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January 2, 2013

Successful director avoids ‘gilt’ trip

Local native Anne Fletcher — director of ‘The Guilt Trip’ — remains grounded

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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Successful director avoids ‘gilt’ trip
Executive producers and co-stars Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand discuss a scene on the set of “The Guilt Trip” with director Anne Fletcher, a Michigan native.

She may be one of the most in-demand female directors in Hollywood, but Anne Fletcher doesn’t have a driver.

“No, I drive myself,” she said with a laugh by phone from Los Angeles, where she was heading to a meeting recently before returning to the Midwest to spend the holidays with her family.

“I’m such a Detroit girl — you can’t take it out of my body,” she said.

True to her local roots, Fletcher was behind the wheel of a Ford Hybrid Fusion — a vehicle she loves so much, she joked, she should be getting commissions on all of the referrals she’s made.

Fletcher’s latest film is “The Guilt Trip,” another in a string of comedies with humanity at their cores. It follows “The Proposal,” which starred Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds; “27 Dresses,” which featured Katherine Heigl, Ed Burns and James Marsden; and her directorial debut, the school dance drama “Step Up,” which launched the career of Channing Tatum and introduced Tatum to his future wife, actress and co-star Jenna Dewan-Tatum.

“I like anything that’s grounded in reality, (and) I love to laugh more than anything,” Fletcher said.

“The Guilt Trip” — which opened in theaters nationwide Dec. 19 — stars Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Kathy Najimy, Colin Hanks and Adam Scott. Rogen plays a struggling inventor who brings his mother — played by Streisand — along on a business road trip. Misunderstandings and awkward situations follow, but mother and son also become closer as a result of the journey.

Fletcher was immediately drawn to the script — written by executive producer Dan Fogelman, who based it on a real-life road trip he took with his mother. It not only reminded her of her relationship with her mother, but also of her mother’s relationship with her younger brother.

“It was like someone was looking into my relationship with my mom,” Fletcher said of reading the story. “It was the entire reason I took the movie, because I understood it so well.”

Although it’s about a mother and son, she said the story “transcends both genders.”

“It’s a very complex relationship told simply,” Fletcher said.

From the beginning, she knew she wanted Rogen and Streisand in the lead roles. Producer John Goldwyn said Fletcher’s commitment to the project made that pairing possible.

“She always spoke so eloquently about this movie from her heart,” Goldwyn stated in press materials for the film. “Obviously, she had just done two big, crowd-pleasing movies with ‘Step Up’ and ‘The Proposal,’ but this would be a very different kind of challenge. I was sure when I met her that she had what it would take to tackle this story. … And I think ultimately, Barbra Streisand came on board in part because of Anne, and because she was excited to work with one of a few truly commercial women directors. Barbra is a great supporter of women and I think she enjoyed that about Anne, and also I think she enjoyed that Anne is someone who calls it like she sees it.”

After her meeting, Fletcher was slated to follow one of her rituals — seeing her movies with friends on opening night at a theater full of paying customers — something she called, “my favorite thing to do,” even though she admitted it can bring on the jitters.

“The kind of movies that I make — they’re meant to entertain, to make you laugh, to make you feel something,” Fletcher said. “I don’t want to hear what (the critics) have to say — I want to hear what my audience has to say. At the end of the day, you’re making movies for (people who buy a ticket).”

A 1984 graduate of Lake Shore High School, Fletcher grew up in St. Clair Shores, where the natural athlete began studying dance at the Turning Pointe School of the Performing Arts when she was 12. Less than two years later, she was teaching dance, herself. A professional dancer by age 15, she moved to Los Angeles after high school and initially worked on industrial and television shows, and as a Laker Girl.

After she appeared in a music video for “Dragnet” with Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks, Fletcher began working as a dancer in films, making her big-screen debut in “The Mask.” She went on to become an assistant film choreographer with Adam Shankman, and then became a film choreographer, herself, working on films such as “Catwoman,” “Ice Princess” and “Along Came Polly,” among many others. Fletcher continues to provide choreography for film and television, with recent projects that include “Real Steel,” which was filmed in Michigan.

Fletcher remains close to her family and was slated to spend Christmas with her mother, Kathleen Fletcher, of Grosse Pointe Shores, and her younger brother, Fred, and his wife and their four children, at their home in the Chicago area. Fred, a gym general manager and COO, has a small role in “The Guilt Trip,” sitting next to Streisand at a slot machine in Las Vegas. Kathleen Fletcher also appears briefly as a waitress at a Texas steakhouse who brings water to Rogen and Streisand’s table. It’s Fred Fletcher’s first appearance in one of his big sister’s films, but the family matriarch has been in three of her daughter’s films. Kathleen Fletcher said strangers often recognize her as a result.

“It’s fun,” she said.

After spending a few days in Chicago, Kathleen Fletcher said she and Anne would be heading to Michigan for a few days before the filmmaker returns to Los Angeles.

“I’m just very proud (of her),” Kathleen Fletcher said, while driving to O’Hare Airport to pick up her daughter a few days before Christmas. “It’s just hard to believe sometimes that she’s done everything that she’s done.”

Anne Fletcher lovingly calls her mother “my biggest cheerleader,” and her mom is happy to see that her hard-working daughter has remained grounded in a world where that’s not always the case.

“She’s a very good person, very talented,” Kathleen Fletcher said. “She loves, loves, loves what she does. And she’s very good at it.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.