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September 19, 2007

Soundtracked - "Good Luck Chuck" by Director Mark Helfrich

Motion picture soundtracks have always fascinated me. In the Soundtracked series, actors and/or directors will offer commentary on their film's soundtracks, and offer insights into the creative evolution that melds music into the final film.

In the first installment of the Soundtracked series, Good Luck Chuck director Mark Helfrich offers his commentary on the film's soundtrack, and enlists additional notes from several musicians who submitted original songs to the project.

Good Luck Chuck is released Friday nationwide in the US.


In his own words, here is director Mark Helfrich's Book Notes essay for the soundtrack to his film, Good Luck Chuck:


GOOD LUCK CHUCK is a movie about Charlie Logan (Dane Cook), a dentist who has a peculiar curse: any woman he has sex with ends up falling in love with and marrying the very next guy she dates. Once word spreads, Chuck becomes the most popular guy in town, drawing a huge crowd of women who want to use him as a springboard to happiness, a predicament most guys would envy. However, when Charlie falls for Cam (Jessica Alba), he realizes if he sleeps with her, he’ll lose her.

Right away when I read the script I started to think about the sound of the film, what kind of songs would fit where. I used to be a DJ - my first love is music. It was a dream come true to work with musicians on original music and songs. Composer Aaron Zigman pushed himself into sonic realms he’d never before explored in film. He worked with me until we both knew we’d gotten it right. It was a personal thrill to work with some of my favorite bands like The Dandy Warhols and The Flaming Lips on an idea I had and have them come up with a song for it. Thrill is an understatement – I couldn’t believe my good luck!

I’m really pleased with our fun Soundtrack. Here’s my track-by-track commentary and notes from some of the musicians:


I WAS ZAPPED BY THE LUCKY SUPER RAINBOW by The Flaming Lips

GOOD LUCK CHUCK is a very happy movie and this song had to deliver an emotional rush of joy because it takes place during the “happy ending.” As a temporary placeholder, my editor put The Cure’s MINT CAR over the scene. I wanted a more contemporary song, but surprisingly there are very few extremely happy songs out there nowadays. An original song was called for. I thought if any current band could carry off ‘happy” it would be The Flaming Lips. I contacted their manager and expressed my desire to work with them, and before I knew it I was on the phone with Wayne Coyne describing what I wanted for the scene. I asked for a song that was full-tilt happy from the beginning. I didn’t want a song that “worked its way up to” being happy – I wanted elation from the get-go. Three days later they were in the studio and they e-mailed me a pass at a new song that was called SUPER RAINBOW. I was impressed by how fast they had crafted such a great tune –- and as I wished, it nailed the “happy and fun” sound! With a smile on my face, I called Wayne immediately and expressed my enthusiasm for the tune. However, I felt it would be nice if the lyrics related more to Chuck’s good fortune, so I suggested that they work in the concept of “Lucky.” An hour later they came back with the “Lucky” lyrics in a song now called I WAS ZAPPED BY THE LUCKY SUPER RAINBOW. Wayne and I then spoke again and I made a couple of musical suggestions, like put a scream at the beginning, and the song was completed that night. It was a complete joy collaborating with Wayne, he’s such a talented gentleman, and I couldn’t be happier with the song. It works great in the movie. Thank you, Flaming Lips.

Wayne Coyne (of the Flaming Lips):

It is sometimes very easy to work with directors. We had worked with the Farrelly brothers earlier in the year and they were cool and knew exactly what they wanted and working with Mark on Good Luck Chuck was just that. We may be different from some artists who would, perhaps, want to have creative control over everything they do. You see, to us sometimes it is a great relief to simply collaborate and help shape someone else’s vision especially when working with movie directors. A lot of times we are kind of mimicking temporary music that they [ the directors ] have put in the scenes. Maybe in the past, before computers, it would have been much more of a pain to re-arrange or speed up or chop up musical compositions and maybe if we had to actually sit in a room together and fight it out face to face, who knows maybe we would feel different. But you know, honestly, they have more to lose than we do. And when we are asked to help we try to be as accommodating as possible.


YOU MIGHT THINK by The Cars

The movie opens with The Cars’ YOU MIGHT THINK. The scene takes place in 1985 during a spin the bottle game, where we meet young Charlie. I felt that this song, besides being familiar, poppy and catchy, immediately conveyed the mid-80s. Plus I like it.


PHYSICAL by Olivia Newton-John

This song plays during one of the kids’ spin the bottle sequences. It’s not subtle at all, which is why I used it. At one time I had Madonna’s LIKE A VIRGIN in the scene, but we decided that Madonna didn’t need any of our money.


BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD by Bauhaus

10-year-old Charlie ends up in the closet playing “seven minutes in heaven” with a goth girl. No song says “goth” to me better than Bauhaus’ first single. In fact, it’s often considered to be THE FIRST goth song. I bought the 12” when it first came out, and played it on the radio when I was a DJ in Madison, Wisconsin. It was brilliantly used in the opening scenes of Tony Scott’s THE HUNGER. It’s been a fave of mine forever, and I’m happy I’m able to use it in my movie.


GOOD LUCK CHUCK by The Dandy Warhols

This song takes place midway through the movie during the “sex montage.” We had constructed the montage around another Dandy Warhol’s track, BOHEMIAN LIKE YOU, so naturally they were my first choice to “score” this section of the movie. Courtney Taylor-Taylor came by the editing room, I showed him about half the movie and he was inspired. He came up with the idea for a fast paced, fun song consisting primarily of girl’s names. It had a retro-y Beach Boys vibe to it, with a twist only the Dandy Warhols could put on it. I loved it instantly. Then began the alterations and variations which lasted over two months! Each version seemed to get longer, because we knew we’d need extended instrumental breaks underneath the dialogue bits. Engineer Greg Gordon spent countless hours breaking down the song and producing different cool breaks. I had the idea to put the YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT climbing vocals near the end of the song. The track was nearly completed - we felt there was only one element missing: a guest-artist guitar solo. Courtney had laid in his voice kazooing a guitar solo as a placeholder. I thought the perfect guy to do the guitar solo would be Chuck Berry. Surprisingly, when we asked if he’d be interested he said yes. He had one concern – he wanted to be assured that the film GOOD LUCK CHUCK wasn’t about him. To make a long story short, Jay Faires, Lionsgate’s Music Supervisor, and I traveled to Missouri to record Chuck Berry’s solo, but once we got there Chuck still wasn’t totally convinced the movie wasn’t about him, so in the end, we never got him to record anything. Now I have a Chuck Berry story. I forget who finally did a solo, but a great deal of Courtney’s kazooing remains in the mix. Both Courtney and Greg were super-collaborative and enthusiastic about this song.

Courtney Taylor-Taylor (of the Dandy Warhols):

Well I must say it was pretty fun making the song for the movie Good Luck Chuck. We sat around with guitars and watched this goofy montage of Dane Cook pretending to "do it" with a lot of different ladies. Now that's funny.
The way we work usually involves a lot more solitude with the occasional discussion regarding emotional power or dramatic subtlety or whatnot. I think that got replaced by discussions regarding beer run. Fun.
Naturally I had forgotten what it’s like working in the Hollywood milieu. i.e. everyone seems to live in fear of a lawsuit. So once the fun part was done, there was a lot of “no you can’t call your song THAT”, and “NO You Most Certainly Cannot Use The Pantyshot As Your Song’s Ad” etc.
Well we got most of that worked out and the movie is funny as hell (can I say that? legally?). Go see it. It's a trashy comedy about the phenomenon of having consecutive girlfriends dump you then marry the next guy they date. (not so much about Jessica Alba being clumsy, as the trailer leads one to believe). The directing is brilliant, Dane is hilarious and Jessica Alba is the Graham Chapman of hot chicks.


ACCIDENT PRONE by The Honorary Title

This was the last song we selected for the movie. In fact, we were already final-mixing the film when I got a phone call from Wendy Christiansen, the VP of Warner/Chappell Music, asking if we needed another original song. Yes we did! I still hadn’t selected a song for when Charlie drives Cam home, during their flirtatious first night. She told me about The Honorary Title - she felt they’d be great. She put me in touch with Jarrod Gorbel, the lyricist and lead singer for the band. The Honorary Title was not known for cheery songs, so I asked Jarrod if he was up for writing a song happier than any he could ever imagine writing. He said yes, and two days later sent me the demo for ACCIDENT PRONE, such a fitting title. I encouraged him to go for joy with the instrumentation. The next day the band laid down the tracks and without any time to spare, the following day I mixed this great song into the movie.

Jarrod Gorbel (of the Honorary Title):

When I was first approached to write a song for GOOD LUCK CHUCK, it was expected to be an uplifting and "happy" sort of song. If I had a specialty, I guess it would lean towards the darker and more melancholy, but I was up for the challenge. It's certainly not uncool to have a song that evokes a positive feeling of some sort. Mark made some cool references, bands that made people wanna dance or smile but not throw up (The Shins, The Cure, well happier end of The Cure). With these artists in mind I sped up the tempo and switched the chords from minor to major. When I sent the first rough draft over feedback was good, but they wanted the lyrics to swing a little more to the lighter side. The chorus was originally "you're so accident prone, so unable to stand on your own." I then switched it to "it's no accident how you fell right into my arms." In the end we were all happy with it ourselves, it still sounded like The Honorary Title, just the slightest bit more uplifting than usual.


I LOVE IT WHEN YOU CALL (CHERRYTREE HOUSE VERSION) by The Feeling

This pop song appropriately plays over the “phone montage” between Charlie and Cam. The title and the lyrics seemed a natural literal fit. The first time we put the song up against the picture it all fell into place. There was one problem though: the song’s original lyrics said, “I love it when you call, but you never call at all.” Well, in our movie that wasn’t the case -- she’s calling all the time, so we asked The Feeling if they’d mind changing that one line. They graciously altered the mix and put a harmonic guitar in the offending line’s place.


GOOD WEEKEND by Art Brut

Tricia Holloway, the music supervisor, brought this track to our attention. It plays over the scene where Charlie and Cam finally consummate their relationship in a hormonal explosion ala MR. & MRS. SMITH. It was the first song we tried - we didn’t have to try another – the energy and the whole “brand new girlfriend” aspect worked perfectly.


HURRY UP LET’S GO by Shout Out Louds

This is the first song that was put to Charlie’s rush to the airport in the third act. Julia Wong, my editor, picked it and put it in as temporary music. There was no reason to change it. It became permanent.


SHUT ME OUT by Aidan Hawken

I wanted an original song to play when Charlie’s heart gets broken. I needed a song that was emotional, yet not too sappy or serious, or the audience might laugh at it (and this was a rare scene where I didn’t want a laugh!). Aidan Hawken wrote two songs for this scene. This is the one we liked the most. He and his producer, JJ Wiesler, re-worked the song until I felt it was just right. It was a professional pleasure to work with these talented guys.


YOU’RE GONNA GET IT by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Our editorial production assistant, Carmen Morrow, picked out this song for the sexy “make-out / seduction” scene between Cam and Charlie. It has a retro R’n’B sound, but it’s actually current. And the Dap Kings are also Amy Winehouse’s band.


THE WHISTLE SONG by Pepper

Jay Faires, the music supervisor, has been a fan of Pepper for some time. Nice guys, a horny Hawaiian band. They came by the editing room and I showed them part of the movie. They flipped over it, especially over Jessica Alba, and this is what they contributed to the movie.


CRAZY IN LOVE by Antique Gold

There’s this scene in the movie where Charlie’s going crazy and sends a singing quartet greeting to Cam. I thought this would be a most unlikely song for a barbershop quartet to croon. Of course, the gentlemen in the quartet had never heard Beyoncé’s song before, so we gave them the cd, and overnight they arranged it to their style. It’s included on the soundtrack cd as a laugh.


Good Luck Chuck links:

the film's website
the film's trailer at YouTube
the film's IMdB page
the film's Wikipedia entry
Dane Cook interview at UGO about the film


Mark Helfrich links:

his website
his IMdB page
his Wikipedia entry


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Soundtracked submissions (actors and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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