Brooks, Fletch director on Jon Hamm and fucking with jerks

Novelist Gregory McDonald’s crime-solving journalist Irwin M. Fletcher, better known as “Fletch,” has never been a very conventional hero. After Chevy Chase put his own bumbling twist on the character in 1985 fletch and its sequel, the movie franchise fell into limbo for three decades as several filmmakers tried — unsuccessfully — to bring Fletch back to the big screen.

Fortunately, Fletch’s time in Hollywood purgatory ended this year when filmmaker Greg Mottola and crazy men star Jon Hamm worked together for Brooks, Fletch, based on the second book of McDonald’s series. The film stars Hamm and sees Fletch investigate an international art theft that – as things often do around him – turns out to be more complicated than it seems.

Mottola sat down with Digital Trends to discuss what sets Hamm’s version of Fletch apart from its predecessor, what makes IM Fletcher special, and whether we’ll see more Fletch stories in the future.

Digital Trends: The Fletch franchise after Chevy Chase has had some trouble getting back on screen. How did it find its way to you, or vice versa, to make this movie happen?

Greg Mottola: Jon came to me about two years ago and said he was approached by Miramax. They said, “We have the rights to all the books except the first one. Would you ever be interested in playing Fletch?” And unbeknownst to them, when Jon saw the original fletch as a young man he went to find the books and read them. He was a broke teenager, so he stole them from Waldenbooks, according to him. He loved them and he knew there was another way to make the movies.

The first movie was a Chevy Chase vehicle, and Chevy brought a lot of its style and brilliance into it. I love that movie. But Jon said to me, “I can’t do a Chevy Chase impersonation. That wouldn’t be right. I want to do it in a way that is closer to the tone of the books.” I love detective stories and movies based on them, so I read the first five or six books, and I absolutely loved them.

How did you decide Brooks, Fletch if the story to adapt?

Jon had already thought Brooks, Fletch made the most sense to do now, and even before I got involved, there was another writer, Zev Borow, adapting that one. Zev is a great writer and turned in a script that – as Jon put it – was a great, hilarious movie… for Chevy Chase. Zev is a big fan of the original and I think he couldn’t resist trying to write fletch 3. It’s not that it wasn’t good. It was very good. We just felt it wasn’t quite what we wanted to try.

So since Zev hadn’t used as much of the book as I’d hoped, I passed it on and went back to the book, and took characters and scenes and elements inspired by the book and put them back into the script. I also changed the tone of the comedy a bit as I knew Jon like me and wrote to his dry sensitivity and his ability to rely on his charm to get away like a smartass. That’s where it started.

Jon Hamm stares to the right while wearing a Los Angeles Lakers hat in a scene from Confess, Fletch.

Chevy Chase is such a difficult act to follow. What aspects of the character did you focus on to make this version of Fletch special?

One of the things I absolutely love about Chevy’s version of Fletch is the kind of Marx Brothers-level chaos he would bring in any situation. He would confuse people so much that they wouldn’t know how to react. Those were things that weren’t necessarily in the book. Those were all his.

In Jon’s case, the character clearly has a moral code in some areas and nothing at all in others. It’s an interesting, unconventional approach. I always feel like he’s on the right side, but he doesn’t mind doing a lot of injustice to get justice or the truth or whatever. It’s kind of wish-fulfillment, because we live in a time when there are so many bad people doing bad things that seem to have no consequences. Fletch is a man who says, ‘I’m not going to wait for justice or the police. I’m just going to go in and get this done.”

But there is a feeling that he would never hit. He only really fucks with jerks. He only goes the extra mile to mess with people if they’re white bastards or people in authority who don’t deserve it. For example, he respects Griz (Ayden Mayeri) and Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.), the two cops who chase him throughout the film, but he constantly lies to them, even though he reluctantly likes them. And I think they like him too.

Ayden Mayeri and Roy Wood Jr.  studying a crime scene in Confess, Fletch.

What was it about Jon that suited this version of the character so well?

Jon can be very dry. This character doesn’t have to be sentimental. He can have his positive feelings about people and express them in his own way, but he is never dark. He’s not Don Draper. He has no dark past. He is not being chased. He has no damage. He just goes through life in this lighthearted way and gets a kick out of people — or he kicks them. I think he’s having fun. I think he likes life.

Jon has played many dark characters and he has also played many comedic characters who are rather stupid. [Jon] makes Fletch feel like a real human being, in that he gives a dramatic performance in places, but [this version of Fletch] also let Jon be funny in a sustained way, but in a very dry, more subtle way. As a fan of his and a friend, I was really excited to work with him on that.

The Brooks, Fletch novel was published nearly 50 years ago. When you were adapting it for this movie, what went into bringing the story to a modern setting?

One of the things I really like about the books is that Greg McDonald sneaks in social commentary. There are several things about sexual revolution in Brooks, Fletch and social mores and other things that were funny and interesting and, I think, groundbreaking observations at the time. But that was another time. So I thought, “Let’s just comment a little bit on the moment we’re living in right now.”

For example, I’ll go into the fact that Jon, the way he looks, can kind of move through the world of rich people — yacht clubs and high-end art galleries and expensive apartments — and they’ll see him as one of their own. Fletch doesn’t have the same value system as those people, but he likes to make them think he does because it allows him to get away with whatever he wants to get away with. And that is addressed in the film. His white privilege is mentioned by Roy Wood Jr.’s character, as well as in other places.

Jon Hamm dons a chic country club sport coat in a scene from Confess, Fletch.

The character of Lucy Punch (Tatiana Tasserly), a wealthy influencer, is a representation of the idea that there are people on Instagram and in other places who are constantly telling everyone that they can realize themselves – and all they need is the perfect home. – and designer clothes and the most expensive beauty products and vacations in the Caribbean. And it’s like, “Yeah, that’s great. You’re really rich. The people you’re selling to are really rich. But you make the rest of us feel bad, because we can’t do that.”

The fact that there is no recognition from such people that what they are doing is trading in this world of wealth inequality is something I think Fletch would hate. So my strategy in that scene was to let Fletch come in and act even more horrible than she is to confuse her. He’s acting even more superficial and despicable than she is, so she’s kind of lost and it’s throwing her off.

The supporting cast in the film is amazing. Were there performances that surprised you, perhaps brought something to a character that you initially did not expect?

Yeah, I’ve been super lucky with the cast. One of the ways we broke the Fletch curse is that we agreed to make it in a very short time and with very little money. And we got all these wonderful people to do it mostly as favors for me and Jon.

Annie Mumolo’s equivalent in the book is this lavish who lives next door to the apartment where the murder takes place. She is a sad character who is clearly in love with the man who lives in the apartment. I wanted to keep aspects of that, but I didn’t think I had the space to do a real portrait of her like they do in the novel. I had to summarize because she only gets one big scene. So I wrote this person who I think we all know someone – a person who is so disorganized and oblivious that it’s amazing that they’re still alive.

And then Annie came in like a whirlwind, and she was such the character in those moments that I was glad there was a firefighter there because I really thought she was going to burn the set down. She’s awesome and made that scene way funnier than what I had on the page.

Annie Mumolo laughs in a kitchen in a scene from Confess, Fletch.

There are so many more books in the Fletch series. Any chance we’ll be seeing Jon as Fletch again? Have you thought about where it might go next?

If I have the chance to make another Fletch movie, I’d love to do it again. And of course it would be great if we had a little more time and a little more money. I would probably try to make a more ambitious film visually and build on this. This was our first dive into the genre and it would be great to continue.

But it’s such a strange time in movies right now. This movie is getting this kind of hybrid, theatrical and on-demand and Showtime release. I don’t think anyone really knows what to do with movies right now. Honestly, I thought we’d start streaming right away, because it’s kind of a small movie, but now some people can see it in a theater, which is nice. But honestly I don’t care where you look at it, as long as you look at it. However, I’d rather you didn’t see it on your watch. That’s the only place I draw the line. If you have to watch it on your phone or iPad, so be it. As long as you look at it.

Directed by Greg Mottola, Fletch confess is now in theaters and available via on-demand digital. It premieres October 28 on Showtime.

Editor’s Recommendations