Yeah, but I feel like she might not be allowed to be the person she is without her money.
Absolutely. That’s one of the things when you’re telling a story that has wealthy people in there, and for good reason, if that person’s not Mr. Burns then you just dismiss them. For me, I find it much more effective to bring powerful people down to earth by humanizing them and actually seeing their cracks and their flaws. That’s what I find compelling. That’s universal.
What I appreciate most about this film is that you’re in the room with people you probably never will be or if you are it’s under a very different set of circumstances because you’re not personally related to them.
Me too. That’s what made me want to tell the story. This is the only chance I could be in this room in this world with these people. I very much saw this film as an escape from my own life. Now, I’m really hoping it’s an escape for everybody else’s.
“Michelle was extremely precise and fastidious with notes and conversations about why characters were doing certain things.”
I saw the film for the first time at the New York Film Festival. What I’ve noticed this year is that a lot of — maybe it’s not the filmmakers themselves, but a lot of the teams around the films haven’t wanted to release films virtually in the festivals. So, I’m wondering why you chose to go that route. I’m glad that you did by the way. I really appreciate it.
For so many different reasons. I wound up being stuck in Los Angeles for the post of this film even though it’s a co-production between Ireland and Canada. So, I was supposed to do post-production in Ireland. Being so far away from my parents and friends and this city during the onslaught made me feel like pulling my hair out. So, when this opportunity to give something to New York City. To hopefully be part of the conversation and the culture that this city both breeds and shows and just keeping that alive. This part of making art is definitely not an essential service insofar as literally saving lives, but it’s been essential for a lot of us, especially in this city. So that was an opportunity for me just to be a part of the conversation even during this terrible insanity.
Something cool about French Exit is that you stressed rehearsal. A lot of people don’t get to do that these days. I just wanted to know how rehearsal helped build the finished product of the film.
Yeah, I’m one of those people that didn’t really get the opportunity to do a rehearsal before in my films. I also didn’t understand why you’d want it. I think I was someone who was very afraid of going to places that I found quite precious and I felt that it could potentially take away some of the accidents and exciting discoveries you can have on set. Because of the way this film worked out, the way that Michelle Pfeiffer worked, and the way that Lucas (Hedges) worked. the time span that we had between them signing on and actually shooting afforded me all this time. Not only to rehearse but to learn what rehearsal is.
They worked completely differently. Michelle was extremely precise and fastidious with notes and conversations about why characters were doing certain things. Not so much because she needed the answer for herself but she wanted to know that I had those answers, that I had thought it through. I wound up going through the script over and over again, asking myself every question that I could in anticipation of her asking me that question and me having an answer. It left me feeling like I could rise to the occasion of working with somebody who’s at this skill level. Which I never had.
With Lucas, who was in New York City, Michelle was in Los Angeles so I was kind of bouncing between the two. Lucas and I had this great time not only walk through the city and talk about films and life that would feed into Malcolm in French Exit. We were able to watch a lot of films together. That first conversation, we ended up at the Metrograph (movie theater here in NYC) that evening watching Kaurismaki’s La Vie de Boheme. Then from there, we watched King of Comedy twice, Then we watched Popeye, then Playtime, Harold & Maude. We would just keep watching films that would all in some way help the conversation of rehearsal.