Don Roos got his start writing the TV series Hart To Hart in 1979. Since then he’s penned films (including Single White Female and Boys On The Side) and written and directed others, including The Opposite Of Sex and his latest,Happy Endings, which features Steve Coogan, Jason Ritter, Laura Dern and Sarah Clarke playing gay.
It also stars an A-list cast including Tom Arnold, Jesse Bradford, Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Sydney Star Observer Did you have much say in who ended up in Happy Endings?
Don Roos Absolutely, yes.
Ideas come to you from different sources. Jesse Bradford and Jason Ritter auditioned and both of those actors I love. I didn’t know their work that well but I knew instantly that they were the right people.
With Laura Dern, my producer asked her to do us this favour and she said yes. Tom Arnold and Lisa Kudrow I wrote the parts for -“ because I know Tom and Lisa personally. So it was a combination of a lot of things, but nobody’s in the movie that I didn’t want in it.
SSO Maggie Gyllenhaal wasn’t the first choice for her role, was she?
DR Oh no, Maggie was the third (after Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Garner). But she is perfect. Perfect. She’s a very, very great, smart person and not the kind of girl you could snow. I’m glad she’s having the success she’s having.
SSO How did you know Lisa Kudrow and Tom Arnold before you started writing the film?
DR Lisa I knew from The Opposite Of Sex, and after the movie we became really good friends. My boyfriend (actor Dan Bucantinsky) and she formed a company doing television shows, and she’s always at the house and always asking what I’m writing, so I said, I’m gonna write something for you.
I know Tom socially and he’s like the greatest human being I know, actually. Incredibly generous, has been sober for 15 years, gives his time to like a million charities and he’s just a wonderful, wonderful guy. And people don’t know that -“ they think he’s just this vulgar sidekick cause that’s what he plays.
I wanted to write a role for him that would show parts of the real Tom to the audience, and he’s very much like this character.
SSO You recently took part in a documentary called Fabulous: The Story Of Queer Cinema, along with Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Peter Paige (Queer As Folk), Guinevere Turner (The L Word) and a lot of other people. Do you think 2006 is a good year for queer cinema?
DR You know, I think it’s a good year to have homos in your movies, but I don’t really consider Brokeback Mountain queer cinema.
I wasn’t a real fan of Brokeback. To me it basically tells the same old story that I heard about being gay when I was growing up. It’s sad, it’s really really lonely, people hate you. It’s tragic so stop it!
SSO That hasn’t been your gay experience?
DR No! But that’s what the movie is telling us. I was so irritated by those stupid, stupid cowboys. I felt like saying, Guys, get a map. Go to New York. Go to LA. Your problems will be over if you just get a map!
SSO It’s funny that gay people like you and Michael Musto are the only ones coming out and saying, You know, maybe it’s not that great a movie.
DR Oh, it sucks! And I love Ang Lee, he’s like my favourite. But this was basically like a movie I saw a long time ago called Same Time Next Year, in which Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda meet up once a year and have sex in this hotel on the coast of California. It’s kind of corny but kind of fun. Basically, Brokeback Mountain is like Same Time Next Year with sodomy. It’s not an improvement.
SSO And a lot of angst.
DR A lot of angst. I mean, the whining, the whining. But you know it’s huge. Everybody thinks it’s a miracle movie. And for that reason it’s great. It’s great to have gay stories in the mall movies. For that reason I think it’s really great.
SSO A lot of straight people are seeing it, and that’s being presented as a breakthrough.
DR I don’t know why. They see a lot of shit, those straight people.
I mean, just because they see it, doesn’t make me feel better. Who cares if straight people come out of a movie thinking, You know what -“ those gays are not so bad. Because that’s really not what they’re feeling. What they’re feeling is, You know what? I’m glad I’m not gay.
Because it really sucks to be gay! That’s the message of Brokeback. It’s the perfect film for the Bush years: Don’t be gay, America! It’s the kind of movie that makes you glad to be straight. Is that the kind of movie we should be rewarding people for? It’s an anti-gay film!
SSO You’ve been writing for more than 20 years. Is the life of a writer dull by definition?
DR It’s pretty dull to be honest. It’s so boring. It’s always the same battle every day, getting to the computer and facing the blank screen. That never changes. It’s always the same drag.
SSO Is that why you started directing?
DR Directing is great. It’s people, it’s a party every day. And in Hollywood they don’t really respect writers. You always feel like they’re laughing at you when you leave the room. But the director, they may be laughing but they’re afraid of you. And they treat you like a god.
But it’s still not as good a job as writing. When you’re writing you’re creating the whole world, you create a universe full of people you want to put in it, the things that you want to happen to them happen to them and you have complete power over your creation.
A good director is really a servant of the material, or should be. So it’s more like being a conductor rather than being a composer. I only direct stuff that I write and I only do that so I know all my points are being made.
SSO Have you ever written anything that the director has really cocked-up?
DR Yeah. That’s why I became a director. I became a director to protect my material. I thought the reason why movies wouldn’t work was that the director was stupid. I became a director and realised that there are a lot of ways things get screwed up -“ it’s not just that the director’s stupid.
SSO I know you recently finished working on the adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, so what’s next?
DR I’m not doing a thing. My boyfriend and I adopted a baby girl a year ago and she’s so cute and fun, so I’m kind of like waiting to get inspired to write again. I have to wait until I get the urge.
My life is all Cheerios and bright plastic toys at the moment.
Happy Endings will be released in cinemas on 13 April.