By Jeffrey Epstein
Many of us are familiar with Tommy O'Haver's work as writer and director of the gay indie hit Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (which launched the careers of Sean Hayes and Brad Rowe). But many people are surprised to find out he directed the kid's flick Ella Enchanted, a musical romp starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, and Cary Elwes. Hathaway plays Ella, a young woman who, at birth, is given the dubious gift of 'obedience' by a ne'er-do-well fairy named Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). Ella goes through life obeying whatever is commanded of her, and the situation gets worse when her father remarries, to an evil woman (Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley) who has two equally evil daughters. So Ella leaves home in search of Lucinda to remove the 'gift,' and along the way she gets tangled up in some royal affairs with the soon-to-be-crowned-king (Dancy) and his wicked uncle (Elwes). We chatted with O'Haver about the DVD, which hits stores August 25'grilling him about Hugh's shirtless scene, the campy moments you didn't see, and taking Anne to gay bars in London.
On the commentary track, it sounds like you guys are having a blast. Was filming that much fun?
We had a great time shooting the movie. Everybody got along famously in Ireland. Part of it was that we were all sort of strangers in a strange land. Plus, when you're making a comedy, it's important to keep your set light and happy. That comes through in the film.
Very convenient for Hugh Dancy to need to take his shirt off for Anne to patch up his wound.
That was the beefcake moment.
A good moment to have.
It really was. He's a very sweet guy. Very intelligent.
But what's up with his pleather pants?
To be honest, some of the costumes I look back on now and I wonder, 'Why did I allow that to happen?' With those pleather pants in particular, I went in to look at them and I said to the costume designer, Ruth Meyers, 'I don't know about those pants.' But Hugh had been brainwashed by her or something, and he said, 'I love 'em.' So I said, 'OK, you can keep them.' Afterwards he was like, 'Why did you put me in those pants?' And I said, 'You were the one who wanted to wear them!' I'm being hard on Ruth's costumes'I love a lot of the stuff!
Did you know Anne was a good singer when you cast her?
Yes. I'd seen her on Broadway in Carnival at Lincoln Center. Anne was incredible. She was just perfect. I really liked her in The Princess Diaries, but seeing her on stage in Carnival made me think, This is our girl.' She has an innocence, but she also has a vivaciousness.
I love that Ab Fab's Joanna Lumley costars. Were you a fan?
Yeah, obviously. I really wanted her to be the wicked stepmother from the outset. Because we were shooting in Ireland and cutting in England we needed to use a certain amount of British actors. It was the perfect opportunity to bring in people like Eric Idle [who plays the narrator] and Joanna Lumley who I have always loved and who are great comedians and get to work with them in person. It was a really selfish decision.
On the commentary track, Anne says she grew up watching Ab Fab. I can't imagine a child growing up with Ab Fab.
That was pretty great. Anne's pretty sassy and she's really gay friendly. I think she has a lot of gay fans because of The Princess Diaries. One night we went to some gay bar in London and all these guys were like, 'It's the girl from The Princess Diaries!' And they hung out with her all night long. Did anybody talk to me? No.
OK, Minnie Driver is adorable in the movie, as the fairy/housekeeper. But her character's such a wuss!
She's great. But the character was really meant for an older woman, and [the producers] wanted Minnie Driver. I think both Minnie and I were equally surprised. In the end, we had a great time. She was somebody who I was worried was going to be a real bitch, but she was incredible. She, Joanna, and Vivica'everybody was incredible. Nobody came to the set with any attitude.