Date Night

Date Night

The ritual 'date night' dinner is something all too familiar to most married couples, even directors of blockbuster movies.

"I was in the process of making the second Night at the Museum film," recalls filmmaker Shawn Levy, "and, as is kind of our ritual, once a week, my wife and I go out to dinner."

At one such dinner, the Levys found themselves sitting at the restaurant they frequented, ordering the same food, talking about the kids, what’s coming up that weekend, who’s going to buy the gift for which birthday party, etc., etc. 

"In the middle of all that, I said to my wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do a movie about a date night, where you just did one thing differently? 

"And, from there, you have an unraveling of everything, to the point of it threatening your life and your marriage, with all kinds of crazy stuff going on.  But, in the midst of all that crazy stuff, you end up recapturing the vitality that date night was invented in the first place to preserve.’"

The next morning, Levy came in to his production company office and told his staff, "Okay, we’re going to do a movie called Date Night, and here’s what it’s about, and let’s get a writer.  Let’s go."

Levy’s search for a writer didn’t take very long.  "I had written a small, quirky film, called ‘(Saint) Peter,’ which Shawn had read and fell in love with, recalls screenwriter Josh Klausner.  "Shawn was determined to find something for us to work on together. He very graciously took a big chance and had me fly out, and we started brainstorming."

Levy and Klausner met at Levy’s bungalow on the Fox lot, where they quickly broke the story. "We are both in the same stage of life," Klausner says. 

"We both have children and go out on date nights, knowing what they’re supposed to be, but realizing they never end up being that anymore because there are so many other things that get in the way.  So we started talking about those experiences."

"We talked about our marriages," Levy adds. "And we found that there are certain commonalities in trying to sustain a vibrant, romantic relationship," and not simply becoming roommates. "It’s the question of in the midst of grownup life, how do you keep couple-hood fresh?"

Date Night was originally conceived as more of a suburban story centered around a parent-teacher conference night, but quickly evolved into, as Klausner calls it, "the perfect ‘North by Northwest’ setup" of mistaken identity.

"Shawn and I really wanted what spurs on the evening to be something that we all might do," Klausner continues.

"Phil and Claire simply can’t get a seat at a restaurant, and, since nobody’s answering the call for a reservation, they just decide, ‘What’s the harm in taking it?’  And it leads them down the rabbit hole.  From there, they end up on the worst night of their lives, which ends up being the best night for their relationship."

Levy describes the film as being "in the spirit of action comedies I remember fondly, like ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ or ‘48 Hrs.’ Date Night has a real hybrid tone, because it’s first and foremost a comedy. 

"It also has a hefty dose of action, as well as a lot of heart, because it’s about the things that people deal with in relationships."

For Levy, Date Night is a change from the family-friendly hits he’s helmed, like 'Cheaper by the Dozen, 'Pink Panther' and 'Night at the Museum.'

"Date Night is more of an adult-skewing comedy," Levy points out. "In a way, it’s the other side of the movies I’ve done, which have been focused on the child-parent relationships. Date Night is focused on the marriage side, what happens after the children go to sleep."

Levy was keen to keep the emotional side of the story intact through the mayhem experienced by the characters. "If you’re making a movie about relationships and being a married couple, it must be more than just funny, because life doesn’t work that way," the director explains. "This movie has some surprising moments of poignancy."

"A lot of comedies these days feel like a compendium of gags tied together to follow a narrative story," notes Klausner.

"Date Night, at its heart, is about marriage and being in love with somebody, but at the same time, life gets in the way. It’s honest, which is something Steve and Tina wanted, too. I’m proud that this movie has preserved that soul."

Date Night is released 21st April.