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Jillian Bell and Paul Downs Colaizzo Get a Runner’s High with Brittany Runs a Marathon

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Paul Downs Colaizzo and Jillian Bell at the Philadelphia screening of “Brittany Runs a Marathon.”

Jillian Bell and Paul Downs Colaizzo

Get a Runner’s High with Brittany Runs a Marathon

By Austin Gomberg

It was a long run – a marathon, I guess – for the indie film Brittany Runs a Marathon to get out from the starting line. A sweet, funny and soulful look at an out-of-shape thirty-something woman who tries to get her life in order by impulsively entering the New York Marathon, the movie is finally crossing the finish line into theaters.

Star Jillian Bell and director Paul Downs Colaizzo shared the endorphins when they returned to one of the major settings of the film – Philadelphia – to do a screening and Q&A session of the movie just a few days before it was released. The whole event was super informative and entertaining, thanks in no small part to the host keeping everything casual and how authentic Bell and Colazzio were with their answers.

You would think it was a long and difficult shoot. The film took place in two different cities (Philadelphia and New York) and even incorporated scenes of the actual New York Marathon in action. However, the director explained that the production was lean and mean.

“We filmed this movie in twenty-eight days,” Colaizzo stated at the Q&A.

They stuck a lot into that short period of time – less than a month! – to make Brittany special. Everything from bribing a landlord to get on the roof of his building to get the perfect Philadelphia skyline shot, to filming the scene where Bell collapses during the race with actual runners kept inadvertently interrupting the take.

It was a new director with a small budget and crew trying to create a film a movie of this quality. Such difficult shots, in such a short time is nothing short of incredible. Colaizzo discussed it all so casually. It was just another day on the job.

Jillian Bell in “Brittany Runs a Marathon.”

Bell acknowledged that the role was a bit of a stretch for her too, even on the most basic levels.

“I wasn’t really much of a runner, unless I was late to something,” Bell explained. “I started doing it on my own at first. I looked up on Pinterest how to start running.”

Eventually, she got a trainer to help her learn what it was like to run. After that, she met with another one who specifically trains marathon runners. This new trainer taught her how she would act differently as an amateur runner, as compared to the end of the movie where she would have been running for a year and a half.

“As it went on, I became committed and wanted to live her emotional story, in a way,” Bell continued. “I was eating healthy and exercising for the first time in years. At the end of it I lost 40 pounds because I wanted to do exactly what Brittany goes through.”

Bell went on to discuss how running and losing the weight helped her really connect to Brittany’s story, her as a character, and much of the emotional journey that takes place over the story. Perhaps that is what makes this movie feel so real and alive – because that is exactly what it is. Filmed so quick, with the star actually running and losing the weight in a way that is very similar to the character she’s playing. All this and more lead to a film that feels full of life at every step.

Perhaps it feels so real because it is based on a real story. Colaizzo based the story on one of his closest friends – and former college roommate – a woman named Brittany O’Neil. Colaizzo explained that the real Brittany very much like the one shown on screen. Colaizzo was so inspired by the real-life Brittany’s weight loss and running journey that he started writing a screenplay about her and her desire to run in the NYC marathon.

He explained that when he saw her go for her first run, he thought right away: “This is a movie.” Here was the funniest girl he’d ever met, and she was allowing herself to be put down and made the butt of every joke because she is earnestly pursuing a goal. She was laying herself bare, very honestly, and pushing herself to take it all on and support herself.

Colaizzo also said there were many other coincidences and similarities which occurred between the real Brittany and the one he was writing over the time he wrote the screenplay and the actual Brittany ran in the NYC Marathon.

Now as the movie opens, Brittany is crossing yet another finish line.

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 31, 2019.

Photo #1 ©2019 Austin Gomberg. All rights reserved.

Photo #2 ©2019. Courtesy of Amazon Studios. All rights reserved.

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