BEHIND THE SCENES
Local news producer Becky Fuller (RACHEL McADAMS) has finally landed her dream job in the big city – taking the reigns of the national morning news show "Daybreak" in New York. However, from day one, the dream threatens to become a nightmare. She’s got all the spunk, grit and skills a girl could ever need for success but one huge obstacle stands between Becky and her rise to the top: the legendary Mike Pomeroy (HARRISON FORD), the cranky, cocky, completely uncooperative anchorman who is about to become her biggest curse… and her only hope for turning around the fate of the last-place morning news program in America.
When Becky arrives at "Daybreak," even the network has given up on the desperately downward-trending show, which has a reputation for eating up and spitting out even the most seasoned producers before the sun even rises. Even though she doesn’t have any national news experience, Becky is determined that she will be different. Setting in motion a hilarious battle of wits, she decides to try something new: merging the gruff, self-serious style of former evening newsman Pomeroy with the babbling banter and diva-esque confidence of long-time morning host Colleen Peck (DIANE KEATON.)
It has all the makings of a major disaster – as egos clash and Pomeroy purports to be above doing any weather, celebrity gossip or, heaven forbid, cooking – and soon Becky is struggling to save her reputation, her job, and the blossoming romance with a fellow producer (PATRICK WILSON) she thought she’d never find. Yet, the more Becky faces off with the cynical and the jaded, the more she begins to believe in herself, and in the potential for "Daybreak." The result is a smart, sexy comedy about a working girl’s first taste of triumph, as she discovers that no matter how impossible the people might seem to be around you… anything is possible if you put your heart into it.
Morning Glory is brought to life by a diverse team of filmmakers who share in common a love of vibrant, real-world comedy. Director Roger Michell has directed the run-away hit Notting Hill; writer Aline Brosh McKenna penned the acclaimed fashion-world comedy The Devil Wears Prada; and producer J.J.Abrams has created many of television’s most popular and original shows ("Felicity," "Alias," "Lost," "Fringe") and recently directed a blockbuster new take on the iconic Star Trek.
Says Abrams of Morning Glory: "I loved the idea of Becky Fuller, this youthful, spirited, big-hearted, but in-over-her-head producer facing off against an older anchor who is bitter, angry and totally uncooperative. The concept is full of classic comedy – it’s funny, sweet and sexy – but, I think it is also true to real life in how all these very opposite people on ‘Daybreak’ have to find the respect, admiration and love to come together as an incredibly dysfunctional, yet somehow devoted, family."
Adds Bryan Burk, who produced the film with Abrams for Bad Robot: "Aline Brosh McKenna crafted a fantastic screenplay and then we had the pleasure of having the most amazing cast come in and riff on it, bringing to life these wonderful characters in a world where hysterically funny things happen before the sun is even up."
MAYHEM IN THE MORNING
There’s a storied history of working women in sexy screwball comedies. From Rosalind Russell’s ace newswoman squaring off against Cary Grant as an underhanded editor in Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday to Melanie Griffith’s working class secretary pretending to be her high-powered boss in Working Girl, women trying to get on top have turned out to be some of film comedy’s smartest, wittiest and most appealing heroes.
Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna has long been drawn to the trials, and triumphs, of young women finding their way – and themselves – in the workplace, which first came to the fore when she penned the hit comedy The Devil Wears Prada, based on the bestselling book about a young assistant who valiantly faces off with the boss from hell.
Now she brings her refreshingly contemporary POV to a portrait of a feisty young upstart who falls right into the middle of what might well be the highest high-pressure cooker in all the working world: producing morning news, a job notorious for driving the young and ambitious either to the heights of achievement… or to the madhouse.
McKenna began with the idea of a struggling, recently let-go, local news producer, whose career prospects seem about as bleak as her foundering love life until she gets her first big break at "Daybreak." She knows the odds couldn’t be any more stacked against her, but Becky Fuller is not going to let a once-in-a-lifetime chance go by without giving it her all. That’s when this overexcited and unsinkable young woman collides head-on with her polar opposite: a legendary evening anchor who cannot stand anything soft, sweet or, worst of all, fluffy, but is forced to take on all of that, and more, when Becky recruits him as the show’s new co-host and, so she hopes, savior.
When she pitched the story of Morning Glory to J. J. Abrams, he instantly fell in love with the push-pull tension between a determined newcomer who won’t say die and the ultimate work-place troublemaker, who won’t cooperate to save his life.
"The engine of Morning Glory is the very fun dynamic between these two terrific characters: Becky, a young woman who is incredibly enthusiastic about her new job, who just wants everyone to believe in her; and Mike, this once-revered, now-retired anchor who could not despise morning news any more than he does and does everything he can to make Becky’s job absolutely impossible. I loved that Aline was going for a high-energy, old school feeling, like the movies of Preston Sturges. Morning news is a great backdrop for a work-place comedy because it’s such a live-wire atmosphere, but Aline came at it from a completely fresh approach. Succeeding at this job means everything to Becky, yet Mike has no intention of making it easy for her."
The team at Bad Robot was also excited by the fun of exposing the behind-the-scenes mayhem of the morning news shows that many Americans wake up to every day – which are rife not only with wacky weather reports, rampaging animals and baked lasagnas, but also with some of the most outrageous and desperate bids for ratings in all of television.
"If you’ve seen any clips on Youtube, you know that morning news is full of some the most absurdly hysterical stuff that’s ever been captured on video," notes Burk. "It was exciting to think about all the comedic potential in that."
They also had little doubt that Brosh McKenna could get to the heart of that comic potential in the final screenplay. "We were all big fans of Aline’s work," says executive producer Sherryl Clark, who runs the feature production side of Bad Robot, "and we thought she was the perfect fit for this story."
McKenna is known for her dynamic use of dialogue, but also believes in research. Right away, she set her alarm for the middle of the night and began spending her days behind the scenes at all the New York morning shows, getting an inside glimpse at just how tough a lifestyle a young producer must lead.
Says Clark, "I think one of the greatest compliments we received was when Morley Safer, who makes a cameo in the film, asked if Aline had ever worked in news because he thought everything was so incredibly accurate."
The more she learned, the more McKenna felt it had to be more than the now waning war of news versus entertainment. Instead, she had her main character face head-on today’s reality: that the two have become entwined beyond separation. Mike Pomeroy might believe heatedly in the power of real news to impact the world, and Becky might be awed by his skills as a reporter, but she knows that the world has changed to the point that Mike must either find a new way… or fade away. And, as crazy as drives her, she wants to save his career as much as she wants to kick-start her own.
"Aline’s script acknowledges the debate and touches upon the importance of the news, but her story is not really about that," explains Clark. "It’s really about a girl who is an underdog, who comes to the big city to try to change the fate of the fourth-rated morning show in America, and how, in the process, she has to turn around some of the most cynical, jaded people in existence."
From the time the script was in early development, Aline Brosh McKenna and J.J. Abrams dreamed of having Harrison Ford in the film. "I felt this was right up his alley because he’s got an amazing sense of humor," says Abrams, who first worked with Ford many years ago, when he wrote the drama Regarding Henry. "We tend to think of Harrison as the action hero, as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but he has always been extremely funny as well. It’s just been a long time since he’s had a great comic role."
Quickly after attaching Ford to the project, the search for a director was on and one name came quickly to the forefront: Roger Michell, whose knack for disarming comedy came to fore in Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in an unlikely love story between the world’s most famous movie star and an ordinary London bookseller. Michell is also known for the Oscar®-nominated drama Venus starring Peter O’Toole in one of his most celebrated roles, the critically acclaimed drama The Mother and the thriller Changing Lanes.
"Roger Michell can do it all and he always brings a distinct sense of style and grace to anything he does," says Abrams. "Roger gave Morning Glory a wonderful, vibrant look and he brought out terrific performances from the actors."
The screenplay took Michell by surprise. "I’d wanted to come back to America and make a film that would bring a lot of people joy," he says, "and when I read this script I felt it had terrific potential. It was based in a real, recognizable world – the world of morning television – but, one that was also far more seductive and interesting that I imagined. The humor was in the characters and how Becky Fuller prevails by the sheer force of her personality and charm, turning this unlikely mix of people into a success."
The combo of McKenna, Ford and Michell already held out a lot of promise, but it was heightened even more so by two other great additions. Not only would meteorically rising comic star Rachel McAdams take the challenging lead role of Becky Fuller, but an undeniable screen legend, Diane Keaton, would also come on board to play her comic foil in tandem with Ford.
"To have a chance to watch these two icons go at each other is just priceless," sums up executive producer Guy Riedel. "Harrison and Diane brought their characters alive to the point that you don’t want their repartee to ever stop. We wanted to write more dialogue for them just so we could all witness more of their relationship."
WELCOME TO THE WORKING WEEK:
RACHEL McADAMS IS BECKY FULLER
The trickiest part of pulling off Morning Glory would be the most essential: casting the lead character of Becky Fuller, who had to be vulnerable, vivacious yet sly and savvy enough to work her way up from rock bottom to winning the day when no one believed she could.
"We needed someone you really want to root for," says J.J. Abrams. "She had to be bubbly and fun, but the treacherous part was that she also had to have an equal amount of depth and sophistication. Rachel McAdams brought all of that. She nails the classical comedy stuff, but her character is also full of heart, honesty and emotion."
Adds Sherryl Clark: "Rachel is a breath of fresh air. She jumped in with both feet and I think she makes Becky very relatable. Everyone feels like an underdog at some point in their life, and Rachel just captures that feeling."
McAdams right away felt a kinship with Becky, in both her foibles and her unflagging spirit.
"I think a lot of young people have had the experience where you come in fresh to a brand new job and suddenly, you find yourself up against a bunch of seasoned professionals who want to do things their way," she says. "What I love is that Becky takes that situation head-on, approaches it with the same amount of vigor she brings to everything she does, and turns it upside down."
McAdams worked closely with screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna to get to know her doggedly determined character backwards and forwards.
"Aline is such a great writer and she knows her characters so well that she was great to have involved in the process," says the actress. "It was really exciting for me to be able to talk to her throughout the production, to get ideas from her and bounce new thoughts off her, and we were constantly adding little bits here and there and enhancing the character."
With Becky Fuller-like intensity, McAdams also dove into her own personal research, visiting nearly all the morning shows in New York to analyze how they really work.
"I talked to everyone – the producers, the people who book the stories, the camera operators, the guys in the control room – to try to understand how it happens from every possible angle. I discovered that there’s a whole different language that goes on back there," she says. "And everything moves so quickly. One minute people are panicking and freaking out and it gets really heated and the next minute they’re joking, laughing and off to lunch. What really made an impression was the high-wire nature of live television – that once you say or do something on the air, you can’t take it back. That is terrifying."
Another thing that took McAdams by surprise is how downright physical a job producing a morning news show can be. "Becky is a bit more of an action hero than I expected," she laughs. "There was a lot running up and down stairs and all over the place, as she tries to wrangle all these different people with their different agendas, so that was a fun surprise."
Once on the set, McAdams seemed to inhabit the character so completely, even the director was taken aback. Recalls Michell, "Rachel had told me she didn’t think of herself as a comedic actress, but it was immediately clear that not only is she extremely funny physically, she can be wonderfully comedic with her body and way of moving. She also combines her top comedic skills with an enormous beating heart. She has this sweet, innocent energy that becomes a part of the film. Becky has this ridiculously overwhelming job, yet Rachel plays her like a kid at her first day of school. Rachel’s spirit really runs the film, as she shows how Becky prevails by the force, really, of her will and charm."
That charm is given a severe test as Becky begins to realize that her long-time news idol, Mike Pomeroy, might not be a dream to work with; in fact, he might actually deserve his reputation as one of the worst persons in the world. Yet, the more cantankerous and resistant Mike gets, the more tenacious Becky becomes – a dynamic that McAdams loved enacting with Harrison Ford.
"Harrison played Mike beautifully. He’s so deadpan, so dry, so sarcastic, I really felt like I couldn’t budge him! He was understated, yet so full, it was just exciting to interact with him," she says.
For Guy Riedel, the beauty of McAdams’ performance is the degree to which it counterpoints that of Ford. He sums up: "Rachel is so fun and lively and so like a great cheerleader that when you contrast that with Mike Pomeroy, who is so dour and angry, and see her hold her own against him – well, there’s nothing better."
McAdams was equally thrilled by the opportunity to work with Diane Keaton "What I love about Diane is that she plays Colleen so you can see the heart underneath, so you can see this is a woman who is willing to do anything, even dress up in a sumo suit, to get people to laugh, to get them to smile, to get them watching in the morning. She made Colleen funny and tough, but vulnerable as well."
If Becky is at war all morning long, she finds some unexpected romantic peace later in the day when she begins seeing the news magazine producer Adam Bennett (PATRICK WILSON), in spite of her worse-than-spotty dating record. For years, Becky has been too busy to even realize when she was attracted to someone, but Adam doesn’t let her off the hook. "At first, Becky just thinks she wants to pick his brain a little, get some insight into how to deal with this strange beast known as Mike Pomeroy," McAdams explains. "And Becky is so clueless about men that she completely misinterprets all of Adam’s signals. We have a very clumsy beginning but . . . let’s just say, it turns out quite well."
McAdams certainly made a lasting impression on Wilson. "She gives Becky this wonderful frenetic energy without going completely crazy or ever distancing herself from the audience. It was easy to fall for her," he sums up.
HARRISON FORD IS MIKE POMEROY
In one of his first comedic roles in years, Harrison Ford takes on a larger-than-life character: Mike Pomeroy, aka "the third worst person in the world" – the caustic and biting, if brilliant, old school anchorman who is forced to co-host his network’s light-and-airy morning show entirely against his iron will.
Once upon a time when news mattered and anchormen were the ultimate in masculine trustworthiness, Mike was a virtual god of television, a true power player in the world of politics and international relations. Now that his ratings have slipped and the job that meant everything to him seems to have evaporated, he’s been left a lot lonelier and pissed off at the world than he ever imagined. As far as Mike is concerned, things couldn’t get much worse . . . until he meets producer Becky Fuller and she expertly manipulates him back onto the air to do exposés on toothbrushes and prostate exams.
"Basically, Mike finds the whole turn his life has taken humiliating," explains the Oscar®-nominated Ford. "He does not consider this a fitting end to an illustrious career, hosting perhaps the lowest-rated morning show in the history of television. He finds it completely below his station, beneath his dignity. He takes covering the news very, very seriously and he’s certainly not about to cook or give household tips or banter with his co-host."
And yet, the more he battles against Becky Fuller, the more he begins to see that they are a lot more alike than he expected: two workaholics tempted to sacrifice everything for a job well done.
Says Ford, "Their relationship is very funny, but it’s also quite emotional. There’s a real connection that develops between them. I think Mike raises Becky’s game by trying to impose his craft of journalism on the morning show, but she also pushes him to become more flexible, more accommodating, which, along the way, results in a lot of hilarious scenes."
Roger Michell was also thrilled to have the chance to work with Ford in a sharply comedic vein. "This role was perfect for him. It was like a hand in a glove," he observes. "I think he felt this was the part for him to make a departure."
Morning Glory’s deft mixture of humor and human observation was a magnet for Ford from his first read. "This was one of the funniest, smartest scripts I’ve encountered," he says. "It had great dialogue, real relationships, a sophisticated sense of humor and I was just very attracted to the quality of it. I really enjoy doing comedy, but I usually don’t find comedies ambitious enough. This, I thought, was especially well-written."
He was also attracted to the almost Hepburn-and-Tracy style of biting repartee that fills the air whenever he is on screen with Diane Keaton as Colleen Peck "Diane brings something really special to this," notes Ford, who had never even met Keaton before they were cast together. "She’s the perfect person to give as good as she gets and we really enjoyed the opportunity we had to create a lot of sharp, pointed humor. The fun part is that it becomes the on-the-air contentiousness between them that makes ‘Daybreak’ a success for the first time, because everyone tunes in to watch these two people who clearly can’t stand each other on the air together everyday."
Says Michell: "Their rapport is fascinating. Diane is prepared to do anything to get the ratings of their show up and Harrison is willing to do nothing. It’s a lot of fun to see them antagonize each other so perfectly."
Ford enjoyed his rapport with Rachel McAdams equally, especially watching her try to win his egregiously grumpy character over. "I honestly can say I don’t think I’ve worked with anybody who brought more to a role on both a comedic and emotional level than Rachel," he says. "She’s the kind of actress who can make everything about a situation feel real."
In one of his favorite scenes, Ford had the opportunity to sit around a 21 Club table with a truly rugged trio of news legends – including Morley Safer, Chris Matthews and Bob Schieffer – as Mike Pomeroy goes on a bender with his former hard-news colleagues.
"They were telling me these unrepeatable stories about things that happened to them in their career," says Ford. "It made for an incredibly fun day."
Recalls Michell: "We had a very short window to shoot this scene because these three very eminent newscasters were only going to be in New York briefly. They all had to rush off to do other things so we were very lucky to get them. Harrison was actually quite nervous beforehand. He’d never met any of these guys before and yet, as Mike Pomeroy, he had to be the life of the party and he did that brilliantly. They were nervous, too, because they were acting with Harrison Ford, but once the ice was broken, they were sharing stories and laughing and it was all very natural."
In the end, Ford, much like Becky Fuller, found a serious soft spot in his heart for the curmudgeonly anchor who only wants his life’s work to have meant something.
"One of the things I felt I really understood about Mike is his ambition to do the best job possible," sums up Ford. "Mike does make snobbish judgments – judgments that might be vain-glorious and completely self-serving – but, at the end of the day, he wants to do the right thing because, in spite of what he might say or how it might appear, he actually really cares deeply."
When Mike Pomeroy joins "Daybreak," he is not only on a collision course with Becky Fuller, but with the woman who will be his co-host and constant nemesis: Colleen Peck, the flighty, former beauty queen who has made a long career out of chatty banter and a willingness to do absolutely anything, no matter how ridiculous, on air. Playing Peck is an actress who has made an American art form out of nuanced comedy: Diane Keaton, the Academy Award® winner and three-time Oscar® nominee who came to the fore in the films of Woody Allen and has since had one of Hollywood’s most diverse and prodigious careers.
Says Guy Riedel: "Diane plays the old battle axe to the hilt. Her Colleen Peck is a woman who has found her niche and she might not love it anymore, but she feels she deserves a certain status for having been through the morning news wars. When Mike Pomeroy comes in and discounts her, that sets the stage for them each trying to do the other in, and Diane milks each and every moment of that for as much comedy as possible."
Keaton says she knew immediately that she wanted to be part of Morning Glory. "I’ve made a lot of movies now in my life and every single time what attracts me to them is the same: the script – and Aline wrote a fantastic one. It’s funny, it’s touching and there’s something so human about it."
As for Colleen Peck, Keaton calls her "the kind of woman you love to hate." She goes on: "She’s narcissistic, she’s vain, she’s superficial and all she cares about is if she’s going to stay on television. She’d do anything to stay on television. She’d sell her own mother! I think, in the end, she just wants to please the audience."
Now that "Daybreak" has hit rock bottom, Peck is forced to do something she considers truly extreme: to accept as her new co-host Mike Pomeroy, the world-famous anchor who looks down his legendary nose at her. Keaton was thrilled to have the chance to work with Harrison Ford in the role.
"When Harrison walks in a room, it’s like Mt. Rushmore just came in. He’s the most iconic man," she observes. "He’s like nobody else. I think this is also one of his greatest roles. He’s tough, cynical, mean, contemptuous, impossible . . . and also charming and hilarious. We might not get along in the movie but, of course, I have a huge crush on him."
The rat-a-tat dialogue between the duo kept Keaton exhilarated throughout the production. "These are the kinds of scenes you yearn to play all your life," she explains, "where you start out with charming banter that turns into verbal warfare. What could be more fun than fighting with Harrison Ford?"
Another element of Morning Glory that Keaton relished was the physical comedy, of which Colleen Peck gets more than her fair share. "I’m a big fan of really big physical comedy and I had some great opportunities to make a fool of myself here," she muses. "I have some scenes where I get to sing with Mr. 50 Cent and, while my daughter was humiliated by that, I thought it was the most fun I’ve ever had."
Keaton’s gung-ho attitude revealed itself right away. "On the very first day of shooting, I had to wear this giant fat suit and wrestle with a sumo wrestler," she recalls. "I like to approach physical comedy by just winging it, but winging it can also get you into trouble. Here I was with this 500-pound man who was very nice and polite and all I had to do was touch him and suddenly . . . I fell over and hit the ground! So, I guess you can’t always wing it with a sumo wrestler."
Despite having worked with some of the greatest filmmakers of our times, Keaton says that working with Roger Michell was a completely new experience. "I’ve never worked with anyone quite like him," she says, "because he’s not afraid of opinionated people. He listens to everyone’s thoughts, he respects them and then he goes off and makes his own choices about what works best. You know you’re in good hands with Roger."
While Becky Fuller is devoted 100% to her job, she experiences a major distraction in the midst of it: namely Adam Bennett, the uber-hot news magazine producer who becomes the first man in her life who’s willing to do battle with her insane, no-room-left, life schedule. Playing Adam is Patrick Wilson, an actor best known for his more dramatic roles including his Golden Globe®-nominated performance in HBO’s Angels in America, his role as the comic book character Nite Owl in Watchmen and as a lovelorn husband in the acclaimed Little Children, as well as several Tony-nominated performances in Broadway musicals and for his recent comic turn in The Switch.
Morning Glory was a chance for Wilson to step out into romance. He plays Adam as the yin to Becky’s yang, as the amused calm to her frenzied storm. "This was really a new adventure for me," muses Wilson. "This is the kind of comedy that appeals to me because it’s about great story-telling and characters."
He also had an intriguing personal connection to the subject matter: both Wilson’s father and brother are real-world television anchormen. In fact, his father has anchored the nightly news in Tampa, Florida for the last 25 years and Wilson has memories of family dinners with his father in full TV makeup with bits of tissue stuffed in his collar to keep it fresh.
Knowing the news world so intimately, Wilson also was keenly aware of how authentic the depiction of it was in the screenplay. "I was amazed by how spot-on Aline was in capturing the inner-workings of a news show," Wilson says of the script. "I not only found it very, very funny, I found it really, really truthful."
He also found that Adam’s relationship with Becky was refreshingly honest and adult. "They’re two people with completely different kinds of energy, but that’s what Adam likes about Becky," he says. "Becky’s got this amazing frenetic energy and Rachel played that so well and so skillfully. All that Adam can do is try to keep her as grounded as anyone can."
It isn’t, of course, an error-free process, but that just adds to the fun… and the building heat. "I think Becky and Adam are dealing with something a lot of people can relate to – trying to get a romantic relationship going while your career is seemingly life consuming," Wilson observes. "You have this incredibly driven woman who’s trying to walk that thin line of common ground between an all-consuming career and an actual personal life. It’s messy, it’s awkward and it sometimes leads to major misunderstandings, but they’re both willing to keep trying again and again."
Says Abrams: "Patrick took on the equivalent of the ‘girlfriend character’ in this movie, but he made it something special: heartfelt, sweet, funny and self-deprecating. I think he’s a terrific actor."
The man perhaps most awed and flummoxed by Becky Fuller is her new boss at the IBS network, Jerry Barnes, who knows her job is beyond impossible and can’t quite believe she not only doesn’t fail miserably – she actually starts to suceed. Playing Barnes is Golden Globe® winner Jeff Goldblum, who has a knack for making every role he plays, whether comedic, dramatic or both, into something personal and memorable. Barnes might begin as Becky’s wary supervisor, but he soon becomes her rather impressed confidante.
"To say Jeff is perfect for this role is an understatement," says Bryan Burk. "He’s so dryly funny and candid, yet charming, it makes him the ultimate ally to gung-ho Becky Fuller. He was a pleasure to work with and we can’t wait to work with him again."
Jerry is up-front with Becky from the start. He tells her that the job producing "Daybreak" will be terrible, the pay will be even worse and that he is nearly 100% certain she will be a disaster and, yet even with all the warnings, she begins to win him over.
"I think Jerry sees right away that Becky is extraordinary," comments Goldblum. "He doesn’t say it, but something strikes him instantly about her character. He sees that she’s an incredibly hard worker and he relates to the strength of her passion to do good work, which is something that brought him into the news world in the first place, even though it has changed so drastically."
He continues: "I think Jerry also sees that Becky is obviously a person who has over-identified with her working life and sacrificed everything else – her love life, her personal life – to it. Her life not only has been put on the back burner; it’s been put on no burner! So, I think Jerry is drawn to her potential not just to blossom in the newsroom, but to become a much fuller person. He watches her grow into this amazing, loving, balanced woman."
Real life followed the script as Goldblum himself was won over by Rachel McAdams. "I was enthralled with the entire experience of working with her," he says. "She’s just terrific and I was thrilled with what we were able to do together."
J.J. Abrams was excited to see Goldblum so fully inhabit his character. "I’ve been a fan of his since Tenspeed and Brown Shoe," he says, "and I think he’s spectacular in this. He’s wonderfully sardonic and brings something very distinctive to this great mix of characters."
Morning Glory could not have been shot anywhere else but New York City, the center of American ambition, the home of national morning news and the town where Becky Fuller always dreamed she’d one day get a chance get to make her mark. Roger Michell not only weaves the spirit of the city through the film, he also used a real, working Manhattan television studio that adds to the work-place authenticity that underscores the film’s comedy.
Michell teamed up with an artistic crew that includes director of photography Alwin Küchler, production designer Mark Friedberg and costume designer Frank Fleming to bring to life the sheer mania of "Daybreak" within the dazzling energy of the Big Apple.
"I always love working in New York," says the director. "It has so many different personalities that you can never run out of ways to express a story through the city. I especially like the way Morning Glory alternates between these very cramped, claustrophobic, intense interiors and then you get a big, exhilarating lungful of air in moments when Becky is outside, crossing the Hudson on the ferry, or walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn. She takes inspiration from the city."
Adds J.J Abrams: "You just can’t capture that energy, that light, that scope of New York anywhere else. The feeling of shooting in New York is 100% different from any other city, and Roger really embraced it to make it an essential part of the film."
Just as Aline Brosh McKenna had done before him, Michell took his own journey into the land of morning news before starting production, so he would be ready to create "Daybreak," as a "show within a show." He came away impressed with what it takes to succeed in that world and with a whole lot of respect for what Becky Fuller faces in her new job.
"People in morning television lead odd, challenging lives. They start at 3 in the morning, they finish by 10 o’clock and by the next day, they can’t even remember what happened on the last show because all the scrambling, the fighting, the competitiveness and the ecstasy that comes from getting a scoop start all over again. I can see how it can be very addictive, but also how easily you could get burnt out," he muses.
When Michell and his team were ready to bring "Daybreak" to life, the first challenge was finding a home for it. Ultimately, production designer Mark Friedberg crafted the sets inside a real, if now defunct, television studio known as Metropolis, located in Spanish Harlem. Once, Metropolis had hosted such Golden Age of TV classics as "Your Show of Shows" and "Howdy Doody," but now it was just a shell of a building that still bore such key studio details as lighting grids across the ceilings. Inside this shell, Friedberg created the faded, in-need-of-an-overhaul look of "Daybreak" from scratch.
"Mark did a genius job creating what in his mind would be the fourth-rated morning television show in America," says Clark. "It’s all sort of stuck in this weird 80s time warp and it looks fantastic."
At Michell’s behest, Freidberg also created a whole identity for the fictional network IBS, whose hit shows include, with a touch of irony, a drama entitled "Found."
"My biggest ambition for the look of the film," says Michell, "was that everything should feel absolutely real. I didn’t want any mock-ups, I wanted a proper working studio and that’s what we had. We had an actual control room and the people were actually controlling all the knobs and buttons in it and that was a big thrill."
He goes on: "I think audiences always love to see what goes on backstage, and there’s a wonderful backstaginess to Morning Glory where you get to see the great, comic contrast between what appears effortless on television and all the sweat, toil and misery happening the second the camera is off. That’s reflected in the sets, which feature corridors jam-packed with props, people dressed in Knights of the Middles Ages outfits, as well as ostriches, camels and all sorts of guests rushing through the halls every morning."
For cinematographer Alwin Küchler (Solitary Man, Sunshine) the task at hand was a double one. He not only had to shoot a movie, he also had to simultaneously shoot live television, which often meant that at any one time that three film cameras and three television cameras might all be in operation.
To make the live television even more realistic, Michell brought in veteran television director Don King, who has worked on such morning shows as "Today Show" and "The View," to help helm the live broadcasts of "Daybreak" within Morning Glory.
"Roger was adamant that everything on the ‘Daybreak’ operate like a real show," says Riedel. "I think all of the details just make us fall even more in love with the characters and their relationships."
Michell even sent Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton off to "anchor bootcamp." "They had to learn all the little tricks of how to work in a multi-camera environment, which is not as easy as it looks," he notes. "It was very important that they look like they know what they’re doing as anchors, and they really, really did."
For all his preparation and attention to design-level detail, Michell also kept that spark of chaos that makes comedy happen very much alive on the set. "My approach is to prepare as much as possible, but then when you’re shooting, you wait for that moment you didn’t expect," he explains. "This cast was very alive with each other and very funny so those moments came often."
One of those moments arrived in spades when Matt Malloy playing Ernie, "Daybreak’s" put-upon weatherman, is compelled by Becky Fuller to push the envelope by leaping out of planes, getting tossed about by mega-roller coasters and going for a spin in a supersonic F-14.
"Matt was absolutely hilarious," says McAdams. "He had us all in hysterics."
"He basically stole the whole show," adds Diane Keaton.
In the end, the deep appreciation the actors and crew on Morning Glory developed for each other began to resemble what happens to the people working on "Daybreak" – as they’re brought closer than anyone could have imagined by Becky Fuller’s unflagging determination to make the relationships work, no matter how many sparks are thrown in the process.
"This film isn’t your conventional romantic comedy," sums up Michell. "There is romance in it and plenty of friction, but it’s really about people creating a family. By the end of the film, all these people who work together in this tiny, crazy world discover that they have a family in each other. It’s something Mike Pomeroy, Harrison’s character, has never had. It’s something Becky Fuller has always been looking for. And, despite the unlikely mix of all these people, and all the insults they throw at each other, sure enough, they come together and Becky succeeds."