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THINK LIKE A MAN (2012)
Release Date: April 20, 2012
Studio: Screen Gems (Sony)
Director: Tim Story
Screenwriter: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman
Starring: Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good
Genre: Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: PG-13
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Think Like a Producer
Part of Rainforest Films producer Will Packer's job is to find new and exciting projects that can be tailor made for big screen adaptations. Steve Harvey's New York Times best-selling self-help book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man caught his attention. "Everywhere I went I would see women with this book and it intrigued me, so I had to find out about it. I read the book," says Packer. "I didn't know Steve was giving away all the secrets. After my initial reaction of 'Steve, what are you doing?' - I thought that this would make a really good movie."
Packer called Harvey and Rushion McDonald (executive producer for "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" and Think Like A Man) and he and his business partner, Rob Hardy (co-founder of Rainforest Films and executive producer on Think Like A Man), proposed a collaboration. For the man whose bestselling advice started it all, the prospect of a movie had never entered his mind. "I didn't see it coming," says Harvey. "They were so serious about it that they flew to my ranch in Texas. I had taken a few days off and I was over there fishing. Well they came to talk about buying the rights to the movie and I went 'Wow.' That's how the deal happened."
For Packer, including Harvey was paramount to getting an adaptation done right, something that would appeal to people beyond simply the book's readers. "Steve was instrumental in the creative process because it's his voice, so he wanted to make sure that it was something that wasn't limited to any particular audience-any particular niche or any particular segment of people," says Packer.
Think Like a Screenwriter
"With this book adaptation it's not a narrative in the traditional way of speaking, so we had to figure out a way to take a self-help book and turn it into a screenplay,'" says Packer.
Harvey's main point to the filmmakers was that whatever story was developed, that it holds true to the book's focus on helping women. "My work was good and it was meant to empower women," says Harvey. "That was rule number one: do not take this book and make a mockery of it."
With that in mind, screenwriting team Keith Merryman and David A. Newman were called in to bring their romantic comedy expertise to the project. "We had a relationship with the studio (Screen Gems)," says Newman. "We've written a couple of movies for them, including Friends with Benefits." Adds Merryman, "We instantly loved the book. One of the things we're really good at is dealing with male/female relationships, and this was that times a thousand, so we were thrilled."
The thought of centering the story on a group of men might sound counterintuitive, the writers say, but it ended up creating a balanced portrait of modern-day couples. "It was great to have both sides," says Newman. "Having it centered on the guys means you get to play out the theories and theorems of the book. Adds Merryman, "Well, in a weird way, the book is supposed to give you insight into the make psyche and in a weird way, the movie does, too because of the posse of guys."
Ultimately, the pair developed the story into a multi-faceted, versatile and funny patchwork of men's and women's concerns that all audiences could relate to. "The material wasn't about any particular race, culture or class of people. There were universal themes about relationships and how men and women feel, think, act and love. We were able to take that and make this movie out of it," says Packer.
Think Like a Director
Next up, came the search for the right director. When he was given the script, Tim Story immediately wanted to join the team adapting Harvey's book for the screen. "The agents sent the script to me and they said that there is a really funny and incredible project that's going around town so, I got my hands on it, read it and immediately called Will Packer, who I had known, and told him that I wanted to come in and meet on it," says Story.
Story found the script "hilarious," and was excited about the idea of returning to a large cast saying funny things and hitting at some truths. "I like ensemble pieces," says Story. "There's not many scripts that come across your desk that have all those elements of being well-written and having a great subject. I also thought it had a poignant point of view on relationships, too. It's perfect for today's audiences."
Harvey was thrilled about Story's involvement. "I thought he was a fabulous pick," says Harvey. "He really did something super here. He got on the phone and promised me, 'Man, I'm going to do it right. I'm going to do it justice.' He was always positive."
Packer has plenty of praise for Story's selection as director. "A lot of what you will see, a lot of the magic, will be because Tim is the perfect puppet master-putting all the actors in the right spaces and lanes to allow them to take full advantage of their various skill sets," says Packer.
Casting THINK LIKE A MAN
With a script and director in hand, the task turned to finding the right actors to bring Harvey's ideas and observations, and the scriptwriters' characters, to life. "Casting for a film is essential. You must have the right voices," says Packer.
Kevin Hart was one of the first actors cast in the film, as Cedric. "I saw Kevin Hart do stand up. That's why I wanted him for the movie. His Laugh At My Pain (comedy) tour sold out everywhere. I went to see him in Memphis, Dallas and L.A. I went because I wanted to hear him and hear how he interacted with different crowds and I was blown away," says Packer.
When Hart heard about the movie, he couldn't resist. "Will and I talked and he told me about a project that he was interested in me being a part of," says Hart. "I'm a fan of the book and Steve Harvey so it was exciting for me."
Tim Story gave Hart a lot of free reign to bring his comedy chops to the role. "What's great about Kevin is he does know storytelling quite well and he's pretty seasoned at it. We talk a lot about what the comic beats are, and he just goes at it. Send it to him and he slam dunks it."
Harvey sees a new movie star in Hart. "I know funny, and Kevin Hart is the new giant," says Harvey. "He is the new homerun hitter out there, and in this movie, he's hysterical from beginning to end."
Oscar® nominee Taraji P. Henson signed on soon after. "Will Packer brought me another script two years ago," recalls Henson. " I developed a relationship with him. When this script was green lit by Screen Gems he called and he actually told me that he wanted me to play either Maya or Candace. I feel like I've done those characters before. I've been the baby mama and dated the baby boy. I've been there, did it, done it. So I said to him that the only way I'll do the movie is if I can play Lauren. I've never played the glamorous character."
It worked. Henson was cast as successful businesswoman Lauren, determined to land an equally successful man. "Lauren gets accused of being her own man a lot," Henson says of her character. "She's a powerful, successful woman and single. Very, very single. And she's one of those women who has that long list of things she wants from a man."
Packer has wanted to work with Henson for a long time, he says, "but you've got to have the right project, the right studio to back it and the timing has to be right. Everything lined up with this one. I truly think she is one of the best actresses of any color-of any age range. She is absolutely just the penultimate in terms of top notch actresses out there today."
Story concurs. "She just gives you jewels," he says. "Every take is pretty much great, and then there's just degrees of greater."
Soulful-eyed Michael Ealy was cast as Henson's love interest: cash-strapped, upcoming chef Dominic. "I basically got a phone call from Will Packer saying 'I want you to read this script' and it was perfect timing because I had just filmed a comedic pilot and a very serious special effects movie so, to jump into a romantic comedy-my first romantic comedy, I thought it was a good challenge for me," says Ealy.
Harvey describes the dynamic between Henson's and Ealy's characters as reflecting something real in the world today. "She's fighting with the fact that she makes more money than him, and how do they make that work," says Harvey. "This movie allows Michael Ealy to be something he's never been before, an underdog but a hero at the same time. I thought he did a fabulous job with his role."
"Michael and I go way back," says Tim Story. "We started with 'Barbershop' together, so working with Michael Ealy is a complete dream. He's such a smart actor. We actually spent probably most time outside of production just talking about the characters. He really thinks of every nuance of what his character is, what's going to make him standout and make him special."
A conversation with Kevin Hart set the stage for Gabrielle Union to join the cast. Says Union, "When I was shooting "Little In Common" with Kevin Hart he said 'Did you read Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man?' I was like 'No.' So Kevin passed [the script] off to me. I read it, I loved it and I was like how can we make this work?"
Packer was interested. "Gabrielle was somebody that I wasn't close to prior to this project," says Packer. "The project came up, her agent called and said 'Gabrielle Union would like to meet with you about it." Union's quick wit and sharp sense of humor won him over, so she was cast as Kristen, forever concerned about the slacker ways of her live-in boyfriend Jeremy.
"She's nearing that age and place in life where she wants to take things to the next level and really secure a solid commitment from Jeremy," says Union, who also reveals that Harvey's book was more than just a means to a movie role. "It has definitely helped in my dating life!"
Next to be cast was "Entourage" star Jerry Ferrara for the role of Jeremy, Kristen's non-committal love interest. Says Ferrara, "I read the script and I immediately was intrigued. Kevin got involved, and then more and more people got involved. It was just an easy decision. It didn't take that long to say yes."
"It's rare that when you're in the conceptual stage you think about somebody for a project and you're able to get that person. That's what happened with Jerry Ferrara," says Packer.
Harvey parses the relationship between Jeremy and Kristen this way: "She's trying to help her man get on his feet, and he ain't really there yet. He's not as mature as he needs to be. That struggle is real: the guy she's involved with is just not a self-starter."
For Terrence J, getting the part of mama's boy Michael was a process years in the making.
Opportunity knocked when Packer called the actor Terrence J in New York to participate in a table read for the film... scheduled for the next day in Los Angeles. Packer recalls, "I said, 'I know you probably can't make it, but I want to offer it to you. It's cool if you can't come.'" But Terrence J was already online searching for flights. "That's how serious he was."
He studied the script all night and memorized all his lines. "He had them down cold," says Packer. "In the room where everybody else was reading their parts, Terrence was actually acting out his part. He got the role that day. He didn't know it because we didn't actually give it to him for another two months. I was watching and the other executives were watching and we knew we had to put him in."
For Terrence, the character of Michael is a good guy with a hitch. "He treats Candace" -- Regina Hall's character -- "really well, and he's really good with kids, cause she's a single mom. Everything is in line except for the fact that he has this very weird, almost awkward relationship with his mother."
Harvey says he thinks of Terrence J as "my little brother," so he was excited to see him knock the role out of the park. "He really did the role justice," says Harvey.
When assembling an ensemble cast, Packer knew he had to bring out the most qualified and talented actresses in Hollywood. That meant ensuring Regina Hall was on board. "I just hit her direct and said, 'Reg, I got this project. Check it out. I want you to see it," says Packer. Hall, who plays Terrence J's love interest, Candace, loved the script.
"When I first read the script I thought it was hilarious," says Hall. "And being familiar with the book, listening to Steve Harvey's advice to women and sometimes applying it to my own life and then seeing how they've actually made it into a story that crossed all these different kinds of relationships and different issues in relationships--I thought it was really funny and touching at the same time. It had a lot of heart."
Harvey lays out the problems Hall's character faces: "This woman is faced with this guy that she's crazy about, but she's got to deal with the fact that wow, this guy loves his mother more than he loves life itself, so where do I fit in here? There are a lot of women who've had to grapple with that."
To round out the script's lead female roles, the filmmakers set their sights on Meagan Good. Explains Packer, "Megan and I worked together on Stomp The Yard. We kept in touch. We tried to work together a couple times, but her schedule or my schedule--it didn't really line up perfectly, but as soon as I knew that she had a window I could hit with this. I think she is one of the most talented and underrated young actresses in the game today."
Meagan was definitely interested and was cast as Mya, a beautiful single woman who employs one of Harvey's tactics -- the ninety-day rule -- to weed out players. "I read the script a couple months before and I fell in love with Mya," says Good. "She's the kind of girl who's looking for the right relationship and wants to be in love and wants the positive thing, but she always gives it up a little too soon. So this journey for her is about recognizing her self-worth and making sure that the person that she does choose recognizes her worth as well."
Harvey certainly recognized Good's worth to the production. "She had a lot of different layers," says Harvey. "That was one of my favorite roles, the way she played it."
There were a lot of ideas being floated around for the role of Zeke, the player who pursues Good's character, Mya.
The filmmakers were familiar with Romany Malco's work from The Forty Year Old Virgin and the television show "Weeds". "I always wanted to work with him because he is the type of funny that I personally enjoy. I think he will bring something that we don't have to the table," says Packer.
Malco calls Zeke "the kind of person who looks like he's got it all going on. He makes good money. He's intelligent. He's articulate. He's a great conversationalist. But at the same time he has a blind side, where he's unable to see the areas in which he's pretty shallow. And those are areas that require vulnerability and accountability. Because of the way he presents himself, women tend to give in to him rather easily." When Zeke meets Mya, a woman who's set standards for herself, "he doesn't know how to contend with that."
Gary Owen had wanted to work with Packer for years. Little did he know, Packer had been watching him too. "I knew him as the white guy who always did well in front of black audiences and in black comedy clubs and did stand up that black people love," says Packer.
Owen rounded out the cast as Bennett, "The Happily Married Guy". "I had a show in Atlanta on a Wednesday and he came to the show. He said, 'I got this movie, I'm thinking about bringing you in'. Monday my manager called and was like, 'Dude, we got an offer for Think Like A Man!" says Owen.
Owen sums up the role of Bennett this way: "Bennett's the happily married guy. What it is is you've got six buddies, five of them are lost, I'm the only one that's grounded. I know what's going in life -- the other guys, no clue."
The lead cast was set, but there were still many other roles to fill. To play the key role of the primary doter in Michael's life -- his mama Loretta -- veteran actress Jennifer Lewis was brought on board. "We like Loretta, she's warm and she's fun and she loves her boy, but there comes a time when you have to let go," says Lewis about her character. "In this movie, mama don't want to meet no girlfriend!"
Another crucial character is Sonia, Mya's close confidante who acts as her relationship sounding board. The producers looked to LaLa Anthony to play Sonia. "Sonia is very skeptical about Steve Harvey's book and all the rules that go along with the book, so Sonia's the friend that's kind of like, 'Is that for real? Are you really going to do that?'" says Anthony.
Ultimately, says Anthony, the movie has much to say about relationships that's funny and truthful. "You can go with your guy friends, your girlfriends, your wife, your husband. There's something for everyone in there and you'll have a good time and take home a great message, but you'll laugh a lot, and I think that's what we need in the world now."
Story sees a great date movie in Think Like A Man. "It's going to represent what I think most couples are going through today," he says. Packer also stresses how universal its themes are, and the breadth of its appeal. "I mean, really, this movie's for everybody because it's about love and it's about life, but it has such relatable themes that you can go with a group of friends, you can go with the one that you love -- you can go with the one you're trying to break up with!"
For Steve Harvey, it's the ultimate dramatization of the mix of sage advice and laughter that made his book a bestseller. "This movie is dead on," he says. "This is not some pie in the sky thing that can't happen, hasn't happen, no chance of happening. This really happens in real life. That's the takeaway people are going to get from this movie. But now it's a romantic comedy, which is really cool, and which is like my book. You're going to laugh, you're going to agree, you're going to cry."
ABOUT THE CHARACTERS
The Band of Brothers
Zeke, 28 (The Player)
Best friends with Cedric, Zeke is handsome and cocky, a great friend and a total nightmare with women. He's a master player with a million moves. Underneath his conquests, Zeke has a huge fear of commitment––and has never truly been in love. Until he meets his match––Mya.
Michael, 30 (The Mama's Boy)
Endearingly handsome with earnest eyes and a rare combination of masculinity and sensitivity, Michael is the seemingly perfect guy who is looking for a relationship. The only problem is that he is committed to one woman above all others––his mama. Michael needs to learn to grow up, cut the cord and step up for his woman, Candace––the single mom.
Dominic, 30 (The Dreamer)
A dreamer, who has tried a million jobs, finally realizes he wants to be a chef. In a restaurant where he works as a prep cook, he develops a crush on Lauren, an ubersuccessful, sexy customer. He gets a shot with her. Unfortunately, it happens when he's valet parking cars and she mistakes him for a high roller.
Jeremy, 31 (The Non-Committer)
This smart, talented video game designer is 31, going on 15. He treats his long-term girlfriend, Kristen, like one of the guys. Even though he's over 30, it hasn't occurred to him to grow up—or propose. He's happy with the way things are—until Kristen begins to change.
Bennett, 35 (The Happily Married Guy)
Bennett, Jeremy's brother, the solid, hard-working, friendly all-American guy in the group, is happily married and doesn't hesitate to give his friends unsolicited advice about relationships.
Cedric, 32 (The Happily Divorced Guy)
Cedric, thrilled to finally be free from the shackles of marriage, is a constant presence at Zeke and Dominic's apartment. He constantly rants about his ex-wife, Gail.
The Women They Love
Mya, 25 (The 90- Day Rule Girl)
Mya is a pretty, bright, modern young woman who is frustrated by all the men of her generation who just want to "hook up." Mya wants something more––and decides to own her power. She reads Steve Harvey's book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, and decides to implement the 90-day rule with the next guy she meets—enter Zeke, the player.
Candace, 31 (The Single Mom)
Candace is a woman who gives everything to her 6-year-old son, Duke. She has not yet mastered the art of integrating a relationship with her responsibilities as a single mother and hasn't been with any man for a while. Ironically, she finally meets Michael, who wants all the things she has to offer. Then she realizes he's already taken––by his mama.
Lauren, 32 (The Woman Who is Her Own Man)
Sleek, stylish and all business, Lauren is a supersuccessful executive who has it all––money, a penthouse and a fancy car. She is a woman who refuses to compromise on anything––including a man––and thinks the advice in Steve Harvey's book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, is sexist baloney. She meets Dominic, the seemingly perfect man, not realizing that he was only valet parking the $115,000 Mercedes he was driving when they met.
Kristen, 29 (The Ring Girl)
Jeremy's long-term girlfriend, Kristen, is a smart, successful real estate agent who wants more from her man and her life. When she mistakes earrings on her birthday for an engagement ring, she is triggered to use techniques from Steve Harvey's book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, to help turn Jeremy into a successful man––one who is ready to propose.
The Relationship Expert
Steve Harvey (Himself)
The author of the New York Times best-selling book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, is a highly sought-after relationship guru often featured on daytime talk shows. His book shakes up the love lives of the band of brothers when the women they are pursuing buy his book after seeing him on TV and start taking his advice to heart.
Studio photos, notes and videos © 2012 Screen Gems (Sony)