Interview: The guys who wrote 'Think Like a Man Too' talk sequels
David A. Newman and Keith Merryman, screenwriters of "Think Like a Man" and its sequel, discuss having to follow-up a surprise hit and "Jersey Boys."
Screenwriting duo Keith Merryman and David A. Newman enjoyed a certain amount of unsupervised freedom while adapting Steve Harvey's self-help book "Think Like a Man" into the 2012 film. But when it came to making a sequel after that film turned into one of that summer's surprise hits, they found the powers that be were a tad more interested in how the second one would come together.
What was the difference in working environments between the first film and this one?
David A. Newman: I think we had the gift of freedom, in a way. The book had fans, and Steve Harvey did a great job of presenting the book on "Oprah," so we knew there was a fan base for the book. But there have been a lot of self-help books that have fan bases that, you know, you never know. I'll put it this way: It never occurred to us it was going to do what it did in the box office. We never even heard the words "No. 1 at the box office" until that day.
Keith Merryman: Never even talked about it, never thought it would happen.
Newman: And I think we all were thinking it's our $12 million movie that we all really love — yay! And maybe we weren't aware of Kevin [Hart]'s fan base or [producer] Will Packer's ability to get the word out, but I think everyone was really stunned from that point. And then after that "The Best Man Holiday" got green-lit after "Think Like a Man," a lot of things have happened. But with success comes a whole different set of expectations on this one. So there were more eyes on the prize from the very beginning, more opinions. I wouldn't say cooks in the kitchen, but there were definitely more ideas thrown at us than there were the first time.
Merryman: The first one, we were basically told, "Steve Harvey has to be a character and the book has to be a character, do whatever you want." Literally, that was it.
Newman: And in this one there were obviously some directives. Obviously Kevin's a much bigger star, so it would make sense to play to that and bump his role up.
Merryman: But it was intimidating because it was a big responsibility, you know, the way that people really connected to the first one. And with the sequel, our goal was to, despite all the craziness and campiness, to still root it in the relationships, which is why it's dramatically framed with them.
Are there different professional or diplomatic positions you have to assume when you're dealing with those new cooks in the kitchen? Like more smiling a nodding politely?
Newman:[Laughs] Yeah. I laugh because I think everyone thinks they're the reason the first one was such a hit, and I think everyone was. Like, every single person was a reason why it was a hit, from Will to [director] Tim [Story] to all of the actors and hopefully to us too. But at the end of the day you have to have a great script if you're going to do it again. So there were a few different hats to wear from the very beginning. We were just concerned because we didn't want the entire tone of the movie to change into a different genre.
How about using Las Vegas as a setting?
Newman: Even "The Hangover" can't out-Hangover "The Hangover." There's been three, and we're not that. So we really decided to do what it's like when you go to Vegas, where it's like the conflicts are somebody wants to do this and somebody wants to do that, you're automatically supposed to feel like you're having the best time of all time.
Merryman: And if you don't you feel like you failed.
Newman: And then our main premise was it's the greatest place in the world for men and women to get their freak on — unless they go together as couples, which gave everything a conflict and comedy.
I couldn't help noticing the lamest character in your movie keeps suggesting they go see "Jersey Boys," which you're opening against.
Newman: [Laughs] I know, I know. We didn't have time to go to Vegas so we started doing research on the Internet, and everything was Criss Angel and "Jersey Boys," and so we wrote it into the script. As soon as you get off the airplane there it's like, "Jersey Boys!" And I just thought [that character] would want to see it and know that it had eight Tony nominations. And it cracks me up that we're now opening the exact same weekend, and it's within the first eight minutes of our movie.
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