Looking Through Lillian focuses on a woman who sees whoring herself out to a regular john once every week as her only option to stay afloat. She’s addicted to the pampering and especially the pay that her client gives her. But when a mysterious writer sweeps her off her feet, Lillian has to choose between her newfound love or the sleazy lifestyle that has thus far afforded her accustomed luxuries.
Just in time for its Los Angeles release, we spoke with director Jake Torem about his new film Looking Through Lillian.
What is Looking Through Lillian about?
It’s about three fucked up, dysfunctional people that are all searching for their own brand of happily ever after.
Okay, what is Looking Through Lillian really about?
It’s about believing in yourself. It’s about self respect and empowerment. It’s a low down, pretty, but gritty ride from the penthouse back to reality.
What inspired you to write the story for Looking Through Lillian?
Jade. We met, we clicked and we started writing together. We both wanted to do something really edgy and we both wanted to do something different. Really different. She had this completely wacked out premise for a character – who ended up being “Gene.” I wanted to do a movie about someone who lived in a box. I wanted to make a statement about the dark dysfunctional side of sex. I was in the process of trying to change – something that is so difficult for us all to do. I wanted my first film to have this Cassevettes feel to it. That’s how Lillian began…
How did you meet your co-writer/lead actress Jade Henham?
She was walking barefoot down Park Avenue and I was directing an off-broadway play in NYC. She was more the role than anyone I’d auditioned that day.
I understand that you two are, uh, involved. How did you two balance your relationship at home with your relationship at work on the set?
We’ve always kept things a mystery. I’m Butch, she’s Sundance. She goes her own way, and in the end we ultimately jump off the cliff together. There’s only one way life can work for either of us, we’re misfits.
The film deals with dark sexuality — in fact, they just seem too real. Were these based on any real-life experiences?
Dark film. Tough question. One of the things that I’m still trying to work out as an artist is that I have all these fucked up problems. And this is what I end up doing – I put them on this alternate plane, scramble them up, change all the faces and then I try desperately to work through it all. Now – I can’t vouch for Jade (who co-wrote) but I know that she’s had some real interesting friends and I mean REAL interesting. And I’ve known some people that like to get out there on the ledge – the highest one they can find. I dated one girl in NYC who used to dress a Stockbroker in the works. Shit, if you want to be honest – She dressed me up one night. As for the details, you’re not going to get those out of me.
How did you cast Sam Bottoms in the lead?
I was stuck in this shit hole of an “office” and Sam Bottoms shows up. It was so surreal that I thought he’d just gotten back from Apocalypse Now. I was like, “What the hell are you doing here?” So he says, “I read the title in the trades and I like it.” “I’m like, really??? Cool.” And then he asked if there was anything he’d be right for. I said, not really – and besides the only part he could possibly do all ready had an offer out to another actor. He asked who, and of course I told him – but I won’t tell you… And he said – “Well, I hope he breaks his legs and can’t do it” and then he left his number. And that’s how the whole thing started. I called him a few days later and told him I’d write him in. He said he was flattered but he wanted a shot at the lead. I gave him the script and the next day he started leaving messages on my machine at home as “Gene.” It was creepy. He totally won the role without anyone ever expecting he’d do it. He came in and gave a terrific read but things were still up in the air at the time, and he pushed that day for a screen test. It was strange because he wasn’t even pushing me at that point. He was pushing himself. When he suggested a screen test – that was the first point I said to myself – this guy can really do this. Gene was such a challenge to cast – because it is such an out of control twisted role. It’s really “Balls to the Walls” acting – without Gene, the movie doesn’t work. When the screen test was over, I flat out offered him the role. He went all the way with this. From start to finish, he was fearless.
How was Sam to work with?
A joy. Especially as a blonde.
Sam is a, uh, a wild man. You must have some stories about working with him or partying with him that you can divulge?
There’s plenty. For one thing, just ask him about the olive oil at Jerry’s Deli. He can put you in stitches once he gets going. Off set – he’s pretty much a big kid. We both chased each other around European Airports whistling like idiots when we went to Cannes.
Sam loves the idea of just hanging out and absorbing another person. He’s got a lot of different sides. He’s very down to earth and he’s super intelligent as well. He’s kind of from another time – he fit right into the whole world we were going for.
Get the rest of the interview in JAKE TOREM: LILLIAN’S ADDICTION>>>