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Confess, Fletch's Jon Hamm And Greg Mottola Bring A New Take To The Big Screen - Exclusive Interview

In the 1980s, Chevy Chase made the character of Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher famous with a pair of zany comedies. What fans of those films may not know is that "Fletch" was actually based on a series of books by Gregory McDonald. When co-writer, director, and executive producer Greg Mottola and actor and producer Jon Hamm got together to discuss rebooting the character — a project that's been in the works in one form or another for years — they decided to go back to the source material and re-envision what a "Fletch" movie could be. The result is "Confess, Fletch," an amusing but more grounded take on the character.

Hamm proves to be the perfect actor to take on this new version of Fletch. In the film, the character is uniquely intelligent and charismatic, characteristics Hamm established he had in abundance in his seven-season run as Don Draper, the main character in the seminal series "Mad Men." The actor also uses the skills he's honed in comedy and action, including in noteworthy turns in everything from "Bridesmaids" to "Baby Driver." Meanwhile, Mottola uses his background in comedies with rich characters like "Superbad" and "Adventureland," which he also wrote, to bring this updated Fletch to the big screen.

In "Confess, Fletch," the pair have combined a modern-day take on a beloved character and an intriguing whodunit with entertaining results. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Hamm and Mottola talked about blazing their own trail for "Confess, Fletch."

Differentiating the new version of Fletch from Chevy Chase's version

Jon, you're playing a character made famous by Chevy Chase. What did you want to bring to this new version of "Fletch"?

Jon Hamm: That movie and that performance and that actor have such reverence in people's minds, and rightfully so. It was first and foremost in my mind that the last thing I wanted to do was an impression of Chevy or his performance. We were very happy as a production team and as an actor and director to very much let Chevy's performance and Chevy's film be what it was. 

We didn't want to make an homage; we didn't want to make a remake. We really wanted it to be its own thing, and to that end, that's how I pitched the project to Greg. I was like, "Look, that movie's got 35 years of time on it. We have 10 more novels that we can actually look at to adapt. Why don't we reboot the whole thing and start from scratch?" And that's what we did.

We went back to the novels, which tonally are radically different from the first two films that Chevy made, and we decided to let the '80s live in the '80s. Let's bring this up to 2022, and let's adapt this for a new generation. That was an exciting challenge for sure, but it's also about distilling what the character is. He's an interesting guy — he's interested in life, he's interested in people, and he's very persuasive and he's very observant, and he's irreverent and he's funny and he's charming and all of those things. That's the engine that moves this story forward, and we decided we were going to focus on making a good mystery that's also really funny.

We fortunately lucked into being in a movie landscape where those stories are in vogue right now, whether you see "Only Murders in the Building" or "Knives Out" or "Death on the Nile," what have you — there's a lot of whodunits in the ether these days. There's a reason for that, because they're very satisfying to watch.

Rebooting a classic character while nodding to the original

Greg, how did you nod to the original film while forging your own path in this reboot as you were both writing and directing?

Greg Mottola: The first shot of Jon [Hamm], he's wearing a Lakers hat, which is not something from the books — it's something from the movies. It's our way of acknowledging we love the movie, and then also saying, "Okay, now we're going to do our thing." There's a lot of DNA of Fletch that's shared between our version and the original version, because the character on the page is so irreverent and also has no problem lying or breaking some small laws or deceiving people to get answers. There's something really appealing about that, if you strike the right balance, because we're also frustrated with how slowly the wheel justice moves and things don't get done.

We live in a world right now, in particular, where it seems like a lot of bad stuff's happening and nothing's happening to fix it. A guy who says, "Well, screw it, I'm going to go around the police, I'm going to go around the laws, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this and make things right," is a real wish-fulfillment character. I would think about the movie, the original, insofar as wanting to get some of the verisimilitude of the relationship of Jon's character and John Slattery's character, who is his old boss.

I was also thinking about old Hollywood detective movies and "The Thin Man," and a more recent example of a comedic detective story is "The Big Lebowski," which is basically a Raymond Chandler novel with a very unlikely main character. [What] a lot of those things have in common is a more prosaic, still camera, not all shaky, very classic Hollywood approach and making it about the acting and the dialogue, so that's how I approached it. That's similar to comedy, but we didn't want to light it and shoot it quite like an '80s comedy, so we tried to make it feel a little bit more like a detective movie or almost a thriller at times.

Reuniting with Mad Men's John Slattery

Jon, you reunite with your co-star from "Mad Men," John Slattery, for several scenes. That's a fun thing for fans of that show. What was it like working with him in this context?

Hamm: It's fun. John's a good friend of mine. I love working with him. I loved working with him for the better part of a decade, and I knew this would be a very fun thing for an audience to see. There's something about watching people that are very comfortable with one another work together, and there's a richness and a depth to that relationship that works for the character as well.

These characters have known each other in our world for decades, have worked together and known each other for quite some time, and have a shared history. That was baked in and built in already with our relationship, and it comes across on the screen. It's very satisfying to watch.

Why we won't see Chevy Chase in the new film

Was there any discussion about including a Chevy Chase cameo in the film?

Mottola: We certainly thought about it, and it was very tempting to me to ask him. Actually, the second film I wrote that I was going to make back in the late '90s, I cast Chevy in it, and he wanted to do it and I spent some time with him back then, and then the movie fell apart. I'm a lifelong huge fan, and there was definitely a part of me that thought about it, but ultimately, we didn't want to appear as a sort of cynical, nostalgic thing.

People say, "Hollywood's run out of ideas, they're just remaking the same thing," blah, blah, blah. We thought it would muddy the intention of what we're doing. We love the character, we want to bring them into today, and [Chase's "Fletch"] movies exist and they're out there to be watched. But yes, there was absolutely a temptation, because I'm a huge fan.

Hamm enjoys working on projects of all kinds

Jon, your most famous character still is Don Draper from "Mad Men," but you've done a lot of comedy including this, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "30 Rock," and many more. What kind of character do you enjoy playing the most?

Hamm: I like working with people that are challenging in one way or the other to me, and that includes very, very funny people like Larry David or Tina Fey, or I could go even deeper into the Kristen Wiig universe and all the "SNL" players that I got to work with. That kind of talent is exciting to be around for sure. But it's also very exciting to work on more serious, strait-laced dramas and period pieces like I was able to do with "Mad Men" or with "No Sudden Move" or what have you. Those are equally as exciting. 

Part of what makes being an actor great is that you get to do all the colors of the rainbow. If you only had one color of paint in your palette, it would be a pretty boring-looking picture, so I'm glad that I get to use all 64 crayons in the box.

"Confess, Fletch" is available in theaters and on digital.

This interview was edited for clarity.