Exclusive sit-down interview with the director of The Back-up Plan, Alan Poul.
When Poul signed on to The Back-Up Plan, Lopez was the only element attached to the film. She would take on the role of Zoe, the headstrong female lead with commitment issues and a plan. So, he set out to find the perfect ‘Stan’.
While watching Lopez’s movies in preparation for the film, Poul noticed Lopez’s “enormously charismatic screen presence”. He quickly realized that finding the perfect Stan would be difficult. “I realized when she’s on screen, it’s impossible not to watch her. So, finding a guy who could hold his own with her [and] also who could be Stan was difficult. A lot of the younger actors who you might believe as a cheese farmer, I felt, would come off as being too weak or too soft and wouldn’t be able to balance the story.” In addition, when looking into a pool of “bigger” names who would possibly make a better match for Lopez, Poul felt that they were “definitely too old to play Stan.”
This real-life challenge is right in line with just one of the modern-day issues explored in The Back-up Plan. “If Stan is in his 30’s and hasn’t quite figured out what to do with his life, he’s charming. If he’s in his 40’s, he’s a loser,” Poul explains. Casting a relatively unknown actor head-to-head with Lopez was the direct result of what Poul describes as O’Loughlin’s own “brand of masculinity” which he perceived as “strong, effortless, not aggressive, but it’s so masculine that he would never appear to be soft or weak.”
These qualities needed to be present in the actor in order to bring balance to the two leads. In the film, Zoe is in complete control of her life and her future. As her counterpart, Stan could not appear to be a wimp, even during the ‘freak-out’ moments he experiences in the film. Poul recognized this characteristic in O’Loughlin immediately, and Stan was cast.
I segue back to how O’Loughlin steals my gaze off of Lopez. The intensity of Stan’s gaze upon Zoe is enough to spoil the twist of events in the film. This display of emotion on film was something that reeled me in, and I wondered how difficult this may have been for Poul to capture. He says, “playing the emotion of the role, the love, that is easy for [O’Loughlin]; also, he and Jennifer really, really liked each other.” Tackling the comedy aspect required more work. “Comedy is hard; so, learning how to throw things away so that you don’t see the effort in the comedy [was] the hardest part.”