Prime mover Ben shows romance is not dead
Jewish Telegraph, May 2006
FILM director Ben Younger hates romantic comedies. So it seems odd that for his second film he should write . . . a romantic comedy.
Prime, which opens in cinemas today, is a love story with a Jewish twist.
Dave (Bryan Greenberg) is a 23-year-old painter who falls in love with 37-year-old Rafi (Uma Thurman).
But, it’s not just the age difference that causes problems — David is Jewish and Rafi is not.
Throw into the mix, Rafi’s therapist Lisa (Meryl Streep) who just happens to be . . . now that would be giving too much away.
So what made a non-romantic like Ben write a love story?
“I thought it could be done right,” Yeshiva educated Ben said. “I hate every Meg Ryan film, every Julia Roberts film. I wanted to show how the genre should really be done.
“And Prime is not just a Jewish film. You could replace the religion with Catholicism or Buddhism. Every mother wants their child to take tradition with them.”
Ben, born in 1973, made his feature screenwriting and directorial debut with Boiler Room, a drama set in an underground brokerage firm on Wall Street, in 2000.
Amazingly, for a first time director, Ben attracted the cream of young actors including Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck and Giovanni Ribisi.
A native of Brooklyn, Younger attended the City University of New York, where he studied political science.
After being involved in political campaigns, he made the leap into filmmaking as a grip on feature films and music videos.
He was inspired to write Boiler Room after being recruited as a boiler room trainee. He spent a year researching underground telemarketing brokerages while writing his screenplay.
“I can’t watch Boiler Room anymore,” he revealed. “I tried to watch it recently but I couldn’t get through it.”
Don’t let Ben’s criticism put you off as Boiler Room is a gripping film.
“I couldn’t believe I was making my first film,” he said. “I was a little star struck. I still get a sense of pride when I see Vin in other films.”
Ben says he wrote the character of Lisa in Prime with Meryl Streep in mind.
“I had nothing to do with Meryl’s performance,” he said. “I wish I could take credit for it. I know she talked to friends who were psycho-analysts but I bet she didn’t speak to any Jewish mothers. She just nailed the role perfectly by herself. She’s just fun.”
Ben, who keeps kosher but says he is not strictly shomer Shabbat, added that he had to ‘audition’ for Meryl.
“Meryl won’t just sign on for a guy making his second film,” he said. “She had to like the script.”
Ben’s mother is a “shrink” but he swears that Meryl’s character is not based on her.
“My mother loved the film, though,” he said. “She cried during it.”
Ben used his experience of dating an older woman for David’s romance with Rafi, but he is adamant that he is not David.
“I’m sure there are bits of my friends in the characters but never the whole character,” he added.
David’s best friend in Prime, Morris (Jon Abrahams) only takes women out on one date and dumps them by splatting them with custard pies.
“That was a tribute to The Three Stooges,” Ben said. “I love slapstick comedy. But now it’s all about people having sex with apple pies.”
Ben was very happy with the film’s performance in America. Prime took $27 million despite being released in a crowded October.
“You always think it will do better,” he said, “but it only had a short release.”
Ben starts shooting his third film next month — a Mexican western.
“It will be historically correct but not like The Good The Bad and The Ugly,” he said. “We are shooting it in Mexico for $7 million.”
Next year, he will make a film based around the Isle of Man TT Motorcycle Races.
“It’s going to be about a Chassidic Jew who wins the race,” Ben joked.
“I’ll be going over for the race in June.”
In addition Ben has also sold a show to American cable TV channel HBO about the pharmaceutical industry.
One subject Ben will not be touching is politics. He said: “I got out of politics because it is a dirty business.
“Showbusiness may be dirty but politics affects more people. I won’t do a political film.”