LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It never hurts to have a fall-back position when things don't go as expected, and for first-time film director Alan Poul "The Back-Up Plan" proved to be as good as its name.
Poul is no newcomer to Hollywood, having produced movies such as "Candyman" and television shows from "My So-Called Life" in the mid-1990s to 2008's "Swingtown." Along the way, he earned Emmy nominations for funereal drama "Six Feet Under."
But when it came to directing, he found Hollywood's doors closed to him and believed he would have to raise money himself to make a low-budget, dark drama in the indie movie arena.
Then, along came the producers of heartfelt, romantic comedy "Back-Up Plan," which debuts in theaters on Friday starring Jennifer Lopez. They offered it to him as his first feature film and, knowing that few second chances come around in Hollywood, Poul seized the moment and took the job.
"It's funny the way life turns out," he told Reuters. "
"It's more difficult to crossover than you might imagine, largely because the TV world and the film world are populated by different people," Poul said. "Often they seem like two discreet universes with limited overlap between them."
Since the mid-1990s, TV stars have proven fairly adept at crossing over into film, and vice-versa. Helen Hunt, for example, was still working on TV's "Mad About You" when she won an Oscar for best actress in 1997's "As Good as It Gets." But for others the shift remains difficult.
Poul found himself labeled as a producer of top-quality TV -- not a bad label to have, he readily admits -- but he had long desired to direct a film. He said "Back-Up Plan" appealed to him because beyond its appearance as a frothy, romantic comedy, he felt it had a certain "edge."
"It isn't heavy, but it stays in the real world," he said.
"The film is really romantic. I think it's emotional, but what I like about Kate (Angelo, the screenwriter), is that she's not afraid to go at the humor in a way some people might think is crude."
For instance, when women gather to talk privately about childbirth, the descriptions can get personal, and Angelo was able to capture the humor in those moments, Poul said.
"The Back-Up Plan" stars Lopez as a single woman who feels she has waited too long for Mr. Right to come along, so she decides to have a baby on her own.
Just as she finds out she is pregnant, along comes the man of her dreams in the form of actor Alex O'Loughlin, and their two characters must determine if they are right for each other and for raising a baby together.
"The ways in which Zoe (Lopez's character) has set up obstacles to her happiness struck me as real and honest and that's what got to me about the movie," Poul said.
Lopez, who returns to movies after roughly three years during which she gave birth to twins, echoes Poul's thinking, telling Reuters she believed Angelo had a "modern voice for Zoe" and "the movie was really funny and also touching."
Whether that combination leads to a career breakthrough for Poul and allows him to continue making movies depends, in large part, on weekend box office results.
"The Back-Up Plan" faces stiff competition from new films "The Losers" and hold-overs such as "Kick-Ass" and comedy "Death at a Funeral." But as Poul well knows, in Hollywood, anything can happen.
Editing by Jill Serjeant