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‘Book Club’ Team Talks ‘Fifty Shades’ Inspiration, Showing ‘Real Women’ at Premiere

Book Club,” the new romantic comedy starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, all started with “an inappropriate Mother’s Day gift.”

Director Bill Holderman, who also produced and co-wrote the film, told Variety at the Los Angeles premiere that he gifted the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy to his mother several years ago “as a good son would.” “I thought that was crazy, so I sent it to my mother and my step mother,” added co-writer Erin Simms. “We got to talking about our moms and the different perspectives on aging and the conversation led to this idea.”

The movie centers on four older women who read “Fifty Shades” as part of their monthly book club and are inspired to improve their dating and sex lives. The premiere, held Sunday at the Regency Village Theatre, welcomed the four leading ladies, as well as co-stars Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Begley Jr.

As both a romantic comedy and a film starring multiple actresses over 60, “Book Club” marks the type of movie that is rarely seen in Hollywood, aiming for an audience of women and older viewers.

Steenburgen was attracted to the story as “all four parts were whole and interesting women and different, very different from each other. It said a lot about friendship and about being my age, which is 65, and owning it and enjoying it and claiming that as a woman in every single way. I loved that.”

She said this film was also important for young people “to have something to look forward to in life. You might not be like any of the women in this movie but hopefully you will want to be alive every minute of your life. So many people, certainly in terms of the movie life we look at, women our age are invisible or they’re some eccentric loon that comes in and says hello now and then. These are real women.”

Bergen was drawn to the project for a similar reason. She said when she first read the script, she thought “it was honest and very real and true about women’s friendships and the importance of women’s friendships.” She added, “I thought the sex was handled very tastefully but also had juice to it, considering the age of the people doing it.”

Steenburgen’s character is in a marriage slump after 35 years, while Keaton’s character is recently widowed. Bergen’s character is still getting over her divorce from decades earlier, and Fonda’s character is playing the field, refusing to settle down.

Fonda said she was initially concerned that “it was too much about sex, but then I decided that Diane Keaton was already attached and I really wanted to work with her and get to know her. We worked with the two writers, they were very open to our input. I think all of us working together in collaboration were able to deepen our characters a little.” Fonda admitted she cried three times the first time she saw it.

“Book Club” hits theaters May 18.

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