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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

A woman-friendly guy

January 28, 2007|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

DIRECTOR Michael Lehmann's "Because I Said So," which opens Friday, stars Diane Keaton as an obsessed, anorgasmic woman mad to marry off her daughter (Mandy Moore). Lehmann, the director of "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" and "40 Days and 40 Nights," is the father of an 18-year-old daughter, grew up brother to two sisters, and will be 50 in March.

I've just been to a screening of "Because I Said So." How do you like your movie?

Of course I like my movie! I like all my movies. What's a little different for me is that I want this movie to be fun, friendly and romantic -- and run the range from romantic comedy to entertainment to an interesting investigation of women's sexuality, I guess -- in a very easy way.

It's intensely woman-friendly. Even a bit "Our Bodies, Ourselves."

To some degree -- it was written by a woman, co-written by two women eventually. A lot of women worked on the movie. A lot of the story points, they relate to, deal with, stuff that women can relate to. To some degree, the movie -- it's a woman's world.

But you've always been a bit of a girly director.

Yes! In a funny way that's absolutely true. It amuses me. I've made movies that are real boy movies -- but I've had so much fun over the years working with women, and getting good performances with women, and with strong female characters. That goes all the way back to "Heathers." Even in my television work -- before doing "Because I Said So," I had directed an episode of "Big Love" and Lisa Kudrow's HBO show, "The Comeback."

You had an executive producer on "Heathers" with just two previous credits -- "Hellraiser" and "Hellraiser 2" -- a producer with zero previous credits and an associate producer with one credit. How exactly did "Heathers" get made?

The script! Which was written by Dan Waters. It was a really extraordinary script. Steve White at New World Pictures, he had come out of Groundlings and had worked in television, and somehow landed that job and had authority to greenlight pictures. I can't tell you how hard it is to make a dark-humored movie in Hollywood. People always say, "Why don't you make more movies like 'Heathers'?" And I say, "I've been trying for 20 years."

And next you won a Razzie worst director award for "Hudson Hawk." I've seen it 5 or 6 times!

The good news is -- for me -- that I lived to make other movies. When the movie came out, I was living in L.A. and I went to the coffee place in Santa Monica I always go to, and I put on a "Hudson Hawk" T-shirt for no reason. I placed my order and the server said, "You didn't have anything to do with that movie, did you?" And I said, "Why? Did you see it?" And she said, "No, I don't have to." This is that movie: It comes pre-hated.

In "Because I Said So," at one point Diane Keaton is chasing one of her daughters -- Milly -- in a car, and it makes this weird noise. Is that what the hybrid cars sound like? Is this the new sound of L.A.?

We were putting together the sound effects for that scene -- Jerry Ross, he's done all my movies. I said to Jerry, "If you make it sound like what a Prius really sounds like, it doesn't sound like much of anything." My wife drives a Prius, I know what they sound like. For the film, you have to give it a distinctly hybrid sound. Like -- you know those whistles, you blow into them, they go whoooo?

And I love the name Milly. More Millys and fewer Ashleys and Madisons!

Yeah! Karen Leigh Hopkins, who wrote the script, has a daughter named Milly. She'll kill me for this -- I think she might be 3 or 4? It is a terrific name, it doesn't sound all that contemporary.

You open next weekend! Mazel tov.

Yes! How do you think it will do?

I'm a terrible predictor. Don't ask me!

I can't make a choice to do a movie because people will go see it. People look at what a movie becomes and decide if they'll see it.

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