Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Greg Iwinski

Promotional poster for CONFESS, FLETCH

Host Greg Iwinski talks to Greg Mottola about leaning into the absurdity of the everyday, bringing a 70s-era whodunnit into the 21st century, our rediscovered love of murder mysteries, and much more.

Writer and director Greg Mottola began his career with his 1996 indie dramedy film THE DAYTRIPPERS, for which he received a Golden Camera nomination at the Cannes Film Festival for best first feature film. He then went on to direct the hit 2007 coming-of-age comedy SUPERBAD, then wrote and directed the critically acclaimed 2009 film ADVENTURELAND, which earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Screenplay. Since then, he has gone on to direct other film projects like PAUL and KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES.

Mottola has also directed episodes of several hit television series, including the pilots of FX’s DAVE and HBO’s THE NEWSROOM, as well as episodes of the THE COMEBACK, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, UNDECLARED, and THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS.

He most recently wrote and directed the crime comedy film CONFESS, FLETCH, which is based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Gregory Mcdonald and a reboot of the hit 1980s series starring Chevy Chase.

CONFESS, FLETCH stars Jon Hamm as the roguishly charming and endlessly troublesome Fletch, who becomes the prime suspect in a murder case while searching for a stolen art collection. The only way to prove his innocence? Find out which of the long list of suspects is the culprit – from the eccentric art dealer and a missing playboy to a crazy neighbor and Fletch’s Italian girlfriend. Crime, in fact, has never been this disorganized.

The film will be released simultaneously in limited theaters and on paid digital streaming platforms on Friday, September 16, and will be available to stream on Showtime starting October 28.

Greg Iwinski is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and no-award-winning performer whose writing includes LAST WEEK TONIGHT and THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT. He recently finished writing the first season of GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES on HBO, and can be found on Twitter @garyjackson (external – opens in a new window)

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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producer & Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Intro: Hello, you’re listening to on writing a podcast from the Writers Guild of America East. In each episode, you’ll hear from the writers of your favorite films and television series. They’ll take you behind the scenes, go deep into the writing and production process and explain how they got their project from the page to the screen.

Greg Iwinski: Hi, welcome to on writing a podcast from the Writers Guild of America East. I’m your host, Greg Iwinski. And today I’m talking to Greg Mottola, co-writer and director of the new film “Confess Fletch.” Today, we talk about bringing a seventies era classic into today, the power of the 90 minute movie and why audiences love murder mysteries? Here’s our conversation. Hi Greg. It’s good to talk to another, Greg. It’s always fun and surprisingly rare in my life that I am having a Greg’s conversation.

Greg Mottola: I know. What do people have against our name?

Greg Iwinski: I don’t know. It’s such a common name. And then you run into the guys with the double G at the end, and then that throws everything up.

Greg Mottola: Yeah. I don’t like that. Starbucks always puts Craig on my cup.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Yep. And I wonder if Craig’s get Greg if it’s the other way around as well. I

Greg Mottola: Don’t think so. Yeah.

Greg Iwinski: Don’t think so. People hear the Craig and they’ve got it. So it is interesting. First of all, fun movie watched it this week. “Confess, Fletch”, but I want to go way back before that because I think movie’s a very interesting movie. It feels very original at the same time as nostalgic, but before all of that, what is the moment that for you, you start thinking, okay, I can write as a job I don’t have, is it that you are writing for fun nd you love it first or that you are inspired by someone else’s writing or that you like, what was the thing, the moment for you where you realized, oh, this could be my career.

Greg Mottola: Well, I went to film school undergraduate. I went to Carnegie Mellon as an art student and there weren’t any film classes there. So I would just go to the on campus movies all the time. And I took this video class that was all supposed to be conceptual art crap. And I would just use the cameras to make short films and they were bad. And I took a creative fiction writing class at college and my writing was bad. Then I went to film school and my screenplays were bad. I looked at my heroes. I realized I was trying too hard. I mean, it’s a cliche, but I finally got to the right. I had a pretty sheltered childhood growing up on long island. My parents were not people who went to see foreign films. I was influenced by popular culture and my dad loved old movies.

So I saw a lot of old movies, but when I was in film school, I was try, I was trying too hard. I was trying to write stuff that I did not have the life experience or intelligence to write. So once I accepted that I was not Orson Wells, quite a really not Orson Wells. I started to write stuff from the world. I knew I wrote a script that got to into the hands of Campbell Scott, and it was kind of a paired down LA J Vita story about a journalist that I think some of it was good. And I think some of it, I didn’t have the authority to write it, but it got enough interest that Campbell became a friend and I did some table reads and people sniffed around it a little bit, but it was too expensive to be my first movie.

So I said, I have to write something that could be made for $5. And I sat down and I wrote the “Day Trippers,” which was an indie film that came out in the nineties. And I wrote it in about, I don’t know, three weeks I based all the characters on people. I knew the premise was just a fictional idea for a story. I thought could be a fun way to take these characters through the world, do a real character comedy that has a lot of digressions, but has a motor that pushes it along, which is they’re looking for a husband who may or may not be cheating on his wife. So it’s a woman, her sister and bro, a brother, her sister and her sister’s boyfriend who are visiting for Thanksgiving and her very overbearing mother and her very quiet dad are driving around New York city trying to find this guy who may be cheating on the daughter.

And it’s basically how families are insane. It’s the premise of the story with this mystery in the middle of it to give it a plot. And I thought, well, I can write this because I’m writing characters. I know I’m putting them in situations I haven’t experienced, but I gave it a shot. I started showing it to people. Campbell. Scott was one of the first people to write it and he signed up to be in it. I was friends with Steven Soderberg. I met Steven because he had seen my student film from Columbia and liked it. And we had mutual friends. And one of my first might have been my first ever trip to LA. I met Steven while he was about to release sexualize and videotape. He was prepping his next movie, Kafka and sexualize had not yet come out yet. And we became friends and he said, look, I think he can make this really cheap. I’ll put in some money. We found some other friends to put in money, Campbell put in some money. And we shot that movie for $60,000 and went through the ups and downs of an indie film. Miramax almost bought it. And then Harvey Weinstein changed his mind. Whatever came to that guy?

Greg Iwinski: Such great judge. I

Greg Mottola: Never hear about him. I never read about him in the trades. And then when he didn’t want it, nobody wanted it. And the movie looked dead and Sundance didn’t take it. And I thought, well, I guess I can’t write. And then we somehow got into the can film festival and we sold it around the world based on that. And it was the kind of movie that played in one indie art house in each city, a handful of prints traveling around the country. And I could not have been happier cause it opened some doors and people got to see something I made and some people seem to really like it. Some people hated it, but that’s the world mean when I was younger, I really thought I wanted to only direct stuff. I’d written. I wanted to be an oor. And then I realized I am not a fast or especially confident writer and I’m prone to depression. So writing turned into an excuse to sleep a lot. And I realized I’m much happier on a set. So writing wasn’t up and down has always been an up and down struggle for me.

Greg Iwinski: What’s interesting is you talk about, describe that film and the it’s not that different than “Confess, Fletch” in terms of the themes

Greg Mottola: Weirdly that’s weirdly true. And I thought I was doing something so completely different than what I’ve done before to realize that I am trapped in who I am and it’s horrifying.

Greg Iwinski: Oh, maybe it’s trapped. Maybe it’s a mastery of a certain type of storytelling, but I do when you talk about too being young. And I think all of us when we’re young and we’re creative at something, we have some passion that we love it is that thing. If you see people do something great, you want to imitate it. But the thing that you can, that willpower can’t get you is experience so that you like life experience and experience making art and failing and getting better and better. So you do take those big swings and go, oh, I’m gonna write the next great novel. I’m gonna make the next Netflix movie. The sitcom is gonna be the next “Cheers” to whatever. And in reality, you’re like, oh, I don’t have the pieces. Maybe by failing, I will gain the pieces that make me better at it.

Now when you’re talk, talking about writing, directing, I mean, I think that for a lot of writers who maybe who aren’t in features, the idea of that kind of writing directing is a little foreign. And there’s not a lot of experience with that. Especially coming from late night where I am from the idea of writing and directing, or seems really far away how, when you are writing something you’re gonna direct or you are directing something you wrote, how does that impact that process? Both ways are you, you’re writing it, knowing that later you’ll be on set and you’ll have these issues. Are you directing when you’re writing that first draft?

Greg Mottola: Yeah. Yeah. I think I am. Which can be intimidating because I mean, you can only do that to a certain point. Cause if you do it too much, if you start to feel like everything you write down is envisioning the final product. It’s too daunting. I remember they said something to me a long time ago because he knew I had some blocks writing being as prolific as a writer, as I wanted to be. And he said, just don’t treat the first draft. It’s the final movie. Just write it and then write it again and write it again and write it again. And like Billy Wilder said, writing is rewriting and just taking the pressure off that you have to know everything beforehand. And I realize that I can’t write an outline that I’m gonna stick to because I discover so much in the process of writing it that I can’t really possibly know what the twist and turns of a plot’s gonna be without having those characters more alive in my head.

So when I’m writing it, I know I’m gonna direct it. I do things sometimes. I do think these are the kind of scenes that people aren’t writing when things are being submitted to me. I mean, things I’d like to see more of. So there’s a little bit of that, of like, oh, I can do this because I’m in charge. I really dry comedy. I like comedy of manners, behavioral comedy, that isn’t all just one liners and super broad and I can enjoy super broad comedy. And I’ve certainly worked on super broad comedy, but I I’d like things that are more Elaine may Woody Allen style or even old Hollywood comedies that are a little more dialogue driven and behavioral, not to say I have anything against slapstick and filthy comedy cuz filthy comedy has been good to me.

So there’s a kind of style of comedy that I feel like I very rarely get sent as a director that, but weirdly super bad had a lot of it super bad. Especially the two main characters very are really actually quite realistic. They’re quite naturalistic. They’re just say outrageous things, but their behavior is in how they talk. And that really gave me a way in, especially when you cast someone like Jonah hill to play that character and you realize all this bravado is armor and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s terrified and it’s suddenly the whole character on locks and same with Michael Cera. So yeah, sometimes. And when I’m writing something for myself, when I wrote adventure land, the only unfortunate thing about adventure land is that it came out after super bad and they tried to sell it as another super bad. And it’s just not, never was meant to be. It’s much more of a drama comedy.

Me just sort of melancholy hangout movie. And so there are things like in that movie, there are things that I find amusing that not everyone finds amusing. I find amusing how shitty so much of life is and that we just put up with it and how mediocre things that are supposed to be fun are like amusement parks, right? That’s my personal opinion. Yes. They’re fun. They’re exciting. But when you get to a certain age, they’re hell they’re absolute hell. That’s my opinion. A lot of people would disagree with that. Just sort of like, like this is the best we can do. This is the best we can do for life. This is the best we can do for job.

Greg Iwinski: Me waiting 45 minutes to be nauseous for three minutes is the highlight of my vacation. Yeah.

Greg Mottola: So that kind of stuff I wrote a lot of into that movie and that’s not necessarily mainstream comedy writing, but I like it. So there’s an element of that that went to “Fletch” when we decided it. Wasn’t gonna be the tone of the original movie.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Well, when you talk about the dialogue as well, being entertained by dialogue scenes, I think about super bad. Those guys are around my age. So that comes out. And for me, I grew up in Phoenix, it’s a west coast hanging out at a seven 11 is it was very much, I felt seen in that film of like, oh, this is what you do. You hang out, you get a big gulp and you just kind of talk about your life cuz you can’t do anything cuz you’re young. And so there is so much of that in that dialogue that I felt was at least came across to me as very naturalistic and regular cuz it was, oh yeah, this is just what we’re all doing. Except these guys are funnier than us and have, get into more hijinks. But yeah, I think, and that has carried through, at least in seeing “Confess, Fletch”, these scenes that are very dialogue heavy. And I think a lot of times what you see now is heavy dialogue ends up being exposition time. And then we jump to action. We jump to jokes of whatever, but the scenes in themselves, the dialogue has so much humor in it. I think the scene with John ham in the kitchen of that neighbor, character whose name I sorry,

Greg Mottola: Forget played by any mum alone. Yeah.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. And that right there, that’s coming from even a sketch comedy back. I’m like, this is it’s very sketch style where it’s just absurd things keep happening, keep happening, go. And so the jokes stack up in a way that’s really fun at the same time that there is naturalistic human dialogue.

Greg Mottola: Well in the Gregory McDonald books, the scene, he doesn’t have scenes go quite that far. But the equivalent scene in the book is him is fled talking to this woman. Who’s complete lush who keeps knocking glasses over and flirting with him. And she’s in love with the guy whose apartment that the murder took place in. And it looks like, well maybe she committed the murder. And it’s like in a Raymond Chandler story, this would be Philip Marlow or Sam spade going around asking questions, poking around, trying to get someone to give up some information and see if they’re the culprit, what Ry McDonald Donald does in his novels. He makes those scenes very delightfully off center. So I took his idea and made her a pothead instead and just went further because I had a Malo and Annie just came in in charact. It was method acting.

I mean, I really thought I was glad there was a fire marshal. Cause I thought she might burn down the set. She was so chaotic in the best way. So yeah, I tried to, but it’s still in my mind was a behavior I tried to, that’s sort of the most outrageous scene in the movie, but I still thought, well, that’s a kind of behavior. There are people we know, people like that who just are so oblivious, it’s amazing. They’re still alive. And I try to find qualities in each character that recognizable human things like Roy Wood Jr’s character. I had put in the idea that he had a child at home, a baby and that he didn’t get enough sleep in that first scene, but I wasn’t really taking advantage of it. And John and I let some friends smart, very good writer, friends like Robert Carlock, who John knows from 30 rock read the script. And he said, I just think you could lean into that more. You could do more with that idea. So then I thought, oh well why I have him have his baby strapped who his chest in one scene because he doesn’t have childcare and it just makes it ridiculous. And that happens to people. Dads have to watch their kid and B Roy didn’t make it super over the top. He played it totally straight. So yeah, that was where I was coming from.

Greg Iwinski: And well, one first of all, Roy Wood Jr. Is a hero to me, especially as a late night writer and a black man and late night, it is, he is a legend and a he’s gentleman and a scholar. So good. I think that young dad thing, I mean I have a three and a half year old and a one year old and I am praying neither of them run into the room as we’re doing this interview. So that fell true. But what I think again, to me again, the “Flect” movies are a little bit before me, the originals. So Chevy chase is very familiar with, but “Fletch” have seen the posters a million times. I knew my parents probably weren’t gonna let me rent it at blockbuster, cuz it didn’t seem like I was gonna as a kid, get away with this. But the style of comedy and looking back on them now is understandable.

And then with this film, one of the things I love that made me feel nostalgic for eighties style comedy as a child of the eighties is the unacknowledged joke. That is like, it’s there for the audience. We don’t have to stop. And I think about when Roy’s character has the baby strap to him, the badge is strap. His police badge is on the outside of his baby B over the butt of his child so that you can still see his badge. And I thought that was incredibly, that’s such a great joke that doesn’t no stopping. There’s no pointing at it. There’s no character reacting and going, Hey wait, you’re bet. It’s just all these tiny jokes that are just, they are unacknowledged, but they’re there to laugh at as you go. And that really stacks it in. What did you do in your process to capture that? Cuz to me it really, really struck me as from planes trains to those Hughes, eighties movies, to caddy shack, to that idea of even throwing jokes in there that aren’t gonna become the focus of the scene. What was that like bringing that to the script?

Greg Mottola: Well, it helps a lot to have super funny people like Annie and Roy and John and John Slattery and all thinking about it, talking it through and spending some time beforehand, whether we didn’t do that much rehearsal, but we did some and or when we’re just breaking the scene down before we’re gonna shoot it, being open to anything that could add to it without piling on stuff, that’s gonna slow it down and trying to edit carefully. So it doesn’t feel too desperate or the wrong tone. But like I said, we let some really funny people read it. We let some great writers read it. So I got great suggestions from bill hater, read it and gave me some great suggestions that helped me rewrite the climactic kind of showdown scene with the killer without giving anything away. Neil Gamian read it cuz John’s friends with him from doing good and he loves the flight book.

So he gave me one or two really specific thoughts that were great and was also encouraging that you’re, we’re not going down the wrong path by treating it with the tone we were going after. But yeah, so I feel mean there is a lot of very broad comedy and I thought, well, what if we did something that was a little more, a little drier? I, I won’t compare this movie to “Big Lebowski” is a classic and I in no way, shape or form with dare to claim anything close to that. But one of the things I love about that movie is the reason people can watch it over and over again is there’s so many embedded things in it that that are just there to pick up and notice, but they don’t point at the Coen’s stop. And that’s essentially a detective movie with a guy who doesn’t know he’s a detective, but it’s essentially, it’s like a Raymond Chandler novel. And so that’s one movie I watched a lot and I could never claim to have their cinematic skill. And we also had a really short schedule, but I definitely took inspiration from some of the things that they do so dry.

Greg Iwinski: Well, one of the things I think that helps this film nail, that dry tone is that we are so used to, I think now a comedically, seeing a confident idiot guy who doesn’t know he is a failure. Doesn’t know he’s a failure is still confident. Whereas with Fletch you have he’s good at his job or with the job he doesn’t, he’s good at solving, putting the pieces together, knowing how to do the steps of this mystery. Every time we see him taking action, he’s doing something that he kind of has a plan, but he it’s like his personality is idiotic and he still has the talent. And so his personal life might be a mess and he might be a weirder to be around. But he is actually good at figuring out who the kill, how to solve this problem. And I think that lets it feels to me like you’re able to ride more dramatic action that way because he’s able to move it forward because he has some competence. This again is coming from a commentator outside. Who’s like, Ooh, mystery. I don’t know how this works.

Greg Mottola: Well, we talked about that a lot. I mean there’s certainly places which in he’s wrong, which his theories are not correct. But the thing I think that makes fledge endearing is that he doesn’t get defensive. He doesn’t get embarrassed. He’s totally unflappable. It’s just like, oh, that wasn’t right. Well what about this? And he just keeps moving. Some of that stuff was in the book. It didn’t play out quite the same way, but some of that quality of being completely sure he’s right about something and not being right is in the book. But the way Fletch reacts to being wrong is something I stole from the book too. And John playing this guy who thinks he speaks Italian better than he does and not really caring about being wrong is fun. But at the same time, you don’t wanna see John ham be right for 90 minutes because that’s just obnoxious. I mean, he has to look like that and be smart and be right all the time. I mean, come on. That would just suck. We just did some press stuff. And I was taking pictures next to him. I’m just like John Hammond, Gollum. I feel like this is not fair. Hang around with this guy, but he is a friend and I do love him.

Greg Iwinski: Can I ask, so I wanna move a little bit more to the process of making this movie as a writer, as a director, but as a writer. So how does this project come to you and does it come to you as a continuation of the book series or as a continuation of the film

Greg Mottola: Series? Oh, well, the way this started was John came to me. We had already worked together a couple times and he said, would you ever be interested in doing a “Fletch” movie? Miramax bought the rights to all the books except the first one, which I think is still owned by universal perhaps. And they want to revive this. And before I was even involved, John had met with his writers, Z Barrow and Zev was writing, working on a script. And so I know John, when he saw the original “Fletch”, he went on, often read all the books that were published at that time and he loved them and he saw Thele in the book is not the same as the Fletch in the movie. There’s many things that Chevy brought to it that were all great, but disguises and the names and the slapstick and the thing I think I love the most about Chevy’s version is that the slapstick it’s like he creates chaos in the sort of Mark’s brothers way to so confuse people that they don’t know what’s going on so he can get away with fooling them.

He baffles people. And I think that’s not quite the way the character works in the books, but it’s an innovation of his that’s so specific to what he’s great at. So I went off and read a bunch of the books and I love them. And I thought, yeah, there is another way to approach this, but it is daunting because for a certain generation in particular, that movie is very well loved and they associate it with one actor, one very specific actor. And on top of that, something like Philip Marlow, Raymond Chandler’s detective character was played by Humphrey Bogart and about 10 other actors, James Garner, Philip Elliot Gould played him in Robert Altman’s the long goodbye a movie I love. And the funny thing is the big sleep with Humphrey Bogart. Same character was 27 years apart from the long goodbye. Whereas Fletch was 37 years ago.

And there are people who say, you shouldn’t touch this character, but no one else has played it. And a lot of people have tried to revive it. And for one reason or another, it hasn’t happened. And I think part of it is people are worried about failing because Chaffey’s so great. But John and I are fool hearty and we said, let’s do it. And so I had read some outlines that Zev wrote and he let me read some of the scenes. And I thought it was not quite the tone John and I were talking about, but I wanted him to do his version. He’s a very smart, funny writer. And so when he turned in his version, we thought this is a really great, funny script, but it’s for Chevy. It’s the Chevy version, cuz it’s one of his ZEVs favorite movies. And I understand that.

And maybe if we had gone the way he was going, it would’ve been smarter. It might’ve been more commercial, but John didn’t wanna try to impersonate Chevy. He thought that would not work. And totally we did wanna try something else. So I took the next passes and Zev didn’t use that much of the book. I went back to the book and put more stuff in, even though I had to bring it up, the book was written in the seventies and I had to bring it into the 2020s. And I’m losing the thread now of your question,

Greg Iwinski: Sorry. Well, I think in terms of, I think you answered a lot of it, of how did you get attached and what were you attempting to adapt? I think it seems like both the books and movies. I do have a question about what you were just saying, which is, and I’ve asked this question about the “Bourne” books as well. Talking about those adaptations is a murder mystery or a crime thing set in the seventies or eighties is in such a different world. There’s no cell phones. There’s no DNA. There’s no, I mean, so much has changed. So even in that technical world, did you take the central crime mystery of confessed ledge from a book from 19 76, 19 78?

Greg Mottola: I think 78.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. So how do you take that? And then yes. And then keep the same ahas while updating it for today’s technology and world.

Greg Mottola: I should, might have been 76. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I used a lot of ZEVs lines and I used a couple of his scene there’s stuff in there that he broke. He took the first swing at bringing it to 20, 22 and I think had some great ideas for that. So in continuing that for, I thought, well, the one thing that I like about Gregory McDonald a lot and he says it I’m going to quote him. He says, or writing mysteries, lets me get away with murder. I think the mystery may be the greatest form of social criticism simply because it is pedestrian. There’s a lot of social satire in his fledge novels. And each book focuses on one area of society because the seventies he’s poking holes in the sexual revolution and authority and a bunch of other things that were seventies issues. And I thought, well, we don’t have the budget to make a period piece, but at the same time, it also is.

It would that stuff be relevant now. And for instance, the character that Lucy punch plays in the movie, which is the ex-wife of one of the suspects and maybe she’s a suspect too. And the book, she’s a woman who left her husband for another woman and in 1976 or wherever, that was probably a different kind of topic, a more charged topic. And not that it’s a bad thing at all, but in the book he fle thinks she’s the murderer. And I thought that might not track well in this day and age, it it’d be easy to misinterpret. That is like, we’re trying to say something about a certain type of person. And at the same time, I mean, this is a subject that gets talked about a lot. How do you talk about now and be funny? And I like the idea that John, the way he looks, which is similar to the way Fletcher is described in the books is good.

Looking very white seems kind of waspy. And in the book, he can walk through this world of fancy hotels and yacht clubs and expensive apartments and super high end art dealers and nobody blinks an eye and they all think he’s one of them. But I think Fletcher is actual value system is quite different than theirs. He just lets them think that he’s like them. So there’s a certain amount of satire of white privilege, tone deafness, certainly with Lucy Punch’s character, who’s the sort of influencer type with people of the yacht club and people calling Fletch on his white privilege. I wanted to make it at least in the realm of the conversation of what’s happening now and not pretend we’re in the seventies. So there’s a degree of that.

Greg Iwinski: I will enjoy that in those scenes that there are these scenes that are dialogue heavy that are digging into who these people are. And he is many times F let’s commenting to their face, the societal issue to them. And that it’s just the continued obliviousness. It is, it isn’t just the kitchen scene. It’s all these other people who are oblivious to the fact that they are incredibly privileged, incredibly separate and incredibly whatever. And so you get a lot of that. And I mean, there’s a line that’s in the trailer of the movie not giving, but where Roy Wood is talking to John ham and John ham says, I don’t know who people hate more journalists or cops, Roy. And then John Hamm’s like, yeah, it’s cops, people hate cops, it’s cops. And just really like, yeah, no it’s cops. It’s very obvious. And so I was like these nice things of, again, it gets to stay naturalistic in the dialogue and stuff.

And I think also setting it, it being in Boston and ham being ham, you do very much get the idea that I think there’s this scene where he literally just in one swift motion puts on a yacht club member jacket and it’s just immediately accepted into a yacht club. It’s like, yeah, if he looks like that, he can do whatever he wants. And that gets to be its own commentary. Yeah. It’s very interesting. I wondered as you were bringing this in, so you you’ve taken a co-written draft and now you’re kind of running with it and working on this next version, doing that, did you reach out to Chevy? Did you reach out to Andrew Bergman who directed it? Who I know from “Blazing Saddles” obviously, but was there any touching base with them in terms of taking Fletch thoughts?

Greg Mottola: I was my second movie that never got made. I wrote a script in the late nineties that got set up at Sony. It was about an intervention that goes awry and it was gonna star Steves on and John Cusack and Chevy. I cast Chevy as an uncle who it’s, it was like a destination intervention. They all go to the south of France, which on Cusack’s been hiding out from his friends, cuz they’ve found out he’s a terrible alcoholic and Chevy was gonna play this sort of clueless uncle who comes along for the ride and does not help things at all. And we did table read and he was hilarious and it was great. And the idea of working with cherry the time was such a thrill cuz my parents let me watch SNL. The first season, I was probably eight years old I think. And he was a hero and it was very tempting to ask him if he play a part in it, be involved in it. But ultimately as we talked it through, we thought that could backfire because then everyone’s gonna compare it to his version. And it might smack of a kind of to what’s the word I would use nostalgic desperation or something, not desperation, but

Greg Iwinski: Trying to get maybe some cheap heat would be, I guess the negative

Greg Mottola: Version taking advantage of someone else’s success. And there was a lot of when the trailer came, I made the mistake of looking at Twitter and saw comments. Like Hollywood just keeps reinventing the same stuff. We don’t have any new ideas. And it’s like, okay, fine. Yeah. Is this getting made? Cuz there’s IP that people have heard of sure. But there’s like 10 Fletch books and we’re not using the same one and we’re not remaking that movie. And so I think we really wanted to set apart. I mean, Andrew Bergman is actually Michael Richie who directed Andrew Bergman wrote it. Andrew Bergman is one of the great comedy writers of all time. Michael, Rich’s a great director. He directed bad news bears amongst other things. The candidate, I have nothing but respect for those people, but I think we ultimately decided let’s do our own thing. Maybe they’ll let us make another, maybe then I’ll come and beg Chevy and see if he’s mad at me or not. We got along really well in 1999. Okay. I haven’t talked to him since, so

Greg Iwinski: Yeah, no big changes since then and now. Yeah,

Greg Mottola: No.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. One of the things that struck me is a nice clean, running time on this film. I’m sure you know it down to the exact minute to I was is an hour and 35 minutes. It’s around there.

Greg Mottola: I think it’s it’s 98 minutes with credits. Yeah.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. Yes. So, right, right. Apologies to all the people who I didn’t count in the running time for the credits. I’m very sorry. Everyone does hard work. I’m

Greg Mottola: Glad. No, I feel like credits are so long now. It’s like, you should be able to say it’s 95 minutes because it is

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. That’s credits are adding trailers. Don’t count for running time. But in doing that, it’s like so many movies, even broad comedies are two hours now two 15, they push into these super long stories. What was there a decision that you wanted it to be shorter? And I mean, I’m not saying shorter in a negative way. I think 90 minutes is a great length for a film. It’s great.

Greg Mottola: Yeah, John and I both say, let’s make this short. Let’s not out wear our welcome. I want the movie to have a light touch. I have no pretensions that this is Oscar bait. We make a movie that doesn’t feel stupid, but that people enjoy can get the hell out of there. And I missed movies that length too. And I think I read an interview with Chevy from back in the day about flesh and how the first cuts were two hours. And so that’s why they ended up putting in all the voiceover cuz they had to chop out a lot of plot. We said, if we’re desperate, we’ll do that. But if we can do it without the voiceover, just so it doesn’t seem like we’re once again, ripping off another movie, we we’ll try. And we are, I think yeah. Throughout things that I liked jokes that I liked. And I said for the greater good, this has to go. This seems

Greg Iwinski: That’s something they don’t talk about enough with writing. Not enough people in writing classes talk about how much of professional writing is going. This is good. And I like it. And maybe other people like it, but it can’t be in this thing and having to just, yeah, that’s just how life is you. Everything can be infinitely long.

Greg Mottola: And sometimes my editor would say, are you sure this is so good? I like this so much. And I’m like, yes, I’m sure. I’m sure because I’ve seen stuff of my own where I felt like, Ugh, I should have cut this scene shorter. And it’s like that torture of knowing that you weren’t disciplined enough. I thought I don’t wanna live with that.

Greg Iwinski: There’s always the option to do a director’s cut. That’s longer. Nobody’s putting out a director’s cut. That’s shorter.

Greg Mottola: But the Cohen brothers did, which is one of the many reasons I love them. They put out a director’s edition of blood, simple, their first movie and they took out 11 minutes. They’re the only people who’ve ever done that

Greg Iwinski: They got that.

Greg Mottola: They were like, wait, this is wait, you made it. You took stuff away.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. You don’t this part, you, you don’t need this. You don’t need this. That is incredible. Yeah.

Greg Mottola: It’s like, oh we can cut out the scene. We can cut another shot much sooner. Yeah. So I I’m with you with you. I think for certain kind of comedy in particular. Good to not wear it. You’re welcome.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Cuz I think we’re in a place now. This is maybe a bit esoteric, but that a lot of longer stories that might be two and a half Mo our movies, you just make into a six hour short or limited series. So you stretch it end up the other way instead of compressing it to 90, you just go yeah, we’ll blow it out.

Greg Mottola: Yeah. Although sometimes I’ll watch a limited series and think this could have been a two hour movie,

Greg Iwinski: At least 50% of limited series could have been movies, even a long movie, even a two and a half hour movie.

Greg Mottola: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It’s like

Greg Iwinski: There are good two and a half hour movies. You could just take out a bunch of side character story lines. That weird episode where you don’t actually progress the plot. You just kind of go off on a secret adventure for

Greg Mottola: A flashback for yeah. Right. Exactly. I mean, that’s cool. But yeah, it’s well such a weird time. This sort of transition between streaming and movies. I mean a movie like this, isn’t on screens all that often these days, especially the fact that it’s not so broad and it’s not aimed at younger people necessarily. I don’t wanna scare them away. Younger people listening. Please give it a shot, but it’s flat for a new generation. But yeah, the conversation came up at some point. Should we do a flat series instead of a movie and John and I were like, fine. Just get other people. Cause we’re not gonna do that. We wanna do movies. Mean movies are my first love. I I’ve done a lot of great TV. I mean, I’ve been lucky to work on a lot of great shows and I love a lot of television and some of the best. So my favorite TV ever has happened in this age. I’m still recovering from knowing I’ll never see another episode, better call. It’s the excitement of watching the ending of it and was quickly followed by a depression of knowing it’s over. But yeah, I love movies and where the fuck are they? A lot of big comedies are going straight to streaming.

God bless Judd. He’s still trying to put him out on the screen. He’s got bros coming out. My friend, Nick Stoler directed that. And I’m sure it’ll be hilarious. Fletch is a drier quieter kind of comedy that I think is very rarely on screens these days. So the fact that it’s being shown at all in movie theaters is makes me happy. Even though they’re those trolls who say, oh, well this must stink because they’re not going wide with it. But it’s like, guys, it’s not top gun Maverick,

Greg Iwinski: Right? Yes. It’s coming from growing up. Seeing I saw a ton of movies as a kid to now realizing, oh, there’s a whole business side of this that I didn’t understand about how they even got this print to me. I do think that one of the things I love about quick clean movies that are telling a story is that you are able to see it and have seen it. So I watched your film and now I’ve seen it. Now I can tell other people to see it. Now it’s not the commitment of you are going to have to spend the next 18 Sundays of your life diving into this because I do love weekly television. I’m a big proponent of weekly television even on stream. Yeah, sure. But film provides a nice antidote to that where you go, Hey, you wanna know the ending in 90 minutes? It’s over. That was the end. Beautiful.

Greg Mottola: Yeah. I mean you can’t do the character development and twists and turns that happened on a great TV series and length of a feature, but you can tell a complete story and you could tell it quickly and hopefully without too much fat. Yeah. And I agree with you. I mean I hope dropping all the episodes at one time kind of makes me sad. I like the weekly thing a lot.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah.

Greg Mottola: So you have to wait.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I we’ve talked about it on everywhere from the other podcasts I do to here to every, but the idea of, I was thinking about it the other day, the anticipation is good. The actual feeling of anticipating and being like I was, I’ve watching she Hawk and watching just welcome to reim documentary, the old man, a billion things. Most of them on FX, I guess, but watching all these things and being when it ends and you go, I can’t believe I have to wait a week. That’s good. I actually do believe that’s good for an audience. It’s good for the viewers. It’s good for creators to create. It’s nice that we have to wait for something.

Greg Mottola: It’s the way Charles Dickens wrote his novels. They were just came out in installments in a magazine each week and you’d have to wait to find out what was going on with David Copperfield. And FX is great. I worked on the show, Dave, I did the pilot in the first few episodes of Dave and they were such a pleasure work with they. They’re just smart. And they get creative people. And Dave, we did for not a lot of money and that’s the deal you get. It’s like, yeah, make it come in for this amount. And we will let you do your thing. And when they gave notes, they were really smart. So I’m very FX. They’re good people.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I have one last kind of thematic question in terms of all of this, which is that it does seem like murder mystery, who done it. Detective stories have come back, obviously knives out happened and you’ve got the PO books and a movies and all of these things. It’s not just one singular movie, but there is an audience for it and people love it. And it’s a thing that has existed. I mean, AGA the Christie novels and yeah, there’s been so much murder mystery in time. It’s not like there’s been a new thing that’s invented, but it has had a resurgence. And is there anything that you credit that to? Why do you think this has sparked up as the new thing?

Greg Mottola: I think it’s because the society, the way it is now with endless just wrongdoing and nothing. So little getting done for climate change and our government almost being taken over by fascists and the pandemic going on forever. People realize that this, even though it’s an antiquated genre, there’s a real satisfaction in seeing something get solved and the person who did it get punished and they’re being consequences for actions. And I think that’s it. I think people are like, oh, nothing seems to ever happen. These people just keep doing terrible things and nothing ever seems to, they never face any consequences. What the world might be uninhabitable in a hundred years. And no one seems to be taking this seriously, what is happening? So I think it’s a very appealing place to be in obviously, so knives out, which is innovative in its technique and its social satire was an inspiration.

We didn’t have the budget and time to make something quite as boldly visual as Ryan did. But I certainly thought about it a lot about how he approached this old fashioned genre and really putting new life into it. And I can’t wait for the next one. It looks amazing. Yeah. So I, and I have ideas if they let me do another one, I have ideas of how to build on this one and be a little more ambitious visually if they give a little more time, a little more money and there’s not quitting so much of our budget into pandemic, the pandemic department and not on the screen. But yeah, I think that’s, it. Does that sound right to you? Do you no

Greg Iwinski: Agree that people especially coming from late night where we are the ones saying, Hey, look at this thing, this horrible person did today. And then tomorrow. And then tomorrow we talk about it all the time. It’s at least at the end of my life, I can say that I stopped Donald Trump. I told a bunch of jokes and everyone rose up and they took him to jail. And it was because I pointed out his hypocrisy at 1130 at night. And that was it is that frustration of you can boldly point out what’s being done wrong and a bunch of people can cheer you, but it’s not gonna do anything. It doesn’t stop the bad guy. So yeah, people are desperate, I think were what you’re saying for that catharsis of watch this bad guy get punished. It feels good to see that system actually work.

Greg Mottola: Yeah. And I, I, I love your boss, Mr. Colbert. And I think he’s one of the great truth tellers of our time. And he’s incredibly smart and funny. And prior to the show, when he was impersonating a right wing lunatic and going at it, satirizing it from the inside out was brilliant. And it must be hard to be him and you guys and see still nothing happens. Yeah. So little happens. Okay. We won the election, but what’s other elections and everything can be overturned. And nobody seems to be waking up on that side that whatever 20, 30% of the country does not seem to be stamping out of their delusions. So what the fuck?

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I think that is, you’re just like, I just want to see something work, how it’s supposed to work when so many institutions. And I really love mystery. I as do audiences worldwide, I have as a writing question, when you are a building mystery, I’ve asked several mystery writers, this, what do you have a process? I know that with this, with flesh fledge, there’s already a little bit of the book has already laid out a bit of how who done it works. But when you’re constructing a who done it, let’s say the next one you make is from scratch. What is your process at building that complex mystery? Cuz as a viewer, you watch it and you go, wow, how did all this fit together? But as the writer, you’re the one that actually has to do that.

Greg Mottola: It was tricky because in Z’s version, for instance, the murderer was a different character. And I decided to go a different way. And I brought in some characters from the book and it was fun to write them and bring them into 2022, but it didn’t help me shape the mystery necessarily. So I did take some cues from the book of some ideas from the book and move them around in different places for the purpose of the plot. And then there were places where I was like, this is a dead end. I don’t know how to do this without getting into a world of exposition. That’s going to be boring on screen. I mean, I think the closest we come to that is the scene. There’s a wrap up scene without giving too much away where the characters tell the audience it’s classic kind of ag of the Christie or Raymond Chandler scene.

Tell the audience exactly. All the things that happened and put it it together. And I thought, will people sit still for this? And when we screened it, we only out a couple of screenings, but I thought, oh, they wanna know they they’re willing to sit still for this because they’re like, yeah, tell me what happened because I see all the moving parts and I kind of get why this person did that and that person did that, but I don’t make it all add up for me. Yes. So a lot of that is retrofitted. A lot of is working backwards. Where do I want to end up and going back and saying, well, if that’s gonna happen, I need this dead end. I need this ruse. Or what’s the cliche red. Oh yes. I need the audience. I need to point them over here. So they’re not thinking about this too much. It’s like, well, look at this, look at this. Don’t look at the thing that would sort obviously tell you the answer.

It want the answer to go like, oh, okay. I see it. I could see how that was the murderer and why that happened. And it makes sense to me and I can see why I didn’t know the whole time. And I bet there would be people who guess, and people will be like, oh wow. But you really want that part to work. You want that to be effective? You don’t want people to go well, that’s just lame because we’ve also bet the house on it. To some extent we’ve really leaned into it. Being a detective story, I’d say more so than the original flat. So if that doesn’t work, then I don’t blame people for saying, well, why aren’t there more jokes in disguises and slapstick because your dumb plot didn’t add up to anything. So that was daunting, but also fun. I mean, that’s something that I’ve never really done before. And I went and read interviews with people like Rian Johnson who loves the genre and talked about movie. His new movie I think is very inspired by the last of Sheila, which is a movie written by Stephen Sondheim, which is a whoa, I’ve never watched, it’s like a seventies movie. I have to go and see it. Cuz it’s people who love the genre say it’s fantastic. But for whatever reason, cuz they talked about a lot.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. That is

Greg Mottola: Like a who done it on a boat. Yeah.

Greg Iwinski: Well my last question is, is there anything that you would want to talk about that I have not brought up?

Greg Mottola: Well, I wrote during the pandemic and in between projects, it’s taken me a while, but I’ve written a script that I love that is more in the genre of “Adventureland” probably, but it’s like an adult comedy drama about new Yorkers. It’s a big ensemble piece. I wrote parts for some people. I really like, I read apart for Jesse Eisenberg and he wants to do it. And it’s kind of about a changing New York City. And I was about to go out within then the pandemic hit, which gave me time to do rewrites at least, but New York city didn’t seem the same anymore. It wasn’t quite the same New York and felt I better wait until it’s kind of back to where it is. So my hope is to do one more polished kind of address New York city as it is in this moment, sort as the pandemic still exists, but isn’t the worst part.

And I think it’s gonna be hard to get made because it’s more drama than comedy. It’s a real character piece. If my name was Noah Baumbach, they might give me the money, but I know Noah for a million years, we came up together in the nineties. He’s a great guy, but it is kind of in the spirit of that kind of. And I feel like Noah’s one of the few people who does it and Alexander Payne does it brilliantly, but I wanna make serious with enough comedy to make an entertaining character movie. But they’re a little hard to justify unless I can rope in some really huge stars, no offense to Jesse, but he’s appealing to finance years, but I need to surround him. Both other people that are appealing. I shouldn’t have said this. Sorry Jesse. I mean they gave me a hundred million based on your name.

Greg Iwinski: I mean New York, New York is always changing and is always, they say New York is a character, but it was always a new character. It seems like where it was before and where it is now. Yeah.

Greg Mottola: I mean it’s kind of inspired by, there are characters that represent in New York. That’s not gonna exist soon. And then I love hate feeling about New York.

Greg Iwinski: I think that’s a healthy way to feel about it.

Greg Mottola: Yeah. It’s a little bit of a breakup note that to New York, that begrudgingly admits that I love the place more than any place on earth.

Greg Iwinski: I feel exactly the same way. Well Greg, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was great to talk. Thank

Greg Mottola: You. Thank you other Greg.

Greg Iwinski: Thanks bye-bye.

Greg Mottola: Take care

Outro: OnWriting is a production of the writer’s Guild of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer, tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and StockBoy creative. You can learn more about the Writers Guild of America East online You can follow the Guild on all social media platforms at @WGAEast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening and write on.

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