay, The Proposal, opening this Friday. He says the idea for the movie came about because he loves romantic comedies, but "I just haven't liked a romantic comedy in a long time. I think you can do a good version of a movie where two people fall in love." After his own experiences working as an assistant in the film industry, he wrote the story about Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), who is forced by his strict boss Margaret (Sandra Bullock) to marry her when she's threatened by deportation. "You have these two people in this very kind of intimate relationship. They work the same hours, they're more alike than they are not alike. They should probably be falling in love with one another, or could be at least, if you can get them out of this environment and have them meet each other, and learn about who they really are."
To get them out of the office in The Proposal, Chiarelli's script sends Andrew and Margaret to Alaska, for his grandmother's 90th birthday. And while the romance inevitably comes about, Chiarelli says his main focus was to keep the story-- and the comedy-- moving with a series of comedic setpieces. Tthe way I thought about the set pieces was it's really like a musical number. I can't stand a musical where the musicla number doesn't advance the story a little bit. So that's what I wanted to do with all the set pieces, use these moments to get people laughing. "
You can listen to my interview with Chiarelli below, in which we talk about a lot of the specifics about creating The Proposal and how, in this day and age, to make a romantic comedy that feels remotely new. It's a long interview but he had a lot of interesting things to say, and a surprising take on the whole genre for a guy who is kicking off his screenwriting career with this movie. I promise it's worth a listen.