Apart from their box office gold, it’s difficult to imagine a lot in common between comedy hits “Date Night” and “Shrek Forever After,” though writer Josh Klausner (who has credits on both) insists that at their core, the two movies are not just laughfests but “emotional journeys”: “Yes, the jokes will come, but it’s easy to make movies funnier. The key is to make people care,” he says.
Before breaking through as a writer, Klausner learned his comic craft as second unit director on four Farrelly brothers movies, including “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary.” “I became aware of what gets cut out, as funny as it might be. If it’s not propelling the story forward, it goes,” he says. His screenplay for a movie about the brother of a modern-day messiah caught the attention of both DreamWorks Animation and director Shawn Levy, leading to both writing gigs. (That screenplay remains unproduced, but Klausner hopes to direct it himself some day.)
Though “Date Night” earned $152 million worldwide and “Shrek Forever After” (which he co-wrote with Darren Lemke) cumed $747 million, Klausner measures his success in eyeballs reached. “You always want as many people as possible to see your movies,” he says gratefully.