So Jim, when did your love affair with The Tooth Fairy begin?
From way back when, I've always wanted to do a mainstream Christmas family movie, and I still do. But I haven't yet been able to come up with a fresh enough angle on the whole Santa Claus myth, so I started thinking about other important figures that kids grow up with and soon realized no one had ever done a family comedy about the Tooth Fairy. People have developed them over the years, but nothing has ever really been done in the feature world. So I talked to my daughter, who was then about 11, and she was very helpful and enthusiastic. So then I kept going with it and developed a story and a pitch.
This your first kid flick you’ve sold?
No. I've sold a few family genre films. Mostly as scripts, but some on a pitch. In fact, the first screenplay I ever sold was a family film about twenty years ago, with my writing partner at the time, Margaret Oberman. Interesting footnote on this, by the way. The script sold for a decent sum of money, but then an almost identical -- and very successful -- film came out about 18 months later. It was released by a studio that had seen our script and passed on it, shortly before the screenplay sold to another company. There was a major lawsuit over it, which was eventually settled with the studio that made the other film paying the company that bought our film a substantial sum of money. Welcome to Hollywood! I regret to say, however, that I never got a cent from the settlement because the company that acquired our script had bought it outright, so we'd technically already been fully paid. I'm bound by law not to reveal any more details, but if someone convinces me I should have been able to retire off that first script I might spill the beans one day!
And when you were writing it did you imagine anyone in the lead role?
Well, sure, you have an idea of the kind of actor you want. I always knew it should be a very masculine and macho guy, preferably big physically. We actually met with Dwayne Johnson's agent before I even worked out the story because he liked the whole arena. I'm delighted he ended up doing it because he's not only terrific in the role, he's also one of the nicest and most charming people I've ever met in showbusiness. I know that sounds like a cliche, but he really is.
Back to the business-side of things. How long ago did u write it and how long before it was picked up by fox?
Tooth Fairy was one of the faster development processes I've been involved in, in terms of when the first treatment was written to when the film was released. About 4 1/2 years in total. The whole thing started when I had a general meeting with Jason Blum, which my manager arranged. I threw out my concept on the Tooth Fairy idea and Jason really responded to it. Then I told him there was a catch. I said I had gotten to the point in my career where I didn't always want to write the screenplay of every idea I came up with. You kind of get to a point where you know what you're good at and what you want to write and I felt that, though I'd done scripts in this genre, there were other people out there who could execute it a lot better than me. So we went out and found who we thought were the best writers for it, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Fox then bought it, around 4 years ago, on a pitch with Lowell and Babaloo attached.
Did the script go through many changes once the studio got involved?
After Lowell and Babaloo did the first 2 or 3 drafts, the studio put it through their illustrious roster of A list writers, which included many hugely talented and some very well-known people. It's a method that's slightly alien to me, but I can honestly say that by the end of it all the script had evolved and grown and yet was still true to my original story and Lowell and Babaloo's first drafts. I don't think that kind of a system works for films that need a singular, more personal vision, but for wide-appeal, mainstream comedies -- and I think this applies to tv also, by the way -- often a lot of cooks don't spoil the broth. They can actually give it more variety and flavor.
Except when it’s in reference to a restaurant – like the one we went to for my birthday that time in L.A, right!?
[Laughs] Except then, yeah. From my point of view, having chosen to give up the baby early on I certainly never felt precious about any personal "vision" being compromised.
So what’s it gonna be – actor or writer?
Ha! If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked that question. The truth is I love both of them and each satisfies a different creative and psychological side of whatever the hell it is that I do. But if you held a gun to my head and said you can only earn a living from only one of them? Well... I'd say acting. Because it's a hell of a lot easier! And, to be honest, I can do it a lot more effortlessly. But it's a tough call because there's also nothing more satisfying and gratifying than completing a new screenplay, or even a good day's writing.
Which pays better?
Oh, what a gauche question. What kind of interview is this? Okay, gauche answer... writing mostly. For me anyway. So far.
Do you envision a sequel – and if so, will you be hitting them up for a fatter fee?
I'd love one, because of course it would mean the first one was successful. Hell, let's go for a massive franchise, a tv series, video games, the whole works. A Tooth Fairy theme park would be nice too.
Writing anything else?
Are you kidding? I wrote three screenplays last year. And I've got three pitches... two movies and one a tv series... ready to go. Not to mention about a half dozen other scripts in development. If nothing else, I'm very prolific.
Speaking of, you just did a flick with Russell Brand
Get Him to the Greek, yes. I think it's going to be great. It's a spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, taking Russell Brand's character to the max. He and Jonah Hill are brilliant in the movie. And Nick Stoller, who wrote and directed it, is definitely the real deal. It's hilarious. But let's just say it's not exactly a family movie like Tooth Fairy.