'The Upside' director Neil Burger on how comedian Kevin Hart shattered stereotypes and everyone's expectations with the dramatic role
MEAWW spoke to director Neil Burger on his newest project ‘The Upside’ and what it took to get it to the big screen.
Kevin Hart and Brian Cranston’s newest film ‘The Upside’ is an equally heartwarming and funny story that gracefully walks the line of comedy and drama. ‘The Upside’ is the American remake of the French film ‘The Intouchables’ which was based on the real life memoirs of paraplegic aristocrat Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his life auxiliary Abdel Sellou.
Interestingly enough, ‘The Upside’ was one of the films affected by the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, who had originally financed the film through The Weinstein Company. MEAWW spoke to director Neil Burger who expanded on the positive experience he had shooting the film, but also the frustrating circumstances that led to the film’s release being delayed.
“The movie was actually very quick in the making, it was really one of the more wonderful filmmaking experiences. But what happened was, after we had the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, all of the Harvey Weinstein things came out. The film was originally financed by the Weinstein Company, so that completely derailed us for a year until Lantern Entertainment came in and bought the movie from the Weinstein Company and partnered with STX to release the movie.”
However, everything happens for a reason, and it seems that now is a better time than ever for people to see this film, given the current divide in the country. What makes this story even more beautiful and relevant is that it is based off of real-life circumstances. Burger expanded on this sentiment, speaking on the importance of this honest and heartwarming portrayal.
“I think what makes the film even more powerful is that it has a real sense of meaning. The movie is about these two people finding common ground and really learning to see each other. Also, in this political and cultural environment that we find ourselves in where people are so divided and there seems to be no way to cross the divide between us, here is an example of two people who come from completely different backgrounds and points of view who slowly learn to see each other, find common ground and actually become great friends.”
While both Hart and Cranston’s performances were fantastic, there were some concerns early on whether Hart could handle the depth of the role of Dell. Burger himself had concerns if Hart was up for the challenge, as he was exclusively known for his stand-up and roles in comedies. Even though the film had its fair share of laughs, it was a drama at its core, which is something Hart had never tackled before. However, the comedian was up for the challenge and made it clear to Burger that he was ready for this kind of role.
View this post on Instagram
“When I first found out that Kevin was going to be in the movie it gave me pause, because I had seen most of his work that was much broader and I wasn’t sure if this was the right movie for him. But then he quickly convinced me that he knew exactly what this movie was and should be. There wasn’t a line of improv in the movie that Kevin did. The script was very tightly written and all of the humor is in the script. It’s very character based humor, it’s not jokey. It’s humor that builds and that is set up in very subtle ways over the course of the narrative, and Kevin understood that and worked with that.”
Even though the film is a remake and based on a true story, there are always concerns about offending someone given the sensitive subject matter. That said, both Burger and Cranston were fully invested in making the film as authentic and true to form as possible, making sure they did their due diligence to portray the life of a paraplegic person accurately.
“As far as dealing with the issue of disability, we worked incredibly hard to do it right and to get it right. Brian did his homework and he was great in this partially because of his preparation and research. He got an enormous amount of help from consultants and numerous people with similar disabilities as well as caregivers. As far as the humor goes, I don’t think we were ever making fun of anybody in that situation. The character of Dell coming into that situation and seeing his discomfort is maybe something that we all see in ourselves. I think humor is a really good way to approach the subject, both men and in particular Phillip, do not want to be pitied.”
‘The Upside’ is currently in theaters nationwide.