New Year's Eve... the great reset button of life.
Director Garry Marshall, renowned for a catalogue of films that capture love in so many rich, warm and funny ways, calls it "the perfect opportunity to take stock of things, to think about the mistakes of the past year and about how maybe you can do better. A time to be thankful for what you have. But it's also a fun, exciting, wonderful time, full of anticipation - and yes, some craziness. Mostly it's about hope, when everything you want seems possible again, if you're willing to take another chance."
Marshall means what he says. It was on New Year's Eve nearly 50 years ago that he became engaged to the love of his life, his wife, Barbara. "She was wearing a dress the same color as the dress Halle Berry wears in the movie. We were in love, we were dancing, and we said, 'Well, let's see how it works out,'" he recounts. "It's always been her favorite holiday."
Undeniably, romance steals the show in the countdown hours of December 31st as many couples look forward to that special midnight kiss, others seize the magic of the evening to make lifelong commitments, and still others decide to take a chance on someone new who might just be "the one." But the emotional reach of the holiday goes further. While "New Year's Eve" serves up romance in some of its myriad delicious and maddening stages, it also looks at love in some of its other forms: forgiveness, compassion, and the everyday miracle of people opening their hearts to a different point of view.
The movie addresses these ideas in a collection of individual stories told as if randomly selected among the countless tales that play out every day. Each stands alone but some touch briefly upon one another, while others ultimately cross paths to a perfect closure. Marshall, a one-time jazz-band drummer, says, "I hear the music under every scene, the beats and the notes in the dialogue. In 'New Year's Eve' there are some very touching moments and a lot of comedy, a lot of different stories to tell, and each one has its own rhythm. I like to move things around, to balance the intensity of one scene against the lightness of another."
Producers Mike Karz and Wayne Rice reunited with Marshall and their "Valentine's Day" screenwriter Katherine Fugate to explore dozens of potential characters and scenarios before narrowing the field to the most resonant. "We talked about the kinds of experiences and circumstances that would best convey the themes of the movie across a range of different relationships," offers Fugate. "We wanted a story of first love and one of forgiveness, as well as stories about taking a risk, letting things go, revisiting an old flame, making amends, having a baby, starting fresh… with love being the mitigating force through all of them."
Says Karz, "We were also looking for characters that move in directions you don't necessarily see coming, or interact with characters who may or may not be the ones you expect them to connect with. Katherine is so skillful, not only in creating these individuals, but also in interweaving their storylines in a natural way."
"What's also interesting about this kind of ensemble piece is that it's designed so the entire sequence takes place in one day," adds Rice "The third act of a movie is often about a ticking clock, and in this case, there's an actual clock that triggers the action for everyone. You can take the audience on a roller coaster ride through all these possibilities, but that ball is going to drop at midnight and they all have to conclude simultaneously."
Not surprisingly, Marshall's "New Year's Eve" celebration attracted a multitude of Hollywood's A-list talent, primarily for the pleasure of working with the renowned director. The film's remarkable multi-generational starring cast includes Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank and Sofia Vergara.
Additionally, film fans will recognize numerous surprise cameos and supporting roles filled by such stars as Jake T. Austin, Jim Belushi, Cary Elwes, Carla Gugino, Cherry Jones, Jack McGee, Joey McIntyre, Alyssa Milano, Sarah Paulson, Sarge and Yeardley Smith, among others, to help welcome the New Year in style.
Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel rejoin Marshall on this second holiday outing, following "Valentine's Day," in which they portrayed entirely different characters. "When they told me Garry was directing, I said yes before I even read the script," says Kutcher.
Michelle Pfeiffer, who starred in Marshall's "Frankie and Johnny," would agree. "I love Garry. He has tremendous energy and he's always ready for anything. He's one of the best when it comes to giving audiences a story they're truly going to enjoy, something to relate to and laugh about, and who wouldn't want to be a part of that?"
Others cast members were new to what's known as the "Garry Marshall experience," including Hilary Swank, who quickly understood what that meant. "I can see why he's a comedy legend. His instincts are right on. He's always coming up with a funnier line or finding that balance between the drama and comedy, and he brings humor out of a story in a way that makes you laugh not just because it's funny but because it's so true," she says. "
He's incredibly cool," attests Zac Efron, a fan of Marshall's movies long before he became an actor, himself, and who recalls how easy it was to fall into sync with the veteran director at their first meeting. "You could say we're from different eras, but we still had so much to talk about. I think it's impossible to meet Garry and not instantly pick up his enthusiasm. We just try to keep up."
In the way that "Valentine's Day" revolved around Los Angeles and featured some of its most beautiful locales, "New Year's Eve" showcases New York in a blend of the iconically familiar with some lesser-known gems for a portrait of the city at its breathtaking best—dazzling, kinetic, glamorous, and all lit up for its close-up on the biggest night of the year.
"This movie is Garry's celebration of New York City," states Karz. An estimated 500,000 people traverse Times Square on an average day, but on December 31st that number doubles, with over a billion more watching on television across the globe. "There are parties in other big cities - London, Paris, Moscow - but I think people everywhere still look to see that ball drop in New York," says Halle Berry. "There's just something about The Big Apple."
Marshall, born and raised in The Bronx, has always been closely associated with New York and draws upon an endless supply of vivid memories for the film. "It was always a big night for me, even as a kid," he says. "It's really an adult holiday, but the kids like it because there's such an excitement in the air, they can't help feeling that something special is going on, and if they're lucky, their parents will get them up at midnight, half asleep, to make a little noise. In our family it was all about banging pots and pans and yelling out the window. Then, when I was a little older, I went to Times Square to watch the ball drop and later, as a musician, I played in some of the clubs there.
"It was terrific to relive those moments making this movie," Marshall continues. "But that's what New Year's Eve does to people; it stirs up memories. It makes you look forward and back at the same time, and think, 'Where will I be this time next year?'"
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