Most of what happens in

The Ex

- the

Jason Bateman


Zach Braff


Amanda Peet

relationship/workplace/wheelchair farce - is set in sleepy, suburban Ohio. But not a frame of the offbeat comedy, which was directed by

Jesse Peretz

and which opened last weekend, was made in the Buckeye State.

"The whole movie was made in New York City," says Peretz, a lifelong New Yorker. "We shot in Staten Island, in Queens, one day in [upstate] Nyack."

A few years ago, that wouldn't have happened. New York was notoriously expensive, its union crews prohibitive, and Toronto and Montreal were cleaning up with Hollywood productions ostensibly set in the Big Apple. But in January 2005, Mayor Bloomberg passed the "Made in New York" program. Combined with similar New York state legislation, it essentially gives motion picture productions a 15 percent rebate for staying within the confines of the five boroughs.

"It makes New York an incredibly attractive place to shoot, especially if producers and crew and directors live in New York. It ends up being cheaper."

Which is why what's lining up as Peretz's next movie - It Is What It Is - will be filmed mostly in New York, even though the story, about four twentysomethings facing their quarter-life crisis, is set in Philadelphia.

"If it comes together, we'll probably shoot like 85 percent of it in New York - five weeks in New York and one week in Philadelphia," says Peretz, who is 38, a former bassist for the band the Lemonheads, and a successful commercial director with two other features to his credit (First Love, Last Rites and The Chateau).

"We'll shoot all our main exteriors in Philadelphia, and a couple of the restaurants and bars in hopefully recognizable places that lend authenticity to it. But given the fact that pretty much everyone working on the movie is based in New York and we have a sweet little tax incentive here, economically it just doesn't make sense to shoot the whole thing in Philly."

The screenplay, by Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz, was originally set in San Francisco, but the Bay Area burg remains one of the costliest locales in the country (and also one of the most overexposed). So Peretz started thinking of other places, and thought Philadelphia. He knew people moving here, he'd heard about the art and music scene, he'd read that "sixth borough" article in the Times.

"There were these signs everywhere telling me that Philadelphia is the place to set the smart twentysomething movie," he says.

The director, son of New Republic editor-in-chief Martin Peretz, describes It Is What It Is as "more drama than comedy," but promises that bits of it are "very funny."

"It's a story about four friends - two guys, two girls - in that mid-20s slump where life hasn't been the shooting-quick success that they thought it was going to be the day they graduated from college. . . . It's about that crisis of reorienting yourself in terms of your career, your approach to relationships and whatnot.

"On one level it's a small story, but I think it's also super-universal."

No start date or casting news yet.

Short subject. Book now for the DeVito Fest, slated for Sunday, June 10, at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. That's the afternoon that actor/director/producer Danny DeVito rolls into town to be honored at the Main Line moviehouse.

Two DeVito-directed pics - 1989's The War of the Roses, with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, and 1998's Hoffa, starring Jack Nicholson - will be screened, and the diminutive New Jerseyan will appear to talk about his directing career, his acting career, and whatnot.

Annette Insdorf, film professor at Columbia University, will offer a lecture about DeVito, and then lead a discussion with the man. Things begin at noon with The War of the Roses and continue through the afternoon, capping it off with a DeVito Q & A scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m.

General admission for "An Afternoon With Danny DeVito" is $40. BMFI members pay $25, and students with ID pay $15. Buy tickets at, or at the BMFI box office, 824 W. Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr. Info: 610-527-9898.

Other short subjects. Brian De Palma is threatening a prequel to his 1987 mob hit The Untouchables. Title: The Untouchables: Capone Rising. Nicolas Cage is said to be in talks to star as Chicago crime king Al Capone. De Palma and Cage teamed for the very bad Atlantic City thriller Snake Eyes. . . . Variety reports that new James Bond Daniel Craig has signed on for Defiance, written and to be directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond). It's a World War II drama, based on a true story about a band of Jewish resistance fighters. . . . News from Cannes has Robert De Niro and Al Pacino reuniting onscreen for Righteous Kill, a thriller to be shot this summer. The iconic twosome first appeared face-to-face in Michael Mann's Heat. In this one, they'll play cops on the hunt for a serial murderer. Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes, lots of TV) will direct. . . . Fake English accents all around! as a trio of Yanks - Michelle Williams, Bryce Dallas Howard and Evan Rachel Wood - head for the Sceptered Isle in September to portray famous 19th-century scribbling siblings in Brontë. (Shouldn't it be Brontës?) Charles Sturridge (Fairy Tale: A True Story, A Handful of Dust), has written and will direct this tale of young femmes Charlotte, Emily and Anne scratching away in the Yorkshire countryside. Rumors that Gwyneth Paltrow will serve as dialogue coach could not be confirmed at press time.