The Spectacular Now: Weber & Neustadter

By Meredith Alloway · August 2, 2013

Screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter sure know how to write romance. They made us fall for Summer and Tom in 500 Days of Summer and now Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) in The Spectacular Now. The indie film has been gaining steam on the festival circuit, taking home awards at Sundance, and opens in limited release this Friday. It’s being called the next The Breakfast Club, and Weber and Neustadter were out to do just that: get back to honest, real teenage romance.

At The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, I got to sit down with the screenwriting duo and talk about how they first met, working with their awesome cast as well as their new projects with Nancy Myers and Shakespeare.

ATW: You guys have this writing partnership all writers covet!

W: I remind his wife, I’m the longest relationship of your life.

N: It’s very true.

ATW: How did you guys meet?

N: I was working in New York and hired Michael as the intern at the company.

W: We didn’t talk about the job at all. We were just geeking out about how much we love Rushmore.

N: I was working in the development side and reading scripts. I really wanted to write but didn’t think I could. He was like let’s go up to the roof, and we ended up writing a ridiculous broad comedy script!

W: That was our thing. We would escape away from our jobs and find time to talk about it. We never wrote in the same room.

ATW: That’s a question I had about your process!

W: We will extensively outline and then not write a word until that outline feels right. It will do the heavy lifting.

N: We divide it up and email back and forth.

W: We push each other too. When it comes time to write, because a lot of its already done, the writing part comes quickly.

ATW: How has that communication evolved from 500 Days of Summer till now?

N: I think we do it exactly the same way. I had quit the movie business and was going to school in England, and I met this girl. I started emailing him like can you believe she did this! This is so crazy! We had always talked about writing a romantic comedy.

W: Just raging about how terrible they had been in theaters! They seemed like they were built around trailer moments and obstacles that were absurd that no one was relating to as opposed to your crazy!

ATW: So that’s the character of Summer?

N: Yea! We started thinking about real life situations people get into and then I had this nice breakthrough about the days and the calendar.

ATW: Since 500 Days of Summer came from a personal place, how was it different adapting The Spectacular Now from Tim Tharp’s novel?

N: It was a brand new thing.

W: We hadn’t done a drama.

N: I always think [500 Days of Summer] was a drama, but I was the only one.

W: They both are a response to the marketplace. The Spectacular Now is a response to how they make movies about young people. Growing up on Cameron Crowe and John Hughes, our heroes, they for a while seemed to stop making movies like that. It’s more about the metaphor of vampires or super powers or the outlandish having sex with a pie! There’s a place for all those movies but what happened to ones that are more relatable?

N: That’s really the genesis of why we wanted to tell this story.

ATW: Once Miles and Shailene were cast, how did the script change? You allow your actors to really shine.

W: There were a few lines Miles and Shailene bumped up against.

N: Miles did not want to say ‘the spectacular now.’

W: There’s some jokey banter that Miles said didn’t feel natural to him and the character. The two of them having been teenagers more recently than we have, you defer to them.

N: The novel had a rat-packy, Frank Sinatra vibe to Sutter. Miles was like that’s not really me. I’d rather do it this way. We were like Ya! Go for it!

ATW: Were there any moments that as a writer maybe you missed but then saw that the director or actors fleshed out themselves?

N: When you write a sex scene, it’s weird. Let’s not go into detail. What they end up bringing to a scene like that is exactly what we hoped it would be but couldn’t articulate on the page.

W: With Kyle Chandler, he showed up and suggested removing a couple of lines that he felt was his character actually trying to connect with his son a little bit. He thought that was too far. He made a choice years ago to not have a relationship, and he’s sticking to that. He thought a couple lines were building a bridge that didn’t feel right to him. It was great to work with someone who had really done their homework and knew their character that deeply.

ATW: A lot of your movies are that later in life coming-of-age story. How do you go about re-inventing that wheel?

N: Probably my immaturity! But I’m always excited by characters who discover what they’re supposed to be doing or that they’ve been wrong about something. We’re always gravitating towards these relationship stories where somebody opens your eyes or you’re lucky enough you can open your own eyes. It always has to do with somebody showing you something.

W: We became friends talking about the movies and books we loved but also our own lives, relationship war stories and things we’d been through. Let’s write the movies we would go see.

ATW: You’re working with Nancy Myers who’s known for that last stage in life coming of age film!

N: We wrote a story of an American girl who falls in love with somebody, and it’s about a girl who discovers some stuff!

ATW: Is she over 60 or no?

N: Well, we don’t know!

W: Her kitchen is really big.

N: She’s taken the script and is running with it. I’m sure it’ll be a different thing!

ATW:  I’m also really excited about Rosaline!

N: It’s very different from the book it’s based on. We wanted to do a comedy that’s more Shakespeare in Love. It’s not modern day, it’s set in Verona.

W: We have some fun with the Shakespeare conventions. It’s period but with a modern sensibility to it. It just moved over from being a Fox movie to Universal movie, but it’s been really cool that a lot of cool young actors have been interested in it.

N: We’re very proud of that script.

ATW: Have you guys started production on The Fault in Our Stars [which Shailene Woodley also stars in]? Will you be on set at all?

W: August 26th!

N: We’ve been lucky enough so far that directors have included us. It’s been very collaborative. We’re hoping this will be the same thing.

W: Shailene is so funny. She said to me again last week, ‘Do actors ever have first deals with writers?’ I said, ‘I don’t know but we’ll just keep giving you everything we write! She’s so grounded and seems to get the emotional things we go after.

N: You don’t have to articulate what you want the movie to be because everyone’s feeling the same thing.