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Interview: Edward Zwick, director of Love and Other Drugs

Beyond Glory days
By TOM MEEK  |  November 26, 2010

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Folks most immediately identify Edward Zwick as the director behind Glory (1989), perhaps one of the greatest Civil War dramas ever rendered on film. Not bad for a sophomore outing -- one that came as a  stark contrast to Zwick's first feature film, About Last Night, a 1986 cheeky romantic comedy starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. From there, Zwick -- who'd worked in drama at Harvard and cut his teeth in TV with the popular serial thirtysomething -- would embark on a cinematic directorial career encompassing a diverse and wide-sweeping range of subjects: Zwick was the hand behind such films as The Siege, Defiance, and The Last Samurai.

Equally impressive are Zwick's endeavors as a producer. His name is etched on such Academy Award golden children as Shakespeare in Love and Traffic.

For his latest, Love and Other Drugs (read our review here), Zwick writes, produces, and directs. This one's another rom-com, with some darker issues at heart and centered on the late-'90s pharmaceutical bubble crowned by the introduction of Viagra to the marketplace. The inspiration for the movie comes from Jamie Reidy's novel Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman and stars desirable, upwardly mobile talents Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. I recently had a chance to sit down with Zwick and discuss the film and his life behind the camera.

What drew you to this project?
I had always been interested in human behavioral comedy. I had done it before in my career and gone back to it with My So-Called Life and thirtysomething, so it's not like I ever left it. I think it's really important for an artist to remain a moving target, and I think I have focused the past couple of years on pieces that were larger in scale and that were often in a historical context or epic, and I just wanted to bring it down to something that was only about the performances and only about the smaller moments and try to talk about what is epic in personal lives.

There's sort of a similarity between this project andAbout Last Night.
Sure, you're talking about characters who are inhibited or in denial or reluctant about the truth of things. To have a character who has no compunctions telling those truths is a rhetorical device that in comedy is pretty useful and pretty classic. Think of Molière or Kaufman. There's always a character who's an earnest truth teller in there, and to make it comic is another way to make it work.

Would you say there's a political message in the film about the pharmaceutical business, that it tries to keep us amped up 24/7 so that we're popping the pills to feed their bottom lines?
The culture changed radically, where suddenly there's a quick fix for everything and drugs became commoditized. There is no quick fix for love, however; it exists in juxtaposition to all these conditions that can be addressed or presumably addressed, and I thought that was a very interesting context that would resonate. And Viagra is a particular drug that is only about sex and presumably can be part of love, but again, that is something that is being sold and part of this moment in the culture, which was the go-go '90s, where everything could just be immediate and amplified and exposed. And things you never talked about suddenly you're talking about, and the idea that people have to go through steps that can't be skipped to achieve real intimacy is made more compelling when viewed in that ambient universe.

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