Rob Reiner on the death of the rom-com, and why ‘When Harry Met Sally …’ wouldn’t get made today
“You need people that are witty and brilliant and have great observational powers about men and women and how they relate to each other.”
Like the rest of us Rob Reiner has noticed that Hollywood no longer puts in the effort to bring romantic-comedies to the big-screen, which is particularly heart-breaking for the filmmaker because his long and storied career is dotted with defining entries into that genre.
Last month I had the opportunity to attend a discussion between Rob Reiner and Allison Willmore about his prestigious career at the Hamptons International International Film Festival, where the likes “The Sure Thing,” “The Princess Bride,” and “When Harry Met Sally …” were brought up.
Right at the end of the chat, when the questions where thrown to those in attendance, Reiner was asked why there has been such a sharp decline in rom-coms, and he made some pretty salient points.
“One of the reasons is that there is no Nora Ephron, you need people that are witty and brilliant and have great observational powers about men and women and how they relate to each other. Studios just aren’t interested in these movies. They are hard to get financed. Unless you can get two really big stars that foreign markets can buy it is very hard to get those kind of films made.”
Earlier in the conversation Reiner went into more detail about the changes in Hollywood over the last 35 years, insisting that the reason he started Castle Rock Entertainment was that the big studios had no interest in making his movies.
“They don’t make these movies. The movie studios do not make the movies that I am interested in. I started Castle Rock with four partners in 1987, so that is over 30 years ago. And we have made over 130 movies in that period. Not one of them would ever get made at a studio. And I am talking ‘City Slickers,’ ‘A Few Good Men,’ any of them.”
“Studios are only making, I joke that they have to have the word ‘man’ and a number in the title. ‘Batman 7.’ ‘Iron Man 4.’ ‘Spider-Man 2.’ ‘Superman 11.’ They have to have a man and a number. Then they will make it. Now a woman, after the success of ‘Wonder Woman’.”
“If you want to make an adult drama, or even a romantic comedy you can’t do it, because they won’t do it. It has become a bifurcated industry. [‘When Harry Met Sally …’] isn’t a film that could get made at a studio. No way. Why? Because no-one gets blown up. Nobody is running around with weapons and explosions and things.”
“At the time, it had no stars. I mean Meg Ryan was not known, and Billy Crystal was a comedian but not a movie star at that point. It just wouldn’t get made. If you tried to make a romantic comedy that was somewhat representational of what men and women are like with each other, they’re not going to do that.”
But Rob Reiner did offer a slither of hope for filmmakers that want to make movies that differ from the tastes of the big studios, as he explained that the independent production companies are still interested in doing something new.
“You can get a film like that made. But not at a studio. You can get it made independently, you can put together independent financing. By the way there are great independent films. If you look at the Oscars, none of them are financed by studios. A perfect example is ‘Wolf Of Wall Street,’ which had Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, the biggest director and star in the world. And they couldn’t get it financed. No-one would put up the money. Finally after six years they got the money, and then Paramount distributed it.”