Director David Dobkin and Olivia Wilde On Writing Strong Female Roles In Comedies

Leslie Mann The Change UpThe success of Kristen Wiig's Bridesmaids this summer proved an all-star cast of women could pull off a raunchy comedy.   THE CHANGE-UP's Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman may be the stars  of the R-rated body switching movie, but it's Leslie Mann's character that carries the emotional weight of the film, while Olivia Wilde plays the "hot" but smart girl.  THE CHANGE-UP director "pays attention," according to Olivia Wilde, to female roles in his comedies so they are not just the wife or the sex object.  Dobkin learned that lesson on the Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn comedy.

"I learned from Wedding Crashers that women can drive scenes and carry comedy, and push stuff, and  put the guys in a situation where they're  in an actually more submissive situation which lets you go farther with sexual content.  If its the other way around, it's not funny."

In THE CHANGE-UP, Dobkin definitely pushed the envelope when it came to nudity, but both the female and male characters equally bared it all for the cameras, not just the women as is the case in raunchy comedies.  Like in Bridesmaids, the women partook in the toilet humor of THE CHANGE-UP.  As Dave's (Bateman) wife, Leslie Mann literally provided the toilet humor and fart gags, while also having the task of grounding the film in reality.  She stole many scenes with her comedic timing.  Olivia Wilde was relegated to the role of the "hot chick," but she too had a little fun as an uncompromising woman with her own dirty secrets.

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Doblin's strong women in Wedding Crashers, particularly Isla Fisher's character, is the reason Olivia Wilde signed on to play Sabrina in THE CHANGE-UP. Besides it being a hilarious script, the Cowboys & Aliens star jumped at the chance to work with the director and went directly from shooting Cowboys & Aliens to production on THE CHANGE-UP.  Olivia is very vocal when it comes to crafting her characters which are often written as "one-dimensional," but her character in THE CHANGE-UP was more than just an arm piece.
"They weren't there just to hold up the wall, which happens way too often in this comedies.  The boys are funny and the girls are there to do nothing."

She praised Dobkin for his collaborative spirit during production. Her Sabrina character was originally written as a secretary to Jason Bateman's Dave, but Olivia fought to make Sabrina a legal associate instead of a receptionist. She went as far as to request they cast a secretary so that there was no confusion about her status in the film - a sexy, smart business woman, who also has a bit of a wild side.   She liked the balance of the character.

Dobkin could've fallen into the trap of giving Olivia the "Bo Derek 10 treatment as the hot girl," but he says it's not interesting.  Audiences want to be invested in characters and you do that by making them "compelling." When casting for female leads, he looks to strong actresses to play "strong women on screen" who can carry dramatic weight and the comedic timing. 

Before Bridesmaids, Dobkin says Hollywood was not interested in "scoring points" with women roles, but that has changed with Kristin Wiig's sleeper hit and he hopes with THE CHANGE-UP.    Dobkin, however, feels that writing strong women characters has a simple solution.  

"You just treat them like other characters and you'll get there."

THE CHANGE-UP is now playing in movie theaters.

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