One Fine Day
ONE FINE DAY
She is a career-minded architect/Super Mom, taking on the demands of single parenting in New York City. He is a hard-driving newspaper columnist/every-other-weekend Dad, challenging the improprieties of City Hall. Having been let down in the past, she has almost given up on men, except for the adorable five-year old who calls her Mommy; and he thinks that women are just fine … as long as they keep their emotional distance. When they are inadvertently thrown together for one chaotic day, the only thing they have in common are identical cellular phones. The last thing they need is to get involved with each other’s lives, jobs and kids. The last thing they expect is to feel an attraction. But the next thing they know, they’re falling in love.
ONE FINE DAY, an old-fashioned love story for the cellular age, stars Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney. Directed by Michael Hoffman and produced by Lynda Obst, the film is executive produced by Kate Guinzburg and Michelle Pfeiffer. The film was written by Terrel Seltzer and Ellen Simon. Director of photography is Oliver Stapleton, and the production designer is David Gropman. The film’s editor is Garth Craven and the music is by James Newton Howard. Mae Whitman, Alex D Linz and noted character actor Charles Durrting co- star.
It looks like it is going to be a high-pressured day for architect Melanie Parker (MICHELLE PFEIFFER), but the single mom knows she can handle it. Five-year-old Sammy (ALEX D. LINZ) has to be at school in time to catch a bus for a field trip ferry cruise; Melanie has to make a winning presentation to clients for a multi-million dollar project; and shehas to be there to cheer on Sammy’s 6:00 p.m. soccer game (in case her unreliable ex-husband doesn’t show).
Meanwhile, Daily News columnist Jack Taylor (GEORGE CLOONEY), who is stirring up a controversial pot of turmoil at City Hall, is unexpectedly awakened by his ex-wife who wants to leave their five-year-old daughter, Maggie (MAE WHITMAN), in his care for a week while she and her new husband honeymoon. The occasional dad is suddenly thrust into unfamiliar parental territory, and his inability to grasp the necessary fundamentals of the role eventually cause his daughter and Melanie’s son to, literally, miss the boat … setting into motion a day from Hell. With no suitable outlet for child care available, the work-stressed parents play a game of baby-sitting ping-pong, taking shifts throughout the most demanding day of their respective careers. A cellular phone mix-up, cat-eaten classroom fish, a crushed architectural model, a marble that has to be surgically removed from a small nostril, a lost child and various other crises that threaten to end both of their careers all add up to a tumultuous twelve hours.
Who would have guessed that it would all turn out to be ONE FINE DAY?
The idea for ONE FINE DAY originated from producer Lynda Obst’s personal experience. “I was having a spectacularly impossible day, logistically,” she explains, “in which I was trying to do my job and deal with the exigencies of a teenage son. My situation, it turned out, was quite similar to that of several of my friends who had their own share of hellacious career/child juggling days. I suddenly realized that the new definition of heroism was simply surviving the day as a working mother.”
That realization for Obst became the premise of the movie: finding the most challenging day of work for a mother and mixing it with the most challenging day of motherhood. She presented the idea to Via Rosa producing partners Kate Guinzburg and Michelle Pfeiffer, who immediately became excited about the project. Writer Ellen Simon, a childhood friend of Guinzburg, was called upon to develop their ideas further, placing a father and his child in the same situation as the mother with hers. Thus, ONE FINE DAY was born.
“I’m always drawn to real situations stretched to the point where they become funny, and focused to the place where they become true,” explains Simon. “In my life, I am emphatic about spending plenty of time with my kids, sometimes to the chagrin of the people I work with. But that’s what this movie is all about — making time in our lives for those most precious to our hearts — our children.”
The challenge of juggling the responsibilities — and joys — of parenthood with those of career is certainly one of the film’s key themes. But ONE FINE DAY adds another critical ingredient — romance. Says Obst: “Love in the Nineties is a function of trying to meld agendas, work and baggage, which makes it hard to feel the lightness of romance. This movie is meant to give license for romance to people whose lives appear to have no room for it.”
While giving a very Nineties “spin” on romance, ONE FINE DAY at the same time presents a kind of old-fashioned look at this timeless subject. “What Ellen found in the script,” continues Obst, “is a parable, a healing solution for the gender wars that we’ve all been living through. It’s like a modern Tracy/Hepburn version of two equals battling it out for control when they don’t really want control; they’re just too frightened to share it.”
While sharing several of Obst and Guinzburg’s perceptions on the project, director Michael Hoffinan also appreciated the screenplay’s depiction of single parenting from the male point of view as well as the female’s. “ONE FINE DAY is not just about single motherhood,”
Hoffman explains. “It’s about parenting in general. I really liked its truthfulness in its telling of the stylistic battle between a man and woman for control. Jack Taylor is an advocate for another way of parenting — a more relaxed method and style. And I wanted to show that this laissez- faire style has its own advantages; being hyper-vigilant, like Melanie, is not the only way to be a parent.”
Melanie and Jack’s battles over parenting methods — and everything else, for that matter — also recalls classic Forties romantic comedies. Hoffman sees the film as being in the tradition of PAT AND MIKE, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, ADAM’S RIB and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. “Ellen really nailed the relationship between Melanie and Jack,” says Hoffman. “The real power and heart of the movie are the great bickering situations, like those of Beatrice and Benedict in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ and in many of those classic film comedies.”
It was important to Hoffman to bring the classical feel of the Forties films to ONE FINE DAY, and he and his team created some inventive methods to attain the desired effect. “We basically subtracted the modern world in the production design and in the costume design,” he
states, “and shot it in a classical way.”
Even a very modern communications system was given this old-style treatment; realizing that the script called for 37 cellular phone calls in one day, and in an effort to avoid the tedium of cross-cutting between all those scenes, Hoffman chose to utilize an old-fashioned film device.
“The split screen really defines much of the world of the movie,” explains Hoffman. “It allowed Melanie and Jack to be together when they’re not … one could be on W. 9th St. and the other at 42nd and Park.”
George Clooney appreciated the film’s classic touches. “The split screens and phone conversations gave a kind of PILLOW TALK vibe to this story,” he says, referring to the seminal Doris Day-Rock Hudson romantic comedy — this one from the Fifties — which utilized split screen phone conversations to great effect. Clooney was also intrigued by the technical requirements of these scenes. “Because of our different schedules [Clooney was simultaneously shooting “E.R.”], Michelle would shoot one of her scenes first and I’d film mine later, listening to playback in my ear. It came down to timing — memorizing exactly when she pauses and when they should be speaking. I began to get the hang of it … after about the thirtieth take!”
Wearing two hats as actor and executive producer, Michelle Pfeiffer was very much aware of the challenges, to which Clooney refers, presented by the performers’ varying schedules. “The scheduling was very difficult,” she remembers. “We had to take into consideration George’s hectic pace with all of his projects, my own scheduling, as well as young Alex D. Linz’s, who was busy filming McDonald’s commercials.”
Juggling the schedule to accommodate the actors, the weather and the availability of various locations on both coasts resulted in shooting the pivotal love scene between Melanie and Jack on Clooney’s first day of work, during the first week of production. The actors took the pressure in stride, brought the tension of the moment to the scene and played with it. Explains Pfeiffer: “Because the movie takes place in one day and is about these two people distrusting each other before getting to know one another, I think our lack of familiarity really worked for
The adult characters are not the only ones at odds; Melanie’s son, Sammy, and Jack’s daughter, Maggie, reflected their parents’ dislike for one another. Mae Whitman, who plays Maggie, explains: “Sammy and Maggie are total enemies. Maggie thinks that Sammy has cooties because they’re in the same class and he’s always sticking things up his nose.” But things change for them as they do for Melanie and Jack. “Maggie and Sammy become friends,”
adds Alex D. Linz, who plays Sammy. “They keep running into each other, and they help each other out, just like their parents.”
On the set, the two young actors maintained a noticeable loyalty to their respective movie parent — and vice versa. Pfeiffer and Clooney regularly engaged in playfully combative and boastful discussions about the acting abilities of their movie children.
That spirit carried through to production, and ONE FINE DAY became a celebration of parent and child. As it turns out, almost the entire crew of filmmakers and actors knew firsthand the dilemmas of career versus parenthood — among them Pfeiffer, Hoffman, Obst, Guinzburg,
Simon and production designer David Gropman. And although he plays a father in ONE FINE DAY and a pediatrician on “E.R.,” bachelor Clooney was grateful to Pfeiffer, Hoffman and Simon for their insights into the unfamiliar situation of balancing career and parenthood. “They
all had a great understanding of these things, of which I knew nothing because all I have is a pet pig,” he says with a laugh.
In addition to parental advice, director Hoffman shared with Clooney his love for basketball, and the two avid players were often seen in one-on-one competitions during the crew’s lunch break. One particularly lively lunchtime game resulted in a shattered eye socket rim for Clooney, who was inadvertently jabbed with someone’s rebounding elbow.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION…
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of filming ONE FINE DAY involved the story’s time frame; it takes place in one city on one rainy spring day — while filming took place in both Los Angeles and New York over a twelve-week period, under the influence of every conceivable kind of weather condition.
The company did enjoy some good luck with L.A.’s late rains during February, the sideways-blowing snow of a longer-than-expected winter in New York, the blustery winds and rain of an East Coast spring and, in the last week of production, the heat and humidity of the approaching summer. Unlike most productions, cover sets were used for sunny days rather than for inclement ones. It took the wizardry of director of photography Oliver Stapleton to make it all match.
Comments Pfeiffer on working with such potential continuity problems: “I had a graph and had the production all mapped out. But it was difficult because in addition to the physical continuity, we had to keep close tabs on the emotional continuity; first it would rain, then we’d be dry. Our characters would get along, then we’d fight, and the process would be repeated. It was a lot to keep track of.”
ONE FINE DAY was filmed for five weeks in Los Angeles, followed by seven weeks in New York City, where the film is set. In Los Angeles, with the help of the industrious locations and art departments, production designer David Gropman was able to create certain New York City scenes on the streets of downtown L.A. and on the soundstnges at 20th Century Fox. At Stapleton’s request, key grip Anthony T. Marra II created and built an unusual Lexan camera booth. The booth was designed to achieve a three camera set-up, allowing one camera to lens a
wide four-shot of the cast sitting in the back of a New York City yellow cab as it was towed down the busy streets of Los Angeles. The 10′ x 13′ x 10′ booth enclosed what would have been the front of the cab, allowing the back end to be exposed to the outside elements. Rain machines were attached to the rig to emit a convincing New York drizzle. At one point, the rig held 19 people (15 crew + four actors) comfortably, making it one of the largest booths built for this purpose.
The New York locations department had to find not only buildings in which to shoot, but streets where nearby structures could block the sun at a given time to create the illusion of a rainy day. Various New York locations were utilized including several areas in Central Park, municipal buildings in Brooklyn, a school in Greenwich Village, the Natural History Museum and the popular ice cream parlor/sandwich shop Serendipity, the interiors of which were recreated on 20th Century Fox’s Los Angeles sound stages. The cast and crew also spent three-
and-a-half days at the piers of The Circle Line, a Mecca for tourists who want to see New York by ferry boat. Thanks to the fickle Big Apple weather, the scene was shot in rain, powerful winds, clouds, sunshine, heat and bitter cold. But through the magic of moviemaking — and a
team of determined filmmakers — the five-minute scene matched seamlessly.