NEW YORK — The nameplate on the door buzzer of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, loft reads “Younger than you.” The greeting accurately sums up what’s most worth knowing about resident Ben Younger, 33: He directed his first film, “Boiler Room,” when he was just 28. He dates Vanessa Marcil, an actress four years his senior. And his movie, “Prime,” which he wrote and directed, about an older woman and a younger man, hits theaters today.
The story revolves around a 23-year-old struggling artist (Bryan Greenberg) who goes out one night and happens upon a 37-year-old career woman, who’s played by Uma Thurman. They begin dating, she tells him what to do in bed and he learns quickly.
What neither of them knows is that her therapist (Meryl Streep) is in fact the young man’s mother. She’s kept her maiden name and so Thurman begins to tell her everything about her young lover without realizing the connection.
“I got the idea about eight years ago,” says Younger, who’s lounging on a sofa in his living room with his feet on the table. “My mother is a therapist and I was dating someone who was on her way to therapy one day, and I thought: How crazy would it be if she was going to see my mom? It was feasible because my mom kept my stepfather’s last name when she remarried. And that was it.”
Well, not quite. First he wrote and directed “Boiler Room,” a dark satire about a young man (Giovanni Ribisi) who takes a job at a Long Island securities firm that’s knee deep in fraud. In one scene, the brokers are all huddled in front of a television, watching “Wall Street,” reciting Michael Douglas’ famous monologue in unison. It’s a fitting homage from someone who learned how to be a movie director not by going to film school, but by watching movies.
Younger grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the son of a therapist and an accountant who divorced when he was 11. He went to Queens College, began working as a grip on music videos and became obsessed with the films of Michael Mann and Woody Allen. (For his birthday this year, Streep got him a signed poster of “Manhattan.”) He directed a short, then sold the script for “Boiler Room” to New Line Cinema and convinced the suits he was the man to direct it, as well. After its release in 2000, Younger spent two years taking meetings and enjoying his success, then set to work on the script for “Prime.”
This story first appeared in the October 28, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Though it does not have the intricate subplots one sees in “Annie Hall” or “Manhattan,” “Prime” owes a debt to Allen. Most notably, the movie is a love song to New York, and it suggests over and over again that, despite its large population, the city is in many ways a little village.
Younger even sort of looks like Woody Allen — that is, if Allen woke up one day young and kind of handsome. He has messy brown hair and black square-frame glasses that are best described as retro-chic. And, like his hero, Younger appreciates love stories, but rolls his eyes at conventional romantic comedies.
“I have a big issue with them,” he says. “I didn’t want to do a romantic comedy where you cover an entire category, like Internet dating. I wanted to do a movie where you get in and get dirty with just two people. Where you really spend time with them and come to understand their specific issues.”
Not that he minds coming out with the film two months after Demi and Ashton tied the knot. Just don’t accuse him of lifting that part of the plot from their tabloid love story. “When I came up with the idea for this movie, Ashton was still breast-feeding,” he says.