Director and screenwriter Roger Kumble’s Beautiful Disaster is based on the best-selling book by Jamie McGuire and offers a contemporary and surprising spin on an age-old question: Can men and women be friends without letting love get in the way?
When adapting Jamie McGuire’s novel, writer/director Roger Kumble had a clear vision – but, for him, that includes allowing space for the actors and creative team to contribute their own ideas.
“I’m a writer first and foremost and I also do theater, so I approach (filmmaking) in a workshop situation,” he says. “The rehearsal process is not necessarily blocking, it’s listening to the words and making the actors feel like they own it, so it’s constantly changing.”
Before the cast and crew flew to Bulgaria to shoot the film, Kumble and the actors got to know each other in Los Angeles. “You just want to build that trust, and that friendship just makes it a lot easier to make the movie,” he says.
As soon as Dylan Sprouse read Kumble’s screenplay, he knew he wanted to play Travis. “Roger’s good at writing scenes that are poppy and quick and fun, and they fly off the page,” Sprouse says. “That’s what initially drew me to this script.
Adds Virginia Gardner, who plays Abby: “It was a hilarious script, and it was two really well-fleshed-out characters. Roger and I immediately clicked and had an awesome workshop of the character in our first meeting. The next thing I knew, I was in Bulgaria filming!”
Abby Abernathy, a college freshman, is eager to focus on her studies and start a new social life. But her plans are quickly derailed when she meets Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox, a bad-boy brawler and campus playboy. Travis is exactly what Abby needs – and wants – to avoid. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charm, Travis offers her a simple bet that makes them roommates for a month. Little do they know that they may have met their match. The more Abby gets to know Travis, she realizes he lives by a code of honor and isn’t quite the bad boy he appears to be. The more Travis gets to know Abby, he realizes she’s even smarter and more complicated than he thought. The pair struggles to resist their attraction to each other – and ultimately, their friendship heads toward something that will expose Abby’s past and force them to reconcile their true feelings.
Once rehearsals began, the actors started to become comfortable with their character’s voices – and were encouraged to add their own.
“We’ll read it, and he’ll go, ‘Great, now let’s make it better!’” Barer says. “He really hears out what we have to say, and more often than not he’ll take our suggestions and run with it.”
“Roger’s a wild card; I love him to death,” says Sprouse, who previously worked with Kumble on After We Collided. “Not only is he patient, he’s good with actors, he’s good with the crew, he knows what he wants but he’s also collaborative to the point of allowing you room as an actor to provide something of life for the character that flows through you. And that’s rare.”
The fun, constantly evolving atmosphere on set added to the film’s comedic tone as well. “He facilitated such an open environment, and with comedy, I think you need to be able to feel free to try things,” Gardner says. Adds Barer: “Roger will throw some crazy direction at us, and we’ll just look at each other and be like, ‘OK!’”
Beautiful Disaster delivers an exciting mix of genres and surprises, from action-packed fight scenes to sweet romantic moments to raunchy comedy. “There’s a lot of humor, there’s fighting, there’s a love story, there’s cute rom-com stuff, there’s some drama, there’s fighting again, there’s sexy movie times – and there’s real moments of connection with friends and relationships,” Barer says.
Roger Kumble – Director, Writer and Producer
Roger Kumble began his career as a playwright in 1993 with the Hollywood satire Pay or Play, which garnered him the LA Weekly Award for Best Comic Writing. His second play, 1997’s d girl, starring David Schwimmer, earned him four Drama-Logue Awards. In 2003, Kumble completed his Hollywood trilogy with the critically acclaimed Turnaround, again
starring David Schwimmer, which sold out its entire run in Los Angeles. His 2011 play, Girls Talk, was a satire of L.A. private schools and was mentioned by the L.A. Times as one of the best plays of that year. Kumble made his feature film directorial debut with 1999’s Sony Pictures box-office hit Cruel Intentions, his adaptation of Choderlos De Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He followed with the Sony Pictures comedy The Sweetest Thing, Just Friends, College Road Trip, Furry Vengeance, Falling In Love and After We Collided.