Fourteen years after its original release, Ric Browde’s novel While I’m Dead… Feed the Dog has finally been adapted to film and brought to life by director Tim Garrick and producer Andrew Lazar. The film, titled Behaving Badly, stars Nat Wolff and Selena Gomez, who are two friends embarking on a rock n’ roll journey together while Gomez’s character attempts to deal with her overbearing boyfriend.
Lazar, a huge fan of the novel, worked for well over two years in an attempt to get this film created because he believed Browde’s novel had characters quirky enough and funny enough to survive in a world that no longer produces character-based teen comedies. “This is a book I loved. It’s bonkers,” Lazar said. “Tim [Garrick] had a writing partner named Scott Russell. Browde suggested Tim and Scott come talk to me. What I thought was a general meeting became a meeting about the book. On the go-around, I optioned it and developed the script.”
After having almost 20 years’ experience as a producer, Lazar has produced some of Hollywood biggest comedies including 10 Things I Hate About You, Cats and Dogs, The Astronaut’s Wife and Get Smart. “The producer’s job in the role I play is to make sure that the movie gets nurtured in the right way – the trailer, the artwork, the TV spots and having the right release date,” Lazar explained. “Hopefully, you are working with people who love the movie as much as you. And the role doesn’t stop when you wrap the movie. Ideas get stronger, or new ideas come up that are better than those original ideas. You have to keep challenging the marketing materials and distribution.”
In 1999, Lazar learned how much of an impact marketing and a film’s release date can have on a film’s success while he was producing The Astronaut’s Wife, starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron. Lazar had this to say about the experience: “That movie and the materials was victim to a campaign that didn’t capture the audience’s imagination. The dating of the movie wasn’t good. You can make a good movie, date the movie and then have the release date changed. We were victims of the marketplace. At a different date, we would have done more business.”
Lazar went on to explain that the majority of a film’s success in the box office has more to do with how many other films in the same genre are being released on the same day or even within the same month. Having too many comedies can hurt a film’s success because it forces people who are interested in seeing a comedy to have to choose one over the other, which in the end result hurts all the films in the genre.
With regards to his style of producing, Lazar prefers a more hands-on tactic and enjoys being on the sets of his films. “‘Producer’ is a very nebulous term,” he stated. “I fall under the category of a creative producer. My expertise is in finding and developing material for movies. I’m very involved in all the iterations of the drafts and crafting what to pick and choose. It’s rare for me not to be present during the shooting. A producer’s role is to make sure that the director and cast have all the tools that they need to make a good movie.”
This became a very real and particular challenge in his 2001 film Cats and Dogs, a live-action film starring CGI cats and dogs as they battle between one another to prove who is the dominant species once and for all. For this film, the biggest challenge was figuring out a solution to make these animals look believable but still be able to behave in a way that allowed them to be larger-than-life. “It was really hard,” Lazar confessed of the experience. “It’s not like a dinosaur; no one knows what a dinosaur looks like. I had to learn a new visual effects skill set.”
For Behaving Badly, though, the challenges faced were different than most other films Lazar has worked on, primarily because of the particular strand of content. In 2014, films like 10 Things I Hate About You rarely get produced because modern audiences do not appear to be looking for these types of comedies at present. By having an all-star cast, Lazar believed he could draw in a crowd and impress them with the ideas and characters of this story once they were in the theater.
“Good material attracts good people,” he said. “The reality is that if our script wasn’t as funny and unique as it was, we wouldn’t have gotten Selena. Every movie is different, but on this movie, there was a very democratic approach to the casting. All the actors did the movie for the right reason. There are other roles and movies that need Selena in the film, and roles that aren’t as colorful or right for her that want her just for her name and marketability, but this film wasn’t one of them.”
Behaving Badly was released in theaters on Aug. 1, and Lazar is excited for audiences to experience this story and characters that he has loved since he first stumbled upon the novel. “The characters are wonderful and the storyline is hilarious,” he noted with pride. “It was challenging and heartbreaking [knowing that some aspects of the book could not be included, but that’s part of the] real joy. Each character has a voice and many of the funny lines are straight out of the book. The magic of the business is you’ve got to do the best you can. I love Behaving Badly, and I’m looking forward to seeing other people enjoying it.”