How far would you go for love? That’s the loaded question explored in David E. Talbert’s Baggage Claim. The fun romantic comedy stars Paula Patton as Montana, a single flight attendant who’s desperate to find “The One.” The film’s based on the book of the same name, which Talbert wrote back in 2003. ScreenCrave recently spoke to the director and actress about this labor of love.
Paula what made you want to do this film?
Paula Patton: I read the screenplay when I was making a film called Just Wright with Queen Latifah. I wasn’t even pregnant yet, and I laughed out loud. I had not read the book yet and I loved it. So I brought my husband and my best friend and I was like, ‘We’ve gotta read it out loud.’ So we all laughed out load. I knew I wanted it. It’s a rare thing for a Black woman to be a lead in a romantic comedy and I’ve always wanted to be. I love romantic comedies. Don’t we all love those? So I went and met David, and you know things happen in movies. Things come and go, blah, blah, balh. The movie went away and then I had my son and did some other films and they called me and said Baggage Claim is back because I always asked about it.
David E. Talbert: Every time I saw your agent he was like, ‘ You know Paula asked about Baggage Claim.’
Is that true?
Paula Patton: I did. And then they said, ‘They’re going to make it and David wants to make it with you.’ Which made me have a tear to my eye and jump up and down. I was so thrilled. That was what I wanted to do. This has been a dream come true in every way. This has been a labor of love. A complete passion project for the both of us and I’m just lucky to be a part of it. I mean David created that world. He wrote this book, of course I read the book afterwards, loved it and I love the script. I always keep the original script because I think that that’s so precious. It’s always the director’s first real instinct, everything that he wanted to tell.
David E. Talbert: It will be available on eBay tomorrow [laughs].
Paula Patton: So that’s how it came to be. I’m just so thrilled. I feel so blessed to be here.
Your character Montana travels across the globe in search of Mr. Right. Why does she go to such lengths?
Paula Patton: I mean, that’s what I love about Montana’s character. When we first meet her she’s so hopeful. She thinks met the man of her dreams and she’s going to get married and she’s not. It’s sad. As she’s dealing with her sadness, boom, her younger sister comes in and says, ‘I’m getting married in a month.’ She knows because of her mom how important marriage is. That becoming a wife means becoming a lady to her family. So this, coupled with a heartbreak, and that mother and cute little younger sister with a big old diamond ring — that has now sent her over the edge.
David the film features an amazing cast. How did you pick your actors?
David E. Talbert: She [Paula] was the magnet that attracted this incredible cast. Montana Moore is my favorite character that I’ve ever created. And Paula’s a mix of Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts all mixed up in one. I thank God for everybody — we were able to put this cast together. Is this cast amazing or what?
How was it working with Jenifer Lewis as your overbearing mother?
Paula Patton: Jenifer Lewis is an amazing actress. And so full of life and spirit and passion. Everytime she comes to set she gets everybody laughing. But more importantly she’s willing to be so vulnerable. She gives everything of herself. We would just get into a scene together and that’s a great thing when you’re working with a great actor… There’s no science to it. There’s no way to explain it. We just jump into the rabbit whole together. It just worked.
Derek Luke plays the pivotal role of Montana’s friend and neighbor, William. We’re used to seeing him in more dramatic roles.
David E. Talbert: Derek has never smiled in a movie before. This is the first movie Derek has smiled in in his career. Don’t we love Derek Luke’s smile? I told him when he smiles he lights up the world. They’re going to put it in your contract now you have to have at least 10 smiles in your movies. When I first met with Derek there was this grounding quality that he has. And then when Paula and I talked — Paula signs off on every casting choice in the movie — so she said, ‘David he’s gotta be this. He’s got to be that.’ I said, ”Yes, Ms. Patton. Yes, Ms. Patton.’ So when we went into the screen test, it was important for Paula and I [to have someone] who felt chemistry. Then, Derek came into the room.
Paula Patton: The honest truth is Derek is an amazing actor. But I think it’s hard to see a man truly fall in love in a movie. And because he already is in love [with his wife]… it just emanates. There’s a warmth and believability. You believe that this man wants to give himself over to a woman. We immediately clicked in the room. The way we read together I just knew right away.
Baggage Claim’s filled with well-known comedians. How did you land Affion Crockett as the overly agressive TSA agent?
David E. Talbert: When we were on set I said to Affion, ‘I want the TSA [to be] the worst nightmare TSA.’ He said, ‘I got you!’ With comedians I kind of let them do their thing and with brilliant comedians like Affion, I said, ‘action’ and he came through there with his own lines. He said, ‘Okay, I want everything out your pockets. Take your pockets out your pockets’ and I just fell out. We were only there for a day, and then he said, ‘I have no life. It would take me all day to ruin yours.’
Baggage Claim opens in theaters September 27.