After scoring a hit with ITV series Cold Feet, director Nigel Cole graduated to films with Brenda Blethyn vehicle Saving Grace. The story of an unlikely drugs dealer scooped the Audience Award at Sundance 2000 and paved the way for the similarly cheeky Calendar Girls. For his third big screen outing, Cole ventures stateside for romantic comedy A Lot Like Love starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet.
How did this script come into your hands?
I was looking for a romantic comedy. I really wanted to do one and I wanted to do one that was a powerful love story first and a comedy second. It seems to me that romantic comedies used to be about falling in love, but in recent years they've really become just comedies where the love story is only there as a spine to hang the jokes on. I wanted to do something that was reminiscent of slightly more old-fashioned romantic comedies so I was looking really hard for one and my agent sent me this script. It was by a first-time writer [Colin Patrick Lynch]. He'd never had a film made before - he was actually a waiter at the restaurant in Sony Studios. I read it and thought it had real potential and before I knew it we were making it. It was all very fast.
The film is obviously geared towards twentysomethings. How do you think this story is relevant to that generation?
I think your 20s are the hardest part of life. I mean, everyone goes on about how hard it is to be a teenager, but actually I think it's tougher to be in your 20s because you're expected to be a grownup and expected to earn your own living and be successful and I think you feel like a kid still. So I think this film is really about that. It's about trying to find yourself in your 20s so you can work out who you are and where you're going to go in life. I think trying to do all that whilst trying to fall in love is particularly hard so our film is really about all that.
The interaction between Kutcher and Peet feels very loose and easy. Did you allow them to improvise?
Well, there wasn't as much improvisation as I'd wanted. They were so good together and so imaginative and talented that I felt like we could have done a great deal more. But, you know, when you're working for a Hollywood studio and they've spent a lot of money on a movie they want you just to shoot the script they've bought really. Actually we had a few arguments along the way about how much improvisation I was allowed to do.
There's a great scene in a restaurant that doesn't feature much dialogue. Was that improvised?
Yeah, that was all improvised. I just sat back and laughed on that day. They did it all so it just goes to show what funny characters they really are, I think.
You've been quoted as saying that Ashton Kutcher is "better than Cary Grant". Can you explain that?
Well, I think he's got it all. I think he's ludicrously handsome and very, very funny but he's also a very charismatic and charming young actor. I think he has a real chance of going on to become a leading man that will be around for many, many years to come. I can't find anything wrong with Ashton Kutcher. I think he's great. It's odd that in America there's a very mixed reaction to him. I think those that have only seen him on Punk'd or That 70s Show get him wrong. There's much more to him than those characters or that persona he plays in those shows. I think gradually people will learn that he's really a leading man in an old-fashioned sense.
Do you think it's fair that this film is being measured against When Harry Met Sally?
When Harry Met Sally is a great film so I'm happy to be compared to that, but I actually don't think it's that similar at all. It's not about being friends first and lovers second, which is what When Harry Met Sally is about. My characters aren't really friends, they just keep trying to be lovers and failing so it's not that similar. I think people talk about that because it's a love story set over several years in which they keep coming back together, so there are some similarities. Actually most Hollywood films these days are identical to each other so the fact that our film reminds people of one other film that's 20-years-old isn't a bad thing.
So far your films haven't used broad comedy set-ups. Could you ever see yourself directing something in the vein of Meet The Parents?
You can read 120 pages of broad comedy and not laugh once. I think the first rule of comedy is that it has to be funny and I find a lot of the broad comedy which is sent to me, painfully unfunny. So I can't do them. If I could find one that was very funny then I'd do it.
A Lot Like Love is released in UK cinemas on Friday 24th June 2005.