Ticket to Paradise stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts had fans running to movie theatres to see the pair portray a bickering ex-couple, but for director and writer Ol Parker, Kaitlyn Dever was the special third link to these two Hollywood titans.
“I think she's a once in a generation actress,” Parker said to Yahoo Canada about Dever, who plays the superstars' daughter in the film. “Kaitlyn I'd met before, we talked about something else and it hadn't worked out, but I just thought…everything she does is amazing.”
“But she's always the victim in things, she's always surviving ghastly things, whether it's drug addiction or sexual assault. So it was just really lovely to give her a part where she could be as beautiful and as warm, and as funny as she is in life.”
How Ol Parker attracts some of the biggest Hollywood stars
Ticket to Paradise really brought back the glamorous rom-com, a love story told in front of the beautiful landscapes of Australia, used to depict Bali, Indonesia in the film (now available with bonus content to own on digital, releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD Jan. 17 for Canadians).
In this movie, Clooney and Roberts play divorced couple David and Georgia Cotton, who share a daughter, Lily (Dever). Lily just graduated from college and spends some time travelling with her friend Wren (Billie Lourd). In Bali, Lily meets Gede (Maxime Bouttier), falls in love and gets engaged. Not particularly pleased with Lily's decision, her parents take the trip to Bali with the intention of stopping this wedding from actually happening.
Parker, who co-wrote this film with Daniel Pipski, has a pattern of creating stories with particular actors in mind — some of the most loved, successful and well-known stars.
In his previous film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Parker crafted the role of Ruby Sheridan with Cher in mind.
“I wrote it for Cher and she passed, and then I wrote back going, sorry I think you need to read it again," Parker revealed. "Then she passed again and I wrote back going, there seems to be some confusion, we start filming on September the 20th and I need you in London."
"She passed again. I think in the end I stalked her into doing it, she just gave up and gave in, and showed up and filmed. So now we're friends."
For Ticket to Paradise, Parker wrote to Clooney and Roberts, at the same time, after developing the narrative with the A-list actors in mind. As the filmmaker recalls, the stars contacted each other prior to both agreeing to do the film.
“They’re titans of the screen and they’re glamorous and gorgeous, and brilliant at what they do, but also because of their friendship on and off screen over the years, it just gave us so much inherited warmth," Parker said. "Also credibility that they were once married, that they're now not married, and also that you very much want them to be married again.”
“Richard Curtis said, you can write the best script in the world but if people don't want to see your actors kiss, then you're nowhere.”
The most 'underused' actor in 'Ticket to Paradise'
While George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Kaitlyn Dever are a particularly attractive family unit to watch in Ticket to Paradise, we can't undervalue the always hysterical and endearing Billie Lourd, who plays Lily's best friend.
The daughter of the late Carrie Fisher and Bryan Lourd, and granddaughter of the late Debbie Reynolds, Ol Parker highlighted the Ticket to Paradise actor has killer acting talent, but her upbringing in Hollywood was also an asset on set.
“[Billie] sat on George's lap when she was a baby, she knows them really well and that was really helpful,” Parker said.
The filmmaker did also admit that Lourd is particularly "underused" in the film.
“She's underused in the movie, I wish that we had more," he said. "I'd love to write something to just put her at the lead because she's clearly a brilliant comedian, and a lovely person.”
The infectious draw of a Hollywood rom-com
With Ticket to Paradise proving particularly successful with audiences, Ol Parker said, from a development perspective, he and co-writer Daniel Pipski found "relief" from being able to write this story about love, travel and human connection during a time of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
“It was literally the opposite of what we were all living through,” Parker said. “It was an amazing relief and escape to be writing it together, to be in our heads on a beach, let alone thinking that it might one day happen.”
Parker stressed that there has also been a particular gap in rom-com releases in recent years, with Ticket to Paradise tapping into a nostalgic movie-going experience of the past.
“There aren't that many rom-coms anymore and we’ve got two glamorous movie stars and gorgeous locations," he said. "That was the idea, to make something that was kind of reassuringly familiar.”
“George's favourite compliment on set, he’d come and look at a shot that we'd set up and when he liked it he would just shout ‘old school.' It was very consciously a throwback to those times.”
When it comes to Parker's particular affinity for the rom-com genre, the filmmaker says it ultimately boils down to a desire to "make people happy."
“It's a tough thing to do and an incredible privilege, if you can succeed in any way," Parker said. "I don't sit down and think, I'm going to write something really optimistic and it's going to bring joy, you start with the idea and start with the characters, and see where it goes."
"But there's nothing nicer, and particularly post-pandemic, to be in a room with lots of people laughing. The first test screening was like 500 people, and it was an amazing feeling to be somewhere full and hear lots of laughter again."
Ticket to Paradise is now available to own on Digital, releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD Jan. 17 in Canada