Director Nancy Meyers Makes Peace With Millennials In 'The Intern' Meyers' new comedy stars Anne Hathaway as a CEO and Robert De Niro as her intern — she tells NPR that while there's a big difference between generations, her movie's message is "Be less judgmental."
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Director Nancy Meyers Makes Peace With Millennials In 'The Intern'

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Director Nancy Meyers Makes Peace With Millennials In 'The Intern'

Director Nancy Meyers Makes Peace With Millennials In 'The Intern'

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The filmmaker Nancy Meyers dominates a certain Hollywood niche. Her comedies star grown-ups and they appeal to a grown-up audience. She wrote and directed "Something's Gotta Give," "It's Complicated" and many other films. Her latest is "The Intern." Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway star as the CEO and intern at a start-up company. Here's the catch - Anne Hathaway plays the CEO. At age 70, Robert De Niro's character is the intern.

Nancy Meyers joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

NANCY MEYERS: Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: One of the things that this movie highlights is a sort of generational divide. There is a scene where Anne Hathaway's character introduces Robert De Niro's character to Facebook.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE INTERN")

ANNE HATHAWAY: (As Jules) So you're on Facebook, huh?

ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Ben) Well, I've been trying to figure it out. I joined about 10 minutes ago.

HATHAWAY: (As Jules) Well, better late than never. You want some help?

DE NIRO: (As Ben) I'd love some but, really, you've got better things to do.

HATHAWAY: (As Jules) No, I need a diversion. You have a photo of yourself?

DE NIRO: (As Ben) No. I need one?

HATHAWAY: (As Jules) If you want to look up all those hotties from high school, you do. Say cheese.

DE NIRO: (As Ben) Cheese.

SHAPIRO: And I wondered whether there were any moments like that on set because you have this intergenerational cast. I mean, did Anne Hathaway teach Robert De Niro how to Snapchat or anything like that?

MEYERS: (Laughter). I don't think so, but I also know Bob's not on Facebook. So there was some authenticity there as she got Facebook's permission for the character to have a Facebook page and really went through it beat by beat. And I remember as we were shooting it, Bob was sort of looking at me like, oh - no, no, this is the real thing. Yeah, this is how you really do it. So...

SHAPIRO: We should say Bob is Robert De Niro. And so the reactions we're seeing in that scene are Robert De Niro -Bob's - genuine reactions.

MEYERS: Yeah, yeah. In a way, it was, yeah. A lot translated and transferred from what was really going on between the young actors and Bob and what was going on between the young characters and Ben, the character he plays.

SHAPIRO: You know, so many of your movies feature people who society has kind of written off. I mean, in this film, De Niro plays a guy whose business experience is not appreciated.

MEYERS: I know what you're getting at, Ari - women over 50.

SHAPIRO: Well, I just wonder what keeps you coming back to the stories of people that society has dismissed, whether it is a man who is retired from his career or the love interest who most of Hollywood would overlook as a love interest.

MEYERS: I'm 65 so I - you know, I started writing movies about 30-year-olds when I started, and as I've gotten older, the characters have gotten older. I'm not retired, but I'm already thinking about what's my life going to be like when my work is gone, you know? It's me writing the things I think about and worry about, and I somehow translate that into a comedy. (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Well, that's the next thing I was going to ask, is that it never feels finger-waggy. It's always with a spoonful of sugar.

MEYERS: Yeah. Well, yes because otherwise, you know, you're going to fail.

SHAPIRO: There's also a moment where she, the CEO, played by Anne Hathaway, talks about somebody dismissing her website as a chick site.

MEYERS: Ah, you caught that? (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Yeah. I wondered if you were channeling people who dismiss your movies in that way.

MEYERS: Oh, yeah. For sure I was. Don't like that label.

SHAPIRO: I can imagine nobody would.

MEYERS: No, nobody would. Right. And it's a label never given to a movie that's geared for men or boys. By the way, don't think only women go to my movies, and so that bothers me also. But why give it a label like that?

SHAPIRO: It amazes me that, you know, for years, people have described you as one of Hollywood's only successful filmmakers writing, directing and producing these kinds of movies. And given that they are consistently successful movies, why do you remain one of the only?

MEYERS: That's a great question. Are you talking about me as a woman or me as a filmmaker of this genre of film?

SHAPIRO: I'm talking about you as a filmmaker of this genre of film, but I don't think it is coincidental that you are a woman who is also a filmmaker of this genre of film.

MEYERS: OK. To answer the first part of it - you know, I'm not telling you anything you don't know. The movies have changed a lot. You know, when I made "It's Complicated," my last film, it was 2009, and it's almost like a different world coming out again with a script. When I wrote "It's Complicated," it was a much easier movie to get made because that style of film was still a movie that studios wanted to make.

SHAPIRO: That style meaning romantic comedies?

MEYERS: Romantic comedy, adult, a comedy with also men and women, not just men and men. And - actually, I was going to say it wasn't R-rated, but it turned out it was R-rated. But it was only R-rated because Meryl and Alec smoke pot in a scene.

SHAPIRO: That got it an R rating? Really? Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

MEYERS: And Steve Martin also. Yeah, when the ratings board gave us an R rating, I actually called them and I said, I can't understand it, these are three upstanding citizens. What's the problem? And they say it's the first time they'd done it in 30 years. And the woman at the ratings board was laughing. She said, oh, I loved that scene so much - so funny, but, sorry. She said, you know, if they had only shown remorse the next day.

SHAPIRO: Oh, you're kidding me?

MEYERS: No, truly, she said if they had - if there was a line of dialogue that said, we should not have done that...

SHAPIRO: Wow.

MEYERS: Yeah. So that - this style of film has just fallen out of style because, you know, studios only have so much money they're given to make movies. They all need or have needed the big superhero, Marvel-type movies, and so a movie like this just hadn't, for a while, fit in with their agenda. But, you know, I've been in Hollywood long enough to see the pendulum swinging, you know, and I felt it sort of swinging back in my direction.

SHAPIRO: There was another line in the movie that I wondered if it was channeling a genuine sentiment, and this takes place in a bar.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE INTERN")

HATHAWAY: (As Jules) How in one generation have men gone from guys like Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford to...

SHAPIRO: Then she gestures to the sort of - the Yiddish word would be schlubs - in front of her.

MEYERS: (Laughter). I know who you mean. And your question was, was that...

SHAPIRO: If that reflects a sort of dismay that you feel?

MEYERS: Well, it's things I've noticed, you know? Is it dismay? I don't know because also, this generation, they're inventors. They've changed the way we communicate with each other. And so I have great admiration for them, but at the same time, the character that Bob De Niro plays in this movie is an old-fashioned gentleman who stands up when she comes in the room. He always wears his suit 'cause he's comfortable in his suit and he finds it respectful to her. And it's also his work outfit, which, he misses being in that suit, you know? So there's just such a big difference between the millennials and his generation that I do make a point of pointing that out to the audience.

SHAPIRO: How much hope do you think there is for the millennials to tuck their shirt in and wear a tie, and for Robert De Niro's generation, to get on Facebook and for everyone to - for lack of a better phrase - live happily ever after?

MEYERS: Well, that's a bit what the movie's trying to say, Ari, you know? Just to be less judgmental. So his shirt's not tucked in or so he has a flip-phone. So what? You know, what happens in the movie is, the boys in the film really, you know, as they say, have a man crush (laughter). They have a big man crush on Bob's character and they learn a lot from him. And I didn't write the copy line on the poster, but it does say wisdom never gets old. And I really liked it when I read it, and I thought whoever wrote that really captured something. So, you know, it's a hopeful piece.

SHAPIRO: Nancy Meyers wrote, directed and produced the new movie, "The Intern."

It has been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you.

MEYERS: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

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