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Romance inspires bigscreen take

"Going the Distance" imitates real-life story of New Line exec

The writers’ dictum “write what you know” will really hit close to home when New Line’s Justin Long-Drew Barrymore starrer “Going the Distance” opens in late August.

The romantic comedy, which centers on a couple trying to maintain a long-distance relationship between New York and San Francisco, is based on the life of New Line creative exec Dave Neustadter. And the g.f. that inspired half of the story still resides in Kansas City and remains on friendly enough terms to be Neustadter’s plus one at the premiere.

“How’s it feel to be a muse?” Neustadter asked the woman, Lena, when the script sold two years ago.

The genesis of the pic goes back to October 2007, when Geoff LaTulippe — in his fourth year as a script reader for New Line and frustrated with not having written scripts of his own — observed that Neustadter’s own long-distance relationship could be the stuff of movies.

“There’s a scene where Justin drops in unexpectedly on Drew at a family gathering and the (husbands in the family) are upset because he’s making them look bad,” LaTulippe says. “That actually happened.”

They two drew on breakout hit “Knocked Up” as an inspiration for tone and feel. “Judd Apatow tapped into our lifestyle,” Neustadter recalls. “Geoff’s coverage always made me laugh, so what I told Geoff is to write it like we talk.”

LaTulippe wrote up three pages of notes, which quickly became 30 pages of script. But while New Line production prexy Richard Brener gave his blessing to the concept, LaTulippe needed another five months of nudging before a burst of creativity generated 30 additional pages.

LaTulippe hit another wall until one night in July when he read a particularly dismal script at home and threw the manuscript across his apartment. “I really hated the fact I wasn’t doing what I came out here to do,” he recalls.

Over the weekend, LaTulippe banged out 60 pages, fueled by beer, coffee and Subway sandwiches.

He brought in the script the following Monday and closed a sale two days later.

The studio moved quickly, setting the project at Adam Shankman’s Offspring Entertainment and bringing in documaker Nanette Burstein as director. Shooting started in New York and San Francisco last summer.

“It’s all still unreal,” says LaTulippe, who plans to take his mother as his plus one to the premiere. “It still hasn’t hit me. I’m probably going to get pretty nauseous the week of the opening.”

The pic isn’t the first instance in which New Line has drawn on its execs’ real-life relationships for inspiration. The 2005 romantic comedy “Just Friends,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart, was inspired in part by the life of producer Chris Bender, who’d been secretly in love with his best friend and gradually worked up the nerve to tell her … and then eventually married her.

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