Hollywood often looks to non-fiction book sources as ideas for the next big-screen hit. So the runaway success of Steve Harvey’s book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which turned into a cultural phenomenon and transformed the 55-year-old divorced and remarried Harvey into a relationship guru, seemed the likeliest of candidates for a screen adaptation. BET.com talked to Think Like a Man’s director Tim Story and screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman about the book’s interesting journey to the screen.
Produced by Will Packer, the man behind Stomp the Yard, Obsessed, This Christmas and Takers, the first hurdle was turning a relationship advice book into a movie with colorful onscreen personalities. That undertaking fell upon the screenwriters. “It was really hard. There are no characters and there’s no narrative at all,” Newman told BET.com. “It was like, whom do you pair up? It was scary.” Merryman adds, “Then it became a question of what would the most dramatic and comedic combinations be?”
But using the theories of Harvey’s book, Newman and Merryman mapped out a blueprint for creating and pairing what would ultimately become Think Like a Man’s core ensemble couples. “We knew we’d have a momma’s boy (Terrence J) and a single mom (Regina Hall) and if you put them together it would be great,” says Newman. “We knew the 90-Day Rule theory should become a character (Meagan Good) and why is she following it? The Ultimate Player (Romany Malco).”
And Harvey, who had to OK the script, was even fine with the scriptwriters interjecting his book’s detractors into the onscreen story. “Steve was completely into having characters rail on him. In the movie it’s Taraji [P. Henson’s] character, Lauren, that’s like, ‘Who does he think he is?’” says Merryman. “Steve knows not everybody likes his book. Not all women like it — in fact some women hate it. And he was like, ‘You know, bring it!’”
Incorporating all those creative elements and criticisms, Newman and Merryman crafted a very smart, original and hilarious script. And the duo ultimately got Harvey’s blessings. Newman says, “Steve left us a message and said, ‘I read it and this is a hot m************ script!’” But Harvey wasn’t the only fan of Think Like a Man's film incarnation. Story, the director behind Barbershop and The Fantastic Four franchise, got wind of the project and desperately wanted in.
“I read the script, I laughed out loud while I was reading it. And I sought out Will Packer and said, ‘You’ve got to send that [movie] to me. I love this film,” remembers Story, who had to sell people on the idea of him helming the project. “When you’ve done things like the Fantastic Four movies, people don’t think you want to do these movies. But this is where I started. This is home. Luckily Will wanted me to do it.”
Some, like Think Like a Man star Kevin Hart, were a little surprised to learn that the film’s screenwriters Newman and Merryman were white men. Merryman says, “When we met Kevin on the set he was like, ‘You’re the writers? I was expecting two big fat Black guys.’ And I was like, ‘We lost weight.’” Newman adds, “We didn’t think of it in terms of color. We had in mind some of the characters could possibly be Black or white.”
What Story, Newman, Merryman and Sony Pictures are banking on is that even with its mostly Black cast, Think Like a Man, which has been testing well with preview audiences, hopefully won’t get pegged into the limited urban comedy box office slot. “This film is about the universal differences between men and women,” says Merryman. “I don’t look upon this as an urban movie. I just look at it as a movie. I think everybody will love it. It has something to say to you no matter what the color of your skin is.”
Think Like a Man opens in theaters nationwide April 20.
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(Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)