To celebrate the release of The Intern, in cinemas now, we're bringing you 5 of the most unlikely friendships in movies. Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a classic gentleman and Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), is a budding entrepreneur. They seem like an unlikely pairing, but they aren't alone...
If movies have taught us anything, it’s that the strongest friendships aren’t those between you and your long lost identical twin who loves all the same music, films and food that you do. The strongest friendships are the ones that come out of nowhere — sometimes from people you might even consider your natural enemy.
In The Intern, retiree Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) takes on an intern position at a fashion magazine, sparking an odd friendship with the company CEO (Anne Hathaway). This friendship is at the heart of the movie, as director Nancy Meyer explains, “Relationships are what drive my films, but there are other kinds of relationships other than romantic ones. So when I had this idea about an older man becoming an intern at a start-up, I realized it wouldn’t be a love story, in the traditional sense; it would be a story about a bond and friendship…between two people who might otherwise never cross paths.”
It’s often these friendships — the ones between two people who might never meet outside of the strange circumstances that throw them together — that make the best stories.
Another great chalk-and-cheese story can be found in Due Date, when up-tight architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jnr.) and aspiring actor and disaster-magnet Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) end up having to travel cross-country together after the pair of them are kicked off their plane and placed on a no-fly list.
“It’s a simple idea—two mismatched guys forced to go on a road trip together,” the film’s director and co-writer Todd Phillips explains.
As Downey points out, Tremblay isn’t someone you would seek out as a friend: “If there really was somebody like Ethan around, he’d have been strangled in his sleep long ago. He’s like a laser beam that focuses on the one thing that will drive you crazy the most, the kind of guy who will eat a whole plate of waffles before mentioning he’s allergic to waffles. “
However at the same time, for Highman, Tremblay may be just the friend he needs. Downey continues, “He’s kind of an edgy, controlling, judgmental guy with some anger-management issues. And who better to help him explore those issues than Ethan Tremblay?”
Often these friendships have to overcome the generation gap (as in The Intern) or simply the fact that one of the people in the friendship is a terrible, terrible person (Due Date). However, sometimes you need to overcome more serious barriers, such as the bigotry and racism of Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) in Gran Torino.
In the film, as Kowalski’s neighbourhood changes he becomes more bitter and insular, until someone threatens the only thing he has left to care about: his car. When his shy teenage neighbour Thao (Bee Vang) is pressured into trying to steal the car by a local gang, Kowalski steps in, making him the reluctant hero of the neighbourhood. When Thao’s family force him to make up for the attempted robbery by working for Kowalski, it sets into motion an unlikely friendship that will change both their lives.
“You start to see that their relationship is evolving,” says Vang. “Walt starts to appreciate him as things begin to develop with Thao, who is obviously growing and changing from the young boy he was when they first met. And now, with Thao having calluses all over his hands, he’s proud that he has finally accomplished something useful—that he is useful.”
Nothing helps a friendship develop quickly like a deadline, and Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) have one heck of a deadline in The Bucket List. Carter’s a dreamer and an auto mechanic, while Cole’s a corporate billionaire who’s too busy making money and building an empire to think about his deeper needs. When they share a hospital room they soon discover that for all their differences they have two things in common: That they had things left they wanted to do and not much time left to do them. Working together to finish that list leads almost accidentally to an incredible friendship.
“This is a story about friendship and love and discovering what’s really important in life,” explains producer Alan Greisman. “It stirs a lot of emotions but at the same time makes you laugh and, ultimately, I think, says something significant about the human condition.”
Another boundary traversing friendship can be found in the true story of teenager Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) and Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock). Michael Oher starts out virtually homeless, surviving on his own, until Tuohy sees him and, learning that he is one of her daughter’s classmates, insists that he come and stay at her home for the night.
“It’s a great story about how this unique family evolved, and the unconventional mother-son relationship at its center. Sports, specifically football, was the engine that propelled the story forward, but he could have been a dancer or a pianist—it wouldn’t have made any difference,” says director John Lee Hancock. “The journey that Michael and the Tuohy family go on is the heart of the movie.”
From that single gesture of kindness comes not one, but multiple friendships as Oher becomes part of the family. Because in the end, your friends are the family you choose.