HBO Films will be adding the feature-length presentation of CLEAR HISTORY to the lineup this August. David leads an impressive comedic cast, which also includes Jon Hamm, Bill Hader, Philip Baker Hall, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Danny McBride, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan and J.B. Smoove.
The film is directed by Greg Mottola and written by David and his longtime writing colleagues Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, (Emmy, Golden Globe and WGA Award-winning creative team behind HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). The first comedy under the HBO Films banner in recent years debuts SATURDAY, AUG. 10 (9:00-10:45 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO. CLEAR HISTORY stars Larry David as Nathan Flomm, a marketing executive at a start-up electric car company, who, after a petty argument with his boss, gives up his 10% of the shares. The company then goes on to make billions of dollars, leaving Flomm publicly humiliated, his life destroyed. Ten years later, he has changed his name to Rolly DaVore and moved to Martha’s Vineyard. All is well until something from his past threatens to disrupt his new life.
CLEAR HISTORY is executive produced by Bradley Thomas, Greg Mottola, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer; Monica Levinson produces; Laura Streicher associate produces.
Larry David recalls, “I heard about a guy who owned 10% of Apple and sold his shares before the company took off. I thought that was funny, or, as my mother used to say, I happened to think that was funny.” While searching for a director to helm the film, David found he had something in common with Greg Mottola, noting, “I can’t stand interviewing people and Greg didn’t like being interviewed, so we got along great. And I loved his movies, which helped.” Mottola, no stranger to comedy from his work on several films and series, immediately loved the concept of the film. “It was a really clever and interesting story, with a kind of throwback classic comedy farcical structure,” he says. “One of the things I love about Larry is that even though the film is completely improvised, it’s also incredibly disciplined. His stories have great structure, great twists and turns, and surprises and payoffs, and you know he is going to be hoisted on his own petard by the end, which is done in a really ingenious way.”
Principal photography was completed in Massachusetts, with additional filming in San Jose, Cal. David explains, “Much of the film takes place on Martha’s Vineyard, but since we couldn’t film there, we chose a lookalike: the North Shore of Boston.” Shooting in Massachusetts worked well. Essex County, whose natural beauty provided a scenic scope to the film, offered two distinct settings to complement the storyline. On one hand, the filmmakers were able to capture the small-town feel of the area and, on the other, were able to gain access to impressive country estates near the water. The production chose an unfinished mansion in North Andover as the Haney home under construction and shot on location at two popular area venues, the Topsfield Fair, the oldest agricultural fair in America, and the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, the largest operating regional theatre in New England.
The filmmakers were able to tap into Massachusetts’ wealth of experienced crew members, as well as an impressive local talent pool. “We made an effort to balance out the casting of certain roles,” explains Mottola. “We used Boston-area actors, people who would feel authentic as part of that world, who would feel like real New Englanders. A lot of them are really great standup comics who live in Boston, but perform all over the country.”
With the film almost entirely improvised, many of the actors, whose repertoires boast numerous comedic roles, found themselves in uncharted territory. Since most of the ensemble was accustomed to more fully scripted projects, the actors were thrilled by the unique opportunity to create more free-form performances. With the collaboration of comedic veterans Berg, Mandel, Schaffer, Thomas and Mottola, the cast was excited to work directly with David and explore the spontaneity of each scene, while staying true to the film’s original outline.
Jon Hamm, who plays Will Haney, Flomm’s boss and the founder of Electron Motors, observes, “There was a blueprint and a framework, and it was fun to be able to fill in the blanks. Part of that fun is that anybody can riff a little or go off on a tangent, which can become a whole different thing.” Bill Hader portrays Rags, the friend and henchman of Joe Stumpo, who operates the local quarry. He notes, “There’s a lot of discovery within the scene. Larry’s mind is constantly going, and you don’t want to disrupt the flow. It’s a lot of fun and I consider it a huge medal of honor having Larry David scream at me in a scene and getting in an argument with him about banal stuff.”
Philip Baker Hall, who portrays McKenzie, the foreman of a local construction company overseeing the Haney estate, previously worked with David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He says, “There is the Stanislavski Approach to scene work, the Stella Adler Approach, the Lee Strasberg Approach, etc., but I’ll take the Larry David system every time.”
Kate Hudson plays Rhonda, Will Haney’s glamorous wife. She notes, “I loved the idea of coming to work. It became a truly collaborative effort and was really fun.” Having worked in comedy early in his career, Michael Keaton enjoyed getting back to his roots as Joe Stumpo, the erratic and eccentric operator of the quarry. “Working with Larry, Bill and Danny, there was always the chance of going off the road a little bit,” says Keaton.
Danny McBride, who plays Frank, Rolly’s best friend, observes, “Anything can happen from take to take. It’s not like you’ve read the script a million times and you already know what the scene’s gonna be. It’s like you’re watching the story and the movie comes alive right in front of you.”
Eva Mendes portrays Jennifer, who takes an offhand suggestion from Rolly (aka Nathan) a bit too seriously. “I’ve always wanted to work with Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder and Larry David,” she says. “Since Mr. Sellers is no longer with us and Mr. Wilder would not return my calls or texts, Mr. David was the logical choice. He really is the best; he taught me so much. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with him on this project and I love working this way. I never want to go back to scripted material.”
Amy Ryan, who plays Wendy, an ex-girlfriend of Rolly’s with a secret, explains, “You have that moment where you don’t know what is going to happen and that’s both thrilling and terrifying, but you just kind of go with it, and it’s a good time and very freeing.”
J.B. Smoove, who is familiar with performing opposite David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” plays Jaspar, Jennifer’s ex-boyfriend. Says Smoove, “Larry knows how to set me up. It’s kind of like playing tee-ball. All you gotta do is hit the damn ball. You get a certain high off of working in that element.”