NEW YORK — “The Girl Next Door” has all the trappings of a teen movie: the uptight high school senior desperate to get into Georgetown, his hot porn-star neighbor and a make-out session at a kegger. But director Luke Greenfield insists that wasn’t his intention. “I wanted to make a wild ride,” he clarifies, adding that he used Jonathan Demme’s film “Something Wild” as a model. “I think that’s one of the most brilliant films ever made.”
Greenfield is sitting at a fancy Manhattan restaurant wearing jeans and a red baseball cap advertising his latest endeavor a few weeks before “The Girl Next Door” is set to open. Exhausted from his various press appointments, not to mention a late night at Marquee, he says he’s unhappy that Fox, which has already decided to change the film’s release date for fear of being clobbered by “Starsky & Hutch,” is marketing the movie as if it’s the next “American Pie.” He thinks it’s more serious than that. “There was talk of a PG-13 rating,” Greenfield explains, “but I wanted to make it an R for ‘Reality.’”
Despite his anxiousness about the movie’s impending release, he’s even more rattled by the restaurant’s menu. “French fries for $25?” he asks, pointing to the steak frites and ignoring the steak. “They better be good.” He studies the options — a cobb salad, a tuna filet — and winds up ordering a grilled cheese from the waiter. “Think of me as the children’s menu. Just don’t tell them I’m 32,” Greenfield adds, nervously. “I’m a pizza and pasta guy — I think plain and simple. That’s the worst thing about me in the dating world.” Girls always want sushi, Greenfield says, and raw fish is just not his thing.
Though he’s been making super 8 movies since he was 10, “The Girl Next Door” is Greenfield’s second Hollywood film and he has a lot riding on it. His first was the Rob Schneider vehicle, “The Animal,” which was a surprise hit in 2001 and is known for Colleen Haskell of “Survivor” in her only movie role. Despite the absurd storyline of the newer film, Greenfield calls it “very personal.” The buttoned-up teen who lets loose, played by Emile Hirsch, is somewhat based on himself. “I lived with blinders on,” Greenfield says of his high school and college years. “I was so focused every day about being a young director, but I think I should have spent more time living. I wish I’d been the dumb jock — it’s a much easier life.”
As Greenfield waits for his lunch, he discusses the many similarities between his film and “Risky Business” (“My movie is a lot more high-octane,” he says); his youthful aspirations to be the next Spielberg, and the adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” he made at 17.
“That project took me a year,” Greenfield says. “I went all over Westport, Conn., with my friends playing the roles. It was of epic proportions.”
Fifteen years later, the director’s eating habits may not have changed, but at least his directing style has. “I hope I’ve improved,” he laughs.
— Marshall Heyman