The Answer Man starring Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham
He plays a author who wrote a groundbreaking spiritual book called Me and God, and then retreated from public view. She plays a single mom who's looking for answers. Together, they light up the screen in the new romantic comedy The Answer Man, in theaters July 24.

Jeff and Lauren sit down together to talk about why they couldn't resist first-time writer/director John Hindman's script and how it's different from other romantic comedies.

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Joan Wagner: What attracted you to the project?

Lauren Graham: I loved the script, and I just thought it was both sweet and funny, which is a strangely hard combination to find.

Jeff Daniels: The writing was so great. The writing makes the actor's job so much easier. John Hindman really did a great job of giving us a script that we could not only work with but be excited about all the way through. And Lauren was great; she's just so great with comedy. It made it really easy to say yes.
JW: What was your favorite part about working with each other?

LG: Jeff is a great actor, and we could just, like, get it done really quickly. You don't have any time in these movies for a lot of takes and a lot of rehearsal and everything, so we just got in there and did it.

JD: She's really great at reacting, and I agree that you don't have a lot of takes there. You really rely on each other. It's like pingpong—it's back and forth, back and forth—especially with somebody who knows comedy and that you don't have to worry about whether they can time a joke right or know where the jokes are. That was perhaps the most enjoyable thing.  
JW: I loved how everyone had advice for everybody else in the movie. Everybody wants advice from Jeff's character. Is there one piece of advice you have received that you've really taken to heart?

JD: I heard Robert Preston say this once, and it made a lot of sense to me: "You have to be in the right place at the right time, and then you have to deliver." That seemed to make a lot of sense in kind of dealing with all the auditions and rejection, and it helped me kind of keep not only going forward but show up at every audition ready.
JW: One of my favorite scenes is when Arlen shakes Alex's hand and talks about how great it is to shake a child's hand—because they hold it for awhile. The film points out small things like this that are easy to overlook in the day-to-day. Did either of you start to notice any of the smaller moments in your own life? 

JD: When I saw the movie, one of the things that stuck out to me was that very scene, and that's so John Hindman. He'll say stuff that just is almost like out of non sequiturs, red herrings. That's just pure Hindman, and it's just probably something he thought of one day and stuck it in the script. 

LG: I think it's less about our own lives but more about what a piece of creating a character that is. Some of those little kinds of observations and moments and to have a character who would say or notice something like that kind of suggests this whole world of who he is, and I had some of those too. You'd be surprised how seldom you get that kind of information. Most scripts are not so poetic, a little more on the nose. So it's kind of a fun thing. It's maybe not even linear—it just helps you fill out who the person is and how they think and what they think about. I think it's one of the marks of his good writing.
JW: Another thing I loved about the movie was the juxtapositions in each character. Arlen is a man of philosophy and spirituality, but he loves monster movies. Elizabeth had the healthiest house possible, but there's a scene where she drops her son off at school and lights up a cigarette. Was that dichotomy something that attracted you to the project, something that made the characters more real?

JD: Yeah, it makes them human. I think we're all looking for that. Again, that's the good writing is that he writes these characters balanced. They've got good things and bad things. They're heroic and yet they're flawed. That makes for good writing, and it's a lot more fun to play.

LG: Yeah, definitely. It just adds dimension so you're not just playing the uptight person who always makes the right decision, which only exists in movies. You have more depth.
JW: How do you think this film is different from other romantic comedies you've worked on before?

JD: I think people say things that you don't expect. Whether it's a romantic comedy or any other kind of movie, that's again good writing. You can stop the movie and say, "All right, what is Lauren's character going to say now?" and you'll be wrong. That's what makes John Hindman's script unique and different and enjoyable is that you can't get ahead of what these people are going to say or do.

LG: I think, on a bigger scale, a story like this would be a little more predictable or something, and it just has some quirkiness to it that makes it interesting.
JW: Books play and important part in the film. Are there any books—under any circumstance—that you would never give up?

LG: I grew up in a house where my father had very strict rules about borrowing books and would make you sign out a book. And then he would forget and lose the paper. I grew up in a house with a dad who was very attached to his books no matter what they were, and I may be kind of the same way. I hang on to my books, and I don't like when people take them. But that doesn't mean I would never let them go in exchange for the secrets of the world, if that existed.

JD: Bob Dylan's Chronicles.
JW: One last question. If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

JD: Lauren Graham.

LG:(laughs) Do you want to have dinner later?

JD: I'm going to say Preston Sturges.

LG: I'm going to say Cary Grant. 

Watch a clip of The Answer Man Watch

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