Actress Gal Gadot has said of her secret agent character Natalie Jones: "I think she loves being a spy. And I think that's the problem they have in their relationship. She's so much into this world and he's not. He doesn't like the lies, he doesn't like playing an act or making pretend and she's all about the adrenaline and the mission, she loves it. She's a real spy."
Actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis has said of his actor co-star Jon Hamm: "You know, I've known Jon, I've known Jon before Jon was truly Jon Hamm, and he's a comedy guy. He's really funny, you know. A lot of leading type guys like that, they don't have humor. they think they do, but they don't. It's almost unfair that he can do both. It's really frustrating because I'm certainly not going to be a, no one is ever going to go, 'You know, Zach does handsome really well.' So, Jon, he just is funny, and he's funny like a comedian is funny, you know, not, 'Look, an actor is funny.' He's funny, and so Jon and I had this, just a friendship, and I'd hoped we'd work together. I think [Jon Hamm] and I got together over the last couple years and we talked about a couple of things that, and then this kind of happened and I'm glad that it did. It seemed like a good fit."
Screenwriter Michael LeSieur found inspiration from some friends' idyllic lives in a suburban cul-de-sac-a street closed at one end. "It was similar to the one in Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016), and my friends could not have been happier living there," said LeSieur. "It was like they had discovered paradise. It's so endearing and funny that people could find that much happiness in something that simple."
Greg Mottola, the movie's director, credits stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director Steven Ritzi with staging the action for maximum impact and thrills. But he and the cast give a special shout-out to actor Jon Hamm, who did much of the driving himself. "Jon did some really great donuts [elaborate car maneuvers] in the Mercedes we were all jammed into," said co-star Gal Gadot. Hamm is modest about his contributions to the scene, noting that to prepare for it, he "drove around an empty parking lot for hours to get used to the car and its moves". Hamm added: "Having that extra time behind the wheel really helped me improve. The key was to not to just make it fun, but to also make it safe. Steven Ritzi made that happen for all of us."
Director Greg Mottola credits screenwriter Michael LeSieur's style and approach as another major draw. "I like Mike's writing a lot. He tends not to create just jokes and one-liners; Mike writes real characters and has a dry and sometimes absurd sense of humor. Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016) has its own distinctive character. It felt like a comedy/character movie disguised as a high-concept idea, and that's the kind of story I love most."
Care was given to find the perfect houses for the Gaffneys and Joneses, one of which would ultimately be blown to bits, spewing remnants everywhere. "It certainly woke up the neighborhood," said art director Jeremy Woolsey in an epic understatement.
Director Greg Mottola largely eschewed green screen and CGI in favor of what he calls a "'you are there' feel with an old school action vibe to it." Mottola enjoyed creating the scene so much that he notes he "had to be careful not to spend too much time on it. But I felt that if we were going to do one major action set piece, let's do it right. It was a lot of fun."
A neighborhood in northwest Atlanta in the USA was home to the cul-de-sac, to which the production added a large center island to break up the large expanse of road. "It's a larger than average cul-de-sac, so we added an island made of steel and wood, covered in grass and bushes," said art director Jeremy Woolsey.
"We didn't design the movie to just machine-gun jokes all the time," concluded the film's director Greg Mottola. He added: "The humor, action and romance are always grounded. These characters are meant to be recognizable, and I think audiences will really like them."
After a week of enduring filming deafening gunfire and screeching tires, the cast and crew moved on to The Scorpion villain's posh Hotel Penthouse, which was high atop a Hyatt Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The interiors of the hotel penthouse were built on stages in Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood, in a complex of buildings that once housed an ice-cream distributor.
Even before director Greg Mottola came aboard the project, screenwriter Michael LeSieur had successfully pitched the story to producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. "I think Walter responded to the contrast between the suburban couple, living this boring life, and this fantastic, sophisticated, well-traveled couple that is moving into a neighborhood to which they don't seem to belong," said LeSieur. "The wife is suspicious of the new neighbors, but the husband is thrilled to have these exciting people living nearby. It's a rich premise."
The interior of the penthouse hotel suite, as envisioned by production designer Mark Ricker, had a bar & dining room, living room, and bedroom, along with a real marble fireplace and select wallpapers which came from Germany. "We wanted to create an elite, textured hotel suite that is as fabulous as it is ridiculous - just like the [villain] 'Scorpion' himself," said art director Jeremy Woolsey.
While the action is a key element of this movie, the film always puts comedy and romance front and center. During early screenings, screenwriter Michael LeSieur was gratified by the laughs and by "moments where you can feel the audience connecting emotionally with the movie. That's as satisfying as getting a big laugh, for sure."
Intelligence agencies, real or fictional, featured and/or referenced in the film, include the actual Israeli Secret Service - the Mossad - and the fictional "The Agency", the latter of whom Mr. and Mrs. Jones work for.
Weapons featured in the film included a K-Kote factory black SIG-Sauer P226 9 x 19 mm handgun pistol; a Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic 9 x 19 mm side-arm pistol handgun; a 9 x 19 mm Heckler & Koch MP5A3 and UMP 45 ACP caliber sub-machine guns; an Ingram 380 caliber MAC-11 machine pistol; and an SIG SG 552-2 Commando 5.56 x 45mm rifle.
Actress Gal Gadot had recently played the wife of secret agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) in the same 2016 year's earlier spy thriller Criminal (2016). In the same 2016 year, Reynolds starred as the title character in Deadpool (2016), which was produced by the same 20th Century Fox studio as Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016).
Producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald sparked to the idea of a suburban couple, who, as Parkes said, "desperately wants to be friends with their neighbors. This connection provides a recognizable and emotional foundation for a high-concept comedy - that the film wasn't just about playing the gag."
Greg Mottola's skill in directing the high-powered action especially impressed his producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. Parkes said: "We were thrilled at how Greg delivered the action. In many comedies, action can be a silly add-on, but Greg was committed to doing it right. Those scenes are very satisfying."
Scriptwriter Michael LeSieur was intrigued by husband-and-wife super-spies, such as those depicted in films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) - and by a married duo he envisioned living across the street from such a stealthy couple. He said: "I kept wondering, what this average husband-and-wife would think about all the craziness going on in the spies' house. There's a whole other movie going on from the neighbors' perspective. I started thinking about that and combining it with some aspects of the lives of my friends living on their beloved cul-de-sac."
Production filmed at Sany America, Inc., a tractor factory that doubled as Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis)'s place of employment, a fictional military-industrial corporation specializing in defense contracts encompassing satellites, missile technology, radar, telecommunications systems. In other words, it was the perfect setting for espionage and villains looking to steal secret stuff.
Production Designer Mark Ricker and Art Director Jeremy Woolsey made maximum use of the production's principal locations: the Gaffneys' beloved cul-de-sac, and the dilapidated former Army base across which the film's action centerpiece - a wild car chase-unfolds.
The tagline "License to kill. License to chill." appears in some promotional materials including movie posters for this spy comedy. Two espionage cinema movies have used this title before. They are Licence to Kill (1989) and License to Kill (1964) (aka "License to Kill"). Apart from a spin-off video-game Licence to Kill (1989) and television episodes, the "Licence to Kill" phrase previously lent its name to the name of a card game in 1967. Produced by Golden Wonder, the packaging boasts the tagline: "An Exciting New James Bond Game". There are 52 playing cards which include four "Licence to Kill" cards, 48 "Enemy Agent" cards and there are twelve "Assignment Cards". The cover of the manual for the card game read: "O.H.M.S. - TOP SECRET - OO AGENTS ONLY".
Some movie posters and promotional materials for the film feature the tagline "License to kill. License to chill." The phrase "licence to kill" is well known within the James Bond film franchise and is actually the title of one of the Bond movies [See: Licence to Kill (1989)]. That film spelled the word "licence" without the letter 's' which is the case for its American spelling viz 'license'. After a minor controversy as to whether the British or American spelling ("licence" or "license") would be used in the title for Licence to Kill (1989), the British spelling won out. For the tagline for Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016), the American spelling of "license" is used. "Licence to Kill" is a phrase commonly used in Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and short stories.
Early released footage from the movie showed a scene where actress Gal Gadot is seen in alluring black lingerie. The UK Express reported "Gal Gadot ditches Wonder Woman (2017)'s armour to strip to her bra and knickers" and "Gal Gadot flaunts incredible body in Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016) clip: What a Wonder Woman (2017)" whilst the UK Daily Mail reported "Gal Gadot shows off superhero figure in lacy lingerie" adding "the 31-year-old actress stripped down to lingerie in the funny first trailer for Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016)" and "she absolutely scintillated in the lacy undergarments . . . Gal sported all black intimates including lacy bra and panties, garter belt and thigh-high stockings". Crave headed with "Gal Gadot Strips Down To Her Lingerie" whilst Aussie Network News headlined with "Wonder Woman (2017) Gal Gadot Strips Down for New Film!".
In one scene in another 2016 spy comedy, Tou tian te wu (2016) ("Mission Milano"), a character is forced to eat a scorpion which is described as being a bug from the Amazon. In Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016), the villain is nick-named "The Scorpion".
One of two major neighbors comedy cinema movies that premiered in the year 2016. First released was Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) where the neighbors next door were a raucous sorority house whilst the second released was Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016) where the neighbors next door were covert operations agents.
Actor Jon Hamm is starring alongside former Die Another Day (2002) Bond Girl Rosamund Pike in the following year's political action-thriller High Wire Act (2017) where a former U.S. diplomat returns to service in order to save a former colleague in Beirut. The Hollywood Reporter states in an article published on 6th May 2015: "Set in 1980s Beirut, Hamm plays a former U.S. diplomat who is called back into service to save a former colleague from the group possibly responsible for his own family's death."
According to early publicity, including a 22 June 2016 article in show-business trade paper 'Variety' entitled "'Jon Hamm' and Gal Gadot Go Undercover in First Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016)'", Gadot's character was called Diana Jones but later release publicity states her character to be called Natalie Jones. Gadot's human character name when she plays Wonder Woman (2017) is Diana Prince.
About at least around a dozen crew personnel worked on this action spy comedy involving neighbors and the earlier cinema movie Killers (2010) which was also an action spy comedy which involved neighbors who were covert operatives which was made and released around six years earlier.
The Atlanta Hyatt Hotel penthouse's pool in Atlanta, Georgia served as a key location in the movie, with all of the film's lead main four stars jumping into it, as the penthouse erupts in fire and flames.
Gadgets featured in the film included a black Mercedes driver-less car; a bugging device hidden inside a small glass ornament; a poisoned anaesthetic dart pen; a high temperature welding torch device; various computer hardware and software equipment, and a pair of high heel shoes equipped with a tracking device.
The Scorpion villain's scheme, aiming to obtain a set of microchips which could find a key into and unlock the US missile defense system, is similar to the same year's espionage suspenser Criminal (2016) where the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. Central Command and Control had been hacked into via the dark web and the technology went up for sale. Both Criminal (2016) and Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016) star Israeli actress Gal Gadot.