In one of its earlier drafts, the new romantic comedy "And So It Goes" might have starred Jack Nicholson and have been set in California.
As it happened, it stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton and was shot almost entirely in Connecticut.
The kismet of talent availability and tax breaks helped create the film, which opens Friday, July 25, that is also an unintentional travelogue of Connecticut, from the easy seaside living of the coast, to gritty projects of Bridgeport to the amusement rides of Lake Compounce.
It was Nicholson, though, who suggested the idea of a graying love story that is "And So It Goes" says director Rob Reiner, whose films have included "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Princess Bride," "Stand By Me," "When Harry Met Sally," "A Few Good Men" and "The Bucket List."
"When we did the press junket for 'The Bucket List,' all the journalists would ask us what's on your bucket list?" Reiner said in a recent interview. "They asked Jack that question and he'd say 'One more great romance.' And that gave me the idea that there was another movie to be made about people finding each other in the later stage of life.
"So we hired Mark Andrus who wrote 'As Good as it Gets' and he came in and wrote a draft," Reiner says. "And this is what came out of it."
Nicholson never got the part, though.
"It turns out that he decided he was retiring from acting, he doesn't want to act any more," Reiner says. "It was obviously a thought, but we didn't pursue it."
Instead, he looked up an old friend, Douglas, still a matinee idol at 69.
"I loved the idea of working with him again because we had done 'American President' together and we were friends, and we connect on a lot of different levels," Reiner says.
And Douglas, fresh off his Emmy-winning role as Liberace in HBO's "Behind the Candelabra," was happy to film it in Connecticut, a state whose tax breaks for movie makers have made it a popular location for the past decade.
"I had just done 'Behind the Candelabra' and 'Last Vegas,' so the idea of filming at home was great," Douglas, a Westchester, N.Y., resident, said in press materials for the film. "It was just a 25-minute drive to get back to the house to see my kids every night. That was very attractive."
Douglas also had a familiarity with the area, a spiffed up cove on Ferris Street in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport.
"Black Rock's a very nice, gentrified area," Douglas said. "It's made up mostly of a lot of smaller houses owned by either retired policemen or firemen or houses that are just rented out."
Bridgeport — where some scenes were filmed near the projects — "is a pretty rough town," Douglas said. "Black Rock is not. And it gives you a good sense of Southport, which is right next door." And it's also where the film takes place; the cars all have Connecticut plates and Douglas' character proudly reads the Fairfield Citizen.
First drafts of the script set the story in San Diego, where bungalows and fourplexes are more common — and were important to the story.
"The script had that kind of architecture where people have concrete cutouts and shared balconies and staircases," said "And So It Goes" production designer Ethan Tobman in press materials. "That kind of architecture doesn't really exist on the East Coast. But we still kept the functionality of the plot, so that people were living on top of each other, sharing a fourplex."
Tobman said it wasn't easy to find such a structure and a six-week scouring of the Northeast coast took them from New Jersey to the Hamptons of Long Island to the Connecticut coast.
"We happened by chance upon this very-run down section of Connecticut, which has been in decline economically since the 20s or 30s," he said.
On a dead end street on Burr Creek they remade a two story duplex into what looked like a fourplex, adding trellises, balconies and spiral staircases that brought tenants in close contact. "It was a great narrative visual," Tobman said. "Especially for Michael's character, who just wants to be left alone."
Vintage wood shingles replaced the aluminum siding on the building to give it a funky look. "The phrase that caught Rob's ear was that it was to have 'a faded hipness' to it. Something from the Catskills in the '40s — the idea that this place was a pretty good getaway in the '70s and '80s but had seen better days," Tobman said.
Building the set included constructing a 100-foot dock with yachts and rowboats and 6,000 square feet of sod to cover the pavement. "We planted tons of foliage to make it look overgrown — again, charming and past its prime," he said.
Tolman also took advantage of having Keaton around to provide some ideas for her bungalow. "I knew Diane was very involved in interior design and has had a lot of success with real estate and she has excellent taste. I reached out to her in prep, because I wanted her to be part of the process, and she very much was."
Of the finished house, Reiner said, "it's like a character in the movie."
The 5 1/2 week shoot a year ago during that summer's excruciating heat, also took them to Lake Compounce in Bristol.
There, Sterline Jerins, who plays the 9-year-old granddaughter of Douglas' cranky character, rode the chain swings of the oldest continuously operating amusement park. And all three of them went on a scrambler.
(In the film, however, Compounce is called Bristol Park).
The Long Ridge Tavern in Stamford stands in for the Oaks Bistro where Keaton's character is trying to be a singer.
Seeing her perched on a stool doing a torch song will remind many of a similar scene in "Annie Hall" 37 years ago.
"She's got a great voice," says Reiner, who also plays her accompanist in the movie. "What I loved about it is that she plays a character who at age 65 starts to embark on a singing career.
"My mother, when she turned 65, started to become a professional singer at that point in her life, too," he says. "And I love the idea that people at a certain advanced age can shift courses and do something else. Because we're living a lot longer than we used to and people have two and three careers over the course of a lifetime, so it's keeping with the message of the movie, which is: Embrace life and live it as long as you have it."Copyright © 2015, CT Now