On the set of “The Road Within,” debut writer-director Gren Wells told her crew, “The only thing I require is that when you come talk to me, you have to curse. If you don’t, I’m gonna fucking fire you.”
The challenge fit the project, considering the road-trip dramedy — a loose remake of the German award winner “Vincent Wants to Sea” — follows a young man with Tourette’s (played by Robert Sheehan) who breaks out of a treatment facility with a rebellious anorexic-bulimic (Zoe Kravitz) and an OCD germaphobe (Dev Patel). There is a, well, fuck-ton of cursing in the film — and Wells says she relished writing every four-letter word.
“I met with a network once, and they said, ‘We love you, but we don’t know what to do with you because you say ‘cunt’ 47 times in your show,’ ” recalls Wells, a former comic raised in Kentucky.
Wells shifted to screenwriting after a fortuitous meeting with “On Golden Pond” producer Bruce Gilbert. He took her under his wing and mentored a screenwriting career that led to the sale of her first script, “Earthbound.” While it got her foot in the door, Wells hardly recognizes “A Little Bit of Heaven,” the schmaltzy Kate Hudson romance it became.
“I will say that a lot changed from script to screen,” she says delicately. Though Wells has sold more than 20 projects, “The Road Within” was the first one she felt determined to direct herself. “My friends already joke that I might as well have Tourette’s. I was anorexic and bulimic growing up, so I have some experience with that, too, and I have OCD tendencies. Obviously, that’s the glib version of it. We did our research, too.”
Wells is fully aware of the danger inherent to a script that had the potential to become an after-school disability-of-the-week film. “I wanted to show the characters’ pain,” she explains. “It’s like Jim Brooks says: Go dark, go deep, and only then twist it, and the turn is 10 times as funny.”
› Age: 42
› Home base: Los Angeles
› Agent: Valerie Phillips (Paradigm)
› Manager: Chris Davey and Geyer Kosinski (Media Talent Group)
› Lawyer: Gregg Gellman