What happens in Vegas would quickly land in front of the cameras

From the first roll of the dice, the odds were good that What Happens in Vegas would quickly land in front of the cameras. On the strength of a winning pitch by screenwriter Dana Fox and producer Michael Aguilar, the studio immediately commissioned a script and the comedy was off and running.

Recalls Aguilar, "We sold the pitch in the spring, Dana delivered the first draft in the fall, Cameron [Diaz] and Ashton [Kutcher] soon became attached based on that draft, and we were shooting the following summer. By Hollywood standards, that's pretty much warp speed."

According to Dana Fox, What Happens in Vegas was actually an amalgam of several movie ideas she'd been working on. "I'm really interested in stories about finding love or getting to know someone through dysfunction or adversity. I first came up with this story about two people who strangely get to know each other while divorcing. Around that time, I kept hearing the phrase 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' and thought, if it wasn't already taken, it would make a great title for a film.

"Then, out of nowhere, Britney Spears goes and gets married in Las Vegas. And, it's like, yeah--one of the things you can do in Vegas is get married on a whim, sometimes even to a total stranger. Of course, the other thing you can do there is win a ton of money. And then it hit me: what if both of those things happened on the same night?" And, thus, What Happens in Vegas was born.

Cameron Diaz thinks the film's title evokes quite the vivid scenario. "Vegas is a 24-hour city," she says, "you can't tell what time it is, you don't know how much money you've spent, how much you've drunk, how much you've slept, and so on. There's kind of a built in safety net, though--because anything is possible in Vegas, you're given the permission to basically do anything there that you'd probably never do anyplace else at any other time in your life."

"It's really like a free pass to be your wildest, craziest, funniest self," declares Ashton Kutcher, "because no one's supposed to ever find out what you do there."
Diaz and Kutcher were both excited by the chance to bring the film's kicky "what if" scenario to life. "I loved the script's 'grass is always greener' theme," confirms Diaz. "People in relationships often think their single friends are the lucky ones, while the singles just want to be in a relationship. In life, it's ultimately about finding your own happiness. It's not enough to be happy just because you're in a relationship; first you need to be happy with yourself. That's something I think my character Joy learns the hard way."

"Jack and Joy are kind of flip sides of the same coin," Kutcher asserts. "They're both relationship challenged, even though Jack's pretty relaxed about it all while Joy's more uptight. Romantically, they've both been looking for the wrong thing, which is probably what draws them to each other to begin with--even if they are really, really hammered at the time."

Director Tom Vaughan (Starter for 10) was taken with Fox's script after reading just the first act. "The story setup is so incredibly dynamic, fast-paced, and inventive, it absolutely had me hooked by page 30 or 40," reflects Vaughan. "It's a classic sparring comedy with two characters who, deep down, are wildly drawn to each other, though of course they can't see it.

"This kind of dynamic has been going on in movies since Cary Grant first laid eyes on Katharine Hepburn--and well before that. Basically, you put together two fantastic, attractive movie stars in a small, confined space, and let them fight it out until they realize what their relationship is all about. And, as always, it's how they get there that's the real fun."

Though the movie's concept had its share of broad and funny conceits, the filmmakers worked hard to ground the story in as much reality as possible, especially when it came to the legal aspects of the main characters' marriage and divorce. "We set the movie in New York because that state's divorce laws jibed with the story we ultimately wanted to tell," relates producer Aguilar. "It was also the perfect place to set the non-Vegas parts of the film."

Concurs Dana Fox, "Tonally, we could get away with being a bit 'larger than life' because we always kept the emotional truth of the situations and the characters in the forefront."

Once Vaughan became involved, he also recognized the need to keep the film's humor in balance. "I wanted the comedy to be very strong and genuinely funny, but also for audiences to care about Jack and Joy's relationship. I tried to avoid doing anything too extreme just to get a laugh."

"Sure, I have to flash a cabbie, race down the streets of New York throwing mangoes, and wrestle Ashton to the ground in the middle of Central Park, but there's an honest method to my madness," assures Cameron Diaz. "Tom made sure we stayed real in what were some very surreal situations."

"As someone who will do anything for a laugh, I appreciated Tom's vigilance in not allowing us to go insane just for the sake of, say, a great bit for the trailer," says Ashton Kutcher. "At the same time, I knew, given the script's wild premise, we'd have our share of creative freedom."

With such starry leads as Kutcher and Diaz on board from the start, there was a sure-fire foundation in place that couldn't help but excite everyone involved. Vaughan considers the Kutcher-Diaz pairing "a fantastic piece of casting." He remembers, "The minute I heard they were attached, it just made the most sense in the world. I thought, 'Cameron and Ashton in a movie together? Why did nobody do this before?'" The director affirms, "From day one, there was never any question that they weren't going to have fantastic chemistry."

"I knew both Ashton and Cameron were incredibly funny," says Dana Fox, "but I was really impressed by the immense amount of heart and depth they brought to their roles. Because they're both so bright, we were able to turn this movie into something smarter than your average trip-and-fall romantic comedy."

"I think I do, actually, trip and fall a few times in the movie," jokes Cameron Diaz.

"That's because I probably pushed you," quips Kutcher.

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