Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Romantic Press Conference

Find The Romantics on Video

The Romantic Press Conference

(from 9/8/10)

Even before seeing The Romantics, director-screenwriter Galt Niederhoffer's stunningly cast adaptation of her second novel, I could have advised brides not to select their grooms' former lovers to be maids of honor. But Lila (Anna Paquin, creating a unique character) wants all her former college friends, "the Romantics" at her wedding, and that includes her competitive ex-roommate Laura (Katie Holmes), who still harbors feelings for the groom, Tom (Josh Duhamel). Big mistake. Predictably, Lila and Tom's bond is tested, as are the relationships of Tripler (a scene-stealing Malin Akerman) and Pete (Jeremy Strong) and Weesie (Rebecca Lawrence) and Jake (Adam Brody), as well as Laura and Lila's friendship. On Tuesday I was at a press conference for the movie, which opens Friday. Paquin wasn't present but Niederhoffer and seven members of her cast, including Elija Wood (whose character Chip has a crush on Laura), cheerfully answered a wide array of questions.
Danny Peary: Laura seems to know that she and Tom are a perfect match. Is that a true thing? And do they deserve each other because they're not great people, or are they really great people when they're together?
Galt Niederhoffer: Have you ever heard of a song called "Love Hurts?" Ever heard of a song called "Love Stinks?" Sometimes you're drawn to someone who is not your ideal match; sometimes your head draws you in one direction and your heart pulls you in another. I think that these two characters are pulled by those forces, first in opposite directions and then toward each other. Maybe they're not best for one another at all times.
Josh Duhamel: This is an interesting question, because I think a lot of times people end up settling for somebody who's safe, somebody who's not going to demand as much of them, and I think that's what my character is about to do with Lila. Yet he knows that the one who is going to bring out the best in him is Katie's character, Laura, and coming to terms with that is where his biggest indecision comes from--whether he should go with the girl that's going to make things better or the girl that's going to make things easier.
Katie Holmes: Such conflicts are something that I think many people go through and it makes for a good film. The love triangle is one of the things that I found really wonderful about the movie.
Q: Katie, you havent been working for a bit.
Katie: I really enjoyed my time with my daughter and my family.
Q: Elija, why we havent see you for a while?
Elijah Wood: Dude, I'm right here! (laughter)
Q: Do you feel that your character is an alcoholic? Or is he just a hopeless romantic?
EW I dont know if Chip's an alcoholic just yet. He's on the road; he's practicing. I think he's just acting out, I think he grew up in the context of a very well-to-do family, and is sort of against the nature of his upbringing, and I think he's trying to find his way through a variety of means. He loves to have good time and I think alcohol and pills might just be facilitating these notions.
Q: Katie, can you talk about your role as an executive producer?
Josh (laughing): She brought us lots of cupcakes and coffee.
Katie: That was really the extent of it. I was really flattered when I was able to have this position, and I just tried to kind of help when I could and sort of cheer people on. That's really what I did, and I actually used the time to learn from everyone; from the producers and the director, so I really appreciated it.
Q: Was there anything you learned that you'll be able to use in your next film project?
Katie: I think that you just never give up. Because making films can be very challenging and you must keep pushing.
Ron Stein: As one of the producers, let me say that Katie is being very modest. She actually helped out quite a bit as an executive producer: attending meetings when no one else would come, really participating, and coming up with a marketing plan. She was on the phone nights, coming up with plans, doing the plans. It was interesting to see the difference between Katie and other stars that are executive producers and actually dont executive produce. She really did executive produce, rolled up her sleeves, and has been involved ever since the production started.
Katie: Well, I'm a mother, so, you know, you just get used to that that kind of thing.
Q This is an indie film, so did the much publicized J. Crew photo shoot help with marketing or with setting mood in the film?
Katie: It was really part of the design of the movie.
Galt: Because this is a story about young people, and young people tend to express themselves through their clothing, the costume designer Danielle Kays, cinematographer Sam Levy, production designer Tim Grimes, and I did our best to think together about the color palette, composition, the ingredients of the film. We were thinking about the distribution of the movie and looking for ways to be innovative and proactive. As Katie says beautifully, we wanted to keep pushing, so we thought, "What would be a company that we could partner with to allow our indie film to reach as many people as possible who would like it?" And we thought really quickly of J. Crew, the company whose clothes we had used in the film, that has a spirit and identity and integrity.
Katie: And we all went to there often on weekends.
Galt: We were kind of outfitted in their clothes, at least I was during the shoot. They make good clothes, they're good people. Anyway, it's been a very happy partnership, an interesting marriage of art and commerce what began as an idea for a website to do together, turned into something that allowed us to reach a much bigger audience than we would have otherwise.
Q: How did everyone react to script?
Josh: Well, I didn't like it at first. [laughter] That's because when I first read the script, I thought that I didn't like any of these characters. I really didn't. I felt they were just a bunch of selfish people who were making much bigger deals of their problems than they really were. But then I read it again and I liked it much better. It's really kind of a reflection on what people are like, what groups of friends and family are like, because we're all dysfunctional, we're all flawed. You know, I've got a group of friends that I've had for a long time, and were equally as dysfunctional. We're not making out with each others wives, but I we can certainly link to the imperfections of these characters in some way. I think that that's what drew me to it ultimately, the imperfection of all these people who are just trying to make it work.
Katie: I really loved the script when I read it. I loved the feeling; it felt a lot like The Big Chill and St. Elmo's Fire and John Hughes, and I always loved those movies growing up. Then I met with Galt and I thought she was really so smart, and the cast started coming together, and it was something that was really exciting to be part of. I love the feel of it and the people involved and that it has a very French look in a way.
Q: Were you always going to play the part that you played? Did you have a choice of playing Laura or Lila?
Katie: No, I was signed on to play Laura.
Q: Malin and Josh, how have your views of love and romance changed as you've matured and your life has changed?
Malin Akerman: I think when you're younger, appearances are first and foremost. As a teenager you see the hot guy, the coolest guy in school, and you fantasize about what it would be like to date him. I think over time, as you shift and grow as a person, you learn what real love is and what infatuation is, and learn the difference between the two. It's so funny because I look at the men that I find attractive now and I would have cringed at the type when I was younger. You see people for who they are when you grow up and when you are looking for a mate for life. You need more than just the exterior, obviously. You need someone who challenges you and wants the two of you to grow together in life.
Josh: Oh, I just look for a really nice ass. (laughter) I'm just playing, come on. No, I think that Malin was right on--you grow up and realize that it isn't just about the aesthetic; it's about whether or not that person makes you happy. You're lucky if you can find what you're looking for.
Q: Josh, was there any kind of drama in the movie wedding that brought back memories that were helpful?
Josh: I hope nobody has to go to a wedding like this. It makes me appreciate my wedding, it makes me appreciate that I knew going in that I was with the woman I wanted to be with. That's what the scary part is, the idea of not knowing for sure. Tom doesn't know whether he is going to be able to go through with it, and I think that's the biggest nightmare a groom-to-be can have. I think men especially have this coming-of-age moment, when they have to step up and be a man and make a decision--or not. And that's what he is struggling with.
Galt: I just wanted to jump back in and say one thing about "likable" characters. It's a word you hear a lot in this business. Likeable is a word that's come to mean heroic, or impressive, or blessed with traits of a god. What I find likable personally, what I find so exciting and interesting about great characters in any movie, and I think in this movie that we've created together, is that the people are real. They're flawed, they're kind, they're mean, they're petty, they're generous, they're incredible, and all on a given day. And I think that's true to life and that's human nature.
Katie: I think that's the beauty of friendships, and that's what you see in this film. When you have real friends you can be all those things and people love you for it. I think that's what feels good about watching this movie and what felt good about being in this movie and portraying these people. We could portray people who are real--they have their ups and downs and they have this family of friends around them that has been through it all. If you are lucky enough to have some people like that in your life, it's wonderful. This film celebrates friendship.
Galt: An amazing thing that happened is that we became friends like that. This group of people became friends and family to one another, I think partly because we got to make something together. We got on a flight and we were all secluded and away from the city and away from our families for a little while and something really special happened because we trusted each other and had a common goal.
Malin: And we had a director that we trusted, who created that environment really.
Jeremy Strong: From the peanut gallery here, talking about the likable thing--you know in movies today there's a lot of idealization of people,. I feel like most people I know are still trying to figure things out, and are drifting. This movie gave us a chance to represent, in a non-idealized way, real young people emerging into adulthood. There was a great piece in the Times magazine a few weeks ago about twentysomethings, and I think this film sort of captures and distills the struggles of that period of life in a very authentic way, and gives us an opportunity as actors to try to do something authentic.
Elijah: I also think the complexities of these characters made it interesting for us as actors, gave us something to work with, all of us. It's such a huge ensemble; there are so many characters despite the context of a short piece in which the majority of the movie takes place over the course of an evening. These characters are so complex in the way that they were written by Galt that they gave all of us so much to work with.
Q: Jeremy, you have a very strong theater background, and Katie, you had a strong film career when you blew us away when you came to do theater. What's the difference between theater and film?
Jeremy: I always want to be doing theater. But I think it's similar. One of the virtues of this movie is that it's a real ensemble piece, and the way we rehearsed together was similar to what it's like in a rehearsal room. We rehearsed before we started shooting and the essence is the same.
Katie: I love doing Broadway, it's so much fun. The community was so wonderful and welcoming, I enjoyed every single night and I can't wait to go back to the theater.
Q:, Katie, when are you going to make a movie musical?
Katie: I love to sing and dance, so any time.
Q: So much of the narrative reflects on the collective back story of the Romantics that I wonder what was talked about developing back stories of the individual characters and the relationships between them.
Galt: I think that Adam and Rebecca would be great people to respond to this, because they had very different approaches to constructing their characters back stories and to contributing to their front story.
Adam Brody: We all went to the DeVry Technical Institute together, so there are a lot of shared stories there. [laughter]
Rebecca Lawrence: I dont know how different our approaches were, but we definitely discussed the courtship and the general timeline with everyone, about we all knew each other. For me personally, the Romantics just reminded me of college friends. I had a great group of friends that had strange dynamics and imperfections, so I could relate a lot to that and bring it to the table.
Adam: It's such an incestuous group, that it was hard just getting it straight, who had hooked up with whom and everything else. We were all so friendly.
Q: Your characters are a couple but they spend intimate time with others. Where do they go from here, do they move on, do they recover?
Adam: That is a good question.
Rebecca Lawrence: It's a really good question.
Adam: I dont know, what happens.
Rebecca: Stay tuned!
Adam: I think we'd sort of work through our mild indiscretions, at least for a while.
Rebecca: I dont know. I also don't know how much about that night is revealed, after the fact.
Adam: I think we don't ask, don't tell about that night. I wouldn't want to bring it up.
Rebecca: I think that what I've done is so horrible that I wouldnt want to bring it up!
Josh: Like a couple of stray cats.
Q: Im just wondering if Malin's character later goes on...
Malin (laughing): She becomes a huge hit. Actually. I dont know what will happen to her, I think she goes on with her life and puts her mask right back on, I think she has her demons that she keeps inside. She's the one who brings the fun to the group so she doesn't ever let her guard down. Tripler experiences a rare moment with Jake-- that's what is beautiful-- when she gets to confess and say her Hail Marys and then get up and go on with her life again, I think that's how she lives her life. I dont think she changes much from this, I think she just keeps going.
Jeremy: I think a lot of these relationships are on fault lines in the way that relationships can be. Loving is an action rather than a feeling, and I think the film is also about making the choice to love someone willfully.
Malin: Jeremy's the true romantic in this group, if you havent noticed already.
Jeremy: I'm single!
Malin: He's a good catch.
Q: Galt, is there any difference between the book and the film?
Galt: The movie is actually pretty loyal to the book. I looked at the book with a harsher, more critical eye when I was adapting it, looking for different things than what you look for as a novelist. When you're writing a book, you're looking for description and interior monologue and psyche and things that don't move. When you're writing a script you look for things that move across the screen and move across the face and drama and action. When I write books, I think in terms of the screenplay. Because I've been working in the medium for so long as a producer, I am influenced by screenplay and structure, inherently. There aren't really differences but making the movie was a chance to correct some of the mistakes that I felt that I'd made in the book. We lost two characters. I finished this book three days before my second child was born. I tend to write well during my pregnancies--my first book I wrote during my first child's gestation. I write with a pretty rigorous schedule, and then my brain turns to mush
DP: There was a lot of choreography of characters moving around in small spaces, as in the scene where Josh and Katie talk by the tree.
JH: That was a hard scene, it was very long.
DP: Right, you two had to say a lot of dialogue and constantly "dance" around each other and meanwhile there is a hand-held camera with them to keep it intimate. Galt, did you feel the need to be the one to hold the camera?
Galt: No, Sam Levy took care of that. I wasn't holding the camera in those scenes.
DP: Malin, speaking of choreography, I was really impressed by how you moved. Were you a gymnast?
Malin: Thank you! I was a dancer. And an ice skater.
DP: And I bet you can skate backwards.
Malin: Yes, I can.
DP: I really like the film's soundtrack, particularly the two songs by Lorene Scafaria.
Galt: Thank you. She happens to be Adam's girlfriend and is also a great writer. She writes plays and the movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Q: Katie, do you think this film will define you as a mature actress?
Katie: I really dont know, but it was great to work with this wonderful cast and director and we had a great time. I was so floored by the performances. These guys are such incredible actors, so it was really inspiring every single day, because you'd watch somebody else do a scene and go, Oh my god. They all brought something so different and wonderful. That's why we all still hang out, we go to dinner often, we're a tight-knit group.
Galt: I'm just going to add one anecdote you might enjoy, which is from the day we shot the rehearsal dinner. In that scene, every one of the characters basically performs a soliloquy that defines himself or herself. And that day all of us here and the rest of the cast-- Anna Paquin, Candace Bergen, Dianna Agron--sat in a room filled with eighty other people. It was really hot, the lights were bright, it was a tiny shack, it was freezing cold outside, and we watched each other perform. And it was magical. It was impressive and revealing to see these guys perform for each other. It doesn't get any better than that.
Elijah: It was so defining for our characters and for each of us as actors. It was an incredibly safe environment, and it was an amazing experience being present for each individual actor's speech. We were very supportive and it was really quite beautiful.
Galt: They wrote a lot of their own monologues that day, on the spot. That resulted in something that was a drastic change from the book. In the scene now, some of the extemporaneous speeches that these people did ended up defining the characters so well that it became the back story that I had never written!

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