Super Ex-Girlfriend: Ivan Reitman

Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it can be downright dangerous. In the Ivan Reitman comedy, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” written by Don Payne, Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson) thinks hes finally found the perfect girlfriend, the beautiful Jenny Johnson (Uma Thurman), who just happens to be the superhero, G-Girl.

When Jenny/G-Girl becomes overly possessive, Matt wants to call it quits. But how do you break up with a woman who can fly, lift, cars, and burn holes through steel with her thermal vision A scorned woman, Jenny/G-Girl unleashes the full fury of her super-powered wrath as she tries to bust up Matts new romance with his co-worker Hannah Lewis (Anna Faris). Matt broke Jennys heart. Now, shes about to break his everything.

For his latest film, Reitman was looking for a fresh take on the genre: It wasnt easy. Weve seen lots of comedies with a romantic element, and most seem to play out in a strict template: Boy meets girl; loses girl for a while; then he gets her back.

Reitman found the kind of novel idea he was searching for in an original screenplay by Don Payne, a longtime writer/co-executive producer on the The Simpsons. Paynes script changed up the classic comedy template: the boy falls for a girl whom he discovers is a superhero. Taking the idea even further, Payne made his super-heroine neurotic, needy and clingy, the nightmare trifecta of romance.

Not a comic-book movie

Reitman: “Even though the female lead character is a superhero, Dons script wasnt a comic-book story. This is not a superhero film. Its a comedy grounded in reality. Even if you dont like comics or superhero films, theres a lot for you in it. Dons dialogue was naturalistic, contemporary, sharp, and funny.

Paynes love for comedy, evidenced in his work on perhaps the greatest comedy series of all time, The Simpsons, is coupled with what he calls his pure nerdom. I grew up reading a lot of comics, and I love comics to this day, much to my wifes chagrin, Payne says. Its a nerd fantasy to have a superhero for a girlfriend, and I thought itd be a fun idea to have a regular guy dating a superhero to disastrous results.

Payne notes that the notion of a super-enabled woman dating a regular guy had been explored previously; the television sitcoms Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie are two notable examples. But Payne adds a new twist to the idea. I wondered what if the relationship between a superhero and a regular guy ended badly What if he begins to realize that shes kind of nuts Thats not going to be the kind of crazy ex-girlfriend you want, Payne says, in a super-sized understatement.

Paynes superhero is Jenny Johnson, a seemingly typical, contemporary New Yorker who works in an art gallery. Jenny, like most single people, wants a special person in her life. But shes continually frustrated in her efforts to find Mr. Right due to her other job as the superhero G-Girl.

Jenny’s character

Jennys save-the-day feats become old for her, says Reitman. She doesnt have the temperament to be a superhero, or the temperament for romance. When casting the part of Jenny/G-Girl, Reitman knew he had to find an actress who could handle the characters stunt-heavy superheroics and who had the requisite comedic skills. According to Reitman, there was only one option: Uma Thurman.

Uma Thurman

Who else could play the part Reitman asks. Uma is a special effect in real life! Shes a wonderful actress, gorgeous, and she has done rigorous stunt work before, in the Kill Bill films.

Thurman was eager to tackle Jennys superheroics and super-neuroses. I loved the idea that Jenny is neurotic, vulnerable and a superhero, says the actress.

At first glance or first date Jenny appears to be quite a catch; after all, shes a vivacious, vibrant, and beautiful woman. But, as Reitman notes, it doesnt take long for the storys protagt, Matt Saunders, to realize that theres something off about Jenny. Shes a very verbal person, says the director. Basically, she talks too much and hasnt yet learned the fine art of self-censorship.

Jenny is too much way too much to handle for a regular guy like Matt. Matt, played by Luke Wilson, is a successful architect who, like most single people (including future girlfriend-from hell Jenny), is looking for love. He is the storys straight man and, says Reitman, the heart of the film. Luke really embodies the quintessential American everyman, says Reitman. Hes a likable guy with great comedic timing.

Super-powered sex

Given Jennys abilities, even lovemaking becomes a risky proposition. Indeed, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” answers the much-debated question: What would sex be like with a woman with superpowers Our sense was that it would be terrific and painful, says Reitman, who worked closely with Don Payne to find an original way, within the boundaries of a desired PG-13 rating, to depict super-powered sex.

Jenny and Matts first time involves a bed rocking back and forth against a wall; another amorous encounter finds Jenny and a near-hysterical Matt joining the Mile-High Club, minus the plane, of course.

In the aftermath of their supercharged couplings, and Matts growing awareness of Jennys relentless neuroses, he realizes he must break up with her. But hell hath no fury like a superwoman scorned, and Jenny wants revenge. For starters, she smashes through his ceiling, leaving a gaping hole. Then, she hangs him off a point in the crown of the Statue of Liberty, and wrecks his Mustang before putting it in perpetual orbit. And thats just for starters.

Jenny is also determined to destroy Matts burgeoning relationship with colleague Hannah (Anna Faris of Scary Movie 1-4 fame). Hannah, coming off a less-than-satisfying relationship with a vacuous underwear model, and Matt share a deep friendship that quickly blossoms into passion.

Wilson plays Matts soulless and shallow best friend, Vaughn Haige, whom Reitman calls a fountain of bad advice to Matt, and probably the worst advisor in the world. Vaughn explains to Matt that the most important thing in life is sex. How has he come to this conclusion Vaughn thinks hes incredibly hip and a ladies man, but in reality he is neither.

Supervillain

A film with a superhero wouldnt be complete without a supervillain, and the comedy offers Professor Bedlam, portrayed by Eddie Izzard, as Jennys arch-nemesis. Theres nothing really super about Bedlam; hes just a regular man, with 10,000 times more money, intelligence and taste than the average person.

Like Jenny, theres something off about Bedlam. If youre going to have a supervillain in a contemporary movie set in New York, you have to find some off-kilter way of depicting him, says Reitman. We didnt want a traditional comic book villain.

Indeed, Bedlam isnt your garden-variety super-baddie. His goal is to neutralize Jenny; for once the word is not a euphemism for terminate. He wants to permanently strip away her powers so shell be like any other run-of-the-mill, crazy ex-girlfriend.

Eddie Izzard is a non-traditional casting choice. Eddie is such an original comedian, says Reitman. He has a regality that goes beyond his being English. The seriousness with which Bedlam sees himself adds a lovely comic tone to the film.

Bedlams backstory with Jenny reveals that they were best friends in high school, until Jenny obtained her superpowers from a meteorite. With her new abilities and hot new look Jenny became very popular, leaving behind a heartbroken Barry. (Bedlam comes from his given name, Barry Edward Lambertand hes not really a professor.)

As if Bedlam and Jenny arent making life difficult enough for Matt, his every action is being scrutinized by his boss, Carla Dunkirk, played by comic actor Wanda Sykes (Curb Your Enthusiasm). Carla is overly sensitive to potential sexual harassment in the workplace and ever-vigilant about inappropriate behavior.

As conceived by screenwriter Payne, Jenny/G-Girl is a sexy, attractive, modern superhero. But, Payne wondered, what does a contemporary and gorgeous superhero look like What does she wear

Payne at first envisioned outfitting G-Girl with one iconic outfit, like the classic superheroes. Always with an eye to realism, Reitman suggested that Jenny have many designer outfits: “After all, shes a woman and would want to mix it up a bit.

Most superheroes have secret retreats. Where would Jenny house her most important accoutrements: the extensive G-Girl collection The obvious answer: the worlds largest closet, which is bigger than most apartments. There, Jenny stores hundreds of outfits, attesting to the fact that while she may be invulnerable, her wardrobe is not.

Clothing helps define Jennys/G-Girls character, and Reitman entrusted the formidable challenge and opportunity of designing the characters outfits to Laura Jean Shannon. Shannon, working closely with Uma Thurman, turned G-Girl into a modern-day superhero/fashionista, with numerous distinct looks and styles. Shannons visits to numerous specialty shops in New Yorks east Village helped her bring together the impressive G-Girl collection.

The costumes help delineate G-Girls character arc. In her early scenes, she wears what Shannon calls more girlie-girl outfits. The outfits have a powerful undertone, but are quite feminine. As the story progresses and G-Girl becomes more unhinged, her look becomes tougher and meaner.

Signature insignia

Every superhero bears a signature insignia, but G-Girls is different from most. Her G emblem, which appears on all her outfits, is not affixed, as it would be with your garden-variety superhero. G-Girls G is an accessory, ranging from a pendent with a G fashioned from diamonds, to a platinum broach with diamonds, to a platinum G-buckle on a black leather belt.

Stunts

Stunt coordinator George Aguilar worked with Reitman to create several spectacular action sequences, while maintaining the realistic tone mandated by the director. We didnt want any stunt no matter how outrageous to look cartoonish, says Aguilar. The fight and flying scenes had to have a gritty, New York kind of feel.

One of Aguilars challenges was helping to design, with visual effects supervisor Erik Nash and director of photography Don Burgess, a huge fight sequence between Anna Faris Hannah, who has become newly super-enabled, and Uma Thurmans G-Girl. Aguilar choreographed the scene, working first with stunt doubles, then with the principals for three weeks of preparation and filming. It was a tricky and complicated stunt, says Aguilar. We had two people in the air, fighting and plummeting to earth and looking great the entire time!

Visual Effects

In a movie with a superhero character, visual effects are important, notes Reitman who, having directed the effects-heavy Ghostbusters (and its sequel) and Evolution, is familiar with that highly-technical world. But I didnt want effects to rule the story.

Echoes visual effects supervisor Erik Nash: We have a lot of visual effects, but the film is not about the effects. Its a comedy, and the effects are there to add to the humor and fun.

Reitman wanted G-Girls flying to have a distinct look. We discussed the idea of G-Girl creating a visual disturbance in the air which we called a vortex wake that would make her more visible when shes flying at super-speeds, Nash recalls. She travels so fast she bends the light in the air around her. Its her signature trail, made possible by the miracles of computer-generated imagery.

What good is having the ability to fly with vortex wakes, if you cant devise creative ways to torment your ex G-Girl, as imaginative as she is crazy, throws a live Great White shark through Matts apartment window. The shark lands on his bed, before thrashing savagely around the apartment in a wave of destruction.

The shark sequence is a big visual effects showpiece and one of the films most complex sequences. Its an incongruous and fantastical idea, says Reitman. You had to believe the shark could be there and interact within that environment and with the characters. The shark was a digital creation, a streamlined, darker and even meaner version than an actual Great White.

To map out the scenes beats, Nash and his team prepared elaborate pre-visualization storyboards. They then animated and choreographed the scenes. When camera positions were determined, they cut together a preliminary or test version of the scene, called an animatic, which became the template for the shark attack.

Sharks, airborne sex, super-catfightstheyre just a few of the many surprises of the movie. But as Reitman points out, these all work to service a story relatable to anyone. We all had relationships go bad, he says. Were just taking that notion to another level.

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