‘Last Vegas’ Director Jon Turteltaub Talks Working with Hollywood’s Finest

Jon TurteltaubWalt Disney via Everett Collection

Last Vegas director Jon Turteltaub had a gargantuan task in front of him. One that was not for the faint of heart. He had to manage the likes of Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, and Morgan Freeman in one single film, actors that are as close to royalty as hollywood gets. With such a huge task comes even bigger expectations. But even trickier that the star-filled waters he had to navigate, are the constant comparisons to The Hangover that his film will continually have to dodge in the small pool of Vegas comedies. John Turtletaub wants you to know about the joys and woes (mostly joys) in working with such a legendary cast, why he needs to makes movies for everyone, and why Last Vegas is definitely not “The Hangover for old people.”

What first struck me about Last Vegas is that it looked like a ton of fun to film?
You know what’s funny? As fun goes, movies aren’t fun at all to make. But as work goes, they’re fun to make, and it was really enjoyable to be in a room with all five of those actors, including Mary Steenburgen. Everyone was so good at their jobs. It was clear that the movie was going to be good. Usually you don’t know. In this case, we had a really good feeling just when we were filming. Just by how good these actors are and everyone was on their best behavior around these guys and everyone was nice and wonderful. It’s funny, people always say when they do these interviews how fun it is or what a family everyone became and I always watch that stuff thinking ‘Screw you, I want you to be miserable and work hard to entertain me. I don’t want you to have fun.’ But I’m sorry to say, in this case, we actually enjoyed ourselves.

It definitely came across on screen. There was this instant chemistry among the four leads. We’re supposed to believe that they’ve been friends all their lives and it definitely feels that way.
It’s a combination of a few things, I think. One is that all these guys are faces that you’ve seen for 40 years and you just feel comfortable with them. It seems like they all must know each other anyway, even though no two of them have worked together before. That’s one of the more surprising tidbits. It’s a mixture of that, the ease they felt together onscreen, but also starting the movie with them as little kids really propels you into a sense that they really are a group that’s been together a long time.

Was it ever intimidating working with such huge actors?
Terrifying! It was! I’m supposed to be a very cool director who doesn’t get fazed by this stuff but I was really excited and nervous. You’re not just nervous because you want them to love you, but you’re aware also of the other directors they’ve worked with and how talented those men and women are. You know you’re being compared to the greatest directors of all time. The key isn’t to not be scared, the key is to not show it. That’s what I told myself, at least.

The film did a great job of managing the huge personalities. Was it a challenge not letting one actor take over the whole film?
That kind of balance is there in the script, but it’s also something you work hard on in the editing room to make sure that it all feels like a movie about a group of guys, not two of them. And they couldn’t have been easier to work with. They’ve earned the right to be sh**ty on set, and none of them were. I think they were all competing on who could be the nicest because they wanted to not only be the one to not make life difficult for me, but to not make life difficult for each other.

With a movie about a group of friends in Vegas, it’s easy to make comparisons to The Hangover, but is it too simple to call this film The Hangover for old people?
I think so. I hate the phrase that “It’s The Hangover for older people.” I hate less that it’s “The Hangover with older people,” but I still feel like, yeah, it is a bachelor party in Vegas and I totally get the comparisons to The Hangover and The Hangover 3. But it really is such a different movie. It has a different flavor to it, a different feel to it, and different intentions.

Last Vegas seems like a movie that a lot of people could enjoy, were you shooting for a wide audience?
I always set out to make a movie for a general audience, that all people can enjoy. When I made National Treasure, the studio thought we were making an R-rated Jerry Bruckheimer action film, and I turned it into a PG-rated Disney adventure film. I can’t help myself. I really believe that making a movie for the widest audience is a really difficult and really rewarding task. That’s what I wanted to do with this. Humor should be universal and funny should be funny to everybody and emotions and heartbreak should feel tragic to everybody. If you’re doing it right, then you’re hitting these very universal ideas for a very broad audience.