Producer and director Jon Turteltaub is one of Disney’s secret weapons, delivering many of the studio’s biggest live-action hits, such as Cool Runnings, The Kid and Phenomenon. He is best known, though, for helming National Treasure and its 2007 sequel, which starred Nicholas Cage, his classmate from Beverly Hills High School.
Now, Turteltaub is taking a break from family-oriented films to give us Last Vegas, a comedy starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman and Mary Steenburgen. In a plot that sounds like The Bucket List meets The Hangover, four aging friends head on a weekend escape to Las Vegas for a bachelor party when one of them proposes to a much younger woman. As one would expect, hijinks ensue.
Recently, we sat down for an exclusive interview with the Last Vegas director, who spoke about meeting Robert De Niro, who he would love to bring on for a potential sequel and why it’s taking National Treasure 3 so long to get into production.
Check it out below and enjoy!
WGTC: How did you become involved with directing Last Vegas?
Jon Turteltaub: I was sent a phenomenal script and when a script that good shows up, you don’t hem and haw, you just call the people back and say yes. Because you don’t know if somebody else is going to grab it before you make your final decision. I just called back and said I was in, it was that simple. None of the actors were involved yet but I knew based on that script, we would get good actors. I didn’t think we would get this good.
WGTC: Were you heavily involved in casting the film?
Jon Turteltaub: Sure, every director is. It’s something that directors think of as maybe the most important part of their jobs. It’s still scary. I recall very clearly flying to New York to meet Robert De Niro and being terrified the entire time. I was saying, “Oh my God. What do I call him? Is it Mr. De Niro? Is it Robert? Is it Bob?” And when I finally got in to meet with him, he was so sweet. He’s actually shy but really funny and has a good sense of humor, and is a lovely guy. It didn’t take long to relax and enjoy it.
WGTC: That’s a relief because I can imagine directing these actors must be intimidating at first.
Jon Turteltaub: It’s totally intimidating – and it’s not just at first! It’s for quite a while. But, you put enough of it behind you and you fake it as best as you can. And if you fake it well enough, you start to believe yourself. I always compare it to going on a date with the prettiest girl in the world. The last thing you want to do is say, “Hi, prettiest girl in the world! I can’t believe I’m on a date with you!”
WGTC: That’s a great analogy. Were the four actors [Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline] the first choices for their roles?
Jon Turteltaub: It’s hard to say. There were a bunch of choices out there. I don’t think we ever considered anyone other than Michael Douglas [for the role of Billy]. He was the first one in and we didn’t have time to think about somebody else. But, there’s always possibilities. But I’m certainly at the point now where I truly can’t imagine anyone but these four guys in those four parts.
WGTC: If Last Vegas explodes at the box office and the studio wants to bring the ‘veteran wolfpack’ back together, would there be any dream actors you would like to work with to add to the group?
Jon Turteltaub: [Starts singing the song from The Hangover] They’re the four best friends that anyone ever had! Sorry. You got to grab Dustin Hoffman, I think. He’s still out there. Pacino’s still out there. There’s still amazing actors and actresses out there, as well. If I could get Tom Hanks and Will Smith into the movie, that would be good.
WGTC: Working with these actors on set, did you work very closely with them or did you let them trust their own instincts with their roles?
Jon Turteltaub: It’s both. You certainly give them the authority to trust their own instincts with things, but actors wants directors to direct them. They don’t want to feel like they’re out there on their own. What you don’t want to do is turn into an acting teacher. You don’t want to start telling them how to do their jobs but you can tell them what you need and what you want them to do for the movie.