Director wanted to show disease can hit early in life

Next week marks the release of “Love and Other Drugs” starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Edward Zwick. Having first gained notoriety as the creator of the landmark TV shows “thirtysomething” and “My So Called Like,” Zwick went on to amass an impressive feature film resume, including “Glory,” “The Last Samurai,” “Courage Under Fire,” “Legends of the Fall,” “About Last Night...” and “Blood Diamond.” Zwick recently toured the country promoting the film which included a stop in Atlanta.

Michael Clark: Was it just me or did this movie bear more than a strong resemblance to “About Last Night...?”

Edward Zwick: I think they’re cousins. It looks closely at a sometimes testy relationship without any easy answers.

MC: You’re mixing a bawdy sex comedy with a drama about disease. That’s an odd pairing.

EZ: I wanted to show that Parkinson’s can begin early — in this case with someone in their 20s — like my friend Michael J. Fox. He self-medicated and was in denial for a long time, and generally speaking movies focusing on a disease like this concentrate on older individuals. That it can happen to such a vital, sexually charged woman like Anne’s character I think makes it all the more poignant. Being that it is set in the mid-’90s just after the FDA removed restrictions regarding the advertising of prescription drugs on television also played into the story. We chose Viagra because it was the most obvious and recognizable, but there were many drugs advertised for other ailments that began suggesting a quick fix for everything and it affected our society in a huge way.

MC: Anne Hathaway has quite a few nude scenes in this movie. Was that ever an issue for her?

EZ: Anne is the real deal and a very serious actress, something people often overlook. It was my approach — and she agreed completely — that if you’re making a serious movie about disease, drugs and sex, you can’t sanitize the nudity and show people in bed with the sheets pulled up to their chins. She also understood that the character used her beauty and sexuality to protect herself against intimacy and letting anyone get to close to her.

MC: There’s a scene in the movie where you feature a Parkinson’s support group sharing what are some rather hilarious stories about themselves. Were those actors or real patients?

EZ: They were real patients and almost all of it was unscripted. We had met with them over the course of a couple days and the thing that struck me about them as a whole was just how upbeat they were. Humor was a constant thread in their stories and by poking fun at themselves, I think the audience will walk away with a different opinion about the disease.

MC: Are you worried that you might not be reaching your desired audience with the “R” rating?

EZ: Not at all. I think this is an “over 17” type of film, which is what we wanted and how it is being received. “About Last Night...” was rated “R” and it did pretty well.

MC: Were you aware during casting that Anne and Jake played a married couple in “Brokeback Mountain?”

EZ: Not until after they had been cast. Yes, they were married in that movie, but not in the traditional sense and certainly not like they are seen in this film.