Trainwreck: Amy Schumer–Next Big Thing

trainwreck_posterJudd Apatow has chronicled the messy human experience with the eye and ear of a comedic cultural anthropologist in such varied hits as Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and those he’s produced, like Superbad and Bridesmaids, are all unified by their honest, unflinching, comic look at how complicated it is to grow up in the modern world.

Apatow has also helped break distinctive new comedy voices into the mainstream, from Seth Rogen to Lena Dunham, among many others.  Now, in his fifth feature film as a director, Apatow again brings a portrait of an unforgettable character, and a portrayal by a new comedy star, in a film written by and starring Amy Schumer (TV’s Inside Amy Schumer) as a woman who lives her life without apologies.

Schumer has been achieving cultural notoriety of her own. From her honest turns at the mic at awards shows and comedy clubs to the clips of her series that go viral the moment they’re posted online—such instant classics as “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup,”“12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” and “LastF**kable Day”—the unapologetic comic channels

the relatable frustrations of her professional and romantic experiences and skewers laughable societal hypocrisies. Blending confessional comedy, gender politics and uproarious observation, Schumer has audiences loving the relatable truths she delivers in such a deceptively effortless manner.

Alongside Apatow, Schumer now takes her undeniable talents to the big screen in her feature-starring debut. Together, they welcome us inside the mind and heart of a Trainwreck.

trainwreck_7_schumerSince she was a little girl, it’s been drilled into Amy’s (Schumer) head by her father (Colin Quinn of HBO’s Girls) that monogamy isn’t realistic. Now a magazine writer, Amy lives by that credo—enjoying what she feels is an uninhibited life free from stifling, boring romantic commitment—but in actuality, she’s kind of in a rut. When she finds herself starting to fall for the subject of the new article she’s writing, a charming and successful sports doctor named Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), Amy starts to wonder if other grown-ups, including this guy who really seems to like her, might be on to something.

The comedy, from a script written by Trainwreck co-producer Schumer, co-stars Brie Larson (21 Jump Street) as Kim, Amy’s younger sister, who just wishes she would settle down; WWE powerhouse John Cena (upcoming Sisters) as Steven, Amy’s well-meaning boyfriend, who is unaware of her wandering eye; Vanessa Bayer (TV’s Saturday Night Live) as Nikki, her best friend in partying and co-worker at S’Nuff magazine; MIKE BIRBIGLIA (The Fault in Our Stars) as Tom, Kim’s patient—and rather boring—husband; EZRA MILLER (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Donald, a particularly curious intern at S’Nuff; DAVE ATTELL (TV’s Louie) as Noam, the crack-wise homeless man outside Amy’s apartment; TILDA SWINTON (Michael Clayton) as Dianna, Amy and Nikki’s take-no-prisoners editor; and NBA superstar LEBRON JAMES as King James himself, Aaron’s best friend and unlikely source of romantic inspiration.

How the Movie Got Made?

trainwreck_6_schumer_cenaWhile driving to work and listening to The Howard Stern Show, Judd Apatow grew intrigued by a young stand-up comedian named Amy Schumer, whose Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central had debuted in 2013 and became a hit with audiences and critics.  On the radio show, the comic who is known for her ribald  routines and her program’s hilarious, caustic sketches— ones that frequently upend accepted social norms— discussed her serial relationships, sex life, family and her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis. Apatow grew more curious the longer that he listened and found her dark humor fascinating.

The filmmaker, whose movies have helped to make stars out of comedic talent from Steve Carell, Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill to Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, was moved by what he heard and found himself unable to leave his car until Schumer’s interview was over. “She was hilarious but was being very candid about relationships,” recalls Apatow. “I thought this was someone who would be great starring in a movie and telling her story. Amy’s very honest and vulnerable, and that’s my favorite type of comedy. It’s very human.”

After listening to her entire interview, Apatow reached out to Schumer and suggested that they meet. “I couldn’t sleep the night before,” Schumer shares.“I was too excited to meet Judd because Knocked Up changed my life.” The longtime fan of the director-producer’s work knew that the next day could mean everything to her burgeoning career.

trainwreck_5_schumer_haderThat meeting, and the subsequent ones, went very well for all involved. Barry Mendel, who has collaborated with Apatow on This Is 40, Funny People and Bridesmaids and has been nominated for Academy Awards for his work on Munich and The Sixth Sense, explains that he was as impressed as his fellow producer. “We met Amy, and she was just super-intelligent and fun, and seemed like the type of person Judd likes to work with,” he recounts. “If somebody is really good and makes him laugh, he’ll seek them out and meet them. He wants to hear what they have to say, and ask, ‘What do you want to write about?’”

Schumer’s initial idea for a script was a high-concept comedy, but Apatow worked with her to explore another direction, one that has given him so much success and many audience members catharses of their own. “One day, I said, ‘I think it would be better for you to write something more personal,’”Apatow states. “We started talking about her life, her relationships and what she thought was holding her back from having more successful ones. We realized that’s what the movie should be all about.”

The comedian’s decision to get more intimate with her writing changed everything, according to Mendel. He says: “When Amy sent in her first set of pages, Judd was working on five or six projects at the same time. He said: ‘There are more jokes that make me laugh on the first page of this than in all my other projects; her writing is so good.’ It was clear how great a writer she was. She was just on fire.”

trainwreck_4_schumerDespite a demanding schedule for her Primetime Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning television show, Schumer dove head first into penning the first draft of what would become Trainwreck. “We started meeting, and we wrote and rewrote,” Schumer recalls. “If I finished the show at 7, I would go home and write from 7 to 10 on the movie.”

As Schumer’s development collaboration with Apatow got more satisfying and deeply creative, he decided to helm Trainwreck. This would mark the first time in the director’s career that he would lens a motion picture he hadn’t authored. “I was having such a great time working with Amy, and I felt like we were in sync. It just occurred to me one day: ‘This would be a really fun movie to direct,’” Apatow says. “I haven’t done that before. I’ve directed TV that I didn’t write, but this just seemed right.”

Although she was quite comfortable in the world of stand-up—having indisputably slayed televised audiences and her fellow comics during her inaugural appearance at a roast on Comedy Central—the first-time screenwriter admits that having a director of Apatow’s caliber agree to lens her first film was humbling. “I didn’t know that Judd was going to direct it until late in the game,” Schumer says. “When I let it in that this was really happening, I cried like a one-year-old.”

Schumer gave herself permission to go very personal with her story and wove in elements from her own past struggles with familial and romantic relationships, as well as her internal battles growing up. Naturally, her film avatar would take every one of the real Amy’s own experiences to the extreme. Her script told the tale of a young professional in Manhattan with a great job, a nice apartment and a guy she’s seeing who is into her more than she is into him. Trainwreck’s Amy lives the life of a modern woman with a social life governed by two simple rules for a fun night out: Don’t give them your phone number and never, ever sleep over.

Her producers appreciated that their writer and star was delivering a character who could have been a stock one, but is instead so much more complex. “Everybody knows somebody who’s like Amy’s character in this movie,” provides Mendel. “They’re the wild one who is probably not going to settle down. They’re having a lot more fun than we’re having, and they’re unapologetic about it.”

Admittedly not a model of moral integrity, straight-talking Amy considers herself a sexual girl who does what she wants, even if it means ending up doing the walk of shame among early morning commuters with whom she takes the Staten Island ferry.

trainwreck_3_hader_james“I would say she thinks she’s happy, she thinks she’s fine and nothing’s wrong,” adds Schumer. “From the outside we know this is really self-destructive, and this girl’s not okay. But she doesn’t know that.” Apatow found this protagonist a fascinating one to explore in comedy. “She’s a person who maintains distance from people by having a lot of relationships and cheating on people and drinking and smoking pot,” the director states. “She’s avoiding intimacy by having a lot of contact with a lot of people.”

As does Schumer, Trainwreck’s Amy has a younger, married sister named Kim. “Amy and Kim are as close as sisters can be but have just wound up on different paths,” the comedian offers. “Kim is married, starting a family and lives in the suburbs. She is throwing herself into that life, and Amy’s sprinting in the other direction.”

Reel Vs. Real Life

trainwreck_2_schumer_haderSchumer’s real-world sister, KIM CARAMELE, meanwhile, is the actress’ frequent collaborator and serves as associate producer on Trainwreck. The story mirrors Schumer’s life in the character of Gordon, the sisters’ father, who is a former wild man and current live wire of his assisted-living facility. He supports Amy’s freewheeling ways and sees in her the freedom he once had and deeply misses.

In Trainwreck, Gordon has recently moved into a nursing home because he, as does Schumer’s real-life father, suffers from multiple sclerosis. When we first meet Kim, she is clearing out their father’s house of his possessions, including his prized New York Mets memorabilia. Amy is having none of it.

Where this story diverges from real life, however, is the manner in which the sisters relate to their dad, who has long been divorced from their mother. “Amy is the daughter who is doting over him and is concerned about him,” says Apatow. “Kim went the other way.  She got married very young and is still mad at her dad for cheating on their mom. So she keeps her distance and her boundaries with him.” When not caring for a father with a debilitating disease or carousing out on the town, Amy finds success at work writing puff pieces for the racy and snarky S’Nuff magazine. Still, she strives for more fulfilling assignments that would test her acumen as a serious journalist. Amy also hopes to please her demanding boss, who suggests that if the young writer plays her cards right, a better-paying job as executive editor might just be hers.

trainwreck_1_schumerStill, our anti-heroine is less than thrilled when she’s assigned to write a feature story about an up-and-coming sports doctor named Aaron Conners, who’s about to perform an innovative knee surgery on famed former New York Knicks star AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE. “She doesn’t like sports, and the magazine thinks it might be a good article if she writes some dirt about athletes and their lives,” Apatow explains. “Unfortunately for Amy, she falls in love with her subject.”

Schumer walks us through her character’s introduction to the surgeon: “Amy goes into this meeting picturing what she thinks a sportsmedicine doctor would be, and it’s not this guy. He’s this adorable man who’s unlike anyone that she’s ever met. He’s a sweetheart and he’s funny, and she hasn’t met someone who’s her intellectual equal yet.”

Unlike the barhopping, frequently pot-smoking Amy, Dr. Conners lives a rigidly structured life, one without much experience with the opposite sex. “Aaron is a brilliant surgeon who probably hasn’t had a real relationship, maybe ever,” Apatow says. “All we know is that six years ago he dated someone for five weeks.”

The juxtaposition of the two characters proved fertile ground for fantastic banter and an unexpected courtship. With the script in place, it was time to cast the players in the world of Schumer’s doppelgänger and allow some of the most brilliant fellow comics to join in on the fun.