This Is Where I Leave You hits theaters Sept. 19.
This story first appeared in the June 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
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“More ‘at your wits’ end!'” shouts director Adam Arkin from a packed “video village” to Justified star Timothy Olyphant, sitting on a couch 20 feet away in the U.S. Marshal’s office. In character as Raylan Givens, Olyphant tries his line again, more visibly irritated: “If it doesn’t have to do with beaches or sunny skies, there’s nothing more for me to see.”
It’s a little past noon on a Thursday in late February when THR arrives at the series’ Santa Clarita studio, in time to watch Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez (Rick Gomez) ask their favorite law enforcement agent to kill his longtime nemesis, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). The entire series has led to this critical moment in the season-five finale, which gives rise to a highly anticipated showdown set to play out during the sixth and final season.
At this point in Justified’s run, few know their characters as intimately as does Olyphant, 46. Having lived with Raylan for a half-decade, he is as comfortable offering direction as taking it. As the 6-foot actor exchanges a plaid shirt for a black long-sleeved tee, he suggests to executive producer (and episode cowriter) Dave Andron a few tweaks to Raylan’s attitude for tomorrow’s scene. Exec producer Fred Golan welcomes Olyphant’s input: “You’d be foolish not to listen to him.”
The FX neo-Western, exec produced and run by Graham Yost (who rarely is on set) and based on Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” hit a viewership high during its most recent season and has helped shape the network’s rugged, male-skewing brand. The show took a substantial hit with Leonard’s death during its 2013 summer hiatus. “It felt a little bit like a father died,” says Golan before the crew packs up and drives 25 minutes west to a bridge in Piru, Calif., for a shoot that will go late into the night. As they prepare to pen Justified’s final season, the writers feel an enormous responsibility to honor the author. Andron reminds everyone, “We’re still playing around in Elmore’s sandbox.”
Remember that line from The Godfather: “Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking”? In This Is Where I Leave You, it’s probably best not to tell the family, either. The bittersweet comedy about troubled siblings who reunite for their father’s funeral is like a group hug crossed with a battle royal.
“We need a new term for the tone. It’s not a dark comedy—because it’s not that dark. But it’s an emotional comedy,” says Tina Fey, who plays the pushy sister to three equally neurotic and combative brothers: Corey Stoll, Jason Bateman, and Adam Driver. Jane Fonda costars as their prying psychologist mother, who will either unite her estranged family or destroy it trying.
Based on the 2009 best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper (who wrote the screenplay), the film became the passion project of director Shawn Levy (Date Night, the Night at the Museum movies), who saw it as a chance to explore more intimate and dramatic territory—with actors interested in the same.
“Jason, Tina, me, we’ve done a lot of comedies, but we’re playing this a lot more naturalistically,” Levy says. “Almost every day, someone from the crew says, ‘Jesus, that scene freaked me out. It’s exactly like me and my brother.’ Or ‘That’s what I went through when my dad died’ or ‘…when my wife and I got separated.’”