“I think audiences want to see movies that are relevant, authentic, and cinematic – but most of all, fun,” says writer-director Will Gluck of the hilarious comedy Anyone But You.
For director Will Gluck, the film was a chance to make a romantic comedy that was funny as any in recent memory. In the screenplay he co-wrote with Ilana Wolpert, Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glenn Powell) look like the perfect couple – but after a one night stand years ago, the fallout was epic, and they’ve hated each other ever since. No – hated doesn’t cover it. They are nemeses. And they let each other know it every chance they get… sometimes going to extreme lengths to even the scorecards.
But fate has made them both guests at the same destination wedding, and if they don’t get their act together, they’re going to ruin it for everybody. Bea’s solution: pretend they’ve both been captured by the romantic setting and have gotten together as a couple.
“As much as Bea hates Ben, and vice versa, it’s important to Bea not to wreck her sister’s wedding. So, she hatches her plan: these two people who actually hate each other will pretend to like each other, but as she and Ben are drawn together, they start to actually love each other, but can’t admit it to themselves.” says Sweeney, who became one of the most sought-after talents of her generation, captivating global audiences with her many buzzworthy, critically acclaimed, and iconic roles in HBO’s Euphoria and The White Lotus and whose production company Fifty-Fifty Film’s inception came from the desire to reclaim professional autonomy (partnering with Jonathan Davino in 2019).
Of course, it’s not long before they get in over their heads. “Sometimes, I wonder if Will was just rubbing his hands together, thinking about all of the messed-up situations and crazy stuff he could make Glen and me do,” Sweeney continues. “On the other hand, it was all incredibly funny. So we did it. You’re welcome, Will.”
At the same time, Sweeney says, the script offered a chance to play real characters who are coming to love fighting it every step of the way. “You see it all the time – people are so afraid of being vulnerable, of opening themselves up to another person, that they sabotage the best relationships they’ve ever had,” says Sweeney. “Bea and Ben have a connection that is so real, deep, and immediate that they are going to do everything they can to deny it – until they can’t anymore.”
From Page To Screen
The movie began to take shape when Sweeney signed on not only to star, but executive produce the film. As the first filmmaker on the project, she convinced Gluck to come on board to give Anyone But You his distinctive comedic voice. “He has directed such iconic romcoms that I grew up watching – Easy A, Friends with Benefits – and I was really, really excited to work on this project with him,” says Sweeney. “He is so quirky in his own way. I love it – Glen and I would call him ‘Dad.’ I don’t know how he was able to handle the chaos that the cast was – we kind of became like a camp, running amok. It was so much fun.”
And Gluck says that Sweeney not only was able to land him as director, but Powell as her romantic co-star. (Nice work if you can get it.) “Sydney picked Glen at the very beginning of the process,” says Gluck. “They were a very appealing couple to me. In a romantic comedy, the whole movie rests on that chemistry, so it was important that we all felt that.”
When Powell came on board, the Top Gun: Maverick star became another full-fledged creative voice on the movie, according to Gluck. “Sydney and Glen have truly been partners on this movie with me,” says the director. “We did everything together, from the scripting right through the postproduction process, trying to get the film as brilliant as we could get it.”
Gluck loaded the film with the kind of big, cinematic moments that play especially well on the big screen of the movie theater. “Coming towards the Sydney Opera House, seeing Sydney there in a pink dress, was amazing,” recalls Powell. “The wind was blowing, I’m coming in a tuxedo, jumping out, knowing I’m gonna profess my love to her. It was by far the most romantic moment I’ve ever been a part of.”
For Gluck, giving Sweeney and Powell a big, romantic vista to play against was key,. And he knew just the place. Since 2017, Gluck had made two films in Sydney, Australia – Peter Rabbit and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. “I kind of fell in love with Australia, as did my family. So I wanted Anyone But You to be my love letter to Sydney – one of the most beautiful, welcoming, glorious places in the world.”
Of course, putting two beautiful, talented people together in an exotic setting is only half the battle. They also have to have incendiary screen chemistry – enough to make audiences truly believe that a romance between them is possible.
“I am really excited for the world to see Sydney in this movie,” says Powell. “She’s obviously proven herself to be a powerhouse dramatic actress, but being the female lead in a romantic comedy is a not an easy task. You are the audience surrogate so the world has to really root for you to fall in love. There is something vulnerable and honest about Sydney that makes this movie come to life. Without that current of humanity running through this genre, it would fall flat. But this movie sings (literally and figuratively) because Sydney can stand in front of a camera and offer up her heart in a way that feels heroic.”
“Glen is handsome, charming, funny, talented, and thoughtful. He’s also an incredibly loyal friend and a true pro,” says Sweeney. “That’s everything you want in a real boyfriend, and everything you could possibly ask for from an acting partner playing your fake boyfriend.”
It doesn’t hurt that Powell is easy on the eyes, but he says that kind of beauty doesn’t come easy. “I didn’t realize how naked I would be,” he admits. “I knew it was a romcom, which meant I should stay away from the beer for a bit. But I didn’t expect to be this naked, this often. I kept weights and resistance bands in my trailer that I would break out on certain days, just to keep everything looking good.”
With Gluck, Sweeney, and Powell on board, Gluck approached the teams and agencies that had supported the two Peter Rabbit films to see if they would be interested in giving their largest city an international spotlight. “We had an incredible time making those films,” says Gluck, “so when we decided to set Anyone But You in Sydney, the first call was to the wonderful people at the agencies who I’d already got to know, asking if they would want to support us. When I explained that I wanted to shoot Sydney for Sydney, they bent over backwards to help us.
For Gluck, making the movie in Sydney was the chance to create a film with the size, scope, and scale of a destination wedding. Anyone But You received the Producer Offset, as well as the Commonwealth Location Incentive from The Australian Government and funding from the NSW Government’s Made in NSW fund.
But all of the great locations in and around Sydney can only work if there is an experienced and knowledgeable film crew to help put those locations on film. “The real key was that we also had a great local crew,” says Gluck. “Create NSW helped us find vendors, and we decided to do all our visual effects in New South Wales because some of the greatest VFX artists happen to be working in Sydney.”
Shooting Sydney for Sydney
One of Gluck’s primary goals – in addition to making a very funny movie – was to showcase Sydney, Australia, in all its romantic beauty. After shooting two movies in Australia, it’s become one of his favorite places on Earth. “I specifically wrote this movie for Sydney because I wanted to spend four months in Sydney with my family and my friends,” admits Gluck. “It was selfish, but I was confident the cast would fall just as much in love with the place as I had. And they did.”
The film shot all over Sydney, both at iconic locations including the Sydney Opera House, on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and at Bondi Beach, as well as at Palm Beach, the Rocks and the Sydney Cricket Ground. Perhaps most spectacularly, the team filmed for seven nights on a superyacht as it sailed all over Sydney Harbour.
“The beautiful part is that we are able to showcase the country, as well as work with an amazing Australian crew,” says Glen Powell. “The film itself reflects how beautiful this country is. There’s a romantic feeling in Australia, and this movie bubbles with that same energy.”
“All these things that I wrote, I never actually thought that they would let us do,” Gluck admits. “Like landing a helicopter at the Sydney Opera House and had Glen jump out multiple times, during daytime and at night, or putting Sydney and Glen on a buoy in the middle of Sydney Harbour for five nights straight.”
Even the Australian actors were blown away by the scenery. “I know this joint inside out, but looking back at Circular Quay, under the Bridge, at Luna Park, Barangaroo, at all the lights, it’s like you’re in a fantasy land,” says Bryan Brown.
“One morning, we wrapped on the boat at 5:00am and we were put onto a little rubber boat,” recalls Griffiths. “I’m on a tender going so fast – boomity, boomity, boom! – past the Sydney Opera House, under the Bridge, as dawn is breaking. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I was reminded that Sydney really is one of the most beautiful cities on Earth.”
Australian director of photography Danny Ruhlmann was tasked with capturing the myriad settings called for by the screenplay. With Gluck, Ruhlmann determined to seek a more naturalistic feeling than the slightly artificial sheen that many romcoms have.
“Will wanted it to feel real,” says the DP. At times, he says, that required a little luck. “For our exteriors, the weather made our natural lighting control touch and go at times, but I think there was good karma around this project. Even on a cloudy day, at the crucial points of scenes, the sun would pop out and we would have lovely, beautiful light for those key moments.”
But the main way that Ruhlmann would give Anyone But You that sense of reality was by shooting Sydney for real. “We shot on real locations and did most lighting in-camera, without major special effects. We put our actors – and our cameras – in situations where actors wouldn’t normally be, especially in a romcom. We had cameras with our actors inside helicopters, and in and under the water.”
In front of the camera, Gluck’s method of making the film alive and real – and its funniest – was by encouraging his actors to improvise. While this causes a natural amount of creative push and pull, Ruhlmann and Gluck both say that the results spoke for themselves.
“Will’s interest in working spontaneously was at times a challenge, but I loved the energy and the surprises that came from it,” says Ruhlmann. “You plan as much as you can, but if you can then let go of that and use that planning as a safety net to take it to another level, that’s exciting. Will has the confidence as a director that he’s willing to listen to people’s ideas and change things on the run for the betterment of the film, whether it’s from the actors or from me or the first AD. If someone has an idea, Will’s very open to looking at it and going with it if it’s right.”
Born in New York City, WILL GLUCK (Director / Screenplay / Producer) is a writer, director, and producer known for Easy A (2010), Friends with Benefits (2011), Annie (2014), Peter Rabbit (2018), Peter Rabbit 2 (2021) and a number of TV shows, including “ENCORE!,” “Chicago Party Aunt,” “Sneakerheads,” “Woke,” “The Michael J. Fox Show,” and more. Gluck is also set to direct two features he co-wrote: the action-comedy End of the World for Apple and the family comedy Just Dance, based on the best-selling Ubisoft videogame franchise. His production company, Olive Bridge Entertainment, includes multiple series in development at Netflix, as well as upcoming features at Fox Searchlight and Disney.
Screenwriter ILLANA WOLPERT (Screenplay / Story) was most recently executive story editor on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” on Disney+. Previously, she developed her original series “Turn of the Century Teenage Bitch” with Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne, Paulilu (Paul Downs and Lucia Aniello), and 3 Arts. She also developed her original pilot “I’m in Love with the Dancer from My Bat Mitzvah” for the CW with Rachel Bloom. Wolpert is currently writing a feature screenplay with Rachel Bloom in which Bloom is set to star, as well as developing two other romcom features for RK Films. Wolpert grew up in South Florida and graduated from Duke University with a degree in English and Theater.
Wolpert makes her feature screenwriting debut with Anyone but You, a modern-day romantic comedy inspired by Much Ado About Nothing. She uprooted her own trajectory during her senior year of college, when she opted to enroll in a screenwriting class. It was love at first sight. “Everything clicked.”