Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Carbone, Jones, and Varnson Can't Hide Their Smiling Faces

Hide Your Smiling Faces is Playing in Theaters

Carbone, Jones, and Varnson Can't Hide Their Smiling Faces

(from Sag Harbor Express Online 3/26/14)

(L-R) Daniel Patrick Carbone, Ryan Jones, and Nathan Varnson  Photo: DP

Hide Your Smiling Faces fits my category Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor.  After Daniel Patrick Carbone’s debut feature played last year at the Tribeca Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, it received the National Society of Film Critics award for “Best Film Still Waiting for Distribution.”  Tribeca Film bought the distribution rights in January. On Tuesday it became available on VOD and this weekend it will have its U.S. theatrical debut in New York City at the Cinema Village on 12th Street and University.  I recommend it. This deeply personal film is replete with not-always-connected moments and scenes, not unlike how we recall memories of our childhoods, and in the film’s press kit, Carbone correctly states it has a natural structure “like that of a dream, fragmented but always fluid.” Equally telling is a descriptive line in the notes–”An atmospheric exploration of life and death in rural America, as seen through the distorted lens of youth.” That line stood alone next to a “Synopsis” that doesn’t attempt to synopsize the events in the film, but instead gets into the minds of two brothers facing “seemingly insurmountable moral peaks.”  My synopsis: Tommy (Ryan Jones), 9, and Eric (Nathan Varnson), 14, are spending a lazy summer in rural, upstate New York, playing with friends their own ages, hanging out with each other, riding bikes, wrestling, and exploring the woods. Tommy’s friend Ian angers his father by taking his handgun to show the other kids.  Yelled at, he runs off into the woods.  His dead body is soon discovered, underneath a bridge.  Did he jump or fall?  Everyone in the area is affected, including the two brothers, who have never experienced a human death before. They discover there are no easy answers. Well, I got easy answers when I interviewed Carbone, Jones (11 then 12 today), and Varnson (16 then 17 today) at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival about this poetic, haunting, challenging movie.
Danny Peary: Where are each of you from?
Daniel Patrick Carbone: I’m based in New York, but I grew up in northwest New Jersey, the tip near Pennsylvania, right across the water.
Nathan Varnson: I’m from Atlanta.
Ryan Jones: I’m from Connecticut.
DP: Dan, how did you find Ryan and Nathan for your film?
DPC: We didn’t have a casting agent or anything, just a big, tri-state open call.  That’s how I found Ryan.  He’d done some TV and some short films, but this is his first feature. I found Nate through a friend of a friend.  I guess he was modeling and she sent us some headshots and said this guy really wants to act, so we brought him in for an audition. He came in very raw, without any kind of training per se, which is kind of what attracted us to him.
DP: Did you two audition together?
NV: No, never, we met the day we shot.
DP: This is one of the few instances outside of Leave It to Beaver, where the older brother is friendly toward the younger brother and contentedly hangs out with him when their friends aren’t around. Ryan, considering you hadn’t met before you started shooting, were you always thinking that the audience has to believe you were brothers?
RJ: I didn’t think that while making the movie but I knew it needed to happen.
DP: Dan, explain the title of your movie. Or should I ask them first?
DPC: Yes, I want to know what they think.
RJ: I definitely fully understand the title now, because while watching the film I realized that in the scene when Tommy and Eric are laughing in the living room, they’re laughing not because they think anything’s funny but because the situation is so awkward. Ian’s death is too heavy for them to understand, so they just start laughing–that’s what people do. All Tommy and Eric can do is laugh because they don’t have anybody to tell them what to do.
NV: Everybody feels that they have to have some emotion when there’s a death.  Especially kids.  Most people become sad, but as Dan said a lot, there’s no proper response to death. It’s just how you take it. That laughing scene basically reflects that. Eric and Tommy weren’t supposed to laugh. It was not in the script.  But Ryan and I were looking around and our eyes locked and we just started laughing.
DPC: The first thing I’ll say is I just love the degree of interpretations of the title, I think that’s what makes a good title.
DP: It’s like Eyes Wide Shut.
DPC: Exactly, yeah. For me it’s important that the title’s in the second person.  It’s a command or an order, which I think speaks to the difference between kids and adults. As kids, you’re told that you’re expected to act a certain way and you’re reprimanded for acting out of the norm, even when there is no norm. Who’s to say that their laughter is inconsiderate or rude?  Or anything?  But let me now say that the title did not come from that scene when they laughed spontaneously.  The script had that title.  A lot of people think that the title came out of their reaction, but it was just kind of happy accident and spoke so much to just being a kid and finding things so heavy that you don’t know what to do.
DP: Do you think this movie is about anything specific or is just about two boys during a summer and their progression toward adulthood?
RJ: I think it’s definitely about death during childhood and how to handle it. And how sometimes it’s traumatic but you have to overcome it–and, as I said, how some do that by laughing, for example.
NV: I feel like there are a lot of moral themes you can take from the movie, I don’t think there’s a specific one that you can point out and say, “That’s what this movie is about, this is what you gotta take from it.”
DP: Dan, did you want to say something specific in your movie?
DPC: Not necessarily. There’s a number of themes that flow under the surface, but first and foremost it was always for me about creating a world and an atmosphere and giving people a realistic and, in my opinion, an honest portrayal of what it’s like to be young and confused.
DP: Did you relate to Tommy or Eric more?
DPC: Definitely a combination of the two.  I have a brother who is five years older than me, so in some scenes Tommy and Eric are me and my brother.  Some scenes it’s me and me because some things happened to me in real life at Nate’s age and some at Tommy’s age. The film is kind of a dramatization of all that.  If I had to pick one boy, I’d say more of the scenes probably came from my memory of being Ryan’s age. At that age you’re starting to kind of understand it. The older Eric’s more violent and is seemingly confused but I think it’s because he knows how hard these things are and is holding on to a younger part of himself.  He’s about to be an adult and I think there’s a little bit of anger coming from that.  He wants to stay a kid for a longer time.
DP: Nathan, would you have been friends with your character?
NV: I’ll say yes, but I don’t think we would have been great friends. Eric just doesn’t really know how to handle things. I know most kids don’t know how to handle things, and I’m not saying I’d know how to handle everything that happens to him, but I know some of his responses to what happened, like breaking a window and pulling a gun on his friend, are not what I’d do.
DP: Well, it’s too much to handle for a kid. What about you, Ryan, would you be friends with Tommy?
RJ: I think so. I don’t know if we’d be great friends, but I think he’s a good kid at heart.  He just doesn’t really have a lot of good role models in his life.
DP: He has bad role models.
RJ: Yeah, his older brother, Eric, and his parents. I think his dad tries to mentor him a little bit.
DP: But he’s not very good at it.
DPC: I think, Ryan, you had a lot of fun getting into that character.  Tommy’s kind of a slightly badder side of you. He’s picking up dead cats, rolling around in the dirt, and getting dirty.
DP: There’s a lot of death around the kids, not just Ian but dead animals and insects. That’s one of the things that one remembers from childhood. I grew up in South Carolina and I still remember finding a dead dog while walking through the woods at Tommy’s age.  It was frozen and hard.  Never forgot it.
DPC: There’s a bird scene early on–initially death is kind of something mysterious and almost funny. Their understanding of death evolves over such a short period of time.
DP: Nathan and Ryan, this is a story about two brothers who experience the sudden death of a young boy. Had either of you experienced anything like that in real life?
NV: Luckily I’ve not experienced anything on that scale.
RJ: When I was in 8th grade, two friends of mine were playing on the ice in Georgia, and they fell through and drowned.
DP: Did it affect everybody who knew them the way it affects everybody in this movie?
RJ: Yeah, for sure. I grew up in a fairly big town and when I saw everyone there was upset, it just hit me. They were popular boys.
DP: And there was no explanation.
RJ: Right. They were just two innocent kids playing on the ice.
DP: So, Dan, since death is a touchy subject that can be very confusing to a youngster, did you have to have a serious discussion with Ryan about it?
DPC: It is a touchy subject so we talked a little bit about when I was his age and experienced death. Ryan was really impressive and amazing to direct because he had the mental capacity of someone triple his age.  For some of the other kids on set I would have to almost play out scenes to really get their minds to imagine the situation, but Ryan could just process something and say, “I’ve got it, I’m ready to go.”  I’d say, “Are you sure?  I don’t think you could so fast.”  And he would nail it.  He could be in other people’s shoes and still make it very personal to him.
DP: As a director, I’m sure you realized that you had a responsibility to keep the kids from getting messed up psychologically because of the topic.
DPC: Whenever possible, I tried to have them base their performances on something they’d gone through. It was always about building their performances from personal things. It is a hard thing for anyone to do but these two were so professional and were willing to give themselves over.
DP: In the press notes, it says that the death of Ryan’s friend Ian is “unsettling the brothers and their friends in a way that they can’t fully understand.” They never do fully understand, and that’s what makes the movie interesting but a hard movie.
DPC: Sure, for the audience and for the actors. It’s difficult to withhold explanations. There’s almost a tendency to hold the audience’s hand, to make sure they’re still with you and not leave, and I definitely wanted the audience to be an active participant and try to figure things out along with us.
DP: There’s really no adult figure in the movie that helps them comprehend what happened. Ryan, did you ever say, “I wish there was somebody who could talk to these kids?”
RJ: Yeah, a lot. The adults don’t really play a big role in this movie at all. It’s all from the kids’ perspective.  Tommy’s older brother can talk to him, like on the bridge when they’re just sitting there, throwing rocks.  But Eric’s trying to understand it himself by talking it out, so I don’t think either of them can really understand what’s going on.  When I first saw the film, I really liked that there’s an open-ended question.
NV: I feel the same way. Before we started shooting, we talked about the role of the parents and adults in the film. I think I said something like, “The boy’s mother and father are not really parents, they’re just there.” They don’t help, they don’t have any input on anything. So it’s kind of left for the brothers to help each other out.
DPC: I like that interpretation, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them bad parents or absent from the scene. It’s just part of the film that everyone’s dealing with this death in their own way. Maybe they’re doing a bad job in helping their boys understand what happened, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad parents or that they’re not present. As you get older, it doesn’t get much easier to deal with these kinds of things, and the adults are as lost as the kids in a way.
DP: Ryan, if I were to say to you that there’s only one moment in the movie where there’s a real connection between a kid and an adult, what scene would that be?
RJ: In Ian’s house, when Ian’s father touches Tommy on the arm. That’s the only scene.
DP: Did you realize how pivotal that moment is in the movie?
RJ: Yeah, yeah. When we were shooting that scene, there was a lot of talk about what Ian’s father is feeling and what my character is feeling.   What Tommy is feeling and what Ian’s father is feeling are almost the exact opposites. Tommy wants to run away because he’s being touched by someone he doesn’t like and it’s creepy to him, but the father wants him to stay because he reminds him of Ian.
DP: He gives a grieving father a little comfort.
DPC: Absolutely. It’s definitely the only time that two people are on the same page emotionally. Maybe we could say that also about the scene when the brothers are talking on the bridge, but, as Ryan said, the confused boys are almost talking to themselves as much as to each other.
DP: Yes or no, do you think it is Ian’s dad who ties up the boys’ dog in the road?
NV: Yes.
RJ: Yes.
DPC: It’s definitely the more common answer. I think there are enough clues in the film.
DP: I looked at this like a memory piece that, paradoxically, is set not in the past but today. I saw it as my youth, walking in the woods and all that. Dan, could you have set this in your past instead?
DPC: I hope so. It could have been any time.  It seems like people or all ages are responding the way you did.  The most complimentary thing I’ve been hearing is from women of different ages who say they feel they can share the experience. It’s definitely a male-centered film, and it’s about that age and the emotions felt by boys of that age, but it almost transcends your sex and your age and when and where you grew up.  The time period is slightly ambiguous. The technology I put in the film is intentionally outdated but, maybe, it could be from now.
DP: Why does Tommy go back and get Ian’s father’s gun?
RJ: He doesn’t really want it for attention, he mostly wants it to make Ian’s dad upset, I think. Because he saw how upset he was when Ian took the gun. But I don’t think he realizes that Ian’s dad is already upset. I think Tommy’s blaming him for Ian’s death and takes his gun because he didn’t know what else to do. Part of taking the gun is for protection and part is just to make Ian’s dad upset.
DP: As you two read the script for the first time, were you thinking as I was–especially after Tommy gets the gun–that something horrific is going to happen?
NV: Well, Dan only sent us the parts of the script that we were in. So I had no idea what Tommy was doing when he wasn’t with Eric. The first time I saw the other scenes was at the premiere of the movie.
DCP: The idea was to try to make the set as close to reality as possible. So from scene to scene, Tommy and Eric didn’t know where their brother had just come from or was going. Ryan and Eric’s experience of reading the script was not like somebody else’s.
DP: Why did you do it that way?
DPC: I thought it was important for all the actors but especially the young actors.  Because if they knew where something was going, they’d tend to hint at things and play that up, and act only how a character can act, not a real person would act. I knew the end of the movie already and what came between, but these two guys didn’t, and I think it helped their acting.  All they could focus on was the here and now, not on the next scene or where things were going.
DP: After working together, it’s obvious to me that the three of you really like each other.
RJ: I never had any issues with these guys. Dan taught me so much. His instructions helped me grow as an actor, and playing off Nate helped me grow up a lot more, too.
NV: I consider myself good friends with both these guys. Behind the scenes was a lot more fun than being in front of the camera.

Raymond de Felitta Shows Us How to "Rob the Mob"

Playing in Theaters

Raymond de Felitta Shows Us How to Rob the Mob

(from Sag Harbor Express Online, 3/19/14)
By Danny Peary
Rob the Mob fits my category Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor.  This Friday it opens in New York at the Angelika, an indication that it’s not the predictable mob comedy one might expect from the title.  The true tall tale told by director Raymond de Felitta and screenwriter Jonathan Fernandez includes humor of the absurdist variety, but as in de Felitta’s smartly-cast, superbly-acted mass-audience-would-love-them-if-they-bothered-to-see-them little films Two Family House and City Island (which won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival), it blends the wit with off-kilter romance/love, quirky plot twists, tricky family relationships, and serious themes. And at the center is a big heart.

A quickie synopsis: “Rob the Mob is the true-life story of a crazy-in-love Queens couple who robbed a series of mafia social clubs [in the early 1990s] and got away with it…for a while…until they stumble upon a score bigger than they ever planned and become targets of both the mob and the FBI.” Michael Pitt (Funny Games, TV’s Boardwalk Empire) and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris; Tony-winner for Venus in Fur) are sensational as the doomed Tommy Uva and his clever girlfriend Rosie, heading a terrific cast that includes Andy Garcia (City Island), as soulful mob don Big Al, a serious Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) as a reporter on the mob beat, Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), and Michael Rispoli (star of Two-Family House).  I spoke last week to De Felitta about his stars and new movie.
robthemobray2frombookerRaymond de Felitta Photo: DP
Danny Peary: When I saw the title Rob the Mob, I assumed it was going to be a full-fledged comedy, which it isn’t. Did you keep the humorous title because you wanted the film to maintain a light-hearted tone even when things become darker?
Raymond de Felitta (left): Some people said it wasn’t serious enough a title for the movie, but I always loved it because it’s cheeky and I feel the movie in general is cheeky. When I watch it with audiences I see there are good laughs through the first half and absolutely none in the second half, when it turns into a different movie. To me, that’s cheeky. If I did my job right, you don’t really see what’s coming and that’s part of the movie’s fun. I got a little pressure here and there to change it, but ultimately it’s Rob the Mob. It is what it is.
DP: In New York, it’s going to open at the Angelika, a site for art films. Is that surprising to you?
RDF: I guess the bigger question is: what are “art films?”  I don’t know any more. I think Rob the Mob is an art film under the guise of a genre film, which reflects my own preference in movies.  If you don’t care about film and you just want entertainment, you’ll like the title and love the idea of the movie, that somebody with an Uzi robs mob social clubs. And if you are a serious filmgoer, you might hear that it is not just a mob movie but has little more going for it.
DP: You’ve called it an “anti-mob movie.”
RDF: Yeah, because “mob movies” are over with, in a sense. Rob the Mob was not going to be The Godfather or Goodfellas or Casino.  There’s no more room, it’s done. So you’re either going to make a really bad mob movie, or find a new wrinkle.  This movie is not really about the mob.  The more we developed the script and the closer we got to doing it, I began to feel that this movie will live or die with the romance of these two people Tommy and Rosie. If you understand that it’s about their love for each other, I think the movie will have heart and be special and won’t slide off into a genre and be this kind of movie or that kind of movie. It had to have a center and their romance is the center.  I love when things are disguised as other things, and that’s why I wanted to do this movie. It’s a mob movie, but it’s really not, it’s about these two people in love. I guess you could fit it into a genre with Gun Crazy, They Live By Night, and Thieves Like Us.  There is some of those films in mine, but mine is more kinetic. It was a bit of a magic trick. I don’t know if I pulled it off, but I liked doing it.  Whatever people think this movie is, it’s not quite that; it a different animal.
DP: So where does the mob fit in?
RDF: While it’s not primarily about the mob, I love that the mobsters are the victims in the movie. They’re kind of the worn out, tattered remains of their former selves. I thought that was a fun, interesting angle, because to me it humanizes them rather than makes them larger than life.  It brings them way down to the actual size they are. They’re the guys at this stupid club on the corner. That’s where they hang out, and they don’t do much there other than sitting around. It’s not at all glamorous.  They can’t even figure out how to deal with Tommy and Rosie, the amateurs who are robbing them.  That’s the truth, they did not know how to deal with this couple who was making fools of them and threatening the organization.  Those are the things that I liked in the script.  I felt it turned our view of the mob upside down.
DP: In the production notes, you say that Rob the Mob’s coming from a true story made it more interesting for you. If it were a fictional story, would you have been interested in doing it?
RDF: You know, it’s hard to say.   Because it weren’t true, if it was made up, it might be too silly to believe.  This story is so unbelievable and so strange and has so many odd things about it, that it being true is what makes it interesting; as fiction it would be far-fetched. Somebody really did pull off those robberies on the mob!  Tommy and Rosie were really rubbed out.  The facts of the case make it interesting. I compare this story in terms of its truth to Dog Day Afternoon. Similarly, if I write a movie about a married man with a secret gay lover and he needs money for a sex change, and he has a Vietnam vet friend who robs a bank, you’d be like, “Where’s this coming from? Did you hear this story somewhere or did you make it up?” In fact that story happened, too.  Also similar about the two stories is that neither had any real notoriety. The Dog Day Afternoon story also came and went in just a few weeks and never was a big, nation-wide story.  I think dramatizing these stories is a little more poignant because you’ve discovered such a large theme and such a big and bold story in something relatively obscure. I’d never heard of Tommy and Rosie Uva.
DP: I vaguely remember something about a list of Mafia names that proved there was an organized crime organization.
RDF: That’s why I focused so much on the list. I wanted to show that there was something bigger that happened than what Tommy and Rosie ever knew about, that they even understood. We couldn’t fit it into the movie, but the different mob families all started arguing about who actually made the hit on Tommy and Rosie.  One of them was caught on tape taking credit for it and he wound up being sent to prison for the rest of his life. I couldn’t dramatize any of that because it happened after they were dead, and the movie has to end when Tommy and Rosie are shot. I didn’t really want there to be a long coda. But yeah, there were things about them that were a bigger story.  Jonathan Fernandez, the writer, and I talked about the size of a movie that’s just a caper film. And Jon pointed out that what The King’s Speech was really telling us is that if this guy didn’t fix his speech impediment, England would have lost the war. It’s not that cynical, but the gist of our story is that a little act led to something heroic. We started looking at Tommy and Rosie as two little people who actually took down a big chunk of the mob. They didn’t mean to, they didn’t know they were having that effect, but Tommy’s crusade against the guys who beat up his dad when he was as a little boy actually leads to big things. He got somewhere in his life, he did finally accomplish something, and I find that very moving. If you can twist the story that way, then I think you’ve got a great character arc.
DP: There seems to be a parallel story.  Big Al tells the FBI that he doesn’t want to be humiliated in front of his grandson and as a boy Tommy experienced his own father being beaten up and humiliated in front of him.
RDF: I don’t know if other people get it but the fact is that Tommy and Big Al had so much in common.
DP: I think Big Al would have liked Tommy, actually. He would have understood Tommy’s anger toward the mob from what happened to his father.
RDF: I think you’re right. They’re both haunted by deaths in their pasts, they’re both haunted by things they can’t change or avenge.  And ultimately Tommy’s actions have a huge impact on Big Al, although they’ve never met.  When we were editing a scene with Big Al in post-production, we’d cut to Tommy and Rosie just to reiterate that their stories are impacting on each other. I think it’s so interesting in life to look back and realize the people who’ve impacted you whom you’ve never met. You’ve somehow had this parallel existence, and one person’s actions have paid off positively or negatively in someone else’s life.
DP: Tommy has charm according to Rosie, but Big Al’s the person who really has the charm in the film.  And he’s probably the one really smart person in the movie. Do you think a reason Tommy and Rosie are so vulnerable is because they’re not smart enough?
RDF: I think they’re idiot savants.  They don’t really know what they’ve gotten themselves into. They think they’ve got a handle on it, but no. She’s reasonably more polished than he’s ever going to be, but yeah, they’re not smart enough.  Andy Garcia plays Big Al as a guy who was actually too smart to be a mob boss. He really shouldn’t have wound up where he is. He should have been a businessman.
DP: He loves to cook so he could have run a legit Italian restaurant.
RDF: That part Andy and I developed together. We were looking to create a Don that hadn’t been done. He’s not Powerman; he’s tired, he’s a grandfather, he doesn’t really understand how he got where he is.  I felt the way he’s portrayed by Andy is a big part of our turning the whole mob concept on its head.  What if it’s not about a powerful Don and about “respect” and all that crap, which we’ve seen so many times? What if it’s about a guy who wants to play chess with his grandson?  Big Al’s fatal flaw is ultimately his humanity–he doesn’t order a hit on Tommy and Rosie at the very beginning before things escalate.  That’s what you’re supposed to do as a mafia don.
DP: The Uvas were really married, but in the movie they’re not married.
RDF: Yeah, we took that liberty because I wanted us to see Tommy ask Rosie to marry him.  I just felt it was such a beautiful place for them to finally get to. The fact is they really were murdered on Christmas Eve, so I wanted them to have that moment before it happens.  That’s the sentimental Italian in me.
DP: There’s a Bonnie and Clyde reference in regard to their being shot in their car, but you are very protective of them and we don’t see them get torn up by the hail of bullets.  What happens to them could be shown with as much brutality as what happens to Bonnie and Clyde in Arthur Penn’s movie, but you don’t, won’t, let that happen.
RDF: Well, you’re not going to beat Arthur Penn’s ending.  But I also don’t need to see their death.  I only need to know that they get gunned down and what the ending is going to be.  I was inspired in some ways by the ending of The Wrestler, where he goes leaping off the ropes into the ring, after he’s told he can’t wrestle anymore.  You don’t need to see anything after that.
DP: I love that it’s elegiac, even sweet and super romantic, oddly enough.
RDF: I thought the same thing. To me, that was very important – how do we feel about Tommy and Rosie at the end?  Do we end with a huge downer and see blood everywhere ? That was something we developed as we were doing it, we figured out a way to give them some dignity and let their romance live on.
DP: In the production notes Nina Arianda says that the romance between Tommy and Rosie is kind of a combination of Romeo and Juliet, Bonnie and Clyde, and Sid and Nancy. Actresses usually don’t bring up Sid and Nancy in conversation, but there’s a madness in the romance that really appealed to her in that film and in Rob the Mob.
RDF: Michael Pitt and I talked about how great love, passionate love, is actually a destructive force. It doesn’t have any boundaries, it does whatever it needs to do, it has its own fierce energy.  That’s how we saw the romance of Tommy and Rosie.  It’s a force that can’t be stopped. They create their own catastrophe. The way I always read the real story of Tommy and Rosie is that she was trying to show the world what she saw in him. She wanted the rest of the world to see it. It was so much bigger than what anyone else had ever thought of this guy who seems pretty much like a druggy ex-con. He had this side to him that she believed in, and that was his humanity and poignancy. The whole act of what they do–coming up with his bizarre scheme and pulling it off–is his work of art and his gift to the world. She was so proud of him for it. That’s what I loved about their real story.  It was about two people who in their sociopathic way thought they were doing something light and beautiful for each other.
DP: In Gun Crazy and Bonnie and Clyde the robberies themselves are sexual acts to communicate the love the two lead characters feel for each other.  Are you trying to show the same thing when they kiss in the car before he commits the crimes and when they celebrate in their apartment afterward, throwing the money into the air?
RDF: I do think what we show after the robbery is like an orgasmic release for them. But they also have a practical consideration. They are trying to put together enough money so they can settle down and finally be normal.  There’s the whole concept–One of these days I’m going to be like everyone else– that a lot of us carry around, mistakenly. If only I could organize the world to fit my needs, then I’ll finally be part of the normal world.
rob-the-mob-600x337Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda
DP: Do Tommy and Rosie have a death wish and is their being ill-fated part of the romance?
RDF:  I guess so, but I look at it as Rosie being so in love with Tommy that she’ll do whatever he needs to complete his journey. She’s not necessarily the doomed one. She’s just so profoundly in love with Tommy and so believes in his misunderstood genius that’s lost in the world, that she’ll do whatever.  That of course leads to their doom.
DP: And she sacrifices her career at the collection agency for him.  Granted, it’s a weird career, but you see what talent she has to do it. And he has no talent to do it. She could take over the agency some day.
RDF: She absolutely could be working in a hair salon or be a teller in a bank. Rosie is every one of those great girls from Queens who maybe had some drug issues in high school, but got over it and now have jobs. Tommy isn’t capable of working a real job. He is a dark, sad, sociopathic young man.
DP: Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda are perfectly cast. I think you might look at the film now and say, nobody else in the whole world but these two actors could play these parts. I’m sure you recognized they have the potential to be superstars down the road, but at this particular time, you could still afford them. You were very lucky. Is that how you see it?
RDF: Absolutely. It’s funny how these things come about, the weird journey of filmmaking. The very first actor we sent the script to was Michael Pitt. The script was not exactly the script we ended up shooting, but it was a pass at it and you could understand what the basics were. And Michael “got it.”  I thought, “If this guy gets it, he’ll become a collaborator through the whole process.” I wanted to have a relationship with the actor playing Tommy.  I wanted it to be like Scorsese and De Niro, and we’d do this film together, and create Tommy. I thought that if we got that character right, the movie would have heart and soul. If we didn’t, we’d have simply a guy playing a young thug.  So Michael and I became very close while working on the development of the story and his character.
DP: With dark hair, Michael Pitt looks a little like Elvis in your movie, a good-acting Elvis.
RDF: A very young Elvis, yeah.  It took us a long time to get the financing because everyone was trying to get us to get a bigger name than Michael to play Tommy.  They also wanted a big name actress to play Rosie.  But none of them wanted to do it– Mila Kunis, Scarlett Johansson. You make a list of name actresses, you send it out, you don’t really know if they ever read it. After quite some time, my producer said, “Look, if we make the movie for less money, we can probably get this done and not have to try to rope in a name actress as if we were searching for Scarlett O’Hara.  It’s ridiculous.” So on Michael’s recommendation we went after Nina. She had this tremendous Broadway life that happened to her very quickly, so when they brought her name up, I asked, “Is she going to want to do it, or is she waiting for a starring role in a bigger movie?”  She read the script and really loved it, and met with me and Michael.  Like you say, I can’t imagine anyone else playing those parts now.  A wonderful thing about filmmaking is that once it’s done, it’s real.  Those two amazing actors are in my movie.  But it’s funny that along the way there are always so many bizarre iterations.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tom Gilroy (and Lili Taylor, too) on "The Cold Lands"

In Theaters

Tom Gilroy (and Lili Taylor, too) on The Cold Lands

(from Sag Harbor Online March 13, 2014)

Posted on 13 March 2014
ColdLandsGilroyToim Gilroy Photo: Danny Peary

The Cold Lands fits my category Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor.  Tom Gilroy’s (pictured, left) second feature, which he wrote and directed, opens Friday in New York at the IFC Center, and there is nothing else like it in the city.  In the film’s production notes Gilroy (who has acted in numerous films) says he admires “people who live ‘off the grid,” and that these people on the margins and off the map are “rarely shown clearly and concretely…I wanted to make a film that was a snapshot of America right now, and wrote it to take place in the town where I live in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.  I looked around me and the story emerged from the places and some of the people I see all the time.”  Here’s the brief synopsis of Gilroy’s story in the production notes: “When his fiercely self-reliant mother [Nicole, played by Lili Taylor] dies unexpectedly, eleven-year-old Atticus [newcomer Silas Yelich] is wary of the authorities and flees deep into the forests of his Catskills home.  His sheltered off-the-grid childhood is over, and a new life on the move has begun.  As Atticus wanders the woods in a daze, relying on whatever food and shelter he can find, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur. [He has conversations with his dead mother, he pets a white deer.]  When he encounters Carter [Peter Scanavino], a scruffy, pot-smoking drifter who lives out of his car and sells necklaces [he makes himself] at music festivals, Atticus latches on.  The two form a wary alliance, and their dependence upon each other grows, neither is quite sure he is making the right decision [to stay together].”  On Monday in Manhattan, I had this conversation with Gilroy about his movie.  Following it is a very brief conversation I had with Lili Taylor, one of my favorites.
Danny Peary: I read that in the production notes that you and Lili Taylor have known each other a long time.
Tom Gilroy: Lili, Michael Imperioli, and I formed a theater company together in New York City about twenty years ago.  There were many actors from that company who are in The Cold Lands–John Ventimiglia, Nick Sandow, Andrew van Dusen, and Maggie Low.  I guess the last thing we did was Hamlet in 2000. Lili played Ophelia, Jared Harris played Hamlet, and his dad, Richard Harris, played the ghost.  Before and after, for a year, we did Hamlet, I was making my first film, Spring Forward, and since then I have been content to do only film work.
DP: It’s been a long time between features.
TG: Not for the lack of trying. Paul Mezey, who produced The Cold Lands [with Andrew Goldman] and Maria Full of Grace and Beasts of the Southern Wild, and I were trying to get a movie going on a daily basis after Spring Forward. I wrote several scripts and they were sent to various places and optioned and set-up to begin shooting, only to fall apart.
DP: But you got this one made. How long did this take?
TG: I started working on this one almost a year before we shot it.
DP: Did you know the title while you were writing the script, or did the material dictate that you call it The Cold Lands?
TG:  I was already writing it. Originally I was going to call it something like Run Away Split, a beekeeping term.  Lili and I live within half an hour of each other in upstate New York, and right before you turn off to her exit, there’s a rest stop. It’s just a place where you can pee in the woods, make a phone call, and stretch your legs. There’s a blue sign there that you can see in the film following the end credits. It’s one of these signs you see all over New York and the Northeast; it’s yellow and blue and states the historical information about the region. And what it explains is that this area was called “The Cold Lands” in the 1600s.  If you lived in the city, you referred to upstate as “The Cold Lands,” and often it was considered a place where people would disappear. If you got into some trouble down here–maybe you got somebody pregnant or the police was looking for you–your family would say, “Oh, he’s gone up to “The Cold Lands.’”
DP: I think your story could have been set in the 17th Century before there was colonization, or the 1800s and it could have been a Western, with Atticus and Carter riding horses on trails through the woods rather than riding in a car on paved roads.
TG: That’s part of what we were trying to get at.  We wanted it to be contemporary, but also be contextualized so it could have taken place 100 or 200 years ago.  A log cabin without electricity could be in any century. The drifter who makes necklaces could just as easily have been a tinker. That was all deliberate, because I wanted to dig a little into the on-going American mythology of pioneers. That’s why in the opening scene Nicole teaches her son Atticus about the Anti-Rent War that took place up there in the 1700s.
DP: Do people know about it there?
TG: In my time they do. All over Rensselaerville, where I shot the movie, there are signs that say this battle took place there. Nicole takes her kid to the actual place.
DP: Are you from there?
TG: I grew up in Richfield, Connecticut, which is where I shot Spring Forward, but I live in Brooklyn and been living in Rensselaerville.
DP: In the movie, we hear that the missing Atticus is from Richfield.  Did you mean Richfield Springs, New York?
TG: Actually it takes place in Rensselaerville but I called it Richfield in the movie, like the town in Connecticut.  I don’t even know why.
DP: You talk about this film being meditative and transcendental. I’m sure that’s what you wanted because much of it is set in the woods, and Atticus communes with nature. No doubt that was important to you when making this film.
TG: Not only important to me but important to American culture. If you look at the transcendentalists like Thoreau, Walden, Emerson, and the Hudson Valley painters, there’s a culture very rich in nature and spiritualism in the Northeast. I really wanted this film to resonate with American themes. And from a filmmaking standpoint–as films become more and more digitally shot, or everything is handheld and looks like it was made in two days–I wanted to film something that looked a little slower, a little more meditative, and a little more like art.
DP: With the illusions Atticus has of his dead mother and other unusual images in the woods, are you using alienation techniques so viewers will say, “This isn’t real, it’s a movie!” or do you want us to see it as real?
TG: It’s supposed to be real, but real can look like a Judd Apatow movie, too. This is real the way that I see the world, and because the kid’s a dreamy kid, there’s a dreamy aspect to it.  This was all consciously done on my part.  It’s certainly real in that much of what we see is happening and what Atticus sees he believes is real.  I don’t know if he actually sees a white deer, but he believes he does. It’s all deliberately presented in a way that allows you to project what you want onto it.
DP: Do you relate to this boy? Is this boy somebody you could have been under similar circumstances?
TG: I think in many ways, a lot of men could have been this boy. Part of this story is a young boy trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in. On a larger scale, I was interested in seeing the boy as a metaphor for the United States. We have come from this pioneer history, and if you look at what’s going on in the United States, in a lot of ways it seems to be dissolving.  States want to secede from the Union, people don’t want to pay taxes, we don’t want to have public schools, we don’t want to have unemployment, we don’t want to have social services…So who’s going to walk through all the rubble after it collapses? It’s going to be a young boy or a young girl, and that person is America. Make your own decision about what you want to happen to them while they walk through the rubble, but in general, that’s what the movie deals with metaphorically.
DP: I know you admire Nicole because she has such good intentions and does teach Atticus about the world, her good values, and how to be self-reliant, but is she 100% a good mother?
TG: Is there such a thing as 100% a good mother?  That’s the real question. I’m certainly not interested in presenting her or anyone else as an ideal.
DP: Is Atticus prepared for the world without her? Or, if she didn’t die, would he have had a good upbringing through his teenage years?
TG: Either. He was having a good upbringing and that would have continued.  On his own, he’s a creative, trusting, intuitive, industrious, self-reliant, smart child. And that’s a lot more than you can say about a lot of kids, you know? One thing’s for sure–he’s not going to spend three hours a day watching VH1. Instead, he’s going to be swimming or imagining or building beehives, or learning how to make necklaces, and all that’s pretty damn good.
DP: I thought it was important that you have him go to a party, because otherwise we’d think he was lonely and completely isolated because of his upbringing.
TG: Oh, absolutely, it’s also why I have him play the trombone.  He’s in the town orchestra.  His mother also mentions that he goes swimming at the lake in the summer, which is what a lot of the kids do in my town.  That’s where kids who are home-schooled meet the kids who attend school, and all the kids get to know each other as they swim and dive and play and hang out.
DP: If Nicole had money and could afford lights all the time, would they still have what she calls “Pioneer Night?” Or is she just trying to make a good thing out of a bad thing?
TG: It’s both. She’s definitely, like all mothers, trying really hard to making the most out of their circumstances.  When we used to go on road trips, my mother would create games for us, like counting how many red or blue or white cars go by. Those games were fun and didn’t cost a penny.  Nicole’s clearly a smart woman who she chooses that they live the way they do. It’s not I’m poor, I have to live this way. She has taken a very extreme stance about how she wants to live in a modern society. People may disagree with the organic food or the lack of electricity, but underneath all that is the idea that she stands for something really important with which to imbue her child.
DP: They receive food from Maggie [Maggie Low], the social worker and church lady. Including meatloaf.  I was surprised they eat meat.
TG: They don’t. Well, he can eat meat if he wants.  Actually, now that I think about it, Nicole does eat meat, too.  That was Lili’s decision. She didn’t think we should make it hippy-dippy because plenty of people up there will eat any food that you give them, and why not meat? It’s like in Beasts of the Southern Wild–we’re all meat. She definitely believes that. And that meatloaf was free.
DP: From what we see of Maggie, I’d think she could be overbearing but she is a nice person. So why is Nicole so defiant around her?
TG: Nicole’s problem with Maggie is that she’s terrified that she is going to take away Atticus because of the way they live.
DP: Even if Nicole’s still alive?
TG: Yep. Nicole is a person who lives off-the-grid and home-schools her kid, and is very suspicious of consumer culture and mainstream culture.  Then there’s this other woman, a  wonderful woman who works for the Health Department—whose part was much larger in the original script—who has concerns about Nicole.  She reads Maggie as being an interference and a threat. She could show up at the house and say, “This is an unfit home and I’m taking the child.” That would terrify a lot of people.  She wants to raise her kid with her own values.
DP: I wasn’t sure if Nicole realizes that she might die at any minute from her diabetes.
TG: I think she knows that she’s ill but doesn’t imagine that happening. What typically happens when women of that age have diabetes is they have two heart attacks. They have heart disease, which often is not detected until they have a small heart attack. Even then they might confuse it with mismanagement of their sugar intake.  Nicole doesn’t have healthcare so can’t seek medical advice. The second heart attack kills her.
DP: Was there a father figure in the past?
TG: No.  He’s not around, and I didn’t want a father that to be an element of the story. I wanted there to be many ways one can read into it, including how Nicole ended up alone with the boy. He’s clearly her biological kid, but I don’t really think her biological father is germane to the story.  What matters is that she’s independent and the kid has nobody but her.
DP: I think it is germane that there is no father figure because when Carter appears, Atticus gravitates toward him so easily.  I’m sure he sees Carter as a father figure or a older-brother figure.
TG: Right, but I don’t think any of that has any bearing on who the actual father was. It’s the absence of the father that’s key to Atticus’s seeking out and feeling natural with Carter.  He’s hungry for a natural kind of bond.
DP: The illusion of Nicole disappears at the exact moment that Carter appears. Is that intentional?
TG: Yes, she’s supplanted by Carter.
DP: And she has a smile, right?
TG: Yeah. Well, she’s accepting. She realizes that she’s going away at a time her kid keeps rebelling so this is her last chance to get it right. When she sees Carter, she is thinking I have to go away, I’ve done my job and I have to resign myself to letting this happen. On the heels of that, Atticus meets Carter.
DP: You could have made Carter a female and a new mother or older-sister figure, but it’s important the new character is a man, right?
TG: Yeah. It was just intuitive to make Carter a male and a little bit more of an outlaw. It never would have dawned on me to make him a female.
DP: It is, I think, instinctive on your part.  There has been an absence of a male figure in Atticus’s life so you want to see how he interacts with a male.
TG: Carter came out of my love for The Hardy Boys and books like that. A young boy sees a guy like Carter and he seems like such a cool ideal.  Atticus thinks, “Wow, this guy’s got all the freedom you could possibly want.”  Of course, that’s not true and because Atticus showed up he’s going to relinquish that freedom he does have to take on the new responsibility.  You’ve got this adult guy saying, “I’ve got to give up my freedom to take care of this kid,” and the kid thinking, “This guy’s really free so I’m going to hang out with him.”
DP: Is Carter good for Atticus, and is Atticus good for Carter?
TG: Outside of any kind of consideration of the law, they are good for each other.
DP: Well, the law would probably assume that Carter’s not taking care of an underage boy but abducting him.
TG: Right.  Spiritually, Atticus is absolutely a great thing for Carter.  As for what Carter is to Atticus, as the writer I deliberately set up their relationship to reveal the biases of the person watching the movie. I personally think Carter is awesome. I have a couple of nephews, young men in my life, and I try to be their Carter, in some ways.  From some strict moralistic or ethical mainstream perspective, Carter’s a disaster. He smokes pot, curses all the time, lives out of his car, lives hand-to-mouth. And now he is a fugitive because he has this boy in his car.  If you are upset by all these things, what do you suggest Carter do?  Should he turn Atticus into a crumbling social system?  Or should we be optimistic and–this is coming out of an American tradition of rebelliousness–believe that the kismet of these two people meeting is actually a positive thing?  My dad believes the former should be done, I believe the latter.
DP: The real great part is, of course, that Carter’s gay.
TG: I’m making a point for sure.  The gender identification of either adult, Nicole and Carter, is open to interpretation. If you notice, Carter’s very flirtatious to the woman that buys the necklace from him.
DP: But that’s his way of selling a necklace. He’s a sweet guy.  He forgets her and goes swimming naked with guys right after that.
TG: The nudity aspect has more to do with his just being a wild man. But I’m fine with people reading that he’s gay, that doesn’t make any difference to me.
DP: Well, I think it’s very important. I think it’s brave that you put thirteen-year-old Atticus sleeping next to the naked Carter and there’s nothing to worry about. Some conservative viewers would expect sexual molestation to take place every time.
TG: Right.  The kid has no choice but to sleep next to him. Once that evening transpires and nothing has happened, there’s a real bond there. It was a real test, and nothing happened. Then of course you see Carter twelve hours later and he’s nude with these other guys and taking Ecstasy and you go, “Oh, he’s kind of a nudist.”
DP: Well, I didn’t think that. I thought he was just gay and I thought that was a great thing because you’re making the point gay men can be trusted around boys.
TG: Thanks. That’s all deliberate. Peter Scanavino has a really great, non-threatening, non-traditional masculinity. He really nailed the character. He’s attractive to men and women.  I have gay and straight friends who’ve seen the movie and just go, “Wow, this guy’s a babe.” He’s not macho or aggressive, yet he’s very masculine, and obviously smart and creative. All that was really important to me.
DP: Could you see Liev Schreiber’s ex-con in Spring Forward going off with Atticus?
TG: I think that character would be a little bit more wary of his influence on a boy. He is so insecure.  He might think he isn’t equipped to help Atticus and try to find someone else to help him.  Carter makes the decision to help.  When he’s in the laundromat and looking at Atticus, he just goes, “Okay, I’ll do it.”  It’s deliberately ambivalent at that point, you don’t know what he’s really thinking, but for me, he makes a firm decision, thinking “I gotta do this.  I can’t continue to be completely wild. Fate has dropped this kid into my lap and I’ve got to deal with it. Whether it’s a stray dog or an orphan kid, I’ve got to do it.”
DP: We’re watching the movie and we’re waiting for the kid to break down and weep.
TG: He does a little bit at the very end.
DP: But that’s the first time he’s really laughing…
TG: It comes out of crying.  He trusted Carter and he thinks Carter left him behind.  When Carter returns he stops crying and laughs.
DP: But what about not crying after his mother’s death?
TG: Well, I talked to several people who lost their parents as young kids, including my girlfriend who lost her mom when she was five, and none of them cried. They cried when there were adults and thought back about it.  At the time, they thought about what they should do but they didn’t really know what the deaths meant. How do you define what forever is to a 12-year-old?  It’s just something that happens to Atticus and then he’s thinking about surviving and then he’s thinking that he wants to be with Carter.  When he thinks Carter leaves him and he believes all his doubts about Carter were true, he cries. Then Carter comes back and makes him laugh.  “Yeah, I am a dick.”
DP: That’s brotherly.
TG: Of course.
DP: Talk about the ending.  Roads are always metaphors in movies.  It’s either open-ended and anything can happen or a dead end is on the other side of the hill.
TG: First of all, the road movie is a traditional American genre. All good endings are really just the beginning of the next part of the story.
DP: I’m waiting for the police in the next part of the story.
TG: The police are part of it.
DP: Carter’s decision could to get them both into a lot of trouble…or not.
TG: There have been plenty of bad cases, where somebody abducts a boy for 30 years.  But I think this is a pretty good circumstance. Carter’s going to have to send the kid to school, lie about a birth certificate and a lot more, and pretend he’s the father. There’s not certain disaster right around the corner, at least in my way of looking at it. I’m certain Rush Limbaugh could watch it and say this is a disaster!  He’d think it’s going to be like that ad they had going around on the Internet that shows if you skip school you’re going to step on a land mine on a beach and blow up. But I see this as a positive, spiritual coming together, like Huck and Jim or Kerouac and Moriarty.
DP: In terms of writing, you seem to like two-character scenes.
TG: I don’t know why other than my training was in theater, and that tends to have two-person scenes most of the time.  They’re the easiest form of conflict. Spring Forward had two people in every scene, and there would be the intrusion of a third character. That’s just instinct I guess on my part. My next movie will be about a group of women, so there will be lots of scenes with multiple characters.
DP: Talk about Silas Yelich. When you go into acting like he did, you expect a lot of talking, but Atticus is a quiet kid.
TG: Silas is my neighbor. For a year before we made the movie, he came to my house every two weeks for a couple of hours, and we would do acting exercises and improv.  I taught him how to cheat for the camera, what makes a scene work, what conflict is, what an objective is, all of that. So by the end of the year, he became a very instructive, creative actor.  He knew his lines, but he was also aware that if somebody changed a line you didn’t have to stop but could work around it.  He was 11 or 12 when he did the movie, now he’s 13 or 14. He has grown a foot and is very handsome and athletic, and is an Abercrombie and Fitch model. He doesn’t look at all like the kid in the movie, but I really wanted to capture that awkward moment between childhood and adolescence, where you’re neither/nor, and it’s a very formative time for young people. I wanted to capture two weeks of that in somebody’s life, and I found this boy and his family was willing to let me do that.
DP: Lili Taylor accepted the role halfway into your first sentence describing the character of Nicole. She did it out of friendship, but why did you know she was right for the part? Is she just right for anything?
TG: Right now, Lili and Nicole are inseparable to me.  Lili did so much to create that character.  Spring Forward was not one second of improv, everything was written down, every shot, every move. This movie has a much more organic feel to me. I was telling Lili about the story, and she says, “Okay, that’s me.” I’m thinking, “Okay. Why not have Nicole be Lili?”
DP: And what did she bring?
TG: Well, she brought an incredible understanding of parenting. She is a parent. And Lili lives up there in that part of the world, and she’s very self-reliant, really into nature, really into birds.
DP: Did Silas and Lili connect?
TG: Yeah, like I said, I worked with him for a year so he knew who Lili was. I don’t think he ever saw one of her movies, but Lili came up to my house and they just hung out for an afternoon, got ice cream. Lili then went to his house with him and I stayed home. He lives on a small farm, so he introduced her to his sheep, ducks, rooster, chickens, and his cat.  And that was Lili’s way in with him. It wasn’t let’s discuss the movie, at all.  He knew what she was doing and she obviously knew what she was doing, so they just kind of spent the afternoon as she did it.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALili Taylor  Photo: Brad Balfour
A Quick Chat with Lili Taylor
Danny Peary: Atticus is showing signs that he’s about to enter his rebellious years, just as Nicole dies.  Do you think she was good mother and that she and her son would have an easy time together if she didn’t die?
Lili Taylor (pictured, left): It’s easy to judge a parent and be critical.  I think she’s a “good enough” mother to Atticus.  Kids change, rebellious or not, but at the end of the day I think they would get past the rough times.  They would manage.
DP: If they had money enough for electricity, do you think she’d have a “Pioneer Night” in which they make due without lights?
LT: I think she’d want to do it anyway.  I think it’s important to her because it’s a way to teach him her values.  She feels grateful for what they do have and wants him to feel the same.
DP: When Nicole is working as a cleaning lady in an office building, she looks at herself in the mirror.  Is she thinking she might die and is worrying about what would happen to Atticus?
LT: I’m not sure she’s thinking she’ll die, but maybe she is.  She is thinking that she doesn’t feel well and that makes her worry about her son. She’s not going to get better because she rejects modern medicine.  If she trusted modern medicine I think she’d still be around. It could have saved her.
DP: The last time we see her she’s dead and is now an illusion of Atticus’s.  She smiles and disappears just as Carter appears and takes his place in her son’s life.  Did she smile because she knew Atticus would be in good hands or because she was proud of him for being able to survive in the woods after all she has taught him?
LT: I think she smiles because she’s proud of him.   I don’t think she’s sure about Carter. She has such strong feelings for her son and wants him to get along with Carter.  Of course, remember that she is Atticus’s illusion and he is modifying what she says and her expressions so that he can believe he gets her approval to go off with Carter.
DP: You are on a hot streak with the smash hit The Conjuring and a sequel in the works, the TV show Almost Human, a new play, and Blood Ties soon to be released.  How does The Cold Lands fit into all that you’re doing?
LT: I think it’s a beautiful, brave movie.  I’m glad Tony wanted me to do it because I love working with those filmmakers who have strong visions.

"Winter's Tale" Heats Up the Winter

Playing in Theaters

Winter's Tale Heats Up the Winter

(from Sag Harbor Online 2/21)


I’m disappointed that “Winter’s Tale,” writer-director Akiva Goldsman’s adaptation of Mark Helprin’s epic romantic fantasy has been getting mediocre reviews, especially ones that say the film has no heart.  It’s not for everyone but I recommend that you catch it before it vacates the UA East Hampton 6 Cinema because Goldsman’s “love letter to his late wife” is as heartfelt a movie as there has been in some time.  Not only is Goldsman’s tale of a burglar (Colin Farrell as Peter Lake) and dying young woman (Downton Abby alum Jessica Brown Findlay as  Beverly) who fall in love at first sight in an alternate-universe New York City of 1915 about love, but also it defines it.  It a love capable of miracles, including breaking the boundaries of time—it’s the type of love Goldsman truly believes exists.  The second part of the film, in a modern but still a mythic New York, is a bit conventional, but the first part may cast a spell over you.  Goldsman doesn’t explain this world, and noone who lives there questions it’s fairytale nature—including a flying white horse with wings and a villain (Russell Crowe, who starred in the Goldsman-scripted A Beautiful Mind) whose face becomes monstrous when he does his brutal deeds—but it’s lovely to look at and is certainly a magical place where miracles can happen and true love can flourish and defeat evil.  For the Australian magazine FilmInk I recently attended a junket for the film and got to have the following exchanges with Goldsman and four members of his terrific cast: Farrell and Findlay together, Jennifer Connolly (whose single mother Virginia is part of the modern story) and a long time favorite of mine, Eva Marie Saint (who plays Beverly’s sister Willa in the modern sequence).
Akiva Goldsman and cover of source novel
Danny Peary: You’ve been writing scripts for many years. How was it directing for the first time?
Akiva Goldsman: Doing the directing was exactly what I imagined, but the rest of it was so much more challenging that I literally have been calling all my director friends [whom I wrote scripts for] and going, “I love you, I’m sorry.” It was really cool directing but significantly more challenging.  Because directing for me, anyway, is a collision of what you imagine in the real world–as a writer you sit there and say confidently “It will be like this!”–and the truth of what it can be, and you have to wrestle with it every day.  I think it’s all a happy accident.   Not to be glib, but I think it’s all mostly attempting to accommodate limitations. I never understood before that that’s what directing is. It’s not your imagination, which writing is. So how do you marry those two things?  I think it’s actually super fun, and when you direct what you’ve written it’s a different process than when you direct what someone else wrote..  I would not know how to direct something that I didn’t write. Somebody once said that directing is actually the “greatest hits” of all your mistakes. Finally, when you edit, what you have is all that you have. It’s unlike when you’re writing and you have everything available to you and can change any scene the next day to what you really want to say.  That’s why I’ve always said that short of facing an impossible deadline, we writers should never hand in anything that’s bad because we have endless opportunities to make it better. If we’re handing in something bad, we are making the mistake of thinking it’s wonderful when it’s not—or we’re just being lazy. Because when you turn it in there’s no going back; with directing more than any job, there’s no going back.
DP: In the film’s production notes, you talk about taking many years to adapt Mark Helprin’s long novel.  You say, “While I was in the process of trying to crack the book, I had an unexpected loss.” I’m sure your ability to “crack” the secret to adapting it properly wasn’t only about shortening the story but figuring out what the film should be.
AG: That’s right…
DP: I don’t want to ask you what your personal loss was, but did that help you approach the subject?
AG: …My wife died….She died very suddenly at a time I was trying to figure out how to adapt the book.  I’d loved the book since the 1980s, I thought it was an amazing book. And then Rebecca died, and I was sort of in the “I’m-not-doing-anything-ever-again” mode.  But I needed something that seemed to promise what I needed to believe, which was there was reasonableness behind this senseless loss.  So I then knew how to finish it. I had to do this.  Winter’s Tale is a weird object because it’s an accumulation of favors. Everybody who did it did it as a favor to me, they’re almost all people I knew. The movie cost just north of 40 million dollars, but Warner Bros. budgeted it at 80 million and that was the conservative estimate. I just literally called in every favor I had, twenty years’ worth, so now I have no favors left. It’s a Hail Mary to faith. It’s the hope that stuff adds up in the end.
DP: Also in the production notes you state, “One of the major themes of the story is that essentially we all have a destiny, we all have a miracle inside of us, and it’s for one person alone.” Are you saying that carrying out a “miracle inside us” is our destiny?
AG: That’s the idea.
DP: So doing a miracle and our destiny are the same thing. Why is that an important theme for you?
AG: I just like the idea–and I think it’s a theme in Helprin’s book–that we sort of go through life saving or being saved, on a carousel of meaning.  How do you find meaning in life?  Having access to finding meaning is to me very interesting.
DP: This film means a lot for you. Do you think you’ll see your career as before and after you made it?
AG: It’s a before-and-after for my life; I have no idea about my career. You know what I mean?  I didn’t write it for any of the same reasons that I wrote my other scripts, other than A Beautiful Mind, which was a lot about my childhood and also came out of a place of real emotion. This film was just not designed to make a lot of money, it was just something that I needed to do.
DP: I think Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay were perfectly cast; you believe their clever, brave, and beautiful characters fall in love at first sight and that their love is true, magical, and eternal.
AG: What happened between them on camera was very truthful to me. They had a real spark. They had to. It had nothing to do with me whatsoever, it was just good luck. Yes, you can coach them a little bit here and there, but they are both lights. Colin is this roguish character, but you can tell what’s underneath—it’s like opening venetian blinds and having the light come in. He’s unbelievable. She’s unbelievable, too, like a spotlight. I read a lot of young women for Jessie’s role, but she was amazing. Colin and Jessica together was a vision of wonder. It’s very evocative when you see people connect to each other that way.
DP: I’m guessing they both understood your definition of love.
AG: I hope we all have an idea of love, the idea of first love, anyway. Colin had to understand a deeper idea of love as Peter goes through the movie, from the first act to the third act.  In regard to Jessica playing Beverly–I always say that the best characters are those in the third act.  She never actually pays the piper and there’s something quite beautiful and pure about that.
DP: Why do you think Peter has to fall in love with Beverly in the past in order to save someone in the present?
AG: I think that for me is still something to figure out.  Love is more complicated than we imagine it to be, and love is more complicated than first love. There is a line –and I can’t remember where I first heard it—that I used to say very quickly: “Happy endings destroy the happiness you had.” I’ve decided that’s not true. We just need to redefine what a happy ending is. When I wrote this movie, people kept saying, “Can’t you not film the part of the movie after Beverly dies? Just make a movie about Peter and Beverly and not have her die.  Now, that’s a love story.” Yeah, but it’s not a grown-up love story. For me, that’s not the truth of love. I don’t know what the truth of love is yet, but I know it’s more complicated than that, and that’s what I’m trying to figure out.
DP: Twice Peter stands next to a tombstone of Arnold and Betty Angel.  Did that have any special meaning?
AG: No.
DP: Really?  Well, another thing I wondered about is Willa’s age in the modern scenes. How old is Willa?
AG: I think she’s probably north of a hundred if you do the math.
DP: Was it intentional that you made her impossibly old?
AG: Yeah. My response is, how does Peter’s horse fly?
DP: How did you get Eva Marie Saint to be in your fantasy movie?  Was she a friend doing you a favor?
AG: She is not someone I knew or had any history with, but I admired her. So I sent her the screenplay, and amazingly, she said, “Let’s have lunch.” We talked for a while, then she just reached out and took my hand and said, “This will be fun.”

winterstaleleadshorseColin Farrell & Jessica Brown Findlay

Danny Peary: There are many movies about love, but this film actually defines love. How do you see love through your characters, which is how Akiva Goldsman obviously sees it?
Colin Farrell: Love should really be defined through each person’s personal experience and personal expression resulting from that. This love story was Mark Helprin’s first, then it became Akiva’s interpretation of a particular aspect of Helprin’s novel. Akiva  put the love of his heart and the love of his experience and the love of his pain into this script at a time in his life when he was going through a lot.  Working on his script was a great source of healing for him. So with that in mind, I was just kind of like a bottom-feeder, feeding off of his experience and his definition of love as something that is ethereal and transcends the physical, quotidian world, and somehow transcends the linear aspect of time in this world. But I think trying to find love in one particular way or a few particular ways, is impossible. Based on his experience, Akiva brought to life Peter and Beverly–and how they meet and what they mean to each other—and they represent one of many possible definitions of love.
Jessica Brown Findlay: I think these two people meeting in the way they do and at the moment they do, shows, I suppose, that they’re experiencing a certain kind of love.  Because before then, they each had not necessarily a lack of hope but more of an acceptance that true love would never happen in their lives. The kind of love that we see happen to them is incredibly beautiful and exciting because they are two people who thought that wasn’t going to be part of their lives. If you see the film, you know the love is there, it is a very specific kind of love.
DP: A fairytale love or a real love?
JFB: I suppose if you take into account the qualities of the film, both of those elements are together.  There are the realities of love for mortals—things happen and change, nothing will stay the same forever.  So there’s a logic to that and a science.  But a fairytale love can exist if you believe in something that defies logic.  It’s believing in something else–what if it could be magical?  I think the love of Peter and Beverly combines both the real love mortals feel and the fairytale love Akiva believes in and we’d all like to believe in.
DP: A theme in Titanic is that if two people are in love, they can live a lifetime in just a few hours.  Does that apply to Peter and Beverly in Winter’s Tale?
CF: Yeah, very much so.  But if you live each day as if it’s your last, there’s a bit of a wormhole there.  It’s a hectic pace to live at so you may not live very long.
JBF: I suppose once Beverly meets Peter Lake, she starts living for the first time. Before she met him she was merely existing.  You’re supposedly alive if you are breathing in and out.  That’s how life is defined. But is that really living?  Once she meets him, she’s a bit like a butterfly in that she doesn’t have long to live but she’s really out there living properly.  What a gift that is for Peter to give her–it’s a beautiful part of the story, I think.
DP: Jessica, when you first read the script, and came to the part fairly early on when Beverly dies, did you start flipping through the rest of the script to see if she reappears?
JBF (laughing): I thought what? Well, obviously I read the whole script because I thought it important for me to know the whole story–if anyone asked me about it I wanted to have something to say!  I suppose that even though Beverly is no longer on the page and is not in any later scenes physically, she is somehow still there.  She is relevant to everyone’s lives and still living in a place in history.  Stuff from the past doesn’t really disappear, buildings made by people who are no longer here are still standing.  It always carries on through time. So I think Beverly’s in the whole movie.
DP: What appealed to you most about the script for Winter’s Tale?
JBF: It could have been cynical but it wasn’t.  That’s what made it really cool.
CF: It lacked cynicism and was so throw-back and old-fashioned.  It wasn’t hip in any way and there was something so pure about it.  And sentimental.    I’d never done anything like it and I believed completely in my character’s journey.  I just really loved it.  That was why I did it.

winterstaleconnellyJennifer Connelly as Virginia
Danny Peary: Did you make Winter’s Tale because of your friendship with Akiva Goldsman?
Jennifer Connolly: I’ve been friends with Akiva since we did A Beautiful Mind together thirteen or fourteen years ago. I’ve been hearing about this project for many years, how he was adapting Mark Helprin’s book and developing it.  It was always very important to him, so the first thing I thought of when he asked me to be in it was not about how I could play my part but how happy I was that Akiva was getting his film made, that it was finally coming together for him. I guess he always had me in mind because when he asked me to play Virginia, he said he thought of her as this girl with dark hair and green eyes, who was a mom and lived in an apartment on the Hudson River.  And I was like, “Uh…that’s me.” So I got the part and finally read the book, and really liked it.
DP: Virginia shows up two-thirds of the way through the movie, in the modern scenes. Is this the latest that a character of yours has ever made her first appearance in a movie?
JC: I don’t know!  Is it?
DP: I think so.   Virginia is actually an odd character to play because the movie is about the everlasting love of Peter and Beverly, so Virginia can’t fall in love with Peter and he can’t fall in love with her.  Since their relationship can’t go anywhere, was that hard to play?
JC: No.  I don’t think having a romance with Peter is really her purpose in the film. When Peter, the protagonist of the film, is lost, she’s a link to his past and to his destiny. I think that’s really her job in the film.
DP: But isn’t it also Virginia’s role in the film to be us?  Isn’t she the only character who, like us, sees impossible things that she has trouble believing?  Isn’t that her role?
Q: I think potentially, as well. Of course she only comes in quite late in the film.
DP: All the characters in the 1915 sequence accept the fantasy world in which they exist, asking for no explanations, but then we come into the present and the characters live in what is essentially the real world we viewers live in.  And fantasy things happen here, too. There aren’t a lot of characters in the movie, so Virginia is only character Akiva has who asks the questions we’d ask.
JC: Right, I think that’s an interesting interpretation.
DP: Do your two new films, Winter’s Tale and Noah, approach miracles differently?
JC: I couldn’t think of two more different films. I don’t even know how to draw a comparison between those films.
DP: I can tell you the big difference.
JC: Tell me.
DP: In Noah, God is the miracle worker, in Winter’s Tale, it’s Peter who is capable of a miracle, so it’s a man-made miracle.
JC: Right!
DP: On the two sets, were you feeling that both directors had a grandiose vision of miracles and man and that you were making something really special?
JC: Well, yes, because of the subjects of the films. Noah, certainly, is a bigger-budgeted movie with a different scope than Winter’s Tale.  It is very much a spectacle, so Darren Aronofsky wanted it to be epic in its scale–which I think he accomplished.  Everyone always wants to make a special movie, right? Everyone’s always putting all their resources into every film.
DP: But did you sense you were accomplishing something unique in both films?
JC: Honestly, it was hard for me to make that kind of assessment when things were going on. There are so many moving parts, especially in movies like this, that are complicated and have many different sides to them. Frankly, while making Winter’s Tale for the majority of the film, I wasn’t often witness to what they were filming, so it was a little hard to gauge what the result would be.

winterstalesaintEva Marie Saint as Willa
Danny Peary: I’ve been a huge fan of yours since the fifties, when you came to movies from theater…
Eva Marie Saint: …and from live television, which was like theater.
DP: Back then, fantasy films were B movies and for kids.  So did you ever think you would appear in a fantasy film? Actually two fantasy films: Superman Returns in 2006 and now Winter’s Tale.
EMS: I actually never thought about it.  I played Superman’s mama. My best dream is I’m flying–don’t analyze it, I know what it means! So when I met the director, Bryan Singer, I said, “Superman is my son and he flies, so why can’t he teach me to fly and then we can have some scenes where we’re both flying?”  That was my dream.  When I met Akiva, I’d read parts of the book Winter’s Tale, which was written 30 years ago. It’s an 800-page book, and I remember skimming through it.  Although this is Akiva’s first directorial job, I knew he is a wonderful writer and I just had faith that he could do a good job directing it.  I guess he had faith that I could do it, too, because after that meeting, we decided to do it together.
DP: Did you ever ask Akiva why Willa is way over 100 years old? And still working! He says he knew that was impossible but he wanted it that way….
EMS (laughing): No, but playing her just made me feel young at 93!  I thought it was a miracle, but you do read about people living to 100 now, and still working.
DP: You briefly met Mckayla Twiggs, who plays the young Willa.  When aiming for consistency in the character, as a child and as an adult, was your reaching out with your hands to embrace Peter the major thing you learned the young Willa did in 1915?
EMS: Yeah, that revealed that my character had been the little Willa. Sometimes you really have to think through the movie because it’s not that obvious at times.
DP: The little Willa falls in love with Peter very quickly, which only a little kid can do.
EMS: She has a crush on him and loves him for loving her sister.  She still does in the present, when I play her. Willa was never jealous of Beverly because she was too young.
DP: What do you think this movie is really about?
EMS: It’s a love story and it’s kind of a mystery because not all the answers are that obvious. When I first saw it, I felt both sad and happy when it ended. I was sort of inspired by it and sad because of what happens to the two, harmless people played by Colin and Jessica.
DP: I think this movie is different from anything you’ve done. Do you feel the same?
EMS: The movie is not that easy at times, it really isn’t, because it takes such a turn.  I’d get lost a little bit, but then I’d catch up and understand it. It’s not that you have to bring something to this movie, you can just sit back and watch it and it’s a good experience, I think.  It is different, but I think it will find its audience because people are basically romantic, no matter how old or young they are.  I think they will find the love to be inspiring, and the fact that it takes place in New York City over 100 years is really fascinating. You have to really listen to what’s happening. I think it’s a great Valentine’s Day movie for all ages. I can’t see it being just for the young or just for the old. My husband and I saw it recently and we both were kind of teary-eyed.  I think it’s a wonderful, interesting film. Magical, strange, and beautiful.
DP: In Winter’s Tale kissing is tremendously important, because Beverly has never been kissed on the mouth before she meets Peter.  Even in their sex scene, kissing is emphasized.  I was reminded of perhaps the greatest kiss in movie history, that between you and Cary Grant as the camera spins around you in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
EMS: I have to tell you about that scene. Hitchcock choreographed it, we were on a train.  The space was so small and I was just thinking, “I hope I don’t step on Cary’s feet, and I hope he doesn’t step on my feet.”  That’s not what I should have been thinking. I’m from the Actors Studio, so I should have known that. But that’s all I’m thinking about.
DP: But it shouldn’t have been a worry because neither of you move; it’s just the camera’s moving around you two, right?
EMS: No, we moved a little bit, too.
DP: Wow, that’s a big secret.
EMS: The biggest secret is that the first time we shot the scene I was thinking about my feet the whole time.  Then the second time, I thought about Cary Grant.  He was adorable and I really kissed him.  The photographer taking stills for the studio was on a little ladder in the tight space with us. And as he was taking his photos of our lengthy kiss, he got so excited that he fell off the ladder! So we had to do it again, which was okay! Those crazy things happen.
DP: In terms of romance, Winter’s Tale is very romantic.
EMS: It’s very romantic.
DP: With the power of a kiss onscreen….
EMS: It’s incredible seeing Colin and Jessica in profile on the bed.  It is just so beautiful.  It is true love, and I think everybody has to react to that in the movie. That alone.

Cate Blanchett on Her Oscar-Winning Role

Blue Jasmine is on DVD

Cate Blanchett on Her Oscar-Winning Role

(from Sag Harbor Online March 5, 2014)
By Danny Peary;
Cate Blanchett’s selection as Best Actress was probably the least surprising moment at Sunday evening’s Academy Awards, a show full of predictability.  I knew half-way through Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine that the great actress would finally receive the Oscar that has eluded her.   How deserving she was.  Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance as a combination of Blanche Dubois and Ruth Madoff, a brittle, selfish, self-delusional New York socialite who loses everything but her knack for pretense after her unfaithful, unscrupulous financier husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested and she comes to stay with her down-to-earth sister, Ginger (the wonderful Sally Hawkins, who got a Best Supporting Actress nomination).  Prior to the film’s New York City release, Blanchett took part in a press conference with Peter Sarsgaard (whose rich politician falls for the dishonest Jasmine), Andrew Dice Clay (Ginger’s unsophisticated husband) and Louis C.K. (one of Ginger’s suitors after her breakup). Finally I am keeping my promise to post more of the conference. Below are the questions Blanchett was asked and her responses.  I note the one question I was able to pose in the crowded room, as well as my editorial annotations.
Q: Woody Allen said this was one of the rare cases when he wrote a part with a specific actor in mind.
Cate Blanchett: Is that true? He never told me. I just got a call from my agent saying that Woody had a script he’d like me to read.  So Woody and I spoke on the phone for about twenty-five minutes and he said, “Can I send it to you?”  I said, “Yes, I’d love to read it,” and he said, “Well, call me when you finish it.”  I read it straight away and thought it was brilliant. Then we spoke for about forty-five seconds and I agreed to do the film. I met him when he started doing camera tests in San Francisco.
Q: How was it working with him once shooting started?
CB: That first day was awful, just awful.  But it bonded all of us and made us want to do better the next day.  In the end, there’s an obvious reverence for Woody and his body of work, and I think the danger of that is the set can become a sacred place where people are sort of laying their offerings at his feet. Woody’s a brilliant dramatist, apart from being a filmmaker, and much of his direction is the script itself, which allowed him to get out of the way on the set, as he likes to do.  I actually found Woody to be really forthcoming.  When you ask him a question, he will give you an answer, and when you set up that dialogue it then becomes really enjoyable.  Then he felt free to say, “That was awful,” and I felt free to say, “Okay, then what are you after?”   I might suggest something and he might then say, “We will try that.”  So he was forced to direct me!
Q: Were you worried at all?
CB: I was worried.  Woody would always say to me, “The audience has already left the theater.”
Q: He’s famous for firing people.
CB: For firing people? You just assume it’s going to happen, but you make it to day thirteen and it’s going well, and then you make it to day twenty, and then it’s the end of the movie. It was like the Disabled Olympics.
Q: To play Jasmine, did you immerse yourself in the stories of people who’d been affected by the recent economic downturn?  Or did the character come from somewhere else?
CB: It’s a contemporary fable. In part, Woody catered to the zeitgeist—and who hasn’t followed the Madoff affair and doesn’t know the epic nature of that catastrophe?  There are thousands of stories he could draw from for Jasmine. Those reference points are there to be drawn upon and that’s what we did.  But also, there’s a strong line in the film from Jasmine to women in American theater who walk along the border between fantasy and reality. Like Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.  But in the end, you’re acting in a Woody Allen movie, knowing he’s created some of the most iconic characters in his previous films.  So you just play your part.
Q: Having starred in A Streetcar Named Desire at BAM, what are the similarities you see between Jasmine and Blanche Dubois?
CB: Woody never brought up Streetcar. But the other actors on set–a lot who worked in theater–were talking about the set-up [in which a broken woman comes to stay with her sister] being similar to Streetcar. There are parallels, but the texture, the tone, the rhythm, the character portrayals, and the details are quintessentially Woody Allen, not Tennessee Williams.
Danny Peary: While playing Jasmine, were you feeling sympathetic toward her and protective of her?  Or did you think, as I did, that she is deservingly—at least to a point–getting her comeuppance?
CB: I don’t think it’s particularly useful to fall in love with or detest your character. I think it’s up to the audience to have those feelings.  If you’re a bit sentimental, you’re not going to present any nuances. There are plenty of traits to be presented in Jasmine, but in the end her flaw is tragic. [Allen says her flaw is her inability to see what’s right in front of her—DP] Oedipus, for example, fucks up royally–he marries his mother, for God’s sake–but it’s a tragedy because he does it unwittingly. Jasmine is the unwitting agent of her own downfall, in a way. She is riddled with guilt and rage and fear. She’s on Xanax and drinks vodka. And then you add to that the situational aspect. Woody often places his characters in absurd situations. For instance the scene where Peter Sarsgaard’s character [Dwight] and Jasmine are in the car together is completely absurd.  But you have to play it honestly. The situation is real and the stakes are high.
Q: That’s the core of the tragedy, I think, the deception. [Each of the characters is being deceived, deceiving someone else, or deceiving themselves. It’s a dominant element in each story.-DP]
CB: That is what the film actually delves into quite deeply.  It’s what the characters choose not to see. It’s not just people on the Upper East Side, or people with unreal aspirations, but it’s also Ginger, played by Sally, who chooses not to see certain aspects of who Jasmine is. So, going back to the previous question about whether Jasmine is sympathetic or not, there are different ways of looking at A Streetcar.  So you can see that Blanche is a compulsive liar.  Or you can see that the world is set up to stamp out the poetry in her soul.  Is there something intensely dysfunctional about the world in which she finds herself?  Similarly, Jasmine doesn’t land in a San Francisco where there are a bunch of people who’ve got their shit together. Everyone has issues and everyone is fooling themselves to some degree and wanting to live fantasies that are better than their daily existences. Jasmine does this to a spectacular extent, but they all do it.
Q:  Talk about Jasmine and her reliance on fantasy and delusion.
CB: It’s interesting that there’s a level of delusion and fantasy that exists with Ginger as well as Jasmine.  They were both adopted into a lower middle-class family.  Jeanette changed her name to Jasmine, and there began the fiction.  She set about creating a fantasy world and being a princess.
Q: Talk about working with Sally Hawkins.
CB: I absolutely love Sally. She was an absolute ally, and for the first week we cried into our beers together because we thought we were really screwing this up.  She’s wonderful, wonderful actress and one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever worked with.  I don’t know if I would like to take her to a hotel and have sex with her, but many would.
Q:  Did you think about how the film will play to the slightly younger demographic that likes Frances Ha and HBO’s Girls, which both have younger anti-heroines?
CB (laughing): Younger than me, so to say?  Thanks, just rub it in.  Girls is one of my all-time favorite shows, so even though I am a geriatric, I still can connect to a younger crowd.  I think Woody’s genius is that while he seems to be writing about a particular set of people from a very particular socio-economic, intellectual background, he somehow writes them as Everyman and Everywoman. They are archetypical as well as being utterly unique and specific.  Even though his films are really personal, they resonate with a much broader audience.  That’s why people of all ages have loved his films for so many decades. Even though Blue Jasmine seems to be only about the demise or fall from grace of a privileged rich girl, there are a lot of people who have fantasized about what it means to live in America but see that it has blown apart in the last couple of years.  There’s a lot that young people can relate to.  There are people of all ages in the audience who have had to reshape their lives because of the economic circumstances that have been forced upon them.  Like Jasmine, they need to really look at who they are and what their aspirations are and decide how they are going to pit themselves against the world.
Q: Has achieving fame influenced your choice of movie roles?
CB: It doesn’t influence me. That’s why I haven’t made a movie in a while and have been out of this environment for nearly six years. That’s why I run a theater company with my husband in Sydney. I didn’t do Blue Jasmine because I was courting fame but to work with Woody and the cast.  I didn’t do it because it would get me anywhere in particular.  I did it for the experience.