Morning Glory’s Aline Brosh McKenna revisits the workplace rom com and reflects on the dying industry of broadcast news.
Written by Dylan Callaghan
While Morning Glory is a beguiling, careerist take on a subgenre of journalistic workplace rom coms like His Girl Friday and He Said, She Said, the most apt comparison for this new film would be Broadcast News, the late ‘80s James L. Brooks classic starring Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks.
While Hunter’s character was a TV producer who struggled against sexism and for the journalistic integrity of hard broadcast news, Glory inhabits the soft, shilling world of morning news. It centers specifically on what happens when a frenetically driven young producer (Rachel McAdams) has to manage the egos and neuroses of an aging morning news vet (Diane Keaton) and the embittered, obstinate evening news lion (Harrison Ford) she’s brought into the sunshine-bright, journalistically vacuous world of early shows. Add to the mix her attempts to balance a love relationship with a work obsession so strident, her fella has to put her Blackberry in the freezer just to get a little one-on-one time.
Veteran screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, who conceived and penned Glory, is uniquely fit for the task. In addition to adapting Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada into a hit film, she’s toiled in Hollywood for over a decade and knows well the art of working with powerful, creative men. On this film, she teamed up with Midas producer J.J. Abrams, and she adapted a script for Cameron Crowe from Benjamin Mee’s same-titled memoir for next year’s We Bought a Zoo.
She spoke with the Writers Guild of America, West Web site about her affinity and admiration for morning news anchors and how Glory reflects the way times have changed since Broadcast News.
What inspired this script for you?
A couple things inspired it: just a love of the morning news world, which I’ve always found really funny, the way they have to switch between gravely serious stories and the more humorous ones. That always seemed to me like a tricky thing to do, and I’ve always admired people who are able to do it.
And I wanted to do a movie about what happens when you finally meet a person that you’ve admired for a long time, and you have to try to corral them.
Photo: © 2010 Paramount Pictures
Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford in Morning Glory.
Was this a spec script?
It was an idea I had. When I have an idea I often kind of tote it around for a while and mull over it. I met J.J. Abrams and he’s very funny… We just hit it off, and that got it started.
To what extent did your work on The Devil Wears Prada inform your work here?
In some ways it’s like the next chapter; what happens when you get your first big job, and you have to be the boss of other people and be in charge. So it’s a different journey and stage in a young woman’s evolution at work. She [McAdams’ character] is the executive producer in the movie so she really has a lot of responsibility.
I find myself very attracted to workplace comedies. They’re some of my favorite movies. What I loved about this world is that it [involves] people who really want to do something important with their lives, and they have to balance that with the exigencies of the marketplace. I always think that’s a really interesting dilemma.
There’s also a kind of next chapter aspect to this story with the Mike Pomeroy character. He’s this fantastically difficult blowhard, but unlike Miranda’s character in Prada, he makes a big turn that packs a punch.
They have a strong effect on each other. What I love about it is that it’s not a romance. It’s an intense work relationship. It’s more of a mentor/mentee relationship. A lot of people experience these kinds of situations where you’re alternately inspired, irritated, goaded, and encouraged by the people that you work with.
What I was getting at was that it’s funny that it’s actually this old male lion that…
Yeah, sets her on the right path.
He speaks emotionally to your female lead here where Miranda didn’t.
Well, she has that little scene where she talks about her divorce for a minute and lets her in…
She lets her in for a minute, but she’s still sort of unrepentant.
Also, what’s different in Prada is that [Anne Hathaway’s character] just happens to be there in a strange way. [Miranda] doesn’t really take much notice of her, she doesn’t remember her name. This movie is more about the intense scrutiny that [McAdams’ character] is under because she’s altered this man’s plan for what he wanted in his life.
Another big motivation for me was that these [hard news broadcast journalists] are from a vanishing era.
Obviously, women in the work place was a bigger issue in the era of Broadcast News, but now the whole field of serious broadcast news is dying.
It’s just changed so much since that movie was made in terms of how entertaining we expect our news to be. At that time, even the idea that you’d show that dominos clip [Holly Hunter’s character objects to footage of falling dominos as “not news”] that’s at the beginning of that movie that is something that she’s so against and now that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what people have to cover. People in morning news are journalists, and they have hardcore news people anchor those shows in case hard news breaks during the broadcast, but the flip side of that is that they have to do tabloid stories, diet, fashion, and all those other things more. They’ve always had to do that, there’s just more and more of it now.
Are there moments when you’re writing a screenplay when you get the sheer sort of bliss of a scene or a plot turn? What was an example of a scene or a moment in dialogue that really stoked your fire and inspired you on this?
Writing someone who is so willing to be free with their opinions is really fun – someone who’s not afraid to say what he really thinks or to insult others. There’s a scene where [Ford’s character] doesn’t like the promos that the network has done for him. For whatever reason, that was always one that made us laugh, that idea of him being forced to be a product.
Did you have McAdams and Ford in mind from the very beginning?
Not initially, but Harrison was attached pretty early on, so I knew I was writing for him for a while, which was great. I have to say that knowing he wanted to be in the movie was incredibly encouraging. Once I knew he was going to be Mike, the character and Harrison kind of fused in my brain.
Rachel we knew a bit later, but once we knew she was doing it, the character and Rachel are largely the same in my head too.
I know you don’t just write romantic, workplace comedies, but do you want to stay in this area or do you want to move around? I know you adapted We Bought a Zoo, which is totally different.
I think in terms of characters and situations that I’m drawn to. I don’t really ever think of it as being specific in a genre. We Bought a Zoo is about a man coming to terms with being a single dad, and I’m working on a Cinderella movie for Disney and I’m writing an action comedy for J.J.
I guess I think of them all as about characters realizing themselves. I know that’s not a genre. I don’t think of it that specifically. I don’t hem myself in that way.