Blending dancing, violence and romance into one-of-a-kind hybrid entertainment, Mr. Right aims to seduce audiences with its twisted take on the classic boy-meets-girl formula.
Several years before writer Max Landis’ mastery of offbeat storytelling became evident in American Ultra, Victor Frankenstein and the $122 million-grossing superhero hit Chronicle, he dreamed up an outrageous contribution to the rom-com canon in Mr. Right.
In the wacky and wild Mr.Right, Martha (Anna Kendrick) discovers that her new beau, Francis (Sam Rockwell), is a professional assassin… with a cause. He kills the people ordering the hits. As the bodies pile up, Martha must decide whether to flee or join her man in the mayhem.
When the dancing hitman high concept proved too challenging for mainstream Hollywood tastemakers, Circle of Confusion producers Rick Jacobs and Stephen Emery, who also manage Landis, decided to produce the script themselves.
“For all its fun and dynamics, Max’s story didn’t immediately catch the eyes of the studios, so that became an opportunity where Stephen and I decided to put the movie together organically,” Jacobs says.
“The great thing about Mr. Right is, it’s got a little bit of everything — action, romance, comedy. The story doesn’t fit in one box, which can make it hard for some people, but for us it seemed like a really fun ride to jump on.”
In search of a director, Jacobs and Emery reached out to Spanish filmmaker Paco Cabeza on the strength of his erotic action thriller Neon Flesh. Cabeza sensed a kindred spirit in Landis and his screenplay.
“I felt a real emotional connection to the script and laughed all the way through,” says Cabezas. “As a writer myself, I realized Mr. Right was the kind of movie I wanted to make in the United States. When I met Max Landis, I realized we’re very much alike — we’re both a little crazy.”
Cabezas, who made his English language debut directing Nic Cage in action drama Rage, found Mr. Right’s hyperkinetic sensibility a refreshing change of pace from conventional genre projects he came across when he moved to Los Angeles.
“I looked at something like 300 scripts and Mr. Right was the only one I read where I decided ‘I’ve got to make this no matter what.’ It was a shock to find something so close to my heart. even though it’s about a guy killing people! I’ve always been attracted to mixing genres, in this case the idea was to take a romantic comedy and turn it around, mix it with action and black humor. And what I love most about the story is that normally, Hollywood movies are black and white. They’re very moralistic and simplistic. But in this case, Martha becomes more attracted to Francis because he’s a killer.”
After Cabezas began casting the leads, Amasia Entertainment principals Bradley Gallo and Michael A. Helfant came on board to finance the project. “We’d been tracking Paco, so he seemed perfect for the material,” says Gallo. “But the movie really came to life in our mind when we were able to picture Sam and Anna as Francis and Martha.”
Sam Rockwell is that rare Hollywood star who’s equally adept in somber dramas like the most recent Broadway revival Fool For Love and BAFTA award-winning Moon as he is playing quirky characters in such black-humored action fare Seven Psychopaths and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
When Cabezas met with the actor in late 2012, Rockwell immediately responded to Mr. Right ‘s subversive sense of humor. “I said ‘yes’ right away because Max wrote a really fun script that reminded me of movies like Grosse Point Blank in the way it mixed action and romantic comedy,” he says.
“I saw Mr. Right as being kind of like Mr. and Mrs. Smith-meets-Silver Lining Playbook where you have two dysfunctional bi-polar type people who find each other. They’re both hot messes, on edge and scary. Francis and Martha might freak other people out, but they don’t freak each other out.”
Landis envisioned Rockwell in the title role when he wrote Mr. Right, according to Jacobs. “Sam’s the only actor we approached for the part. You need someone who can dance and has a sense of romance, but who can also turn that off on a dime and be a threat. It’s not easy to find somebody who can pull that off.”
Rockwell, who also cites Romancing the Stone, True Romance and James Coburn’s tongue-in-cheek ’60s-era spy movie Our Man Flint as reference points, approached Mr. Right as an opportunity to ground the story’s outlandish premise in universally relatable human behavior. “The circumstances provided the comedy and the lines in the script were funny, so for me, it was just about making it real and giving the character high emotional stakes,” He explains. “If you can do that, everything else falls into place.”
Like her co-star Rockwell, Anna Kendrick combines dramatic chops — showcased in her Oscar-nominated Up in the Air performance — with the natural wit displayed in Pitch Perfect and its blockbuster sequel. When she read the Mr. Right script, Kendrick savored the chance to go a little wild.
“The most exciting thing for me was the way Max wrote Martha as someone who’s always been a little psychotic,” Kendrick says.
“He mentioned to me that some script notes suggested he make her this mild mannered girl until she encounters Mr. Right. But I thought it was funny and wise to make Martha bat shit crazy from the get go.”
Blending dancing, violence and romance into one-of-a-kind hybrid entertainment, Mr. Right aims to seduce audiences with its twisted take on the classic boy-meets-girl formula. “I don’t have a fucking clue how to categorize this movie, and that’s what I love about Mr. Right,” says Cabezas.
“It’s funny, it’s a thriller, it has action and a lot of heart. In that sense, it’s an explosive cocktail. I love movies that are great roller coasters of emotion, where you never know what to expect. I hope people who see Mr. Right have a laugh and have a good time and say ‘Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.'”
As producer Jacobs sees it, Mr. Right ultimately succeeds on the strength of its leads. “When people see Francis and Anna fall in love with each other, that’s going to be the home run of the movie,” he says. “In order to stand out in this day and age, you can’t stick to regular conventions. Francis and Martha are so fun and the dialogue is so unique, you’re happy to spend two hours with these people.”