ABOVE: ALEX KURTZMAN, ELIZABETH BANKS, AND CHRIS PINE. PHOTO COURTESY OF CLINT SPAULDING/PATRICKMCMULLAN.COM.
"We hope you cry," Chis Pine announced as the lights dimmed at last night's New York screening of People Like Us. A family drama that tugs at your tear-ducts is not exactly what we were expecting from Alex Kurtzman, the veteran writer-producer of big-budget action films and TV shows such as The Legend of Zorro, Xena: Warrior Princess, Alias, Transformers, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible III. The story of a half-brother and sister who only become aware of each other's existence upon the death of their distant father, People Like Us is exactly that. There are no monsters or robots, and the only explosion involves a scientifically minded 11-year-old, a swimming pool, and some sodium swiped from the middle school science lab. Rather the film is, to a large extent, Kurtzman's personal history, inspired by his relationship with his sister and father. "I watched the film with my sister, she loved it... She loved [Elizabeth Banks]. They actually spoke during production," Kurtzman explained.
People Like Us also marks Kurtzman's directorial debut. "I couldn't have imagined handing it over to anyone else," Kurtzman told Interview. "I got into writing to be a director, but I've been doing movies back-to-back—and it's been great–so I haven't had the time to stop and do it."
Given Kurtzman's multiple kinds of investment in the film, one might worry as an actor that he'd be very controlling to work with. Unusually for Hollywood, Kurtzman brought his cast together for two weeks of rehearsals before filming. "I knew that the movie was going to sink or swim with the actors, and that was all there was to it," he reasoned.
But Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks—looking dapper and sparkly, respectively—only had gushing things to say about their director. "There's a whole vision there, he's lived it," Banks told us. "The fear when you work for a writer-director is that they are going to hold on very tightly to the writing, because I know how difficult it is to choose those words, but Alex allowed us to know the characters even more than he did."
People like us also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, and Jon Favreau, and opens in cinemas June 29th.
For more photos from the People Like Us screening, click here.