Ol Parker Talks ‘Ticket To Paradise’, Working with Julia Roberts and George Clooney, and More!

Ol Parker, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney - Ticket to Paradise

Ol Parker is the creative force behind the recently released Ticket to Paradise, starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney.  The film, which is now available digitally and will release on DVD next week, first debuted in October. It’s a heartwarmingly charming rom-com that pairs together two Hollywood legends for a fun ride with no shortage of laughs.

If you’ve not seen the film, here’s what you need to know. The movie reunites Clooney and Roberts on the big screen. They play exes who find themselves on a shared mission to stop their only daughter from marrying right out of college and thus throwing her life away. In hopes of preventing her from making the same mistake they did, they head to paradise with a scheme that doesn’t exactly go as planned.

I was able to virtually sit down with Ticket to Paradise writer and director Ol Parker this week to talk about his experience working on the film, why he keeps making rom-coms in the world’s most beautiful places, and his advice for filmmakers and writers in the post-Covid landscape. Here’s what he had to say.

Ol Parker
Photo Credit: Fred Duval

I feel like, at this point, you’ve almost got a reputation for making great films in very beautiful locations.

Ol Parker: It’s a lucky reputation to have, isn’t it? There was a point where there was a helicopter show of a big beach and the boat coming into the beach, and I just kind of thought, “I seem to be doing this quite often.” It’s not a plan to avoid my children. I don’t know. This came about in a different way to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. This was very much written as an antidote to what everyone was living through or barely living through. Do you know what I mean?

I started writing it with my friend, Dan (Daniel Pipski), in lockdown because it was a response to the smallness and the fear that we were living in. And so it was partly pragmatic in what might I want to watch or people want to watch when this thing is over if it ever ends. But also, it was a release to be writing it, just to think about being on a beach and think about being on a boat and think about dolphins. So it was written for my own sanity, as well as for my career. Do you know what I mean?

Ticket To Paradise
Photo Credit: Universal

Absolutely. Well, in writing these characters, was there anything that surprised you about the characters once you saw George and Julia bring them to life? Did you see the characters differently? 

Ol Parker: Every day, they surprise you just with how good they are. They’re just ridiculously good. One of the things is that they go, “I don’t need that, I don’t need that.” They’re always taking lines out, “I can do that with a wink. I can just look at them.” They just know themselves so well. And Julia, particularly, is the queen of the genre.

But working with George or working for George was a little scary. Because you worried that he’s going to be like, “You’re putting the camera there, are you? Interesting?” Or worse, like, “Don’t put the camera there, put the camera there,” because, obviously, he directs incredibly successfully. But they were both just lovely.

And so, no, every day, you’re just stunned by how… just a wattage of it. There’s a scene right at the beginning where Julia’s talking to a young Australian actress in a pizza place, and they’re sitting there chatting. And Julia is so lovely. And then you go, “Action,” and she just does the bit. And the young actress was just floored because it’s just suddenly the power that comes across the screen is just totally misaligned. And you’re like, “Cut, let’s go again.” And the actress is like, “So sorry. I’m just completely …”

So yeah, every day, you have that, which is just a gift for me, obviously.

Ticket to Paradise
Photo Credit: Universal

You had some bloopers and outtakes at the end during the credits, which was one of my favorite things, by the way. I love when films do that and I feel like it’s so rare. And they both had some great lines. When Julia was at the graduation, and then she yells out, “I made you.” It was such a great line.

Ol Parker: She’s incredible. There’s a script, and they stick to it, but certainly, that scene, I’m down on the stage at this point with the cameras pointing up, so it was just like, “Whatever you want. Knock yourselves out. Go for it.” And there’s another scene in the movie where they kiss, and then they’re surprised by Kaitlyn coming out of the woods. Then they both jump up. And normally, with Julia, you only need to do two, three, maybe four takes because they just nail it the first time and the rest are just for me to enjoy while I’m eating biscuits. But that one, we did, I think, nine because every time she jumped up, she said something different, and it just cracked me up. And so I just wanted to just keep making her improvise.

So yeah, they’re incredibly funny. And the bloopers were… I know that doesn’t happen anymore. But halfway through the movie … We had such a lovely time and, obviously, you hope that comes across within the movie. But things kept happening, and I was like, “Oh, that’s a shame,” and the Brad Pitt joke that Julia makes, and the ones that George makes… It’s stuff like that. You’re like, “You know what? We should just add this.”

So it was there.. And if they’d said no, obviously, I would’ve junked the idea. Do you know what I mean? I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I said, “Just so you know, I’m thinking about this,” and they were both like, “Cool. Well, let’s cut it together, see if it works,” and so I did it and sent it to them, and they were both like, “Funny.” So it’s in.

Ticket To Paradise
Photo Credit: Universal

When you’re putting together the special features for the DVD, going back through all your footage, what is your process for figuring out what you’re going to include or not include? How do you determine what the extras are going to look like? Or do you know that when you’re filming?

Ol Parker: When you think about it when you’re filming, it’s a paradox, isn’t it? You want to reveal a little bit more, but you don’t want to reveal anything that’s embarrassing or less. There are documentaries to be made about films that haven’t worked and things that happen on set and whatever comes later. But in this case, it was a ludicrously, embarrassingly happy experience for all of us. Ridiculous that we got paid anything to do that. 

And one of my pet peeves in movies is people having more fun on screen than we’re having watching it. Do you know what I mean? And so for Mamma Mia and then again, for this, it’s really important that even, if they’re having a great time on screen, you feel invited to the party. Do you know what I mean? Rather than just watching the screen and going, “Well, they obviously had a ball in Bali, but I wish I’d gone.” Do you know what I mean?

You end up sitting there cold with hatred. And so the extras are part of that. The special features are part of going, “Look, check it out. Come in. Be more part of the film. Join us.” If that makes sense.

Ticket to Paradise
Photo Credit: Universal

Looking back on the whole experience, what is your most memorable moment from filming or from production?

Ol Parker: Oh, so many because they were so lovely. I think the day that we shot the last scene with them sitting on the boat. Because we’re sitting on the boat, and it’s pulled up against the shore, and it’s quite a difficult thing to do. And then we kept going, “Okay, we’re going to be 20 minutes while we just move the cameras around and move the things around,” and they just sat there chatting the whole day, laughing together, and they never got off the boat.

You go, “We got half an hour,” and it’s sunny, and you really can go and sit somewhere else and get cool. And they were just like, “No, we’re having a really good time.” They just sat there. So it was a really quiet, lovely, happy day. And they’re so lovely, and they make each other laugh so much. And I thought the scene was so beautiful, them smiling at each other. I had some fun times with Mamma Mia. But I think that was my favorite day of filming I’ve ever had. I just loved it. I love them both.

As a director coming out of this project, what do you feel you’re taking from this project into your next project?

Ol Parker: That’s a really good question. I have absolutely no idea. I’ve learned very little from anything. That’s much too good of a question. I have no idea. I think I’ll know when the next… If they let me do it again, I think then I’ll realize, “Oh, I know what I did wrong last time.”

Generally, watching my films back is a torturous experience for me, one of self-recrimination and blame. And so it’s a while before I can not watch through my fingers and actually start to figure out what I can learn and build up, but I’ll let you know when I get there.

Ticket to Paradise Movie Review
Photo Credit: Universal

What advice would you offer to up-and-coming filmmakers and writers that are just trying to get started in this kind of post-COVID, during-COVID landscape?

Ol Parker: Go for it. I wrote this and I sent it to George and Julia saying, “This only works if it’s both of you.” And that’s something you never do. You only ever offer it to one actor at a time in case the other one says no. Because then it’ll make the other one insecure. Do you know what I mean? But I wrote to both of them… It was a ballsy move.

I wrote to Cher for Mamma Mia, offered the part to her, and she turned it down. When I was not directing it, I just wrote in the script, “Whoever’s directing this, this part is to be played by Cher.” And then, to my astonishment, they offered me the job. So I offered it to Cher, and she turned it down. And I sent it back going, “Sorry, slight confusion. You need to read this again,” and she turned it down again. And then I sent it back a third time going, “This is getting weird now, but we start on September the 20th and I need you in London.”

And in the end, I think just my stalking made her give up and give in and turn up on the appropriate day. So just go for it, trust yourself and back yourself. Write with passion, write with fun, and follow your dreams. And they’re all cliches, but we’re sitting here having this conversation about it because I took a pun.

Persistence and not giving up.

Ol Parker: Yeah, persistence, weirdly, which can be married to a complete lack of self-belief. Trust me.

Ticket To Paradise
Photo Credit: Universal

What’s next for you? 

Ol Parker: I’m working on something else, but we’ll see. I’ve just sent it to an actor, so we’ll see. Now I’ve written the email that says, “You’re the only person I can imagine for this project.” 

I love that approach.

Ol Parker: When they say no, then I’ll reimagine someone else. Being a writer/director is slow… Generally, I do my own stuff and so you have to generate the stuff first. And so I’ve just finished the script and we’ll see. I’ll talk to you in a couple of years, Emma.

Ticket to Paradise Blu-Ray

Ticket to Paradise arrives on Digital on December 9, 2022, and Blu-Ray and DVD on December 13, 2022.

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