Chevy Chase was Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher in the 1980s, but now Jon Hamm has stepped into the role in Confess, Fletch, with a different kind of comedy and a more modern take on the story by Gregory Mcdonald, collaborating with director/writer Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Keeping Up with the Joneses).
“There was an original writer involved, before Jon even came to me, he turned in a draft that was a very funny, great version of Fletch for Chevy Chase, but not really what Jon and I had been talking about,” Mottola told Yahoo Canada. “So that's when I took over and took more things out of the book, and characters out of the book, and changed the direction of it.”
When we first see the title character in Confess, Fletch (the second novel in Mcdonald’s series), he’s just returned to the U.S. from Italy and finds a dead body as he arrives at his rented townhouse, making him a person of interest to the police.
Fletch, an investigative reporter, has been hired by Italian Angela (Lorenza Izzo) to find her father’s stolen, high-value art. Things escalate when Angela, who quickly becomes romantically involved with Fletch, finds out her father has been kidnapped and a missing painting is being requested as ransom. Essentially, Fletch is working on his own investigation while the police are investigating him, as well.
The film also marks a reunion for Hamm with fellow Mad Men star Jon Slattery, who plays a pessimistic newspaper editor.
Hamm’s performance is incredibly endearing, and Confess, Fletch really succeeds in differentiating itself from its 1980s movie connection.
“I love the original Fletch movie, I love detective movies,” Mottola said. “I saw the difference between the tone of the books and the Chevy Chase movie so I thought, there is another way to do this.”
“The daunting thing is that this character is associated only with one actor and it's a very distinctive performance,...a lot of the stuff that Chevy brought to it is not in the book. I thought, well, there's a risk involved in taking on something that people know so well, but I really liked it. I love Jon and the idea of putting Jon in the centre of something like this was really appealing to me… Maybe we'll lean into it a different way, play up the genre of detective stories.”
If the pressure of following the '80s movie wasn’t enough, through his personal relationship with Hamm, famed author Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, Stardust, American Gods), gave notes on the script for Confess, Fletch.
“[Jon and I] did work super closely on it and he read all the drafts, we talked about stuff, we would go through all the scenes very carefully, we brought in friends who were funny and smart to read it, and give us notes,” Mottola explained.
“Neil [Gaiman] happens to love the ‘Fletch’ books… We'd let Neil read a draft of it and he was very encouraging, he also gave me some really specific notes that were great, that I used. That's another advantage of working with Jon, a lot of people like him so you reap the benefits of that.”
Introducing Fletch to 'influencers'
Another area where Mottola really enhanced the story is adding cultural touchstones that are relevant today.
“One of the things I really loved in the McDonald ‘Fletch’ novels is there's always some kind of social commentary that he's making,” Mottola said. “Some of that stuff is very, very funny, but doesn't really feel as relevant to this moment in time.”
“I tried to find equivalents to that. I have a pet peeve about certain kinds of influencers who are peddling this image of self-actualization, that is all about beauty and living your best life, and dressing gorgeously and eating the right foods, but it requires you to be super rich. So I thought, ‘yeah [that] type of person would bug Fletch and he'd mess with them.’”
In this particular scene, Fletch meets a home decor influencer, played by Lucy Punch, who is a suspect in the art theft. Her goal as an influencer, as she explains to Fletch, is to "surround [people] with beautiful things." The film doesn't just show Fletch annoyed by this person, but Fletch actually pretends he totally agrees with her.
“Fletch could have come in there and just sort of lead her into saying dumb things, but I thought, wouldn't it be funny if he goes in there and acts even more shallow and awful than she is?” Mottola explained. “That's a little bit of satire that I'm trying to sneak in there, or commentary about this moment in time.”
Speaking about the possibility of doing more Fletch films, the director said he would love to, but hoping there’s enough investment to really develop the story.
“I would love to do another one, it'd be great if we had a little more time, a little more money and go a little bit further in development, keep building on this,” Mottola said. “Maybe make a slightly bolder movie next time, [if we] have the money to do that, we'll see.”