nancy meyers week

Nancy Meyers Searches for Her Own Comfort

For decades, she’s been the foremost purveyor of onscreen hygge. Now she’s ready to retire it all.

It’s Nancy Meyers Week. Why? Because it’s The Holiday season, and It’s Complicated. Something’s Gotta Give. Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Meyers
It’s Nancy Meyers Week. Why? Because it’s The Holiday season, and It’s Complicated. Something’s Gotta Give. Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Meyers
It’s Nancy Meyers Week. Why? Because it’s The Holiday season, and It’s Complicated. Something’s Gotta Give. Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Meyers

The first thing Nancy Meyers does when I FaceTime her is direct me. “You’re supertight,” she says matter-of-factly, sitting at her kitchen counter in an off-white sweater. “You probably want to back up a little. You’re completely filling the screen.” “You’re directing me!” I say, laughing. “I try not to,” she says. “I’m just trying to help you. That’s what directing is.”

After a four-decade-plus career of writing, directing, and producing her own films — a series of delightful, idiosyncratic adult comedies, romantic or otherwise, often inspired by or incidentally predicting her own life — Meyers claims that she’s done making movies. But she couldn’t seem to help herself from falling back into the role during our two-hour conversation, which was spurred by a series of emails we exchanged over the course of the pandemic. I essentially begged her to make another movie via blog post; she wrote back sweetly that she had “read it” and was “thinking about it.” Understanding that she probably meant “no way,” I then spent months seeking solace in the beloved Nancy Meyers canon that did exist. The result is this: I’m spending an entire week saluting her cinematic universe — who and what comprises it, how it stands together as a genre of its own, why I’m so obsessively drawn to it, why all the turtlenecks.

For a woman who has worked so diligently to secure control of the stories she was able to tell in Hollywood — stories that have largely revolved around ambitious women who have aged with Meyers as she’s moved through the industry — true retirement means finally leaving that body of work in the hands of other people. Namely, her fans and critics. This is a leap of faith for Meyers, and maybe one that she’s not entirely ready for. As we looked back on the movies she has spent most of her adult life carefully crafting, the woman behind Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday grappled with her legacy as a filmmaker, discussing everything from her relationship to the male critics that have dismissed her work as “chick flicks,” to the fans who fixate on and meme-ify details she finds merely incidental (the kitchen islands, the all-white outfits), to the quantifiable and unquantifiable elements that really do define her cinematic universe. At times, our conversation got a little intense; at other times, it was as if I were reminiscing with an old friend.

My first question for you is actually about your response to me telling you about Nancy Meyers Week. You seem so surprised, like people wouldn’t be interested in something like that.
Well, I don’t know. It’s been a while since I’ve had a movie out. If it wasn’t for Instagram, I really would have been shocked.

What do you mean?
I get a lot of feedback on Instagram, a lot of DMs.

And what do people say to you?
Since COVID, it’s been a lot of a certain kind of appreciation for my films and the experience that lets them get out of this world for a minute. They’ll show me the movie with a cup of hot chocolate in front of it, or a glass of wine in the frame, or cozy slippers. There’s a lot of that.

And you’ve found that appreciation is more intense since the pandemic started?
For sure. Well, who’s home this much? Who’s watching this much TV? I was watching on the treadmill about an hour ago, watching Stephen Colbert’s interview with Kate Winslet last night. And he started talking to her about The Holiday and basically said, “My wife always wants to watch it. And I … like watching it. I feel like this time of year, we have to watch it.” And he says, “Do you watch it?” She said no.

Do you watch it?
Well, on Thanksgiving, there was a Holiday marathon on Lifetime. If you see an I Love Lucy marathon — which is what I usually watch on Thanksgiving — it’s many different episodes. This was: The movie ended, then it began. And it ended, then it began again. So I did watch a lot of it. Because I never watch it. I never watch my movies. It’s not that I don’t care for them. I just … after I make them, it’s many, many years until I see them again. When I did the Father of the Bride [Part 3 (ish)] thing for Netflix, I had to watch the movies to write, because I hadn’t written these characters in 25 years. I hadn’t seen those movies in ten years, I would say.

Can you enjoy your films, or are you picking them apart in your mind?
No, this time I did enjoy [The Holiday]. I was proud of it. I really was. It was a movie that was not a hit and almost didn’t get made. When the movie opened, I was in France. We were doing publicity around Europe, and the day it opened was my birthday. We were in Paris and the movie didn’t open; it didn’t have the numbers anybody was hoping it would have. And I tried to reach the head of marketing, because how it opens has a lot to do with how they sell it, right? This is the perfect example of that, this movie. The way in which it was sold I felt needed to adjust. How it was presented in the TV spots, it didn’t make [people] want to go see it. But she wouldn’t take my call. I called her Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I thought, Well, this has never happened to me before, where a movie didn’t open the way they thought and the woman won’t call me back. We were all supposed to go on to Berlin as our next stop, and I just stayed in Paris. I said, “I can’t.” I was so depressed. I thought the movie worked. It wasn’t a different movie then. It was the same movie.

So, for many years, I didn’t see it, but then audiences found it over the years. It wasn’t that I didn’t watch it because I lost faith in it — it was that I felt badly. It was always something I felt badly about. But in the long run, over the course of my work, it has brought so much joy to me because of people’s response to it. I had to wait 13 years.

I mean, I watch it every year. Is that the movie you get the most response to now, would you say?
And Something’s Gotta Give. The two of them. But Something’s Gotta Give was a pretty good hit, and Diane [Keaton] was nominated for an Oscar and she won the Golden Globe. It had a lot at the time around it. And The Holiday didn’t. So it’s the sweetest story for me.

I noticed that almost all of your films have come out around the holiday season. Is that a choice that you made?
No. They never let the filmmaker pick the release date, but when The Intern was going to come out, I begged them to give me Christmas. I said, “I’ve had 20 years of Christmas movies. It’s a good thing. It works. You can go with your family.” But they promised Christmas to some movie that didn’t do well. So we came out at some random September date — and we still did really well. Which was great, but I really wanted that one to come out at Christmas.

One of the most common comments on your Instagram is people begging you to make another movie.
[Laughs] It’s a lot. Even if I don’t post about a movie, some random thing, they’ll bring it up. I never respond, as you notice. I respond to a lot of people, but I haven’t had a new movie in a while, and I’m probably not going to have any more movies.

You really think you’re done?
It feels that way. I really liked making the faux-Zoom Father of the Bride 3. I liked it because, first of all, I loved the people. I love the new people that came into it. And it took three months to do, as opposed to a year and a half or two years. The length of a movie, I found over time, became exhausting. Because it’s not that I can’t work for two years. It’s the intensity of it for that amount of time — it never lets up.

Is there any world in which you’d change your mind?
I could change my mind, but no. I miss that part of myself that gets to do that, but it’s so stressful. It didn’t used to be that way. Making movies used to be much more fun. It was always stressful. There was always a lot of money at stake. It was always a lot of personalities. It was always release dates, and get it done, and don’t go over budget, and try to stick to the schedule. There’s always those things, but it was just more fun.

Once superhero movies really became the only movie studios cared about, the experience of making a movie like mine changed. I remember when I finished The Intern, I thought, I think this is it. And then I produced Home Again, which my daughter directed. So I did that a year and a half later. I made two movies in three years, and that just about put me over the edge. I’m still on the edge. Could I be pulled back from the edge? Maybe. I’ve had some interesting offers. But also, with COVID, I’m not going on a set. I don’t even go into my backyard if somebody’s here.

Maybe once you’re back from the edge, you’ll feel differently.

I’m saying this for myself, mostly. I hope you make another movie.
I gave it my all, Rachel. Forty years. I started at 29. I had two pregnancies on two movies. I gave my life to it, really. So the mean trick of all this is that I picked this time in my life to not make movies — and I can’t see anybody, and I can’t travel. But I’m healthy.

Do you think that it became less fun because you changed, or because the movie industry changed, or was it a combination of both?
How could I have changed? Let me think. [Pauses.] I don’t think it was me, although I worried more as I got older. I worried more about everything. But I think that’s somewhat of the director’s thing: You want to get it right. You need to get it right. All these people are looking at their watches. I don’t know — it became less fun. I can’t explain it. It could be partially me, but I also think it’s a lack of embracing this kind of movie by the studio, which I only experienced on The Intern.

So The Intern felt like a turning point in that sense.
I felt between It’s Complicated in 2009 and The Intern in 2015, the business took a huge turn. The kind of movies I was making — I don’t know what they’re called. Some of them are romantic comedies; some of them are comedies. I don’t know, whatever the genre is — movies about people, let’s call them, that are funny — they weren’t anybody’s pride and joy anymore. I think one of the advantages of that on The Intern was they really paid no attention to me in terms of what I was making. They paid a lot of attention to the money but not necessarily to what I was doing.

Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated. Photo: Universal/Courtesy of Everett Collection

I’ve spoken to many of the actors who’ve worked with you, and so many of them talked about the big-budget aspect of your films, which made everyone feel like they had so much time and so much space to be creative.
We had big budgets, yeah. Because they, for the most part, did very well for the studio. So some people, like Kate Winslet in The Holiday, were completely not used to the schedule and how we built things. And we built both those homes. That was the best time. That whole What Women Want office was built. The Something’s Gotta Give house was built. We were living on soundstages. It was fabulous. We went to France at the end of [Something’s Gotta Give]. They didn’t say, “Go to Studio City and be inside a restaurant.” We all got on a plane, went to France, and went inside a restaurant for two weeks. And so there was a luxury of time.

And you lost that for The Intern?
Oh yeah. We had less than half the amount of money to do that movie. And it was all practical locations. I was very used to imagining the set, with there being a drawing and then they start building. I love that process. But shooting on location isn’t so terrible. I mean, you can still get what you need. I just wasn’t used to it. I’d get to a house, and I say, “Well, that’s good. We’ll paint it. We’ll change the front door.” And they said, “We don’t have money to change the front door.” It would be like, “This is the door that comes with the house.”

I do feel like, even in the past couple of years since The Intern, there’s been sort of a renewed interest in the rom-com —
On Netflix — those kinds of movies?

Sure, but also more generally. I think there’s an appetite for it that the studios might not have believed there was in 2014. Even just the fact that you’re constantly harassed on Instagram about making another movie. I think the appetite is there. Do you see it?
Do I see that they’re coming back? I haven’t seen that. A lot of romantic comedies aren’t good, like a lot of all genre movies. The good ones we love, right? It’s not just the genre, right? You can watch a lot of historical dramas, then you watch something fab. I’m not saying I’m the fab one, but what I’m saying is: Yeah, I haven’t watched any of them.

You haven’t?
No, none of them. I’m not that interested in — as you know, from dissecting my movies, these aren’t people looking for romance. It’s certainly not what Cameron [Diaz] was looking for [in The Holiday]. Kate just needed to get away from that horrible guy. Diane Keaton was done [in Something’s Gotta Give], right? It’s Complicated is not actually a romantic comedy. That was a complicated situation in her life: kind of accidentally having an affair with her ex-husband. It doesn’t fall into the category of “Oh, I go to a lot of weddings and whatever.”

What was the last romantic comedy you saw that you liked?
Let’s see. I don’t know. Can you name some? I’ll tell you if I saw them.

Crazy Rich Asians.
Didn’t see it.

Happiest Season? The lesbian rom-com Christmas movie?
Didn’t see it.

Well, what kind of movies have you been watching over quarantine?
I haven’t been watching any movies, actually. I’ve been watching The Crown, obviously. And now listening to The Crown podcast, which is great. I watch Borgen. Poldark. Oh, well, the best romantic comedy that I’ve seen in many, many, many years is Fleabag.

Oh, yes.
Fleabag had everything. It was smart. It was funny. It was unique. It was original. You hadn’t seen this before. Had great characters, unpredictable situations — everything. It had absolutely everything.

Would you ever consider TV?
I haven’t all these years, so I probably wouldn’t start. My brain thinks in three acts, and so TV — it’s just different. It’s got to keep going and going. It’s a different animal, and I’m not sure that I could do it that well. And it’s a lot of people that write TV. There are writers’ rooms. My writers’ room is not very crowded.

I think they’d probably let you write it.
It’s me and a bunch of Post-its.

Right before The Intern, you almost made a royal-wedding movie. What happened there?
Okay, here’s what happened. So The Intern wasn’t getting made. I wrote it, and it just was not getting made. Then I took a job doing a rewrite, because I just sort of wanted to take my mind off of it for a while. I did the rewrite, and by the time I finished, The Intern still wasn’t getting made. So then they asked me if I would direct [the royal-wedding movie]. I did some casting sessions. I said, “I just don’t know. Let’s see if we find a girl.” And I didn’t really find a girl that I thought was right for it, so I bowed out.

Also, I was talking to a friend about what it was about. I phumphed so much trying to get out that it was about a girl that meets a prince quite accidentally and starts to date him. She said, “I don’t think you should make a movie when you can’t explain what it’s about.” I’m having difficulty talking about it now. Because, in the simplest terms, it was about an American girl meeting a prince.

And you couldn’t talk about it because you were embarrassed by that?
A little bit.

Like it felt too cheesy?
A little bit. Conceptually, yes.

Speaking of unmade projects, I’ve always wanted to know why you turned down The First Wives Club.
Why did I turn it down? Was I offered First Wives Club?

I don’t really remember that.

It was before you had directed anything.
Oh, maybe Scott Rudin called me about that.

I think that would have been the perfect Nancy Meyers film.
Oh, see now, I don’t think so.

Why not?
I’ve never done anything farcical like that, where three women get together and have revenge. It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever done. Well, The Parent Trap. That got the parents back there.

I was going to say: There’s some farcical elements —
But that’s a child’s movie.

Some of your earlier stuff — that you didn’t direct, that you wrote with Charles [Shyer] — there are some farcical elements.
Yeah. [The First Wives Club] was a huge success. The women are all friends of mine. They’re all great in it. It’s just not my kind of movie. Not one I would make.

I’ve rewatched all of your movies for this week, and watched them in succession, and it does feel like there is a stark difference between the movies you did early on with Charles and the movies that you did by yourself.
Did you watch Irreconcilable Differences?

I did, yeah.
What’d you think of that?

I liked it! But if someone had said, “Do you think she did this alone or with Charles?,” I would have said, “With Charles.” It definitely felt like part of the earlier work that you did. Does that earlier work still feel very connected to you? Does it feel like your sensibility still?
It did then. You know, when you get older — you’re so young. You have to understand: You’ll look back at this [time] and you’re going to say, I can’t believe my hair was so long. But today you really like it, right? So it’s very possible that taste changes a little bit. But I was a very strong participant in those movies. I saw Irreconcilable Differences for the first time in 30 years when a local cinema here [screened it]. I thought it had some excellent, excellent writing in it. Though it was a little hard for me to see it because I thought, How did a 32-year-old me think these things that, in fact, 50-year-old me then lived through? But I don’t feel disconnected to those earlier movies. Though a lot of them, like Private Benjamin, we wrote with a third person too [Harvey Miller]. And there’s a lot of [Harvey] in that movie. He’s just a geniusly funny person. And so I hear his voice sometimes. I can still remember sometimes who came up with something. It’s really fun. But I probably wouldn’t do Irreconcilable Differences now. I don’t know what I would do now.

When I say your sensibility feels different, I’m thinking specifically of like Once Upon a Crime
I never saw that movie. We did a rewrite for a couple of months. You do that in Hollywood to make money.

Of course.
It wasn’t our idea; it wasn’t our characters. Eugene Levy directed it. I have never seen that movie. I honestly don’t even remember what it’s about. If there was a gun to my head and I had to tell you the plot, I couldn’t tell you.

What about I Love Trouble?
It was an unfortunate experience. We had a lot of fun writing a script. We were young, and we tried a genre that had danger and romance, when people still wrote for newspapers and the newspapers weren’t dead. And then it just sort of — what’s the opposite of fun? That’s what it was like.

I know that Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte have been relatively open about how they really disliked each other. Was that part of the reason it wasn’t fun?
That was not a good situation. And it was just unlike any experience I’ve ever had. If you’ve talked to people I’ve worked with, we don’t have unhappy sets. It’s collaborative. And I would say — just to try to be polite about it — it was a film where the filmmakers didn’t have their normal amount of input into how the shooting went.

Outside of Irreconcilable Differences, the first movie that, to me, really feels like it exists in your cinematic world is Baby Boom. Would you say that that’s a fair assessment?
I enjoyed making that movie. I thought Diane [Keaton] was great. I was pregnant with Hallie. I liked being in Vermont. I have good memories of it. But it was really hard to write. I remember it being a very hard movie to write. It did not come easily. The thing about Baby Boom that I really like was what it had to say about what it was like for women. After all, I was a young woman myself — in my 30s with a child, pregnant with another child, producing films. The world was not like it is today. It wasn’t as accepting, you know? So I’m glad Baby Boom got to say all those things. And I think you can connect the dots between Baby Boom and The Intern, for sure. Kind of like bookends.

What made it so hard to write?
I don’t know. It was just hard. I just remember going for endless walks with Charles. You know the one-sheet of Diane holding a baby in a business suit? Business suit. That’s what it was called then! A business suit! [Laughs.] And what’s that big advertising magazine — Ad Age? They came out to our house to meet with us, and the woman doing the story said, “Do you think this image of a woman with a briefcase and a baby will take off? Do you think that’s an image we will begin to see in the world?” I said, “I do, because it’s what we’re doing.”

Which of your films sort of poured out of you?
The one that poured out of me was Something’s Gotta Give. Poured out, 250 pages. A script should be — well, now they like them shorter — like 110 pages or something. But I’ve never written one under 130. That was very much based on a relationship I had had after my divorce. So I knew where I was headed, what I wanted to say. I just didn’t know how to get there shorter at first.

Was your relationship with a Keanu or a Jack Nicholson?
Oh, no. Jack. You’re living in the fantasy world. Oh, no. Jack — an age-appropriate person.

In a piece you wrote for the New York Times, you say that Charles was a little upset that you sort of mined your divorce for Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated. Do you think he still feels that way?
Well, the only thing that’s like him in all of Something’s Gotta Give is when the ex-husband — when she makes him a sandwich. I think he asked her what kind of mustard on the sandwich. That’s the only thing that reminded me of Charles. That ex-husband’s really not even in it. It’s Complicated is an exaggerated version of Charles; that’s not Charles. But it’s not my job — I’m not making documentaries for a living. It’s very exaggerated. But he was charming, right? I mean, Alec [Baldwin] played a charming guy. And a lot of the women are exaggerated versions of me, you know? It’s the exaggeration part that’s the fun part. Nobody wants to see a movie about me. Believe me.

I do want to talk about Something’s Gotta Give, but I first want to get into the Father of the Bride films. I love them. I watched them growing up, and they were so formative. That was sort of the moment when it became clear that Diane Keaton was this muse for you — that it wasn’t a onetime collaboration. I’m curious when that became clear to you, that you had this connection with her.
I loved her always. Like, before I knew her. When I was in high school, she did a deodorant commercial, and I remember being in my room, watching the commercial, and just sitting up and thinking, That girl is so adorable. I remember even discussing it with my mother: “I saw this girl in a commercial.”

That’s really funny.
I’ve always liked her because she’s just so damn original. As she was in the commercial; she was full of energy, full of life. She’s a person who can say one of your lines, and you think she’s changed it because it sounds so different, and it’s word for word what you wrote. She has the ability to deliver things in the most unique fashion. So I’ve always felt connected to her. I was so happy when she said yes to Baby Boom. Oh my God, I was so happy. And we were just so lucky to get her in Father of the Bride, because it’s not the part. [Steve Martin] is the part, right? It’s not called Mother of the Bride. But then, when I wrote Something’s Gotta Give, I wrote it with her completely in mind.

After Father of the Bride Part II, you not only wrote but directed The Parent Trap. What gave you the confidence to finally direct a film on your own?
There was this other movie that [Charles and I] wrote that I was going to direct called Love Crazy. It was going to get made with Hugh Grant, and I was going to direct it. And I was super-excited, because I’m a very big fan of his, and some characters in it were based on people in my family. But he changed his mind. I was crushed. I was really heartbroken. We had already written The Parent Trap. It was our company — we had a company at Disney at the time, and we were going to produce Parent Trap with a script by us to be directed by TBD. So when Love Crazy didn’t happen, I went through a mourning period. So I said, “Well, I guess I could direct Parent Trap them.” I was a big Parent Trap fan as a kid, so I felt comfortable with it. But it wasn’t the plan.

There was an interview with you about The Intern where you said that you wanted to “protect the screenplay,” and that’s what made you want to direct, generally. Did you feel like some of your earlier stuff wasn’t as protected?
No, not at all. All the movies Charles directed were very co-made by the two of us. We worked as a real team. The reason I direct in general is probably that you don’t want someone else directing it — because it’ll change. It’ll absolutely change it. And so to protect what you’ve written, what you’ve spent the last year or whatever writing, you direct it yourself or with Charles as a team. To me, that’s directing. This is why I’ve never directed anything I didn’t write.

What Women Want, you rewrote that, right?
Oh yeah.

What did you change?
I didn’t keep the initial script. I had just broken up with Charles. I didn’t really know: Could I write a movie by myself? So I kind of put feelers out through my agent for a rewrite, and I was offered this rewrite of a movie with a different title called Head Games. I called it What Women Want. And the premise intrigued me, I have to say. If a man could hear what women think — I’m newly broken up, I just directed my first movie — I liked this idea. So I wrote the Worst Guy in the World. I’m exaggerating when I say that; he wasn’t the worst guy. But this is not the heart of a feminist. So I jumped into it. I said I would rewrite it, and Charles actually said to me, “Make sure that they have to offer to you to direct.” I said, “I don’t want to direct it; I just want to write. I just want a writing job.” He said, “Just do it. Just protect yourself. You’ve just directed a movie. Just make sure that you have to be the first person they offer it to.” And I kept saying “I don’t want to direct it.” But anyway, I then spent six or eight months rewriting it and making it my own. And they had to offer it to me. And at that point, I was so deep in.

You’re not credited as the writer, right?
Oh, I know. I’m not credited.

What happened there?
You tell me.

How does that happen?
There’s an arbitration committee at the Writers Guild, and they read the scripts. I think I could have this wrong, so don’t quote me on this, but: If you’re a writer that comes on to something, you have to have written a certain percent. If you’re a director who was the writer, you have to have a greater percentage. I don’t think a person could have had a greater percentage than I had, but it was an unfortunate … It’s a conversation about who reads the scripts and prejudice against directors. In general, writers don’t like directors. Anyway, there’s no sour grapes.

I want to go back to your 250-page Something’s Gotta Give script. How did you edit it down from that point? What was the work there?
You mean how did I take 250 pages and get them down? I can be pretty tough, so I just took my red pen and I printed the thing out and I cried a lot.

Were you crying writing the scenes where Diane is crying writing her script?
I was really crying writing it more than editing it. I did cry when I read it [again], because it seemed overwhelming. It seemed overwhelming to have to cut it down. But I got there.

Was it new for you to cry while writing?
I’ve never cried while writing. As I said, a lot of it was based on a relationship I had. I never used anything so personal in my work, and I’m happy I did. So when she’s crying and writing and crying and writing — there’s a scene in the movie where she does that — it’s me.

Maybe you don’t have favorites of your own work, but it kind of sounds like Something’s Gotta Give might be a favorite for you.
I don’t think of it that way because … I just don’t. But I like the way it came out.

Do you follow the “She should’ve picked Keanu” discourse?
No. I think it’s kind of cute and funny, but no. I think she didn’t love him. She loved Harry. She really did, more than anybody. Different than the kind of feelings that she even had for the husband. It was some other level for her.

Your next movie, The Holiday, feels like the most straightforward rom-com of all of your work. You mentioned it was unappreciated when it first came out. I do think, for some time, there was a sort of derogatory dialogue around some of your work. In the past, critics have sometimes written it off in a way that feels unfair. I’m curious what you make of that — and if you feel like, over time, you’ve sort of gotten more of the respect that you deserve.
I do have the respect I deserve. Look at the results. That’s all that matters, right? There are certain kinds of things that matter. And your reviews matter that day; you take a shot or you go, Oh, they noticed that. That was nice. But nothing about that lasts. Nothing.

Cameron Diaz in The Holiday. Photo: Simon Mein/Sony/Kobal/Shutterstock/Simon Mein/Sony/Kobal/Shutterstock

When you say “look at the results,” do you mean the films themselves?
The reaction to the movies by the people I made them for.

Who are you making them for?
The audience that goes to movies. People that like movies. People that want to see stories about people. People that are interested in what women think about things — what it’s like for us to go through the world day by day.

So you don’t have a more specific demographic? It’s not like you’re making movies for women, or women over 40, or anything like that in your mind?
Because two of the movies have women over 40? I think people say that, but it’s really two movies over 40 years. But I understand, because that was a unique situation for the audience: to see that person have feelings, romantic feelings. It sort of took over as “That’s what she does.” But, I mean, I don’t think so. I make a movie that I feel I want to make. And, actually, they kind of age with me, the characters.

Another unique aspect is the casting of people like Alec Baldwin, and even Jack Nicholson, too. They’re not really cast in these kinds of roles otherwise. What did you see in them that other people might not have?
I don’t think a lot of people write that part of their lives. They write about the schmucky business guy. They write the hard-nosed cop. They write the mobster. I think I’m writing parts that are real, parts that real men have: husbands, ex-husbands, nice guys, guys that can change. So it’s not that I see something in the actors; it’s that I’m writing parts that I don’t know that everybody else is writing: a love interest, a father figure who’s not really her father. And he’s not impossible, and he’s not difficult. Most father figures are written as hard to relate to. Somebody is always crying because he never really gave them what they needed or whatever. This is a guy that’ll give you everything you need.

When you and I first spoke a few weeks ago, you talked about the way your films have been perceived critically and how it sometimes bothers you.
What is that? Can you define “the way”?

Well, I was going to ask you to define it.
I think it’s an easy handle. Somebody did some kind of survey when Rotten Tomatoes first started. Who are these people [reviewing movies]? It was 90 percent men.

Yeah, of course.
I remember going to the theater in Century City to see Baby Boom, and there were three or four men in the lobby reading the newspaper. They just simply weren’t interested in: She lost her job; she’s trying to be a mother; she’s starting her own business. So I saw early on that there is kind of a male-female thing, with criticism included, since most of them are men. But I made movies about these kinds of men. I’m okay with it. Nobody makes movies for critics.

And besides the fact that I do have a lot of women in my movies, they’re comedies. Comedies are always at the children’s table. Always. I remember when Charles, Harvey, and I won the Writers Guild Award for Best Comedy Screenplay for Private Benjamin — I don’t remember what the movie was that won for Best Drama Screenplay, but the next day in the trades, it said that other movie, whatever it was, had won the “top honor at the Writers Guild,” and I was like, Did they? Did they win the top honor? It taught me a lesson. I have comedy; I have women; I have romance. I’m not here to please everybody. So that’s that. What can I do? I think I please a lot of people, so I’m happy.

I was looking through your Instagram, and it’s interesting to see the way your fans respond to your work. There was that bachelorette party in the Hamptons where they dressed up in turtlenecks and made a roast chicken.
I’ll be honest with you: Part of it I don’t get. I once saw online a really cute dog in a sunbonnet. And the [caption] underneath said “Saw his first Nancy Meyers movie.” He was in a straw bonnet. I’ve never had a woman [in my movies] in a straw bonnet that I can think of. He actually had a bonnet on. I must say, it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen said about me because the dog was so cute. It just made me laugh. It was funny. But I don’t totally get it. I’ll be really, really honest with you. I don’t totally get that. I don’t get how they arrived at that for that dog.

You don’t get the meme-ification of your work.
I don’t totally get it. No.

You will sometimes post, like, an article on your Instagram that calls out the way Diane Keaton dresses in Something’s Gotta Give. So there is a part of you that seems to get it or appreciate it at least a little bit, right?
Oh, like “Oprah was in a blue and white striped shirt. That’s a version of a Nancy Meyers movie.” I posted that because it made me laugh. So I find it humorous. I find that all humorous, but I don’t totally get how it caught on. Scott Rudin, who was the producer of It’s Complicated, said something to me when we were designing sets and stuff. He said something like, “Don’t go there again with this movie.” I said, “Go where?” He said, “Don’t let it be a thing.” And I was like, “Ah, what thing?” So I don’t know. I don’t think I spend that much more time on it than any other director does. Every director is shown this sofa, this sofa, this fabric, this fabric. I pick the one that my eye goes to, or I give them an image and say, “I see this as her kind of bed.” To be known for it, that I don’t like — and I think that’s what Scott was saying to me. Because he really liked the script, and he really wanted the script to be the thing. And for the movie to be the thing. But I said, “Don’t worry about it.” I don’t know why people are so attracted to it. I really don’t.

I do think that there’s a really specific sort of feeling that you evoke with your sets, and that’s what I think people are responding to. It’s a sort of aspirational, beautiful, calm fantasy world. That’s how I feel when I watch your films. It’s evocative, in combination with everything. It creates a really specific feeling that I would only identify as a Nancy Meyers movie. I couldn’t say anyone else that does that.
But I think my real life looks like that. [My daughter] Hallie was shot for Teen Vogue when she was 15, and the photographer came to her bedroom and said, “I feel like I’m in a Nancy Meyers movie.” And I said, “Well …” She had no idea who I was.

That’s incredible. That’s a perfect encapsulation of what I mean.
Crosby Carter at 11 said, “I felt like I was at your house for two hours.” It’s all just an extension of the way I see things.

So it’s a reflection of your life, which is probably why you don’t get it, because you’re like, “This is just how my life looks.”
I think that’s a good point, Rachel. I think that’s a good point.

So now we’ve solved it. Because that’s nothing like how most people’s lives look.
Well, isn’t that a good thing?

Yeah! That’s a big part of why I love your movies. To that point, there is struggle in your movies, but it’s never really financial in nature. Your characters are mostly quite well-off. Do you purposefully remove the problem of money?
What do you mean? You could name a thousand movies where financial problems aren’t part of the movie.

I mean that it’s a pattern throughout that your characters are well-off.
But that’s true of a gajillion movies. Was Kate Winslet rich [in The Holiday], or did she go nuts when she saw a big house?

She’s got a pretty nice cabin. I would say her cabin is nicer than most people’s houses.
Her cottage?

So you thought she was a rich girl? Her job, the way she dressed?

Well, she was comfortable.
I thought you loved my movies. Here’s the thing: When you can be truthful about emotional stuff, that is what people remember. That is what they like, and that’s what they come back and watch the movie over and over again for. Because they’re not saying to themselves, Well, I don’t have a beach house. Do you know how many people have written to me about Kate Winslet’s speech in The Holiday, about her broken heart? How many people have copied it and emailed it to me and sent me videos of them saying the speech? To me, that’s what I do best.

There’s also no politics in [my movies]. There’s also no religion in them. No one’s ever gone to a church or a synagogue. Well, in Father of the Bride they went to one … but there are certain subjects I’m not writing about. Honestly, my themes are emotional and heartfelt and deep within me, and that’s what I feel I can do best. I don’t think every film has to serve every part of the population. I’m sitting at a lunch counter having lunch one day in Massachusetts, and a woman comes up to me and asks me if I am me, and I say, “Yes, I am.” And she says, “How do you know my life so well?” I said, “I don’t know your life, but I know mine really well.”

Most of your characters also tend to be white. Obviously, diversity is a much bigger conversation now than it ever was in the ’90s or the early 2000s. I know in Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish), you did cast Alexandra Shipp —
Right. Because I was casting it in the middle of the whole Black Lives Matter protests, and I felt a responsibility — that he does not have to be marrying a white girl the way his sister married a white guy. I felt good about it, and I felt happy. I heard what [critics were] saying. I hear you, and I’m glad that I happened to have the ability to do something in my world while that was going on.

Prior to that, I have tended to write families. People in families that I have known in the past have been more similar [in race] than they are now. I think any work going forward would be more aware than I think I was in the past. But yeah, I haven’t had a Black leading lady or man. I just haven’t. But I think it was a great thing that all of these protests — the force in which they, I think, opened up a lot of people’s minds. I thought that was really a great thing. I felt very affected by it. I really did.

When you talk about awareness, was it just something you weren’t thinking about until this moment really, that you cast mostly white people?
Well, as we’ve pointed out a gazillion times in this interview, I write a lot about myself. So I have cast people that seemed like they would best fit the parts that I’ve written. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t open up, like I did in Father of the Bride 3. I mean, honestly, it was while all this was going on and I went, Yeah, that would be great. Why not? Why does this doctor have to be a white doctor? It was good.

I guess you want to know “How do I feel when somebody doesn’t like my work?” I mean, what’s the best answer to that? It’s great if everybody loved it, but what are you going to do?

It was more that I wanted to engage with the criticisms over the years of your work that, in some cases, I think are totally misogynist and shitty. And in some cases, I think they’re fair — like the bit we just talked about, about race. But I think the way that male critics read your work for years is horrible. And I was curious about if it affected you or if it even made its way into your world.
Criticism stings, and you move on. The Holiday is the perfect example. If anybody in 2006 in December, when that movie came out, told me 14 years later someone’s going to say “When it’s December, you watch The Holiday” — what can I tell you? Time will tell. The audience is everything.

I think your films have more than found their audiences. They serve a cathartic, joyful purpose for people.
The word comfort comes up a lot. What about it comforts you? Do you know?

When I spoke to him for this week, Hans Zimmer was like, “Nancy makes movies about how love is possible. And she makes movies that are about decency.” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.” You feel a renewed sense of hope after watching them.
They’re optimistic. That’s on purpose. There’s so much that’s truly dark in the world and unkind and difficult. I don’t want, personally, to spend a year of my life writing that, and another year making that. I would like to use my power for good. And whatever small power that is to entertain somebody. What’s it like to be her?, and What’s it like to be him? Kate Winslet, she said, “It’s about one-sided love, the unrequited love.” That’s the feedback I get. I’ve experienced it — I’m sure you have — where someone just simply didn’t love you back.

Of course.
So I’d rather write about that feeling than a financial burden that a family’s having, because I know I’ll never find the humor in it. I know I won’t. The comfort thing, it’s a good thing.

It is a good thing.
I’m with you. What’s the Danish word? Hygge?

When I heard it had a word, I loved it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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Her last movie was The Intern (2015), starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. In Meyers’s 2006 movie, starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, two women escape heartbreak during the holidays by temporarily exchanging their England and California homes. The Banks family returned for a Netflix special, called Father of the Bride [Part 3 (ish)], which brought the original cast together virtually. With a budget of $85 million, The Holiday brought in only $12 million on its opening weekend, though it ended up making over $200 million at the box office worldwide. Something’s Gotta Give (2003), starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, follows the romance between a womanizer who consistently dates younger women, and an accomplished dramatist. Oh, and he’s initially dating her daughter. And Keanu Reeves is in it. With a budget of $80 million, Something’s Gotta Give pulled in $265 million worldwide, and made $16 million its opening weekend. In Meyers’s most recent film, The Intern (2015), Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) becomes an intern at a e-commerce fashion company after coming out of retirement. Robert De Niro, Alexandra Shipp, Florence Pugh, and Ben Platt appeared in Father of the Bride [Part 3(ish)] but were not in the first two film’s original casts. In Home Again (2017) Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) returns to her California roots with her two daughters following a separation from her husband (played by Michael Sheen), when she crosses paths with three young filmmakers looking for a place to stay. Nancy Meyers produced the movie, and her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer directed it. After working as a story editor in Los Angeles for several years, Meyers broke through as a writer with Private Benjamin (1980), starring Goldie Hawn, which earned her an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. She wrote the screenplay with Charles Shyer, her now former spouse and frequent collaborator. Nancy Meyers has two daughters with Charles Shyer, Hallie and Annie Meyers-Shyer. In It’s Complicated, two ex-spouses (played by Meryl Streep and Alex Baldwin) reignite their relationship only to find themselves in a love triangle (involving Steve Martin). The two home were very different: one a large Californian villa and the other a cozy English cottage. Set decorator Beth Rubino created the expansive Hamptons house for the set of Something’s Gotta Give. In the film, months after Erica (Keaton) and Harry’s (Nicholson) breakup, Erica goes to France with Julian (Reeves), who she’s now dating. Harry flies to see her and tells her his feelings for her, disrupting Julian’s plans to propose to Erica. Two divorced parents who live on separate continents find themselves meeting again when their twin daughters (Lindsay Lohan) discover each other for the first time at summer camp and decide to swap lives. Up until The Parent Trap, Meyers had only written films, not directed them, and often with her now ex-husband Charles Shyer. She describes their former relationship as “a good 20-year run.” “It was a happy, functional house,” she says. “We got to make movies and the kids and their friends would come to the set all the time. But things don’t last. I really envy people where it can last forever. I think they’re super lucky, but it’s not the norm.” In Irreconcilable Differences (1984), Casey (Drew Barrymore) decides to divorce her parents (Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neal) when she becomes fed up with their less than happy relationship. This writer has not been able to get a haircut due to the pandemic. “I remember writing [the plot] so it didn’t happen to us,” Meyers adds. “I remember thinking that maybe if we write about that — because it was right after Private Benjamin, we were Oscar-nominated and it was lovely, all of that fun stuff that happens. But it scared me a little and I think him, too. We were very new at our jobs. I was 30. It was a lot. It was just like, from nowhere to some success in one movie.” Following the death of her husband on their wedding night, Judy Benjamin enlists in the army. Harvey Miller wrote the screenplays for films such as Bad Medicine (1985), Getting Away with Murder (1996), and had a small acting role in Big. This ensemble comedy/murder mystery from 1992 stars John Candy, Jim Belushi, Sybill Shepard, Sean Young and Richard Lewis. Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte lead in the 1994 romantic comedy about two competing journalists who must work together to expose a corrupt Big Pharma plan. Roberts told The New York Times that while Nolte can be “charming and nice, he’s also completely disgusting.” Nolte later responded to this and said, “It’s not nice to call someone ‘disgusting.’ But she’s not a nice person. Everyone knows that.” Their off-screen relationship was so tumultuous that some scenes for I Love Trouble were reportedly filmed with separately with stand-ins. In Baby Boom (1987), Diane Keaton plays advertising executive J.C. Wiatt, whose life gets turned upside down when she receives a toddler as inheritance following the death of a distant relative. Meyers described the scenario outlined in the New York Times piece as a “turning point” for her and Shyer’s relationship. “When we went to those weddings, it got better, but for 20 years it wasn’t super functional.” According to Meyers, Shyer loved the piece. The Father of the Bride comedy trilogy (ish) centers around the Banks family, and a patriarch (played by Steve Martin) reluctant to give his daughter away for marriage. In Part II, Martin’s character finds himself even more resistant to the idea of becoming a grandfather when his daughter tell him she’s pregnant. Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt star in What Women Want (2000), in which a man suddenly gains the ability to read women’s minds, and tries to use it to take down his boss, but finds himself falling for her instead. Keanu Reeves plays the kind-hearted doctor that treats Jack Nicholson’s character, and ends up with a huge crush on Erica (Diana Keaton). Many fans root for the doctor. In 2009, Vulture’s own writer Mark Graham referred to Meyers’s Something’s Gotta Give as a “menopause-fest.” That year Melvin and Howard, written by Bo Goldman, won best Drama. In an interview, Meyers explained that one of her kid’s friends, Crosby Carter, watched Father of the Bride and described it as “like being at your house for two hours.”
Nancy Meyers Searches for Her Own Comfort