Director Seth Gordon describes making his first studio feature, "Four Christmases," as a "baptism by the River Styx. It was crazy."
The film, opening Nov. 26, went into production last December right in the middle of the writers strike, so no changes could be made to the script. Then cast and crew were worried about the fate of the film when it was learned that its distributor, New Line, would be closing up shop and folding into Warner Bros.
"We didn't know if the people we were working with at the start would be there at the end," Gordon says. Fortunately for the team, "all the people associated with the film continued on and New Line continued on" through the end of production.
Gordon earned acclaim last year for "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," his documentary chronicling Steve Wiebe's attempt to take the world's highest score for the Donkey Kong arcade game from champ Billy Mitchell.
So how did he go from that to directing an A-list cast in a romantic comedy? It was "Four Christmases" star Vince Vaughn who fought to have Gordon direct.
"He saw 'King of Kong' and the way I executed that film. The way that story unfolded was very much like a traditional three-act structure."
Vaughn stars with Reese Witherspoon as a happily unmarried couple living in San Francisco who are forced to spend Christmas Day with each other's extended families.
"I think it's a really fresh concept, the notion that a contemporary modern couple hasn't met each other's families," says Gordon. "They inevitably learn a lot about each other being forced to go through this day -- some of which is endearing and some of which is surprising."
The film reunited Vaughn with his "Swingers" costar Jon Favreau, who plays his brother.
"It's just electric," Gordon says of their scenes together. "You put a couple of cameras on them and it's just amazing what they come up with."
Also appearing in the film is executive producer Peter Billingsley, who is best known as Ralphie from the 1983 yuletide classic "A Christmas Story." Though Gordon is mum as to who Billingsley plays, he does admit his character is involved in "the most important plot point in the movie."
-- Susan King