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Dana Fox created smart story with ‘How To Be Single’

Dakota Johnson in

Dakota Johnson in "How to Be Single." (JoJo Whilden/Warner Bros. Entertainment/TNS)



Dakota Johnson in "How to Be Single." (JoJo Whilden/Warner Bros. Entertainment/TNS)

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By Rick Bentley

The Fresno Bee


Producer-writer Dana Fox has a different philosophy than some of her peers when it comes to creating entertainment. She doesn’t believe movie fans are stupid.

“Moviegoers are very astute and that’s why you have to be smarter when writing scripts and you have to be willing to try different things,” Fox says. “You have to take the p— out of conventions because people know these kind of movies so well.”

That’s the voice the Stanford graduate brought to “How to Be Single,” about four women trying to navigate the dating scene in New York. They include Alice (Dakota Johnson), who is trying to juggle career and dating, and Robin (Rebel Wilson), a free spirit trying to juggle booze, drugs and sex.

A script had been written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (based on the book by Liz Tucillo) when Fox was hired. She liked what they had put together, but she felt like it needed more punch.

“Their story was a little more PG-13. People who know me know that I can drop a million f-bombs. This is a movie about people talking about sex and if they can’t talk the way people talk then it doesn’t work,” Fox says. “If you are going to talk about sex then you have to go at it from a real R-rated angle.”

The result is a mashup of the quirky characters and quick wit of a Woody Allen film and the multiple interlaced story lines of a “Love Actually.”

And while the movie focuses primarily on the four women, it also features strong male characters. Fox stresses that while she is a total feminist, she loves men and always tries to write the male characters as real as possible.

Fox has been a writer, producer or both on “Couples Retreat,” “What Happens In Vegas,” “The Wedding Date,” “New Girl” and “Ben and Kate.”

When she created the short-lived “Ben and Kate” for the Fox network, she gave Johnson her first really big break. Johnson came on board “How to Be Single” as soon as Fox called.

“I will always be able to write for her. I feel like I see her and see who she can be. I love watching her taking chances,” Fox says. “Everyone wants to be perfect but she will take chance after chance. There is so much going on behind her eyes.”

Equally important were Wilson and Leslie Mann, who brought strong improvisational skills to the project. Fox related most to the character played by Alison Brie, who is taking a very logical approach to finding the right guy.

Fox laughs, explaining that at one point in her own life she was checking off the boxes as to how to live her life. Then she met a man who was much younger. He didn’t fit her plan but they married and now have three children.

Having been through the dating scene helped Fox come up with her approach to making a romantic comedy. Instead of focusing so much on the romance, “How to Be Single” looks at the time between relationships.

To her, “How to Be Single” is a film about “when you’re out there to have a good time in this crazy age of staring at your cell phone, having entire conversations in 140 characters or less and ‘swiping right’ to meet people.”


©2016 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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Dana Fox created smart story with ‘How To Be Single’