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'How to Be Single' Offers a Fresh Take on Twenty-Somethings in New York

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Caption: (L-R) Rebel Wilson as Robin and Dakota Johnson as Alice in New Line Cinema's, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' and Flower Films' comedy How to Be Single, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden.

The first time Dana Fox reported for work on the set of her own movie she found herself overcome by the magnitude of it all. Back in 2007, the writer and producer was filming What Happens in Vegas, starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, when she suddenly stopped to take it all in. “I looked around and there were like 450 people making something that I just came up with in my head,” she said. “I started crying because it was so incredible. It was like being a magician. It was an amazing thing.”

With her fourth film How to Be Single, which she co-wrote with Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, Fox is gaining momentum in the romantic comedy genre. And with a hilarious and talented cast that includes Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann the film may be the home run she's been hoping for.

Directed by Christian Ditter, the movie takes viewers on a colorful romp through the lives of an optimistic troupe of bright young things making their way as fun-loving, hard-partying professionals in New York City. Adapted from a book by Sex and the City writer Liz Tuccillo, it's a fresh take on the post-college “finding yourself” story centered on the reality of contemporary New York. The plot line follows Alice (Johnson) and Robin (Wilson) who work together as paralegals in the same law firm, Alice's sister Meg (Mann), a career-focused obstetrician with a posh apartment on the Upper East Side and Lucy (Alison Brie), who writes algorithms to filter through the schmucks on her favorite online dating sites.

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Rebel Wilson as Robin in New Line Cinema's, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' and Flower Films' comedy How to Be Single, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden

“[When I'm writing] I like to imagine an actor in a part, because if I have a really great actor in my head I feel like I can do anything with the words because I know they can pull it off,” Fox explained.

Not many actors can pull off some of the hysterically brazen things coming out of Wilson's mouth, but then again, Fox actually had her in mind when she was writing the part, and it's a role perfectly suited for Wilson's improvisational brilliance. Scenes like the one where Robin wakes up with a joint stuck to her face was completely accidental according to Fox, but it's one of the movie's funniest moments. And while some of the character's antics are often outrageous, the movie rarely feels contrived. Instead, cheesy-on-paper moments like when Alice meets an acquaintance on the street in Midtown Manhattan (played by Damon Wayans Jr.) who just happens to be a real estate developer with a property overlooking the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, it truly feels magical.

“These actors all really feel strongly about making everything feel real, so that was always our mantra,” Fox explained. “It has to feel real, it has to feel like it's actually happening in the moment on screen, and so much of this stuff was actually happening in the moment on screen.”

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(L-R) Anders Holm as Tom and Dakota Johnson as Alice in New Line Cinema's, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' and Flower Films' comedy How to Be Single, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

One of Fox's favorite scenes is the one where Mann's character locks eyes with her patient's baby. “That baby and Leslie had a moment,” she said. “They looked into each other's souls, and we got it on camera. We were weeping because it was real, it was happening.”

Fox says there's an element of herself in all the characters, but she says it's the career-driven Meg with the late-life baby craving who most resembles herself. “I was a total workaholic – a real A-plus student,” explained the self-described “NPR podcast-listening nerd” who graduated from Stanford University before enrolling at the University of Southern California's Peter Stark Producing Program. “I was just working, working, working, and I looked up at the age of 32 and was like 'Oh my god, I forgot to get married, I forgot to have kids, what's happening?' So I realized, 'I gotta pull it together, I gotta meet somebody.' Like the Alison Brie character, I thought I had my boxes I wanted checked off. He's gotta be this, he's gotta be that, nerd, A-plus. Then I met this guy who did not check off a single one of my boxes.”

Fox fell for a “hot jock” seven years her junior, married him, and got right to baby making – or trying to anyway. “I was like 'Great! I'm gonna pull the goalie and obviously I'll be pregnant in like five seconds.' I ended up having a ton of problems, crazy infertility, seven IVFs, three miscarriages, a lot of fancy doctors in Los Angeles telling me I was never gonna have my own kids. Real tragedy stuff. Thank god for comedy because making jokes totally got me through it.”

Pregnant with her third child while making How to Be Single, Fox suddenly had a lot to laugh about. In fact, she loves every scene in the movie so much that during test screenings she had a hard time tearing herself away to use the restroom (something pregnant women need to do quite frequently). “I'd seen it so many times, you'd think – just go to the bathroom lady, calm down! But I love it that much,” she said, “and I feel like it's sort of special, and I see something new in it every time I watch it, and I never get bored of it, so I think this might be a good sign, this movie might be awesome.”