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Opening in eighth place, James L. Brooks’s comedy How Do You Know, starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson, collected $7.6m at 2,483 locations. How Do You Know’s average per site was a mere $3,061.
Brooks’ comedy cost a reported $120m. Thus, How Do You Know has become one of the year’s major box-office disasters.
It’s nearly impossible to compare How Do You Know to the performances of Brooks’ early hits Terms of Endearment (1983) and Broadcast News (1987) because distribution patterns were different in those days and movie theaters were different (generally much bigger, i.e., more tickets could be sold per theater) back then as well.
But How Do You Know performed even worse than Brooks’ previous box-office disappointment, Spanglish (2004), which starred Adam Sandler and opened with $8.81m at 2,438 sites. Spanglish cumed at $42.72m.
Meanwhile “How Do You Know” opened at No. 8 with just $7.6 million in the United States and Canada, far short of modest expectations in the $12 million range. The Columbia Pictures project cost about $100 million to make, with half the budget spent on salaries for Witherspoon, co-stars Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd, and writer/director James L. Brooks. Extensive reshoots also drove up costs.
Executives at the Sony Corp unit were despondent about the opening, although the film had suffered bad buzz for some time with no help from a forgettable title.
How do you know it’s not working? Ask Reese Witherspoon, who goes on the date from hell in “How Do You Know.”
In real life, she says, “once I went on a blind date and he corrected my grammar. I knew in the first 10 minutes that the date was over.”
In the new romantic comedy, Witherspoon plays an athlete who must chose between two suitors played by Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson.
Q. What was it like to play a more non-sentimental woman who is confused about love?
A. It was interesting. I’ve done a lot of comedies where the woman talks about the man. She runs around going, “What should I do?” She cries to her girlfriends about love. The woman I play in this movie has a hard time conveying her own emotions. She doesn’t even really want to talk about things. She says to her boyfriend, played by Owen Wilson, “If I wake up in the middle of the night crying, just ignore me.” No woman would say that in real life to her boyfriend! I usually play more verbal characters. This woman is more internal.
Q. You play a woman who is not that interested in settling down and getting married. Can you relate?
A. I have a lot of friends like that. This role was written so beautifully. I love that she’s not afraid to be honest about not wanting what other women want. Obviously, it’s not like me. I have two kids and a very settled-down life.
Q. Your softball player character must leave the sports biz because she’s getting older. Ever worry about aging in Hollywood?
A. It’s a parallel to being an actor. As a woman, we have a time. It’s our time to work, we work a lot, and then hopefully you shift and become the Meryl Streeps or Diane Keatons of this business. I do know actresses have a shelf life and an expiration date.
No such luck when it came to audience scores for the new James L. Brooks romantic comedy How Do You Know, starring the likable trio of Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Owen Wilson, which pulled in just $2.5 million. It’s been a while since moviegoers have rallied around a rom com and the tender-hearted among us hoped Brooks $100 million-efforts (youch!) would mine some of his past gold. Alas, reviews were decidedly dismissive, and CinemaScore audiences slapped it with a C-. Even more depressing, the film was nudged from the No. 5 spot by The Tourist‘s equally languid numbers. Somewhere, Brooks is moaning of a broken heart.
1. “Tron: Legacy” – $18M
2. “Yogi Bear” – $4.7M
3. “The Fighter” – $3.8M
4. “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” – $3.7M
5. “How Do You Know” – $2.9M
6. “Black Swan” – $2.7M
7. “The Tourist” – $2.6M
8. “Tangled” – $2.5M,
9. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1″ – $1.5M
10. “Unstoppable” – $675K
SheKnows: You’ve obviously worked with Jack several times. Do you ever write with a specific actor in mind?
James L. Brooks: I have. In As Good as it Gets there was no way the movie could be made with out Jack Nickolson. I think that was true and I knew it from the beginning. In Starting Over I was hoping Jack would do that movie and it didn’t happen. Tea Leoni is someone I approached early on for Spanglish. Reese [Witherspoon] on this movie. I think that’s pretty much it, where I started with an idea for somebody.
SheKnows: Working with Reese Witherspoon, I know you said that you thought of her for this role. When an actress like that says yes let’s do it, that’s got to infuse you with excitement for the project.
James L. Brooks: It’s not quite like that, actually [laughs]. It’s like I feel myself a slave to the project. I feel that I feel an enormous responsibility to the actors. I think one of the most devastating things that could happen to me, and there are a lot of devastating things that can happen to you when making a movie, is that if an actor was unhappy with having been in a movie. I feel that responsibility very much. But my job is to serve it. This is not about me. It’s out there and we’re all together out there. So I don’t think about it quite that way. If you do feel that stuff, it falls to the side of the work very quickly. You’re a human being trying to get it right.
Watching Reese Witherspoon work the red carpet at the premiere of her new film, “How Do You Know,” like a cheery little munchkin, 5 feet nothing and shrinking, you can’t help but think:
This girl is so not a member of Team USA Softball.
But that’s exactly what the actress plays, and believably, in the film from Academy Award-winning writer-director James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment,” “As Good as it Gets”). The old-fashioned romantic-comedy (in theaters Friday) hinges on Witherspoon’s Lisa, a hyper-driven USA Softball stalwart who, at 31, is forced to re-examine her life — and her relationship with a happy-go-lucky Washington Nationals relief pitcher played by Owen Wilson — when she’s cut from the team.
“Coming in, my softball skills were slim to none,” Witherspoon said. “Now, they’re better. Definitely not good, but better.”
For that, Witherspoon gives credit to some of the sports biggest names. The Oscar-winner (for “Walk the Line”) didn’t take the role lightly, enlisting gamers like Jennie Finch and Natasha Watley and legendary UCLA women’s softball coach Sue Enquist to help her climb into her character’s skin. Cleats, too.
Sue Enquist led UCLA to 10 national titles during her legendary 27-year softball coaching career, but it is her recent tutelage of Oscar-winning actor Reese Witherspoon that has earned her a spot on the red carpet. Enquist, 53, trained Witherspoon for her role as a former softball star in the film “How Do You Know,” which opens in theaters Friday. Abigail Lorge caught up with Enquist, an espnW advisory panel member, to chat about coaching an A-lister.
Abigail Lorge: How did your involvement with this movie come about?
Sue Enquist: I’ve been involved from the inception. Jim [James L. Brooks, the film’s writer and director] was doing the research for the movie about six years ago, and he went to a number of different sports to gather a patchwork of stories about getting cut from a team not on your own terms. And then, about two years ago, he made the decision that this character was going to be a former pro softball player.
AL: When were you first introduced to Reese? And when you met her, did you think she could look the part, given how petite she is?
SE: I was introduced to her in the fall of 2009, when Jim wanted me to teach her what it feels like to train at the highest level and, more importantly, to give her an idea of what it means to be a champion athlete in and around other champions in a team environment. As Reese says, “Acting’s an individual sport, and I learned how to be a team player.” And so in the fall of 2009 I went to the studio to meet her for the first time because the studio wanted, and Reese wanted, to make sure there was a connection there.
Reese Witherspoon claims to have discovered at least one segment of the female population that is not inclined to talk about feelings.
Those would be female athletes.
In James Brooks’ romantic comedy How Do You Know, Witherspoon plays Elise, an Olympic veteran softball player who’s finally “past it” at age 31 and cut from the team. In her adrift state, she has to sort out her feelings about the two men in her life — philandering Major League pitcher Matty (Owen Wilson) and nice guy businessman Frank (Paul Rudd) facing federal fraud charges on behalf of his less-than-ethical father (Jack Nicholson).
“I’ve done a lot of comedies where a woman talks a lot about her romantic dynamics and is always kind of talking about men, and, like, ‘What should I do?’ ” she says.
Then she started meeting actual softball champs, including Sue Enquist, who has coached UCLA to 11 national championships. “Jim had done a lot of legwork meeting all these female athletes (as he was writing the script),”
Witherspoon says. “And really, they talked about very little other than the game. They never talked about their relationships. I was always trying to get more out of them, and it was really hard.”
In How Do You Know, Reese Witherspoon plays a woman unlike any other character she’s portrayed. “My characters are usually very vocal. She was more interior,” Witherspoon said.
In writer-director James L. Brooks’ [Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets] new romantic comedy — starring Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson — Reese Witherspoon portrays a champion softball player who is facing the possibility of being let go by the U.S. Olympic softball team because she is 31 years old.
Although her character is nowhere near ready to settle down, Witherspoon admitted to us that that aspect was part of the challenge as she is raising two children and also in a serious relationship.
Her How Do You Know character required not only training with the U.S. softball team, but also getting into the mindset of an athlete, one she compared to young actresses in Hollywood.
“I found it really interesting in that there’s a parallel to being an actor, especially as a woman. You get the feeling sometimes your clock is ticking,” Witherspoon said. “You can only hope to have the career of a Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton.”
If winning an Oscar for Walk the Line and the astounding body of work she has produced is any indication, we don’t think Reese Witherspoon has anything to worry about in terms of Hollywood longevity. She’s already well on her way to being the next Streep or Keaton.