This Means War is about two of the world’s top spies who’ve been partners and best friends for many years. Through a series of circumstances even they couldn’t anticipate, they fall in love with the same woman,” says producer-screenwriter Simon Kinberg. “FDR and Tuck decide they’re both going to date Lauren and see which one she chooses. As each begins to fall for Lauren, they get increasingly competitive and employ their spy tactics and techniques to sabotage each other. Lauren, who just wanted to find the right guy, has no idea that FDR and Tuck are waging war for her love.”
The “spy against spy” storyline – what happens when two best friends who have incredible skill sets turn on each other – is integral to the film’s humor and action. At the same time, director McG wanted these bigger than life situations to be relatable.
“We wanted to present that in a way that felt very credible,” says the Charlie’s Angels and Terminator: Salvation helmer. “We weren’t interested in making a spoof. And I liked taking advantage of Tuck’s and FDR’s ‘Alpha’ characteristics. I would ask, if James Bond encountered [Mission: Impossible protagonist] Ethan Hunt, would they have a great deal of respect for each other? Of course they would. But would one ever acquiesce to the other? No way. Each man recognizes the skill of the other but at the end of the day, each is betting on himself. And that is a great engine for a movie.”
“It’s every woman’s fantasy to have two unbelievably hot, sexy guys battling over you,” says Witherspoon. “Lauren doesn’t know that Tuck and FDR are secret agents for the CIA. THIS MEANS WAR is almost like two different movies. My character’s in a comedy and Chris’ and Tom’s are in a big action film.”
Witherspoon also appreciated the two sides of Lauren. “At work, Lauren is the most decisive woman in the world, but in her personal life, she’s very indecisive. I think a lot of people can relate to her feeling of, ‘Am I picking the right guy for me.'”
It’s a tough choice, to be sure, because her suitors are handsome, smart, romanticâ€¦and the world’s greatest secret agents. For generations, movie audiences have been entertained and beguiled by the thrills, chills and sex appeal of super spies. “With FDR and Tuck, we were going for the classic movie special agent,” says McG. “What’s sexy about that world is it’s life and death; it’s international; and it’s the antithesis of what most people experience in their everyday lives. I think we all want to travel around the world, go to exotic locations, drive fancy cars, fire guns, and be romantically irresistible. We’re having fun with that, and FDR and Tuck are incredibly proficient in that world. But when it comes to affairs of the heart, they’re just like everyone else. Clueless.”
For the character of FDR, the filmmakers were looking for what McG calls a “rogue – somebody who was lovable, even while possessing supreme self-confidence. And when it comes to that kind of energy, someone who embodies that magical mix, Chris Pine is the heavyweight champ.”
Pine has become one of Hollywood’s hottest stars with his critical and box office success portraying the young James T. Kirk in Star Trek, and an inexperienced train conductor in the heart pounding drama Unstoppable. Pine describes FDR as “a consumer of all things – of fine whiskey, good cigars, nice suits, fast cars, and beautiful ladies. Not necessarily in that order. He enjoys being a spy. He’s the guy who would have watched James Bond movies as a kid and said, ‘I want to do that.’ There’s not a lot of brooding or complication in FDR’s life.”
“Tuck, however, comes from a more serious school of espionage,” Pine continues. “Tuck is complicated, interesting, and internal. He’s the spy existentialist while FDR enjoys the bacchanalian universe of being a spy. The infuriatingly talented Tom Hardy plays Tuck. Tom is super charismatic and handsome as all hell and he brings a complicated nature and an English sensibility to his role.”
The filmmakers’ long search to cast the role of Tuck ended when they saw Hardy’s performance in the box office hit Inception. “Tom had everything we wanted,” recalls Kinberg. “His sense of humor had a much different tone than Chris’. Tom has an aura of danger, which we really wanted for Tuck. He was very physical, conveyed the character’s complexities, and was perfect for the role.”
Though Hardy seemed to become an overnight sensation with his breakthrough work in Inception, he has also turned in much lauded performances in the recent dramas Warrior; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bronson, and RocknRolla. So his role in THIS MEANS WAR, a big comedy-action film, was a substantial departure from his earlier work. “Tom is an actor who loves challenges,” observes Kinberg. “He had done heavy drama and action, so I think the challenge of playing THIS MEANS WAR’s humor and fun is what drew him in.”
Hardy concurs the film presented a very different kind of opportunity than his previous work. “Comedy, in itself, is not an easy thing to do,” he explains. “I thought it was going to be a walk in the park, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m very grateful for the experience.” Hardy was also drawn by the opportunity to play opposite Witherspoon. “Working with Reese was like a master class in the comedy genre for me.”
Joining Witherspoon, Pine and Hardy in the starring cast are Til Schweiger and Chelsea Handler. Schweiger, one of Germany’s biggest movie stars and film directors, portrays Heinrich, a menacing international arms dealer who seeks revenge against FDR and Tuck for causing his brother’s death. Best known to U.S. audiences for his memorable turn as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in the Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Schweiger says that while his character figures in some of THIS MEANS WAR’s enormous set pieces, there’s much more to it than high-powered action. “Most of the film is about fun, friendship and trust,” he notes.
Starring as Lauren’s best friend Trish, is inimitable talk show host, comedienne actor, and author Chelsea Handler. Trish is a wife and mother whose mission in life is to offer frank and explicit opinions on her single friend’s love life. “Trish is basically me, but married,” says the famously single Handler. “Trish is not the best advisor, but Lauren needs her to provide a jolt of energy. “‘Listen,’ Trish tells Lauren, ‘you better get out there and do the things every woman wants to do! So get the party started, Chaka Khan’ (who’s not in the movie, by the way).”
Says Witherspoon: “Everybody has one of those crazy friends who does wacky things and lives vicariously through their dating friends. I’ve known Chelsea for a while, and it was fun that we got to make this movie together. She’s just perfect person for the role.”
Related Link: Read Full Production Notes for This Means War >>