OLIVIA WILDE

DAN FO­GEL­MAN’S MOVIE ‘LIFE IT­SELF’ IS LIKE HIS HIT NBC SE­RIES ‘THIS IS US’ — A GLOSSY, CROSS-GEN­ER­A­TIONAL TALE OF DES­TINY AND CHANCE EN­COUN­TERS, SAYS JAKE COYLE

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - CONTENTS FOCUS - Olivia Wilde in a scene from ‘Life It­self.’

As in his TV se­ries “This Is Us,” ju­bi­lant and cat­a­strophic events tend to clus­ter for Dan Fo­gel­man. Days be­fore his lat­est and most am­bi­tious movie, “Life It­self,” opens in the­atres, and the third sea­son of his hit NBC show pre­mieres, Fo­gel­man’s house was robbed. The thieves re­turned later the same evening, smash­ing through a glass plate door. Fo­gel­man says he had to chase them away.

“There’s been a lot of life — re­ally in­tense life — hap­pen­ing in the last 24 hours,” Fo­gel­man said in a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view. “There’s a movie in there some­where, I’m sure.”

In Fo­gel­man’s world, on screen and off, ev­ery dra­matic low has its sil­ver lin­ings. In “Life It­self,” which Ama­zon Stu­dios will re­lease this week, the story spi­rals out, across gen­er­a­tions, from a fa­tal ac­ci­dent on a New York street. Like the tear-in­duc­ing “This Is Us,” it’s a glossy, cross-gen­er­a­tional tale of des­tiny and chance en­coun­ters with an A-list cast. Its starry en­sem­ble in­cludes Os­car Isaac, Olivia Wilde, An­to­nio Ban­deras and Mandy Patinkin.

“Life It­self” is Fo­gel­man’s sec­ond fea­ture as writer-direc­tor fol­low­ing 2015’s “Danny Collins.” (He also penned 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love” and co-wrote Dis­ney’s “Tan­gled.”) The film will test whether the 39-year-old writer can find the same re­sponse on the big screen as he has on the highly rated “This Is Us.” (The sea­son two pre­miere drew more than 10 mil­lion view­ers; sea­son three be­gins this week.) Crit­ics haven’t been kind to the boldly ti­tled “Life It­self.” (The New York Times called it “ut­ter balder­dash.”) But, then again, ev­ery down has its up for Fo­gel­man.

AP: WHAT FOR YOU IS THE AP­PEAL OF LOOK­ING AT LOVE THROUGH THE PRISM OF FAM­ILY AND MUL­TI­PLE GEN­ER­A­TIONS?

Fo­gel­man: Whether it’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love” or “This Is Us” or this film, you have mul­ti­ple sto­ries and char­ac­ters kind of ping-pong off of each other. It’s def­i­nitely some­thing I en­joy do­ing. But I’ve never re­ally thought of it that way. I was never re­ally in­ter­ested in set­ting out to write a mob movie, even though I love mob movies, or a hor­ror movie, even though I love hor­ror movies. For me, the kind of stuff that turns me on is re­ally about peo­ple and of­ten about fam­i­lies.

Some of the com­fort view­ers seem to get from “This Is Us” is that it sug­gests ev­ery­one’s life is part of a big­ger pic­ture.

Fo­gel­man: My mother passed away ten years ago and it was the kind of body blow of my life, the kind that I won­dered if I could get up from. It was very com­pli­cated, she died very un­ex­pect­edly and very sud­denly. And a year af­ter that, al­most to the day, I met the woman who would be­come my wife. My life is now con­stantly filled with these beau­ti­ful, im­por­tant mo­ments that a key fig­ure in my life is no longer here to share. That feels gi­ant in my ba­si­cally nor­mal life. But when you ex­pand that and think about the peo­ple that came to­gether to bring my mother into life and to lead to me, and the peo­ple that came to­gether to bring my wife into the world to lead to her, I think the most or­di­nary lives be­come re­ally big and cinematic.

That’s not the most com­mon view in wide-re­lease movies these days.

Fo­gel­man: To me a scene like in “Kramer vs. Kramer” where the lit­tle boy is test­ing Dustin Hoff­man about eat­ing the ice cream holds the same type of in­ten­sity and sit-in-the-movi­ethe­atre-eat­ing-pop­corn ap­peal as the big­gest ac­tion se­quence in an ac­tion movie.

‘THIS IS US’ IS THE KIND OF NET­WORK HIT THAT FEW BE­LIEVED WAS EVEN POS­SI­BLE ANY­MORE. DO YOU FEEL PRES­SURE TO KEEP THE RAT­INGS UP?

Fo­gel­man: I don’t feel pres­sure any­more. Ev­ery­one that works on the show — be­cause it goes far be­yond me, ob­vi­ously — is just re­ally good at their jobs. The ac­tors are very good at act­ing. The writ­ers are very good at writ­ing. It’s clear that ev­ery­body is still turned on to it three sea­sons in. It’s a once-in-a-life­time thing that doesn’t hap­pen a lot. It cer­tainly hardly hap­pens in tele­vi­sion and cer­tainly hardly ever hap­pens in net­work tele­vi­sion any­more. Ev­ery­one’s aware of it.

HAVE YOU EVER RE­SEARCHED YOUR OWN GE­NEAL­OGY?

Fo­gel­man: Strangely, I’ve never been that in­ter­ested in know­ing my fam­ily his­tory. My fa­ther is fas­ci­nated by it con­stantly. All he ever wants to do is take a fam­ily trip to Siberia or Rus­sia or wher­ever my great an­ces­tors were from, and the poor guy can’t get any trac­tion from any­one in my fam­ily to go do it.

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