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'Daniel's Gotta Die': Bob Saget's last movie puts him in a villainous role in murder mystery comedy

"For Bob, it wasn't necessarily about making it always the funniest take," director Jeremy LaLonde said

Bob Saget's last film, Daniel's Gotta Die (now in theatres), taps into the popular murder mystery genre, centred around a wealthy family, also starring Joel David Moore, Iggy Pop, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carly Chaikin, Jason Jones and Chantel Riley.

"I'd always wanted to make a big, bold, dysfunctional family comedy, and I think what drew me to it was that where a lot of those kinds of films traditionally zig, this one zagged," Canadian director Jeremy LaLonde told Yahoo Canada about what attracted him to the project. "I think the moral and lesson at the end of those films is that family trumps everything, and family can survive anything, and no matter what your differences are we can we can overcome them, and I like that this one took a different path with that concept."

"Like most of us, I've watched a million hours of movies and read the screenwriting books, and written my own, you can get a sense of where things are coming. And what I liked about this script, too, was that while I was reading it, I'm like, I have no idea where this is going. I have no idea how this is going to resolve, and so I wanted to make sure the audience felt that way as well, by leaning into some directions almost as red herrings. ... My pitch to the producers was, I want this film to feel like if Hitchcock made a really big, bold, dark comedy."

Joel David Moore in Daniel's Gotta Die (Vortex Media)
Joel David Moore in Daniel's Gotta Die (Vortex Media)

What is 'Daniel's Gotta Die' about?

Billionaire Edward Powell (Iggy Pop) dies, leaving his son Daniel (Joel David Moore) with the power to figure out how to split the money, if at all, with his estranged siblings, Jessica (Carly Chaikin), Victor (Jason Jones) and Mia (Mary Lynn Rajskub).

Daniel is optimistic he can reconnect with his siblings following their dad's death, all of them together at family estate in the Cayman Islands, along with Edward's right hand man Lawrence (Saget), but things take a turn when they all want to kill Daniel, to get Edward's fortune.

LaLonde highlighted that Moore's ability to find the nuance in Daniel was particularly impressive.

"Daniel's a tricky character, because he has this naïveté," LaLonde said. "I think one of the joys of the movie is that you don't necessarily want Daniel to die, but you really do want them to try hard, and you want to see what he can do to get out of it."

"I think what I really was drawn to in this script, within that character, was I see a lot of myself in Daniel as being that kind of person who just wants to believe the best in other people, and wants to give people way more shots than they deserve. ... My wife's name is Emily and his girlfriend's name is Emily, and I think she is that person who's like, maybe that person is just an a**hole, maybe it's OK to push that person out of your life. So I think that was that fine balance of making sure that Daniel didn't come off as too naive, and so that he was still likeable to the audience, without just being a foil."

Bob Saget in Daniel's Gotta Die (Vortex Media)
Bob Saget in Daniel's Gotta Die (Vortex Media)

'Bob's either known as cuddly and warm Full House, or like dirty d*ck joke guy'

With Lawrence being Saget's last film role before his death in January 2022, LaLonde recalled that the actor liked leaning into the dark humour of Daniel's Gotta Die, and his role.

"He just wants to get in there and do good work and for Bob, it wasn't necessarily about making it always the funniest take, it was making it real and doing something nuanced with it," LaLonde said. "I think what was fun for Bob was that this kind of leaned more into Bob's kind of natural sensibilities, in terms of liking a darker, dirtier kind of humour."

"So I think he liked that he got to kind of flash a pseudo villain role, but also the uncle kind of role. His role gave him a couple of different shades to play. But it was great, he had lots of great questions. We spent a lot of time talking about those aspects and just how to flesh out this character, because I think on the page, a lot of these characters could come off pretty one dimensional, if you play them that way."

The director added that Saget liked having the freedom to try things and play with his execution of the character of Lawrence.

"Because of some of the things Bob's worked on, or the types of TV and film projects [...] he doesn't necessarily have a lot of freedom to play in those atmospheres, and that's the thing I do," LaLonde said. "I just want to play, I want to dig in and try it a little bit differently."

"So I think if anything, Bob was kind of surprised at first by how much leeway I was going to give him to explore, and how much room he was going to have to build a character within this, and that it wasn't just kind of set in stone from the first day of shooting."

In terms of moments that stick out to LaLonde is just the down time, hanging out with "America's f**king father."

"It was more just hanging out and sharing stories with him after hours," LaLonde said. "My favourite quote from Bob was when they were hanging out and something happened, ... but he made a reference to the fact that he's kind of known as 'America's f**king father,' with the expletive in there on purpose."

"Bob's either known as cuddly and warm Full House, or like dirty d*ck joke guy. And so I think he took a lot of pride in that, in being both sides of that coin, and that's exactly who he was in real life."

Daniel's Gotta Die (Vortex Media)
Daniel's Gotta Die (Vortex Media)

In terms of the continued appeal of this genre of film, like previous films Knives Out and The Menu, and TV shows like The White Lotus and Death and Other Details, LaLonde said be believes much of the continued intrigue is in "a question of value systems."

"This family asks that age old question, what's more important, is it money or family? And family in more of a new, modern sense, that's not necessarily blood," he said.

"Daniel ... can walk away with the entire fortune if he wanted to, and he very consciously makes a decision ... No I want to get to know my family, that's more important to me."