After a hugely successful run of comedies throughout the 1970s and early ’80s (including “10,” “Victor/Victoria,” and “The Pink Panther” series with Peter Sellers), Edwards found himself treading water with uninspired flicks like “The Man Who Loved Women,” “Micki & Maude” and “A Fine Mess” (which unironically sold Ted Danson and Howie Mandel as the next great comedy duo à la Laurel and Hardy). Now in his sixties, the filmmaker felt the urge to explore the panic that sets in as one prepares for their stretch run to the grave. So he paired his longtime pal Lemmon with Andrews and asked them to riff a comedy dealing with this thorny theme. The result, “That’s Life,” is a mixed bag on the whole, but the stars are terrific.
In an interview with Ability Magazine’s Chet Cooper (the last the star granted before his death in 2001), Lemmon discussed the challenges of making a film in this manner:
“There was no script, only an outline. We’d go into work and we would start improvising scenes in the morning, and then usually we’d start shooting just before or after lunch. By then we’d started to hone it down so the ad-libs became sort of permanent. Tough to pull off. You have to have a director that’s very savvy about what will work and what won’t work because there’s so much overlapping.”