Mr. Mastai began writing The F Word in 2005, by 2008 it was on The Black List (the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood). It was acquired by Fox Searchlight, but did not get made by the studio. Then Mr. Dowse and other producers from Goon got involved.
The script for The F Word was in flux for years and next thing you know Daniel Radcliffe has signed on to play the lead. What was that like for you?
When you kind of step back it seems like a huge deal. But at the time a lot of different names had come up and hadn’t worked out for various reasons sometimes about money, sometimes about schedules, sometimes they’d taken another movie that was too similar. These names get floated around all the time. And Daniel’s name came up and we were interested and of course we had that fundamental question which was: is he funny? But what we discovered is Daniel wasn’t messing around. Sometimes you get actors who voice some vague interest and you can waste months chasing after them and they decide not to do it or they decide to do something else or maybe they’d do it some other time , could you wait for them for a year or two? But with Daniel, he read the script and [later] told me he decided on page two that he was going to do it. Michael got on the phone with him and then flew to London to meet him and when he came back, he said this is the guy. He’s totally Wallace. He’s hilarious, he’s self-effacing, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he gets the character, he gets the script and he wants to make the same movie we do. As soon as I met him I knew he was right for the part. And it’s very exciting because you need to get someone who can close your financing and open your movie around the world. You want people to see your movie. He’s a movie star and that’s fantastic, but more than that, he totally embodied the character much more thoroughly than I had any reason to hope we’d find. Because when I started writing it, Daniel was a teenager doing Harry Potter movies. The idea of him starring in this movie would have seemed ludicrous; I just wouldn’t have thought of him in that context. But once we actually met him and got to know him it became impossible to imagine anybody else playing the part. And because he’s super famous, that helps.
What was he like to work with?
Mike and I joke that he has more experience on set than pretty much the entire crew combined. He’s incredibly gracious and thoughtful. You see that on set all the time. One day we were all sitting around shooting the breeze between setups and we overheard this extra complaining to another extra that she had a splitting headache. And Daniel just goes up to her and he’s like, are you okay? He mentioned that he gets headaches sometimes too and he always keeps medication in his trailer; does she need anything? And you should have seen the look on this girl’s face. She’s just, like, an extra in a party scene and the last thing she expected was the star of the movie to come up and check if she’s okay. That’s just an example of what he’s like.
The film has had its title changed for the U.S. to What If. How do you feel about that?