Jennifer Aniston (Marley & Me, Office Space) and Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning, Saving Silverman) star in this "rare romantic comedy" (Los Angeles Times) that's bursting with originality, humor and sweetness. It's lust at first sight for laid-back motel night manager Mike (Zahn) when Sue (Aniston), an uptight sales rep, checks in. Convinced that Sue is his dream girl, Mike shakes up his slacker life in an outrageous pursuit across the country. But can he steal her away from her hot-tempered boyfriend (Woody Harrelson, No Country for Old Men)? Both Mike and Sue must go on their own twisted journeys to find out if what they really need is each other. A: You play the ‘straight & narrow’ character to Steve Zahn’s funny man. What is it like acting in a comedy where you have to play the more serious role?
Jennifer Aniston Answers Our Questions
J: The role of Sue is sort of awkward and it felt very human. I just loved it. When you read romantic comedy after romantic comedy, and then you get to read one where the characters are so unique and oddly flawed and broken, that's beautiful. I signed on to the project immediately.
A: Was it hard to keep a straight face when acting opposite Steve and Woody?
J: What do you think? It was impossible! Steve can just give me a look and I’ll lose it. Pretty much everything he does makes me laugh. I think part of it is because he’s so accessible and open. And Woody and I started cracking up before we even got to the set when we were reading the script to each other on the phone. Laughing while the cameras are rolling on the set is fun, but you're not supposed to do it. That only makes it harder not to laugh, of course!
A: Rumor is that you helped convince Woody to agree to be in the film. Is this true and if so how did you do it?
J: That is one rumor about me that’s 100% true! Woody was the directors first choice to play Sue’s husband in the film but he passed on the project because he didn’t like the character. So (director) Stephen rewrote the script and asked me to get Woody on the phone. I actually made a long-distance call and read parts of the script to Woody until he was convinced. I’m so glad he signed on – we had a blast working together.
A: Both you and Steve starred in “The Object of My Affection” over 10 years ago, with just a few scenes together, and he also guested on “Friends.” Do you have any memories of Steve from back then?
J: Steve and I have known each other since the second season of Friends
when he played Phoebe’s husband. So I knew who he was but when we did Object of My Affection
, I got to know him better. We just had a ball. Steve and (costar) Paul Rudd became like Frick and Frack during that shoot. They actually had T-shirts made that said ''Double Trouble.'' So I knew he would be lots of fun on the set of Management
A: What did the worst motel you’ve ever stayed in look like?
J: There have been a few sketchy motels in my life, that’s for sure. But one that stands out was in a tiny little town in the Midwest somewhere. It wasn’t so much the accommodations, but the ice machine was right outside of my room. There must have been a convention of ice lovers in town because every 30 minutes or so, that machine would go off. The soothing sounds of ice hitting a plastic bucket isn’t really conducive to sleep. So now, no matter what the hotel looks like, I make sure my room is not near any sort of refreshment area!
A: “Friends” was taped in front of a live audience, so you had that energy. Is doing comedy on film harder than drama on film, or are you still more comfortable with comedy?
J: I’m not sure how to answer that one. Life can be dramatic and funny all in the same day just like the material for a film. So I have to work from right inside. When I step into a role, I don’t think “Oh, I’m going to exclusively use my comedy persona for this job.” That label kind of goes out the door and I concentrate on being true to the character. I think Steve and I were both able to achieve that for this film.
A: We like to ask actors what they consider their most essential film, whether it’s the one they’re most proud of or the most meaningful personally. What would you say is a Jennifer Aniston essential film?
J: You know, I’m not reluctant to name one film but I honestly have to say that each project I’ve done is meaningful in its own way. If I’m an actress, a producer or even a voice, I would hope that I’ve brought something fresh to the project and been true to writers vision. That being said, I think Management is just fabulous [laughs]. But I really do. A: How was it working with first-time director Stephen Belber?
J: Stephen was very honest about what he was on this shoot – a first-time director. It was refreshing, as opposed to having somebody come in and try to over compensate. He asked Steve and I to rehearse together a week before shooting so it felt more like the theater projects Stephen usually works with. We were able to go through the scenes chronologically, which film actors don’t usually have the luxury of doing. I am a huge fan of Stephen’s. He has amazing instincts.
A: It’s been mentioned that the entire cast/crew stayed in the same no-frills hotel while filming. What was that like?
J: We stayed in a hotel in Madras Oregon – in central Oregon. I dare you to find that on a map! It was newly built but definitely no frills. Like, there was a microwave, but you couldn’t fit anything into it! Everything in the room seemed to be miniature! But because the cast and crew all stayed together, we had a fantastic time. We ate at the local restaurants and we went to a nearby bowling alley. The people of Madras were extraordinarily open and sweet which made for a really unique experience.
A: What is currently in your DVD player or what are you watching right now?
J: I have to say that I am a huge fan of “Mad Men” and have watched it religiously since the first season. So I never miss an opportunity to see an episode. I just love that whole 1960 New York City era.Steven Zahn Answers Our Questions A: Have you ever done anything really loony for love?
S: Yeah, if you think a chicken costume is loony. I think I was in college and I hitchhiked down to Rochester, Minnesota -- my girlfriend's town -- in a chicken suit for no apparent reason. But it worked. That's kind of similar to my character Mike. [laughs] I figured if I was hitchhiking, no one would pick me up. But maybe they wouldn’t think a person in a chicken suit was going to kill them so I’d get lucky and catch a ride. I didn't have a car, but I just had to get there because I loved her. She was thrilled to see me but it was more about the journey than it was showing up. It served two purposes. A: Have you been in a situation where you thought you had a ‘special moment’ with someone to find out in fact that they didn’t feel the same?
S: I have had that situation when I auditioned for a part. I thought the director and I had a special moment but then I wasn’t hired. Actually, that’s happened a lot. It’s almost as bad as being rejected by a girl, for me. But I’m pretty sure everyone, even the most beautiful or hot or whatever people have had that “I don’t feel the same” experience. I know I have but I’m not going to go into detail. I wouldn’t want to ruin my image as a leading man who always gets the ladies, ya know? A: You and Jennifer Aniston starred in “The Object of My Affection” over 10 years ago, with just a few scenes together, and you also guested on “Friends.” Do you have any memories of Jennifer from back then?
S: Yeah, I played Phoebe’s husband in exactly one episode. It was terrifying – I had never done any TV and there was a group of actors who were best friends for real. I had to pretend I was a part of that world. So we knew each other enough to say “Hi”. Then we did “The Object of My Affection.” We didn’t have a lot of scenes together, but we hung out in the trailer and stuff. She remembered me from those three days when we did that movie. She’s that kind of person. If you had a conversation with her, three years from now she’d remember. It wasn't until this movie — this was what we were meant to do together. Jen and I had, it sounds stupid, but a true connection. We both knew it was going to work. We just felt it. I found her to be wonderful on so many levels. She's prepared and so giving and flexible and funny. We really worked well together and I think it comes through in the film.A: What did the worst motel you’ve ever stayed in look like? The worst motel?
S: I’d have to think about that because I’ve stayed in some flea bag places. But the worst thing for me is when you don’t have a motel to stay at. I’ve done that before – had to sleep under the stars and stuff and not with any kind of camping gear. So even the grossest motel is better than that. We were lucky for this shoot because we all stayed together in the motel where the film was shot – it wasn’t luxurious or anything but spending so much time together as cast and crew made the experience special. A: We like to ask actors what they consider their most essential film, whether it’s the one they’re most proud of or the most meaningful personally. What would you say is a Steve Zahn essential film?
S: I’m not sure if there’s any “essential” Steve Zahn film! [laughs] But one of the films that pops up that fans like to talk about is Suburbia that I did in ‘96. It’s a cool movie directed by Richard Linkletter. And I did the whole project experience because Eric Bogosian wrote it so I workshopped it with him then did the play in New York then did the film. And someone just told me that you can’t get it on DVD. So I’ll have to look into that because it’s one of my favorites. A: How was it working with first-time director Stephen Belber?
S: Stephen was great – he was also the writer and Mike [the character] was just so well written it was one of the ridiculous moments where I said something like, "You'd be a fool not to hire me," which never works, except in this case, it did. [laughs] We even had a full week of rehearsals with us just sitting around a table reading the lines. It’s crazy that there’s no rehearsals in movies usually. But this one, we had a week where we sat all day: Jennifer, me and Steve [director Stephen Belber]. We primarily just sat and everybody else in the cast came in to rehearse. And man, did that work. By the time we finished rehearsal, I think all of us were very excited. Steve was just an amazing director—especially considering that it was his first time directing. He’s a pro. A: It’s been mentioned that the entire cast/crew stayed in the same no-frills hotel while filming. What was that like?
S: Like I said, this shoot was different because of the actual physical closeness of staying and working in the same place. We’d work all day then we go to a local restaurant and have dinner and a beer or whatever. We even went bowling one time. It was a pretty unique situation. Of course, it might not have worked with a different group of folks so I’m not sure I would recommend it for every project. Yeah, thinking back it would not have worked with a lot of my films. A: What is currently in your DVD player or what are you watching right now?
S: Oh man – what am I watching? You know I live on a farm in Lexington Kentucky, right? I have to say, I don’t have much time right now to kick back. I’m spending a lot of hours on a tractor. And when the goats and horses don’t need my attention, I have a 9-year-old son and a 7 year-old-daughter to spend time with. I wish I could tell you but I’m coming up blank. Of course, I highly recommend putting in the “Management” DVD. [laughs]
Tabloid darling Jennifer Aniston's personal life has been the source of endless fascination for those who are dismayed that the rich, famous, and beautiful actress just can't seem to find true love--and in Management, art imitates life, as the character she portrays can't settle on the right guy either, even without the paparazzi dogging her every move. Her Sue Claussen travels the country selling dreadful artwork to motels like the one she checks into in Kingman, Arizona, that's owned by Trish and Jerry (small but winning performances by Margo Martindale and Fred Ward). Son Mike (Steve Zahn), the likable dude who lives in the place and doubles as night manager, is immediately smitten, finagling his way into Sue's room with "complimentary" bottles of wine and champagne. Their talk is small and awkward; Mike isn't exactly Mr. Suave, but when, out of nowhere, he compliments her on her posterior, she inexplicably invites him to touch it. And so begins the relationship between his idealistic, aimless puppy dog and her prim, practical businesswoman. Sue's determined to make something more of herself, even if it means moving to Oregon to hook up with her ex-boyfriend, a former punk rocker who's now a rich but unhinged "yogurt mogul" (Woody Harrelson in the kind of role that's become all too typical for him). Meanwhile, Mike's content to follow her from one coast to the other until she recognizes what's really important in life. Not much of this is credible, and pretty much all of it is completely predictable. But that's hardly the point. Like most romantic comedies, Management relies on its stars to keep us interested, and while Zahn and Aniston's chemistry isn't exactly explosive, writer-director Stephen Belber keeps things simple and unpretentious, even throwing in positive messages about recycling and feeding the homeless without beating us over the head with them. --Sam Graham