About the Story
Producer Bob Levy didn’t have to look far to discover the source material for his latest feature film project. Levy is head of the film and television division of Alloy Entertainment, which published All the Way, the young adult novel by Andy Behrens on which Sex Drive is based. Alloy, which was founded by Leslie Morgenstein, also a producer on Sex Drive, has found a unique niche in the entertainment industry. The company previously produced the popular “Gossip Girls” television series and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie franchise, both developed from books that Alloy publishes.
With the novel in hand, the producers’ next step was to find screenwriters capable of translating the story from the page to the big screen. Levy and Morgenstein met with a number of writers before selecting the team of Sean Anders and John Morris to adapt the book into an outrageous and uproarious script that was eventually dubbed Sex Drive.
“Once we met Sean and John and heard their vision of this movie, it was clear sailing,” says Levy. “They came in and blew us out of the room with a take that was a thousand percent smarter, funnier and more real than anything else we heard. They had figured out exactly how to translate the book into a movie.”
Morris and Anders had previously collaborated on the teen-oriented comedy, Never Been Thawed, which became a cult hit on college campuses across the country. From the beginning, they were determined to put their unique stamp on the project. “The film is quite a bit different from the book that Bob sent us,” says Anders, who also directed the film. “But it has the same general premise: Kid drives across the country to lose his virginity. John and I enjoyed it and immediately started talking about how to make it more cinematic and fun and crazy.”
The pair took inspiration for Sex Drive from the films of John Hughes, the auteur of adolescent adventures like Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. “Like Hughes we started with story and characters,” says Anders. “When we felt we had that nailed down, then we would think, how could this be funny? And we would try to make it funny.”
According to Levy, that’s an understatement of the team’s talents. “It’s one thing to be funny—there are a lot of funny writers in Hollywood,” he points out. “These guys are also smart. They’ve created great, original jokes, but they’re also telling a magnificent story filled with really deep, rich characterizations. To find that skill-set in one package is a very rare thing.
“There are people in this business who’ve been pounding away for years,” says the producer. “These guys have only been at it for a short time. Hollywood is the last great meritocracy and their rise has been really meteoric. John and Sean are the real deal.”
Levy describes the plot of Sex Drive as an archetypal human story. “It’s about looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s about thinking what you want is sex and realizing what you need is love.”
That underlying theme is what Levy says makes the film work on many different levels. “It’s smart. It’s stupid. It’s emotional. It’s physical. It’s witty. It’s sexual. It’s about courage and fear. Putting so many different kinds of things together makes the storytelling richer, makes all the jokes funnier and makes you love all the characters even more.”
From the very first meeting, Anders pitched himself to direct the movie as well as script it. Despite having only one previous feature under his belt, he approached the project with the sure hand of a veteran, says Levy. “He really zeroed in on exactly what the tone of this movie should be—a sort of heightened fun reality. To a great extent, the humor depends on a balance between the three kids, who are strongly grounded in reality, and the slightly heightened characters and situations that befall them on the road. But the core of the journey is the real and relatable characters.”
“Of course, the film has a fair share of broad, as well as smart, humor,” observes actor Clark Duke, who plays the unlikely teen Lothario, Lance. “I wouldn’t compare the movie to American Pie so much as to an ‘80s comedy. It’s sort of screwball, but Josh, Amanda and I went at our characters from a naturalistic place. Some of the stuff that happens is ridiculous, in a good way, but the main three characters are going at it from a realistic perspective.”
Seth Green, who is unforgettable in a fine supporting role as a sardonic Amish car mechanic, notes that the alchemy of comedy is more art than science. “It’s always a roll of the dice and somewhat lucky when you get the right group of people together with the right director and the right material. You never know until you get there. I was happy that when I got here that’s exactly what I got.
“You’d never have known that Sean was not a long-time director,” says the prolific young actor whose numerous memorable roles have ranged from Scott Evil in the Austin Powers trilogy to the voice of Chris Griffin on “Family Guy.” “He is knowledgeable and has a really clear sense of what it is that he wants. He’s also got great taste in comedy and such a keen sense of what it’s going to look like at the end. But he’s also open to spontaneity, which is a really good quality, because we had a lot of people who could riff brilliantly if given the opportunity. Sean was really good at catching the right moments and letting them play out.”
Producer Bob Levy concurs. “It was such a pleasure to be on the set and watch brilliantly funny people do what they do best. To see Sean give them the comfort and security and license to be themselves and to be funny and to be comedians was inspiring.”