by director/co-writer Stuart Zicherman
When I was 11 years old, every single family in my suburban Long Island neighborhood was getting divorced. My parents sat me down and said “We will never get divorced. We promise.” One year later my dad moved out.
Cue the violins? No, thank you. Turns out my parents' divorce was nothing like Kramer vs. Kramer. It had its tragic moments, but it was also irreverent, fluid, and at times, flat-out funny. I’m sure I didn’t laugh back then, but I was a teenager. You don’t really understand your parents’ divorce until you become an adult yourself and realize how confusing life remains, even when you’re supposed to have all the answers.
That’s how A.C.O.D. was born. The desire to make a movie about the first generation of kids whose parents got divorced en masse. How would that affect us as we grew into adulthood? How are we supposed to find love when we had no role models? I thought that was a wonderful journey for a movie. So I called my childhood friend Ben Karlin and we set out to write a script that would speak to Adult Children of Divorce everywhere.
The key to this movie, as far as I was concerned, was tone. I loved movies like David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster and the Weitz Brothers’ About a Boy. I admired how they took a single character journey and made it funny and irreverent, while also having heart and a message. The key for me was to keep the stakes of A.C.O.D. as real as possible. Even when characters were acting crazy, I tried to ground them in real emotion.
Of course, it helped having a cast of comic legends. Showing up every day to work with the likes of Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, etc. was, to be totally honest, ridiculous. I’d watch them improv and pinch myself. I ruined countless takes by laughing too loud. But the movie is really anchored by Adam Scott. He was always my first choice to play Carter, the main character. Yes, he’s very funny, but he has a smart, slightly cynical way about him that I find incredibly human.
As a first time director, I tried to exude a confidence and creativity that would endear me to my cast and crew. But what blew me away was how much I learned from all of them. I was so fortunate to attract some hall of famers to work on the movie. I remember one day saying to my cinematographer John Bailey, “Remember how they shot the shrink’s office in Ordinary People?” And he said, “Yes, I shot it.”
During production, so many crew members came to me to share their own stories of divorce. It made me realize that at the end of the day, A.C.O.D. isn’t a movie about divorce, but about the simple notion that we don’t have to turn into our parents. We are free to be our own adults, for better or worse.