Tag Archives: Lisa Addario

Lisa Addario’s “Dear Dictator”

More than a dozen years ago, Lisa Addario and her husband/screenwriting partner Joe Syracuse had an idea. Saddam Hussein was in hiding. What if the Iraqi president showed up in suburbia?

The script became a Hollywood favorite. It made the “black list”: top executives’ favorite un-produced scripts.

For more than a decade, it remained unmade.

Meanwhile, Lisa — a 1986 Staples graduate — and Joe had plenty of success. They wrote “Parental Guidance,” starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler; “Surf’s Up,” an animated penguin film, and “Amateur Night,” based on Joe’s real-life adventures driving hookers around Los Angeles, while Lisa was pregnant with their daughter.

Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario.

A financier who loved “Amateur Night” wondered what happened to that Hussein script (at that point, called “Coup d’état”). When he heard “nothing,” he agreed to raise funds for it.

Which took another couple of years.

Finally, shooting was about to begin. But Anthony Hopkins’ schedule no longer worked. When he pulled out, so did a major financial backer.

Michael Caine replaced Hopkins. Then — at the very last minute — Maisie Williams dropped out too.

At last, the cast — including Katie Holmes and Odeya Rush — was ready. They and the crew assembled in Savannah.

It was a “brutal, grueling” shoot, Lisa says. But, she notes, “most indie movies have a back story.”

The Hollywood Reporter called it “fiercely funny social satire,” adding:

There’s not much humor to be found in contemporary world affairs. Clearly what’s needed is a pointed satire highlighting the inherent absurdity governing global politics today, and “Coup d’Etat” may just fit the bill.

At last, the film — now called “Dear Dictator” — is ready for release. It will play in 10 cities, beginning Friday, March 16. The New York venue is the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue, at West Third Street).

Lisa says the long wait was well worth it. “Nothing ever turns out the way you expected,” she says. “But I think we have a great movie.”

She and Joe are now shopping “Scissor Happy.” It’s her take on growing up in the 1980s, with 3 sisters and a gay hairdresser father.

“People love that script too!” she says happily.

Hopefully, audiences won’t have to wait until 2030 to see it.

(Besides its theatrical release, “Dear Dictator” will be available for purchase on cable VOD, iTunes and Amazon beginning March 16.)

Lisa Addario’s “Amateur Night”

Lynsey Addario gets plenty of shout-outs on “06880.”

But the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur grant-winning New York Times photographer is not the only talented member of the 4-female-sibling family.*

Lisa — a 1986 Staples High School graduate — has just written and directed “Amateur Night” (with her husband, Joe Syracuse).

Based on their early experiences in Hollywood, the film stars Jason Biggs, Janet Montgomery and Ashley Tisdale. It’s also the feature debut for Eddie Murphy’s daughter, Bria Murphy.

“Amateur Night” opens today (Friday, August 5) in New York and Los Angeles. It’s then in select cities — and video on demand — beginning August 12.

Here’s the trailer. Warning: It’s rated R!

*And of course we love their parents, Philip and Camille.


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Lisa Addario’s “Parental Guidance”

It’s a generational thing.

Parents today encourage their young kids to “use your words.” That’s a foreign language to the parents of those parents, who had a different child-rearing philosophy: “Go out and play.”

There’s the premise behind “Parental Guidance,” a surprisingly cute and insightful movie that opened on Christmas Day. Lisa Addario — a 1986 Staples graduate — wrote the screenplay with her husband, Joe Syracuse.

Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei, it’s Lisa and Joe’s first foray into the big-time. Now — with a 1st-day box office of $6.6 million that doubled expectations, and $4.4 million the next day — they’re enjoying the ride.

Lisa Addario and Billy Crystal at the premiere of "Parental Guidance" last week with Lisa's son Augie, mother Camille, and daughter Lulu.

Lisa Addario and Billy Crystal at the premiere of “Parental Guidance” last week with Lisa’s son Augie, mother Camille, and daughter Lulu.

Though Lisa never planned on a writing career — she played volleyball and was a gymnast at Staples, then majored in sociology and Italian at Connecticut College — she realized the power of film through Joe, a college classmate who always wanted to direct.

While living together in Bridgeport — surrounded by “massage parlors” that stayed open until 2 a.m. — they wrote “Lover Girl.” It just missed acceptance into the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. The rejection letter basically said: “You guys are good. Why are you in Bridgeport? Go to L.A.!”

So they did. Lisa and Joe packed up their car, drove west, and moved in with Lisa’s sister Leslie. (Who — in a movie-like twist — is married to Joe’s brother.)

Director Allison Anders got hold of “Lover Girl.” Sandra Bernhard starred in the 1997 film — which was shown at the Toronto and Tokyo Film Festivals, and on Showtime — but that didn’t help the writers.

“It was small and dark,” Lisa says of the film. “We had no idea you were supposed to write with an audience in mind.”

Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario.

Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario.

Their next project — “Scissor Happy” — was about growing up in Westport in the 1980s. “It was everyone’s favorite script in Hollywood that no one would make,” Lisa recounts.

But that led to studio jobs. Lisa and Joe honed their craft, wrote and rewrote, and eventually got a break.

Five years ago, Nickelodeon put them in a room with Billy Crystal. He had an idea for a movie about grandparents who take care of their grandchildren. Lisa and Joe’s own kids — Augie and Lulu — were 5 and 7, so they were all over that one.

“We pitched ideas like an imaginary friend who gets killed, and a no-outs baseball league — every game ends in a tie,” Lisa recalls.

Billy Crystal loved it. “Hire them!” he said.

But — Hollywood being Hollywood — the script went through 3 studios and 3 producers. It was finally released by Twentieth Century Fox.

“Even though this was Billy Crystal, playing a grandfather in a real family movie, it still took 5 years to make,” Lisa says.

Parental Guidance

“Everyone says, ‘Don’t read reviews,'” she adds. That’s good advice. Most have been “terrible,” Lisa notes — except for the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis, who was not overly harsh.

But audiences love it. It’s that rare film that really does have something for every generation. (I saw it on Christmas Day — and did not know until the final credits that Lisa wrote it.)

Lisa saw it with her 95-year-old grandmother, and 5-year-old nephew. The theater was sold out. “Everyone found something to laugh and cry about,” she says proudly.

The crying came when the stuttering kid delivers a flawless rendition of Russ Hodges’ legendary “The Giants win the pennant!” call from the 1951 playoffs.

The biggest laugh came from a vomit scene. “The studio insisted we put that in,” Lisa says. “I guess they really do know what audiences like.”

But, she says, “That’s the movie. We never set out to do anything more than pure entertainment. I think it works.”

It does. Billy Crystal called on Christmas Day. He was very happy.

Also happy: Lisa’s parents. Her father Philip — co-owner of Phillip Bruce Salon — is thrilled. And her mother, Camille, “blabs about it to everyone,” Lisa says.

Lauren, Lynsey, Lisa and Lesley Addario.

Lauren, Lynsey, Lisa and Lesley Addario.

Yesterday was hectic, but Lisa was happy to talk about “Parental Guidance” — and Westport. Her sister Lynsey — the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photographer — was visiting, with her baby. (Their 4th sister, Lauren, is an artist in New Mexico.)

“It’s all good,” Lisa says.

Next up:  She and Joe are pitching 3 TV shows (including one with Fred Savage).

And Billy Crystal is deciding whether to do a sequel.