Arthur Hiller, who was very prominent at the time, having done Love Story and Hospital and The In-Laws and a number of big movies, Sherry had a relationship with Arthur and gave him the script and he loved it, and he came aboard very quickly, so getting a director was no problem. He jumped on it, and I met with him. And he was terrific and very receptive to the script and wanted to make that movie. And you know, had very little changes. Minor stuff.
How different was your script from what ended up on-screen?
There were only script changes that any writer would have with any director, like maybe, this scene might be a little too long or maybe we don’t need this scene or maybe we can consolidate this into that. Nothing, absolutely nothing, dealing with the gay issue. It was only script mechanics. There was one long scene with Michael Ontkean’s character with his brother that was good, but it really kind of took the film in a slightly different direction, that we felt could be cut. So it was more just tightening the script and getting it down to a shooting length. That sort of thing.
So you hadn’t written any more explicit love scenes?
Oh, no, no, no. Those were all filmed as written pretty much. Casting was pretty interesting too.
Naturally, any studio wants to start off by going after big stars, and at that time it was still before it was fashionable to play gay. So they went out to a number of big stars who turned it down. We said, “Look, the star of the movie is really the subject. So people are going to come to see the movie or not come see the movie, I think, based on the subject.” Yes, the star might draw them in, but more importantly, we wanted to get the best actors we can. And that’s how we got Michael and Harry. Kate Jackson was, you’re probably too young to remember this, she was one of the original Charlie’s Angels.
Oh, I remember.
And she was a big household name. I mean, Charlie’s Angels was a big, big deal. She’s a television name. But Danny Melnick had a really good thought. I remember they approached Goldie Hawn at one point, who was a huge movie star. Actually, I’d worked with her a couple of years prior to that [on the western-comedy The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox]. And I was on the phone with her, and she had read the script. She said, “Look, she said, it’s a really good script, and it’s a good part, but I can’t do this movie.” She said, “First of all, you don’t want to make this a Goldie Hawn movie. The star of the movie is the two guys. The wife is an important part, but, you know, it’s really the guys’ movie. And if I did it, it would become a Goldie Hawn movie, and you don’t want that.”
That’s smart and the best pass on a movie I’ve ever heard.
Yeah. Kate really wanted to do it. And she was originally, I don’t know if you know this or not, but she was originally set to play Meryl Streep’s role in Kramer vs. Kramer. So she wanted to try to get a role in a serious movie. She lobbied for the part, and Danny Melnick had a great theory about why Kate would be important to the film, and that is because the subject being so possibly intimidating to audiences that if you had somebody like Kate Jackson, who was a TV star and had been in their living rooms every week, that that would be something subconsciously maybe that someone that they could connect through or guide them through this forbidden territory, if you will, who might … you know … that they could identify and relate to who might carry them through this dicey subject matter. And the theory being that at the end of the movie, she really comes around and accepts it and says this is how it has to be, and I just want to be happy, that the audience in relating to her throughout would come to the same conclusion at the end that she does. And that was a smart way to go, and I thought Kate was terrific. It was an easy shoot considering the subject matter. I’ve been on a lot tougher shoots with less nerve-racking subject matter, and everyone was really committed.