Foster family entertainment
Director Sean Anders drew on his own life for a big-screen tale of adoption Kate Wilson
Sean Anders, the director of big-budget flicks like Horrible Bosses 2 and the Daddy’s Home franchise, doesn’t typically get involved in the promotion of his movies. Staying behind the camera, the veteran prefers his films to speak for themselves, and leaves the promo to his stars. But for his latest offering, there’s a good reason why he’s stepped into the press spotlight.
Instant Family is Anders’s baby in every sense of the word. Telling the story of a couple who chose not to have children early on in their marriage, only to later realize that their lives might be missing something, the movie traverses the welltrodden narrative of raising kids— but from a much more realistic perspective than most.
“I adopted three kids,” he tells the Straight, on the line from a press stop in Toronto. “My wife and I—our story started exactly like the characters
in the movie. We were trying to decide whether or not to have kids, and I was feeling on the old side. I said, ‘Why don’t we get a five-year-old, and it will look like we got started five years ago.’ I was totally joking, but my wife ran with it. The story that we’re telling in this film is a fictional story, but it’s inspired by a lot of my own experiences, and also the experiences of a lot of other families that I met along the way.”
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Anyone who’s seen the new film Bohemian Rhapsody was exposed to snippets of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s Parsi background.
The Parsis are Zoroastrians who fled Iran in the seventh century, with many settling in what are now the western Indian states of Gujurat and Maharashtra.
Mercury’s parents were typical Bombay Parsis. They attended the fire temple and lived by the Parsi religious dictum of “good words, good thoughts, and good deeds”.
That phrase popped up twice when Mercury was talking to his father, Bomi, in Bohemian Rhapsody.
In addition, Bombay Parsis were known for their passion for opera, and the boys often share close bonds with their mothers.
Both of these were reflected in Mercury’s music, perhaps most poignantly in his final recording, “Mother Love”, and in “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
His dad was a civil servant of the British Raj and was transferred to the island of Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania), where Mercury was born in 1946. Zanzibar had a massive Muslim presence, particularly when Mercury was young, and the word Bismillah is Arabic for “in the name of God”. There’s a funny scene in the film where a record executive, played by Mike Myers, doesn’t know what the word means when he hears
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Written in 2016 between the first Daddy’s Home movie and its sequel, Instant Family gave Anders the space to explore family bonds, and interrogate the experiences of foster care and the adoption process. Taking audiences through the honeymoon period of fostering to the difficulties of negotiating relationships with a child’s biological parents, the film doesn’t shy away from tackling the tough truths of how hard it is to give a kid a second chance. But it also doesn’t shrink from highlighting the humour of everyday family situations, from toddlers’ temper tantrums in Toys “R” Us to the lax parenting of overenthusiastic grandparents.
“It was the number one goal of the movie, and the number one concern, to make a legitimately laughout loud funny film, but we also wanted to pay the proper respect to this very serious topic,” Anders says. “Throughout the writing process, and all the way through to the last tweaks of the edit, that was the thing that we were focused on the most. When we would put it in front of audiences, we would make sure that the comedy wasn’t taking away from the emotion, and at the same time that we were always able to come back to a laugh. Whenever you can make people laugh through their tears, that’s the best laugh.”
The magic of the film is in its attention to detail. Taking Anders’s situation as a starting point, the movie embellishes his story by it in “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Mercury spent his youth in India at a boarding school outside of Bombay, playing in a teenage band called the Hectics. He also attended another school in Bombay (now Mumbai). While living in India, he started calling himself Freddie, which is a common Parsi name.
Rock stars come and go, but to his many fans, there will only be one Freddie Mercury. His enduring popularity is reflected in the movie’s appeal. In its second weekend, Bohemian Rhapsody was in second place behind The Grinch.
Over two weeks, the Mercury biopic has about $100 million in domestic box-office receipts.
placing strong-willed teen Lizzy (Transformers: The Last Knight ’s Isabela Moner) in the home of new parents Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne, Insidious), as well as her two younger siblings. To ensure that every line would be something that might make sense to foster kids around the States, the writing team brought a host of parents and children familiar with the system to vet the script, and Anders decided that the extras in many of the scenes would be members of real adoptive families. That authenticity helped both to cement the quality of the movie, and to realize the director’s hopes for the film.
“So many movies have been made on this topic that focus on the trauma and the tragedy of it all,” Anders says. “Even though those movies make people think, and make them empathetic, it also makes people scared of who these kids are. And I was one of them. I just wanted to make a movie that would let people know that these kids are just kids, who need love and parents, and who have a lot to give as well. I just think that if people go on this journey, and they see a more complete story that gets into the laughter and the joy of it all, then they’ll go home with a more positive outlook. They’ll know that if they or if someone in their family wants to go down the adoption or foster-care route, that they will hopefully be more supportive. That will lead to more real kids having real families.”