While romantic comedy fans may not know his name, Nick Moore has been an absolutely crucial cog in many films that are considered absolute classics of the genre. The editor, whose career in the editing room dates back to the early 1980s (his second credit is kingdom of the sunfollowed by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), is best known in the industry for his work on, among other things Notting Hill, About a boy And Love actuallypractically stringing together back-to-back hits for Working Title and turning Hugh Grant into the 1990s poster boy for foppishly charming Brits.
Moore has already become a director of a handful of films, but with This time next year – screening at the American Film Market, where Protagonist is handling sales – he is helming his very first rom-com himself and claims he was brought on board to “give a working title touch to it.”
Starring Emily in Paris outbreak Lucien Laviscount and King’s man star Sophie Cookson, the film – most of which was shot in Italy (replacing London) – has a classic rom-com premise: two people born in the same hospital on New Year’s Day, one minute apart, turn exactly 30 years old thrown together. years later (who would have thought?). But according to Moore, it’s about more than just fun encounters and boring LOLs, with the characters dealing with real-life issues, something he says has been the key to all romcom successes.
Speak with The Hollywood Reporterhe explains what it takes to be a rom-com leader and how Laviscount ticks the necessary boxes, and considers why rom-coms have fallen out of favor since their heyday over twenty years ago.
After editing so many hugely successful rom-coms yourself, it must be a pleasure to now direct one yourself.
It is. You know what these movies smell like. Because not only have I cut a lot, but I have also been assigned to repair a lot. And the advantage of coming out of the editing room is that when you’re on set, you know what it should look like. A bit of advice Tim Bevan gave me on my first photo was, ‘Don’t get it into your head’, but you can’t help it. And if you think about it in your head, you know approximately what you need. And once you have what you need, you can try to get more.
Is this film a return to the Working Title style rom-coms with Richard Curtis that you edited?
I don’t know, I hope so. I think so. I was on a plane the other day watching it Four weddings and a funeral for fun, and it’s funny and moving, but it’s about people. And that’s what I find most interesting: people who are having a hard time or people who lead, that appeals to me the most. It’s banal, but a real superhero movie is a movie about a person going through life. And I find that fascinating. And that’s what this film is about. The world is difficult right now. So if there’s something simple that people can relate to and say, “Oh, I’m struggling so much,” then I think that’s a good thing.
You have Lucien as your romantic male lead. It wasn’t that long ago that he broke in Emily in PariS. Was that the impetus for his casting?
We wanted a diverse cast and it didn’t matter which way. I only knew Lucien from Emily and that character is very different from this character. He is so wonderful, fun and enthusiastic. And I gave him a reference, I don’t think he’s ever seen it: a Lubitsch film from the 1930s called Design for Living and Gary Cooper is wonderful and funny, but barely does anything. So I said I wanted you to be like that. Less is more.
So that sounds quite the opposite of the classic Hugh Grant rom-com role, where he’s kind of all over the place and nervously filling in the gaps.
But Hugh in it About a boy …he was better when he did less. There is so much happening behind the eyes that it registers. And that’s what I said to Lucien on set: “Don’t move your hands so much.”
I don’t think anyone has seen him in anything since Emilyso there will be some curiosity about what else he can do
Well, that character Alfie is extremely busy, extremely loud. But his character in this is interesting because it’s not just a rom-com. Golda Rosheuvel plays his mother, she is locked up and has psychological problems. And so you have this character who seems very successful financially, but actually has a lot he’s dealing with. So I wanted this to come through.
And you also have Sophie Cookson. She is perhaps best known for King’s man but I feel like she hasn’t had a chance to shine properly on screen yet.
She was really good as Christine Keeler in the TV series (The trial of Christine Keeler), but she’s just great at this. In the first conversations we had, she was concerned about the comedy, and I told her that I love comedy, but also that dignity for the characters is very important. It’s not just about falling and being crazy, it’s about refinement. And she was great; she could be sassy when she needed to be. But even with something like this it’s about who you surround yourself with. It’s like Hugh’s character Notting Hill and Spike, they’re funny together. And that’s what we’ve tried to do here.
Since the days of Notting Hill And Love actually, rom-coms have had a tough time. There have been some good ones on Netflix, but the genre has never reached the same heights. Do you have any idea why?
Don’t know. But you’re right. Working Title really seemed to suit them and we did film after film and you knew they would do well. So that combination of people knew what to do. Maybe they went too broad, maybe they tried to push things and became more comedy than romcom. For me, my big fear about this is that it’s not funny enough because you get too close to it. And then people say ‘that’s true!’. But this is very emotional and it is the balance between a smile and a tear that is so important. It’s a good laugh, but a laugh is a little sweeter when you’ve just cried.
Are there certain qualities you think are needed to be a leading man or woman in a romcom? Is comedic timing important?
The thing about comedic timing is that as an editor, it’s up to me. But I think it’s about charm. The thing about Lucien is that he just lights up the screen. We do a meet-cute, unapologetically, and it all goes back to Billy Wilder. The man knew how to do it, so watch his films and you can do it too. It’s that simple.
I noticed you’re also lined up to direct another movie, the comedy Missionary position. Have you made a concerted effort to direct more or is this just what is being offered to you?
Not really. When I was little and in film school, I wanted to be a director like everyone else, and at my first job someone gave me some wise advice: learn to cut, because it is really useful. So I started cutting and I had a lot of luck, and Eric Fellner asked me to help with the first one Babysitter McPhee. And at the end of that I asked if I could direct my own movie, and they gave me a shot at Wildchild. And Wildchild wasn’t released in American, so the problem I had, since I live there, was people asking, why did your first movie go straight to TV? So that made it difficult. And I was offered a lot of interesting work to cut. But I like doing this. It is the best.
Richard Curtis recently said his own daughter is thinking about it Love actually to be sexist, racist and fattist. Do you agree?
It was funny because I remember we were looking at the dailies and the Prime Minister’s assistant said ‘big ass’ or something like that, and I thought, OK… But yeah, now you probably wouldn’t do it.