TORONTO-When he set out to adapt Vivienne Laxdal's play These Girls for the big screen, writer- director John Hazlett (Bad Money) was convinced it would be an easy sell, because what sells better than sex? "Crassly, on the surface, it's the story of three girls sleeping with this guy," he says. "It's like a sex comedy. You can't really get too much more commercial." But it still took more than four years for Hazlett (who also produced Gary Burns's cult hits Kitchen Party and The Suburbanators) to get the funding to start shooting These Girls, which opens in Vancouver on Friday (March 24).
Once he got his money in place, things got sexier when Hazlett landed Buffy the Vampire Slayer's favourite bad boy toy, David Boreanaz, as the lust object. The ex-Angel (now star of the Fox TV series Bones) plays Keith, a small-town drug dealer who's fooling around with the babysitter, a recent high-school grad. But Keith's romantic fantasies spiral out of control and the comedy turns dark when the sitter's best friends decide they want some of the action too.
The morning after These Girls's world premiere at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, Hazlett is sitting in a room at the Hotel InterContinental with two of his three leading ladies: Caroline Dhavernas, star of the short-lived cult TV series Wonderfalls, and Holly Lewis (from CBC's The Newsroom). The third These girl, former Much Music VJ Amanda Walsh (who now stars in the TV series Sons & Daughters) isn't available-and Dhavernas and Lewis both say it's weird to be talking about their movie without her.
"We're so used to being 'the three' whenever we're doing anything," Lewis observes. "Every minute of the day [during the shoot] we stayed at the same bed-and-breakfast on the same floor, and whenever we had free time we always spent it together. Somebody would open the door, and as soon as the door clicked everyone else would be in the hallway."
Dhavernas adds: "We were like a coven. A coven of little girls."
Hazlett agrees. "It made my job easier. All I had to do was basically put them in a room and they took care of the rest."
"You did some things too," Harris reassures him.
"Yeah, I bought you lunch," Hazlett replies, smiling.
Hazlett says the bond between the three women was crucial, which is why he made sure that there was money for rehearsals before they started shooting in New Brunswick.
Another key was finding a leading man who wasn't afraid to let the women taking take the lead on-screen. "I was really worried about some egomaniac actor coming there and trying to protect his manhood by playing Keith in a certain way, but he [Boreanaz] allowed Keith to be undermined, he allowed Keith to be goofy."
"He loved it," Lewis recalls.
"I talked to some other actors on the phone about that role and they had a very different idea," Hazlett says. "You get the wrong guy in there who's a little too macho, a little too insecure, and he's not going to allow the character to be undermined. I was so worried about that. So when he came and he was fun and he was playful, I was like, 'Thank God.'?"
Although Boreanaz didn't seem concerned about damaging his image, Dhavernas was wary of her character, Keira, coming across too much like her Wonderfalls alter ego, Jaye Tyler, an overeducated, underemployed slacker who worked in a Niagara Falls gift shop.
Dhavernas felt Keira had a similar vibe. "She's laid-back and she's bored and she's very intelligent, but doesn't use much of it for work. She's not a go-getter. So that's a little bit of Jaye," Dhavernas explains. "I just tried to make it different."
Lewis argues that the characters aren't that similar. "I was a big fan of Wonderfalls, but your heart as Keira was kind of harder, so they're very different characters."
Hazlett says his biggest creative challenge was trying to script the thoughts of teenage girls. "I relied heavily on the play, but of course there are whole big scenes in the movie that I wrote, and some of these moments I actually think I got inside the head of a teenage girl."
Dhavernas laughs. "It's a scary place."
"When I was a teenage boy, teenage girls were scary," Hazlett confirms. "And they still are. And for me, three teenage girls is a complete nightmare."
Dhavernas turns to Hazlett. "Did we scare you during the movie?"
Lewis and Dhavernas share a smile before Lewis concludes: "I think a little bit."
Hazlett doesn't argue.