Is 'She's Funny That Way' Based On A True Story? This Tangled Web Was Inspired By Classic Screwball Comedies
In She's Funny That Way, Owen Wilson stars as theater director Arnold Albertson in the midst of casting his next production, which just happens to star his wife, Delta Simmons (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex, Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans). Confused? It's only the beginning. In his downtime, Arnold enjoys the occasional one night stand with prostitutes, after which he offers them $30,000 to abandon the profession. Imagine his surprise when one such call girl, Isabella Patterson (Imogen Poots), shows up to his theater audition, earning the romantic affections of the playwright (Will Forte), who happens to be her therapist's (Jennifer Aniston) boyfriend. If you're wondering if the tangled web that is She's Funny That Way is based on a true story, you may live in a comedy yourself, because the film is most certainly not based on true events.
She's Funny That Way, a screwball comedy through and through, was written by then-married couple Peter Bogdanovich and Louise Stratten in the late '90s — Bogdanovich directed the film, while Stratten produced. The two were in the midst of breaking up when they penned the script, inspired by classic comedies by the likes of Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges.
"Peter and I were sort of towards the end of our marriage, and we wrote the script, and it was... a bittersweet time," Stratten said during an appearance on "The Road to Cinema" podcast.
The wacky tone of the film helped Stratten and Bogdanovich throughout their divorce, which was granted in 2001. Originally, Stratten had intended to play the part of the young prostitute-turned ingenue, and the leads were meant for John Ritter and Cybil Shepherd, but the project was put on hold after Ritter's sudden death in 2003.
"The script we originally wrote back in 1998 around a difficult time in our lives but it sort of kept us laughing. It was originally written for John Ritter and Cybil Shepherd and then John died and we put it on the backburner because we couldn't think who to cast in that part. Then I got to know Owen Wilson quite well and I thought he could [play] the part, because he had to be likable and attractive and not threatening sexually, and Owen fit the bill. ...And then we got the rest of the cast after that," Bogdanovich told Indiewire in 2013.
Once the cast was complete, Bogdanovich revealed that a few changes were made to the script to better suit the actors, most notably Wilson, who wasn't as comfortable with the physical comedy originally envisioned for the role.
"It became less screwball. Just generally I think we all felt that maybe it would be better if it became more of a romantic comedy," Bogdanovich told Indiewire.
Whatever comedy sub-genre used to describe the film, She's Funny That Way is nothing if not authentic to Bogdanovich's voice as a writer and director. As Hahn told Indiewire, "You know, I'm so used to improvising or trying to crack open a joke, to find what's inside, but Peter is so specific that we all just felt we were channeling his voice. I mean who gets to say things like 'pish tosh' and wear those clothes? It was so fantastic."
Images: Lionsgate Premiere; Giphy