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MOVIES | On Location

Just Another Manic 'Day'

Michelle Pfeiffer is a typical working mother, George Clooney is a typical single dad,and 'One Fine Day' had a typical shoot--with black eyes, bomb threats, rainouts . . .

July 28, 1996|Bronwen Hruska | Bronwen Hruska is a freelance writer based in New York

NEW YORK — George Clooney has a young woman clinging to his thigh and she won't let go.

So what else is new?

This time, however, instead of an adoring fan, she's his up-and-coming co-star in Michael Hoffman's new movie, "One Fine Day."

Yes, 8-year-old Mae Whitman, who plays the only daughter to Clooney's single parent, has a bit of a crush on the dreamy TV actor who's quickly crossing over to the big screen, having starred in Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" and soon to fill Val Kilmer's vacated Batsuit.

"Some people call him George Clooney, but I call him an ugly disgusting blob," says Whitman, perhaps protesting too much. "Those girls who scream at him are so weird."

Today, there are hundreds of those screaming girls crowding the Fifth Avenue sidewalk and steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral to glimpse Clooney shooing Whitman into Rockefeller Center on a cold, wet weekend.

Of course, half of the eager onlookers craning their necks and pushing against the yellow police tape are men, out to catch a glimpse of Michelle Pfeiffer, who co-stars with Clooney as a career mom juggling work and family. The single parents, both strapped for this hectic day with their children, are forced to help each other out, and in the process they fall in love.

"The modern definition of heroism is simply surviving the day as a working mother," says producer Lynda Obst ("Sleepless in Seattle"). She came up with "One Fine Day's" premise several years ago during a particularly stressful day that included a PTA meeting for her son (now 17) in addition to critical meetings at work. "We're all living this enormous conflict, being the parents we want to be and the professionals we want to be. And it's not just the psychological and emotional conflict--it's physically accomplishing the logistics of what has to be done today that's impossible."

It was a long way, however, from Obst's nightmare day to movie magic. Between the scheduling conflicts (Clooney crammed production of this movie and DreamWorks' first film, "Peacemaker," into a hiatus from his role as "ER" pediatrician Doug Ross; Pfeiffer's on-screen son, 7-year-old Alex Linz, had to work around a grueling McDonald's contract), the weather (which had to remain overcast for continuity), Clooney's allergies and a broken eye socket (suffered during a pickup basketball game), disgruntled Upper West Side residents and the vast challenge of shooting at 44 Manhattan locations (complete with bomb threats), production mirrored the harried heart of the movie.

Coming off his well-reviewed "Restoration," along with the impending birth of his second child, Hoffman, the movie's director, was immediately attracted to the script. "I've read lots of romantic comedies, and the trap most fall into is that they feel sort of soft and mushy," he says. "I like this movie because these people don't get along most of the time. They're tough on each other and by the end you somehow respect and identify with them. You don't feel you've been manipulated into it."

Hoffman watched "Adam's Rib," "Pat and Mike," "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Front Page" before filming. He and his director of photography, Oliver Stapleton ("Restoration"), even tried to replicate the feel of the old black-and-white studio films with theatrical lighting. "The goal was to subtract the modern world," Hoffman says.

Over the course of one day, Pfeiffer's character, Mel, has an important architecture presentation and a crucial peewee soccer game to get to. Clooney's character, Jack Taylor, a Daily News columnist who is breaking a story about corruption in the mayor's office, has to get to a skittish source. A crazy day gets crazier when Jack's bungling forces the kids to miss their field trip on the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan.

In the script's original draft (by Terrel Seltzer, titled "Momma Said"), however, Clooney's character didn't even exist. Obst hooked up with Michelle Pfeiffer's development company, Via Rosa, and Kate Guinzburg, Pfeiffer's producing partner, brought in Ellen Simon ("Moonlight and Valentino") to do a complete rewrite.

"By the second draft, we realized there are men in the world and that we were being incredible sexists," says Obst of the film, due in theaters on Valentine's Day. "In fact, there are plenty of divorced, single working fathers going through the exact same thing."

When Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner passed on the project, no one could agree on a male lead to play opposite Pfeiffer--until they met Clooney (who, incidentally, dated Dedee Pfeiffer, the actress' sister, more than a decade ago). "He's got a great comic sense and he's sexy," Hoffman says. "For some reason, that's a very, very rare combination. But he's also got a lonely quality I really thought was important in the character. His boyishness is critical to irritate and loosen up Michelle's character over the course of the movie."

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