John Hamburg has directed some of the most celebrated comedies of the last two decades.
Among his many hilarious writing and directing credits are the iconic Zoolander starring Ben Stiller, the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel hit I Love You, Man, 2000’s breakout comedy Meet the Parents, and most recently, Why Him? starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco.
Besides working in film, John has also helmed episodes of hit shows New Girl and The Grinder, and been the mastermind behind comedic spots for the likes of realestate.com.au, Cox, and AT&T. In a moment between branded content, film, and television projects, we sat down with the director to talk about making Why Him?, the process of directing, and what’s up next.
It’s been a busy several years for you, but most recently you directed Why Him? What was that like?
Directing Why Him? was a fantastic experience. I had an amazing cast, led by Bryan Cranston and James Franco with incredible supporting players like Keegan-Michael Key, Megan Mullally, and Zoey Deutch. The shoot in Los Angeles (subbing for Michigan and Silicon Valley) was a pure joy — we do a combination of scripted scenes and improv which makes every day on set interesting — because you don’t always know where a scene is going when you show up that morning. The movie came out over the holidays and it’s been fun to see how well audiences have responded to it around the world. I’m looking forward to the home video release in a couple of weeks where all the people who went to see Rogue One and Sing over Christmas can finally check out our little comedy.
Directing across TV, commercials, and film, do you find that the approach to each is different or similar?
Interesting enough, i find that it’s fairly similar. I make relationship comedies so it’s all about finding the laughter, but in a way that rings true for the characters. Whether that’s in service of movies like Why Him? or I Love You, Man or a commercial for Serta mattresses, I apply the same approach. Keep it loose, be incredibly collaborative and open to new ideas, but make sure to keep my eye on the tone and the message we’re aiming to convey.
What have you been working on so far in 2017?
My work on Why Him? pretty much took me right up to the last days of 2016. So 2017 has so far been about the early stages of developing a handful of projects in film and TV. Yes, I’m being intentionally vague because I’m in the inception phase so things will inevitably change a lot before I’m ready to go direct them.