The sexy new flick The Perfect Guy isn’t your typical, twisty-love-triangle, romantic thriller. It’s easy to compare it to similar works like Fatal Attraction, but there are unique, intentional elements of this story, allowing it to push forward and overcome common hurdles we see in the media. Director David M. Rosenthal (Janie Jones, Falling Up) and up-and-coming producer Tommy Oliver (1982) explain how they took matters into their own hands with the film (starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, and Morris Chestnut), breaking down Hollywood barriers to tell a compelling, empowering, and realistic story.
Two dudes saying there aren’t enough strong, African American, female leads in Hollywood is eye-opening, not to mention refreshing as hell.
What would you say to somebody that compared this movie to ones like Enough or Obsessed?
David M. Rosenthal: I mean look, it’s a natural comparison. Also Fatal Attraction. When you have love triangles and the lover that goes crazy, and highly charged sexual events that go wrong, these are all common themes in these movies. What separates these movies from each other is the way that they are enacted and executed. Actors’ performances, writing, etc. There are dividing lines.
Tommy Oliver: I think the comparison to movies like Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful, is a compliment. We were trying to do something that was a little bit different and put a spin on it so it wasn’t the same thing we’ve seen again and again. That said, it is a certain type of movie and we recognize that. As evidenced by the reaction, people like it. There’s a need for this sort of movie.
How did you try to make it different? What were the conversations like?
TO: We had a lot of conversations about how to make this story pop. The visual language and also just the feel. Significant attention to detail in the number of ways people may not even recognize.
Why was colorblind casting so crucial when approaching this movie?
DR: I came in and there was already an identity to [the cast]. It really works colorblind. It was the best we could get and was right to make this world right. [Tommy and] I talked a lot about not thinking about race in the making of the film. It’s a thriller. Not the idea that we’re making an African American film.
TO: It was just about people being people. It’s honestly nothing more than that. They’re all incredibly talented actors.
Thanks to stories such as this and from showrunners like Shonda Rhimes, we’re finally seeing more interracial relationships in the media.
DR: It’s a reflection of our society and the way we are in terms of race, gender, everything. Now, more than ever, we’re much more integrated than we used to be. To not reflect that cultural experience, I think is crazy. There are big, commercial films – I don’t want to point any out – [that are] completely white-washed. I don’t get it. Why do that? Every story has to be molded. But you don’t want to be color-irrational.
TO: It’s important because it’s true. You look at my circle of friends, David’s circle of friends. It’s what we are, who we are, how we interact with people. Instead of white-washing, or creating something that’s inauthentic, it was us trying to replicate life in a way that’s honest and representative of how people actually live. To do anything less than that for this story would have rang false.
Can we talk about how much I appreciate such a strong-willed female lead?
DR: We’re so used to seeing movies where the man saves the woman, a woman in distress. But having a woman in distress who ultimately takes things into her own hands and conquers and wins the day by her own strength and wit, is empowering.
TO: Seeing a strong woman as a lead kicking ass is incredible. It’s kind of annoying when you take a movie like Bridesmaids or Trainwreck and people are like, “Oh yeah, you can have a female-led movie that does well in the business. Imagine that.” When are we gonna get over that? When is it gonna stop being a surprise? It takes time, unfortunately. But I think Sanaa is a powerhouse, she really is.
So about that Sanaa…
DR: Sanaa was a terrific embodiment of a character like that because she possesses the vulnerability and powerful inner strength that all audiences can identify with and root for.
TO: She is more loving and sweet than I would’ve guessed. I’ve seen her in movies and grew up watching her, quite frankly, but being behind the monitor and watching her, I saw even more in her and how incredible of an actress she really is. She’s committed to her craft.
Imagine her, Taraji P. Henson, and Kerry Washington in a room? It would be beyond badass.
TO: I couldn’t agree more. They are all forces of nature, they really are.
Why are women so drawn to these kinds of stories?
DR: Look at Hunger Games, a huge film about a strong, young girl. It’s great. I have a daughter, I want to see [her] look at films and pop culture and be inspired – not just by men being able to take control and be powerful – but by women being powerful and on their own power and strength. It’s happening more and more, I don’t think it’s happening enough, there’s some kind of shift.
TO: The idea of living on the edge is exciting for obvious reasons. Looking at things that are more exciting than everyday life, for an hour or two, being able to escape. Watching people make bolder decisions than they would make themselves. Whether that’s having sex in a club bathroom or grabbing a shotgun in order to protect yourself. It’s just an exciting ride.
What do you hope for people, women in particular, to take away from this movie?
TO: Women can and should be the lead in movies. The person as the lead in a studio movie, on the billboard, front and center. Here’s a black woman who’s able to do that. That’s an incredibly empowering image.
It’s important to turn a stereotype on its head and show that men can get crazy in relationships, too.
T: They absolutely can. [Laughs] It should be shown.
The Perfect Guy is out now.