Exporing Life Long Friendships with Literature: A Conversation with Bill Holderman
Four lifelong friends have their lives turned upside down to hilarious ends when their book club tackles the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey.
Diane (Diane Keaton) is recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. Vivian (Jane Fonda) enjoys her men with no strings attached. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is still working through a decades-old divorce. Carol’s (Mary Steenburgen) marriage is in a slump after 35 years.
From discovering new romance to rekindling old flames, they inspire each other to make their next chapter the best chapter.
In this interview, Bill Holderman recounts the situation with the fountain and the bracket, the decision to film in LA and working with the time constraints on an indie budget…
What’s going on with you right now?
This has just become like a psychology — yeah. Should I be on a – I should be on a couch. I should be like, alright, well, this morning – no.
What’s this like for you, right at this moment?
This is a torture chamber of just pressure and fear of disappointing everybody that’s ever been part of this project. That’s what this is. No, it’s – you know, here’s the thing about – about making movies and the – for me, having produced movies and written movies before but then moving into this phase where it’s like, all of a sudden the pressure on – which you don’t really know prior to being in the chair and in a position as a director, but like, the buck does stop with you.
And like that just – you – I’m so used to having like the – all those safety nets and having those other people. And like, instead, it’s like the pressure’s on you to make sure all those safety nets don’t be – they’re not disappointed or – or resentful of like having committed to something. Cause everyone’s name’s on the movie. And it’s like, that – that’s a lot of pressure to to not have them be disappointed in the product. I’m more worried about them liking it than it finding an audience. Don’t tell Paramount I said that. (You’re creating something, and then you’re terrified.) Yeah.
What did you feel like when you first decided you were gonna direct this movie?
You know, it was weird. I think the decision came to be because I was like I didn’t want to have someone else do it. It wasn’t that I was like, I have to do it because I have always had this dream to like direct. I wasn’t one of those like 8 year olds who was like, I know what I wanna do. I wanna be a filmmaker and I was running around with a camcorder, and like, you know. I wasn’t that kid. But I think in the process of the sort of creative journey of making movies, it got to a place where I was like, I want to be the – I want – I want to – if it’s gonna fail, I want it to be my failings, and I want those decisions to be mine.
Cause I think I was frustrated having those extra layers in projects before, where it was like, ooh, I have – I have an idea or I have a vision for something, but I don’t have the ability to execute on it because it’s someone else’s movie. And I think on this one, I was just like, well let’s – if I get the chance, like, I – there’s no one else I wanna do it. I don’t – I don’t want anyone else to do it, so it was kind of a default – default position. I was like, well I’m gonna do it then, you know?
And then what was it like doing it?
I was numb pretty much the entire time, cause it’s like, the amount of pressure in the process of making a movie, no matter what the position, it’s just such – I mean, the pace of production, the amount of people and cast and the requirements to like answer questions and – and sort of deliver on what is on the script page is so f – it’s such a fevered pace, that like you don’t have time to sort of take a minute and be like, oh, what are we doing? Thank God, cause if you did, you’d – I – for me, I would probably just panic and shut down and be like, oh wait, was that – was that the right choice? It’s like you don’t have a chance to think about that. You just have to like keep going.
Cause the end of the day is coming and the next day is about to start. And that’s – it’s just the pace of it keeps you in a position of just being able to deliver every day, cause you don’t have a choice.
How does Karen’s scrappy personality help you out?
Oh, yeah. There’s not a better – I mean, I always tell her, I mean she’s so much better at producing than I am. Like, so much better. Cause she is so relentless and has such a clear sense of like what needs to happen, and the vision for that to like deliver. Like, she’s not afraid to go knock on a storefront and say, “Hey, we’re shooting a movie upstairs or next door, and we need a couch. That one looks good. I know you guys are open for business. Do you mind if I bring down two PA’s? We’re gonna just – can we – can we borrow that?” And it’s like she will actually execute on that and pull that off. I would never do that. I would be like, we need a couch and, well, we don’t have it so here we go.
It’s like she goes and actually like gets the job done. And it’s – I – I mean, hats off. Like, I don’t know how she does it. She’s fearless. Fearless and has a ability to see the path to actually solve the problem, and it’s remarkable. We’re lucky.
Can we talk about some of your fears coming true, for instance with Jane falling on your first day of shooting?
Oh, that was her – that was m – it was – that was her first day. Yeah, that was a scary moment. But that was the thing about this movie, too. It’s like we have four of these just iconic, amazing actresses. So for me, it was like, I had my first day as the director and that was, luckily – not luckily. They were all – I was lucky to have all of them. But like, I had Candace the first day. And it was Candace and the cat in the vet’s office, and that was our first scene. And during rehearsal, the cat, believe it or not, was so good, the cat was – just needed to be lethargic. And like the cat was genuinely lethargic.
And I had these thoughts the night before of like, this cat’s gonna be running around and we’re gonna have to like try to figure out like how to like get the cat to like stay on the vet table. This cat came in – I mean, people were like, check the pulse. Is the cat – cause the cat was perfect, and that made me feel like, alright. At least that part is gonna work. But the first day with Jane, you know, there’s a lot of pressure with J – I mean, it’s Jane Fonda. I mean, this is not like, you know, she’s – comes from a storied family. Her career is incredible. It took a little bit to convince her to be in the movie, and then once she was in, she was the biggest cheerleader, rallied the other people. I mean, she really was in. And that was a lot of pressure. But that first day, we were shooting outside at the fountain.
It was she and Don, and the first scene was them walking up to the fountain. And I had the, you know, the idea of we were gonna shoot that part first, and then we would do the walk and talk in the Rose Garden second. But we were connecting the scenes, and it’s Jane Fonda. She’s wearing high heels. Looks amazing. And I wanted them to walk off the grass, onto the concrete for the walk up to the fountain. And, of course, walking on grass in high heels is not a great idea, cause heels can go right in and puncture through the turf and – so I don’t know what take it was. It might have been two, might have been – I don’t know.
But all of a sudden, we’re – cameras are reset, and I look over, and Jane Fonda, her heel has gone into the mud and Jane Fonda has toppled over into a rose bush. Not into a rose bush, under a rose bush. Like, a thorny, big, giant rose bush. And I was like, that’s the end. That is the end. And of course, run over there. She’s like, I’m fine, I’m fine. She gets up. Costume’s ripped. She’s bleeding and she’s like, let’s g – I mean, did not miss a beat. She is so professional and is – was so ready. And it was like, that type of commitment to the movie and to the – a b – is – it was – it gave, I think, at least for me, it gave me like, okay.
Like, this is what we’re dealing – we’re dealing professionals who expect the same and like, there’s no time to like question it. There’s no time to like, be like, oh I fell into a rose bush. We’re gonna lose two hours. It was like, this is what we’re doing. Get up. Let’s shoot. Oh, can you just – oh, it’s – it’s ripped. Can you just – can we just stitch it quick so we can keep go – I mean, it was – it was remarkable. She was – she’s special.
Tell us about the thing in the fountain with the bracelet.
Oh, yeah. Well that was the other thing. So on this budget – again, it’s an independent movie, but the characters are all of a certain means. And they – you know, these are – these are – she owns a hotel in the movie, and – and so the only way to really execute on that vision was for someone like Jane to be willing to have her own jewelry in – and wear her own jewellery in the movie, which she did. But there’s a whole pressure to that, too. So we’re shooting the scene where she and Don are in the fountain, and she has this bracelet on. And the line in the movie is about the bracelet costing as much as a car, which it did. And it was real. And so she – she’s committed and she’s flailing around. And she says, “This bracelet costs as much as a car.”
And she flails her arm and the bracelet goes flying off onto the concrete. And I’m like, “Oh, my God, that’s her actual bracelet that costs as much as a car, and it’s like clanking around on this like, you know, this concrete. And I was like, uh, this again. She’s like – she’s ne – she’s gonna kill us. We just cost the entire – that’s a – the fee for an entire day of production. But she’s like, can you just – can we – can we fishing line it back on so we can keep going? I mean, she just – fearless.
Why was the decision made to film in LA?
The movie was written as a California movie for several reasons. I think, one, California has, you know, A, it’s – the history of California is something that you kind of aspire to at some point make a movie here. But the story itself was about these women at a certain point in their life, but I always wanted the frames to be filled with life. I didn’t want it to be in any way indicating fall or winter or – it just – I wanted it in full bloom. And LA does that so well, and for longer than any other place. And so the opportunity to like go after the California tax incentive was there, and we ended up getting it, and it fulfilled the vision of where the movie was written for.
And it also, you know, it allowed the actors to be – to stay at home, which is a huge benefit for cast, and it allowed us to cast some of the, you know, the smaller roles and some of the men roles in a way that we couldn’t have because they live here and they – it was easy for them to – to work. But for me, it was like creative decision cause it was like, this is what the movie looks like. We want it to be bright and full of life, and we want flowers to be blooming. And we wanted a lot of color. And – and LA delivered on all of that.
How difficult is it to get locations in Los Angeles?
I mean, LA – you know, there’s a reason why everyone wants to shoot here, but there’s also, because of that it’s – people know h – I mean, they know what they can charge. And it’s expensive. And the other thing is, moving around LA is complicated. Parking is really difficult. Parking trucks and parking the company is really difficult. And people are really savvy about – about renting out their places, whether it’s a business or whether it’s a home. So there’s a built-in challenge. Whereas if you go to another city or another state, I think people get really excited. They’re like, ooh. A movie’s coming. Oh, that would be amazing. Yeah, well my restaurant can be in the movie? Yeah, great. Yeah, we’ll shut down on a Friday night. It’s – for sure, no problem.
In LA you can’t shut anything down on a Friday night unless you’re just backing up the – the money truck. So to deliver on like a big, beautiful, you know, affluent – for each of the characters, like affluent homes and a – it’s – it was – it definitely had a challenge, given that we were a tiny little independent movie trying to just sort of scrap our way amongst some – you know, amongst the giants. And – but we pulled it off, somehow.
How do you accomplish all that they did within the constraints of time and the budget?
Yeah. I mean, I think the look of the movie, we were – we were so blessed with a production designer who has just one of the best eyes for locations, and the ability to like go and find locations that can be shot as is. And – or, with a little bit of augmentation, turn it into what you see. And I think, you know, LA has tremendous locations, but you have to find them, and you have to sift through them. And I think we had a team that knew how to do that. And with – you know, again, you can take a great location and if it – let’s say it’s delivering on 80% of what you need, with – oh, if you swap out a couch or a chair or a thing, it becomes 100% or 110% of the vision for it.
And that’s what Rachel, our – our production designer could do, for – you know, at a budget level that like we had no right pulling off. And it’s like that part was – I still, I stand in – I mean it was, again, it’s – it’s having a production designer who has a vision and an ability to augment and manipulate locations and find locations that are – pretty much can be shot as is, with a little bit of adjustment to make it perfect for the characters. And Rachel can do that like no one else.
What’s the relationship between the director and the cinematographer and what it was like to work with Andrew Dunn?
Andrew Dunn – first of all, Andrew is from the UK, and he and I met over Skype. And – and he was the first person – he was the number one choice on our list. And we sent him the script, and he read it, and we got word from his agent that he liked it, and so we set up a Skype interview. And I remember, I had set aside 30 minutes or 45 minutes to talk to him. And I started this Skype conversation, and we ended up Skyping for like 90 minutes. And I – afterwards, I was like, done. Hire him. I didn’t even meet with any other DPs. Didn’t talk to another cinematographer.
That was it, done, hired him. And then I went through this panic of like, oh God, what did I just do? I didn’t do my due dil – like, everything you learn as a director is like, do your due diligence. Make sure you’re like at least seeing multiple locations for each place, checking multiple people for each – for each job. With Andrew, it was – he was on resume, number one choice. Went to him, he liked it, Skyped, literally f – like I was head over heels. I was like, this guy is perfect. And he wanted to do it, and he was willing to do it. And then the process, between us – I have to say I don’t know how we would have made the movie without him.
He was the – first of all, because it’s LA and he’s who he is, everyone wants to work with him. So the crew we got was remarkable, and they all showed up for Andrew. And then, as a creative collaborator, there’s no one better, because he’s such a good listener, and he is such a visionary. But he’s able to do it in a way that like he doesn’t impose his own viewpoint. He’s able to find what you’re saying, even if you’re inarticulate, and deliver on what that should be, and find the way that – sort of use those sort of ideas, and deliver them through the camera. And it’s like, I don’t know how it does it. I really don’t.
And he stays – he’s the most like calm, centred, beautiful spirit, and it’s just – I mean, it put an energy over the entire production that, if we didn’t have with the fevered pace we were on, we never would have made it. We never would have made it.
Why are set dressing and props so important to telling the viewers who a character is?
Well in a movie like this, you know, at the end of the day, the – so much of the – the pieces that the actors are interacting with, which are – which are all the props and that top layer of what production design is, which is the set dressing, it – it is the thing that makes it personal. And it is the thing that makes these locations feel like who these characters are. And the cast that we have, they’ve been in this business for so long, and they came with such strong points of view about who their characters were, that the level of what they required from props and from set dressing and from the design was really significant and we had to deliver on it.
So we needed people that could understand what they wanted, what the expectation was, and then meet it. And it was not for the faint of heart.
Tell us about Diane Keaton and her interest in interior design.
Yeah, for sure. So Diane Keaton famously is, you know, she’s written books about design. She, herself, is a designer. Designs homes, has recently designed her own home and written an incredible book called, The House that Pinterest Built. And so design was something that we knew she was really sort of keyed into, and – and part of, again, meeting the expectation for all the cast. We wanted them to be happy. We wanted them to feel like, ooh, I’m so glad I made this decision to do this movie. And so for her, we were really keyed into like how do we make her feel like on a design – design front, we understand her character and we’re delivering on it, not just in terms of like, you know, what’s in the script, but what’s in the environment that she – her character’s gonna live in.
And – and our production designer, Rachel, did a lot of research about sort of Diane herself and what’s she’s into and the style that she likes. And so when we were looking for her location, and then when we were building out, like, who her character was, we just pulled right from that. And so Rachel, again, didn’t have a big budget, so didn’t have a lot of ability to like really fully recreate an environment. But she did have the ability to do was put pieces and specific elements into an environment and make it feel like something that Diane would be happy with. And she did such a good job that Diane, when she first walked into her bedroom, saw all these things and was first super complimentary, but immediately was like, “Oh my God, this chair.”
And it was this black and white chair, and she was taken with it, so much so that when we wrapped, she actually took the chair home with her and it’s featured in her house and in – in a room that is this cylindrical room and it’s the only piece of furniture in the room. And it’s this black and white room, and this black and white chair sits in the middle of it with like a spotlight on it. And it’s beautiful and it just – it – it represents how much Rachel’s researching into character then manifests into what Diane’s vision for her own character was. And it was really kind of, it – on that – at that moment, we were like, alright. At least Diane likes the environment that we’ve created. We might torture her in the rest of the production, but she’s going to like her environment.
But Jane Fonda felt her room didn’t reflect her character, is that right?
Yeah. So one of the things that we did when – early on in preproduction, is we had meetings with all of the – all of the actors, all of the women, and with our design team. And we wanted the production design and the costume design to sort of be coordinated and reflective of what they wanted for their characters, what they viewed their character to be. So we talked to them about color, palette. We talked to them about textures. We talked to them about style, and so we had a really sort of thorough board built for each character. And Jane Fonda’s character owns a hotel. She had a really strong vision for that that environment would be.
And we ended up going and shooting at the Montage. And the Montage is a beautiful hotel but didn’t have – the furniture that was in the Montage was not exactly reflective of who Jane thought her character was. And so we actually went to the Montage with Rachel and her team and we had this whole plan to redo the Montage interior, and then you run into budget. And we were like, we can’t do any of this. So then we get to the Montage the day of shooting, realising we can’t – we couldn’t do all of that and we tried to do a little bit, a pillow here. But like we really were hamstrung budget-wise. So we get there, knowing full well we weren’t delivering exactly what we had talked about with Jane or what Jane wanted or frankly, what we wanted.
But it’s still beautiful, and it’s still justifiable. It’s a actual like high-end hotel in Beverly Hills. And Jane walked in that morning and walked into the environment, and was – you could see, was disappointed. And she said, you know what, this is just not what I thought Vivian would – this is not the room that I thought Vivian would live in. And that hit me hard, and I was like, oh God. Cause here’s the one thing I don’t wanna do. I have these incredible, Oscar-winning actors showing up, and now we’re disappointing them before we even start. And so a testament to Erin’s scrappiness and Rachel’s desire to deliver on the promise of a vision, in the next 30 minutes, they go downstairs.
They go down the street in Beverly Hills, and they go into a place called Mitchell & Gold which Rachel knew about and had looked at their furniture before. And they go into the showroom, and they just start saying, you know what? This would be great. This would be great. This would be great. And they talk to the manager, and they talk the manager into letting them run PAs down with dollies and take – literally just taking furniture right off their showroom, on like a Tuesday when they’re open for business, and that’s what happened. And so an hour later, that Montage room gets completely renovated, new chairs, new – you know, new bedding, new side tables, new vases, and becomes more representative of what Vivian, what Jane’s character would want.
And so when Jane came back up, she was so thrilled and so happy that this is – you know, that we were able to pull this off. And I think it immediately made her feel like, okay, this – we’re gonna be okay. This production’s gonna be okay. But it was not – it was not without a lot of, you know, panic and stress and like people really going above and beyond to like pull off a little bit of a miracle. (It’s your magic trick.) It is, and it’s, you know, it – oh, God. Movie, it’s like you – it’s almost like you have to – that’s the luck you need at every turn, and almost every day something like that ha – you get lucky, and you get one of those sort of like little production miracles. And without those, you’re completely cooked.
Tell me some of your thoughts on these women and something we might be surprised about them.
Oh, God. I mean, they’re – first of all, they’ll murder me if I say anything that, like, what – what will people be surprised to know about the women? (Take one.) I’m only gonna talk about them professionally. Jane Fonda. Here’s something to know about Jane Fonda and her process. Jane sent me one of the longest email – the longest email that I got on then production. It was a breakdown of her character’s back story, and it was incredible and thorough and like deep, and talked about who her character’s parents were, how she ended up with the hotel.
Like the depth of her research and – and work on a character, which, you would think she’s been doing this for as long as she’s been doing it, it’s gotta be automatic and she’s gotta just show up. And it’s like, she takes it so seriously. And it was s – I was so impressed with the like level of detail that she was thinking about and was, in terms of trying to figure out who her character was, like the level of detail that she went into and then shared with me so we could be on the same page. And it was like, it was shockingly special. It was like wow. This person – there’s a reason she’s Jane Fonda. Who else? Let’s see.
Candace – There is not a better – for my sense of humor, Can – I think – Candace is maybe – has the best sense of humour on the planet for me. I’m not kidding. Like, Candace – today, I’m in ADR. Candace is running late. And I write to Candace. She sends me an email. She says, “Sorry, I’m gonna be late. Traffic. I thought I left with enough time.” And I said, “No worry.” Or, “No problem. Don’t rush.” And she writes back, “There’s no danger of rushing.” And it – to me, it’s like Candace is like, she’s so sharp and quick, and her wit is so, so great. And she’s s – I mean, she’s such a comedian in, obviously, Murphy Brown and, you know, her history in films.
But it’s – it’s not just the character. I mean, it’s who she is as a person. She is so charming and funny. And not that that’s a surprise to anyone, but like it was such a – a pleasant sort of like benefit to this process to really like see that in action and enjoy it on a daily basis. It was really great. Who else?
Diane. Well Diane is everything you’d want. Diane is everything you’d want Diane Keaton to be. She is – I’m gonna tell you a story about Diane, about – and you might – this might be a question later, but I’m gonna jump to it, cause it was – it – it – it was a great Diane moment. And Diane, I’ve had several great Diane moments cause Diane is – what she’s not is shy, and what she’s not is careful about sharing her opinions when she has one and she’s also not – she – she likes to make you know where she stands. But that’s not the story I’m gonna tell.
Story I’m gonna tell is, we were shooting the scene where Diane was supposed to put on an ugly outfit and come out, and her friends are gonna be like, okay, no, no, no. You can’t wear that. We’re gonna take that to Goodwill. Come out with something proper. And on the day of shooting, in rehearsal, the outfit that we had selected for her to come out in didn’t work. It was a jacket and it was actually like too elegant, and we were like, this isn’t -the joke doesn’t work. And Diane is like, okay, I’m gonna go home, which is the worst thing to do. You never let – they’re – you finally have them on set. Don’t let them leave. Diane’s like, I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna grab some things from my closet, and I’ll be back.
Races off, ten minutes later I – you know, I get word that she’s down in her trailer. I go down in her trailer, and Diane has brought all of these like incredible pieces of clothing, one of which is in the film. The poncho that she comes out in, that beautiful thing that we make fun of but it’s actually like some very famous designer who, she said, is probably gonna be really upset that we’re – you know, that we put this in the movie and make fun of. But she goes, gets it out of her own closet, brings it back and brings back ten options of like incredible pieces of clothing that were either, you know, made for her or somehow she found. And she still understood the moment, and she was so willing to be like, I’m gonna solve this myself. And she just goes and does it.
And it’s kinda – I mean, I don’t know. To me, it’s like, on one hand, you wanna think, alright, you’re making this movie and you have these big fancy stars and you’re just gonna take care of ‘em and cater to them. On the other hand, they’re people who are willing to just like go do what they need to do, and she just went and did it and delivered, and it’s in the movie and it’s great. And I don’t know what we would have done without her in that moment. She’s – you know, she’s Diane Keaton.
The other thing about Diane, Diane’s hat collection and shoe collection is everything you think it should be. It genuinely is. True to point. Mary. I had worked with Mary before. I worked with Mary on a movie called A Walk in the Woods, where she came in for just a couple days and was the loveliest – like, so lovely and sweet that you question it. You’re like, there’s no way she’s gonna be this great again when we have her for longer chunks of time. She is. She’s everything – everything that, like, that sweet quality of Mary is so genuine. She’s from Arkansas and she has this just relentless kindness.
And you can feel it, and it – you can’t help but c – you just, you’re like you just bathe in it. You’re like, oh my God, this is like, this is what humanity should be. But Mary, the thing I loved most about Mary in this process was the – working on the dance. And Mary had done a movie where she tap danced and she ended up winning an Oscar for it. So when this idea of the dance was in the script, she was like, “Hey, what do you think if I tap dance?” And at first, I was – I’d never thought about it, and I hadn’t seen the movie. And I was like, okay, let me think about that. And she sent me the clip of the movie, and I was like, wow it’s great.
But it was like, it’s not exactly what this scene is. But then we started talking about it, and she’s a amazing tap dancer. And so she worked with a choreographer and came up with her whole dance herself, and kept sending me videos of it and, you know, inviting me to her rehearsal. And she and Craig would go on their weekends, in their own time, at their own houses sometimes and like do these rehearsals to like make that dance what it was. And, again, you’re in preproduction. You know the dance is a big number. You know, at some point, you’re gonna have to get to it, and you know that it’s like, for the movie, it’s super important. What you don’t realise is how much time it takes to like to choreograph and like come up with and create that dance.
But the blessing is, you have Mary Steenburgen, who is willing to do it on her own, bring you into the process as much as I could be part of it. But, like really, she went out. I remember she came in. The first day that she came in after she signed onto the movie, she came in to meet the choreographer. And after that, she was going to buy her new tap shoes. Like, she just took total control of it. And I was so – it was like, it was the greatest blessing, cause she just went, did it, worked with the choreographer, created this incredible dance. It’s so beautiful and so fun and so, you know, in character.
And for the movie, this moment of like, this woman was going to go out on stage, fear aside, anyone’s opinion aside, and like – and do this dance alone. And that’s what Mary did, and it’s – you know, to me, it’s like, she’s that type of person, she – and does it with a smile, and does it with a grace. And it’s – I don’t know.
Craig was telling me how much he enjoyed working on that scene.
They – I think they had a great time doing it. I really do. (He said he did.) Yeah. They seemed to, and they were great. I mean, I – I don’t know. I’m biased. I have to be. But like, I really – I think they are, like I find – I love that dancing. And I think they’re so great together and they’re so – they’re charming together and it’s – I don’t know. It’s one of my favourite moments.
Which female character do you identify with and why?
Oh my God. Are you kidding me? Wow. That’s a good question. I – see, this is like, you just – it’s a sneaky question. Sadly, probably Candace. Probably Candace’s character, probably Sharon. Cause she’s cynical and she’s a little like she just doesn’t – she has a wry view of the world. And I kind of feel like – and maybe that’s just the place where the world is right now. But like, I might be a little cynical about things. And she’s also pretty committed to her career and that might be a complaint I’ve heard before.
That’s the boring answer. The fun answer is, I’m Jane. But of cour – everyone, you know. But no, probably Candace, sadly.
As a man, did you feel pressure to make this film true to the experience women face this age?
Yeah. I mean, the – the pressure I felt and do feel – I mean, it’s weird to be – I was always a little skeptical of this being my first movie for several reasons. One, I think there’s just an inherent pressure to doing a movie that is commercially minded and intended to be something that is consumed by a big audience as opposed to something that’s just a little auteur, you know, my own private vision and that’s the only thing that matters, as long as I deliver on that. And this was never that intention. But the pressure that I feel in terms of the – delivering a movie about women was mitigated because I had these actors represent – I mean, they were the characters.
And for me, that collaboration was – my job was, make it true to what the script intended. Work on the script, work with them on the script, and make the script work. And then once that – once we feel good about that and feel like that has a truth to it, my job is, let’s deliver on that truth. Their job is, bring the character. Bring that honesty. Bring that real – you know, that realness. And I mean, they – they’re who they are for a reason. And so yeah. There was a tremendous amount of pressure, but I also – I think the only way I could like sleep at night was to know that like they were gonna get me through that, you know? I had a much easier -much easier job.
Do you think the movie is daring audiences to think differently about age?
I hope it’s daring the audience to think differently about age. I think, you know, society, and particularly like in Hollywood, there’s a tremendous amount of ageism and a tremendous amount of like belief that, at a certain point, d – your relevance is over, and you no longer matter. And – and I think, to me and partly because I was raised by, you know, parents who had really strong wills and – and really believe in continuing to sort of push themselves. And I think, you know, for me, too, it’s like I have a mother who has her own business, continues to run it by herself, and continues to push herself to be up to date on everything – art, news, music.
Like, she’s always pushing, pushing. Thank God the Internet was invent – I don’t know what she would have done before the Internet. But always pushing to be relevant and to sort of challenge people who question it. And I think that is the – that is the viewpoint of the movie. It’s like, if you want something, if you believe that you – if you believe that there’s another ability, or another chapter for you, then the only thing you have to overcome is the obstacle of like your own thought. It’s like, I – forget society. If society questions it, if society says you’re too old or you’re too whatever it is, the movie’s point of view is like forget society.
Go for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re, you know, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80. There’s always a next chapter. And I think, you know, it – I was thinking about this the other day. My grandmother was also like this. As soon – she was in her eighties when her husband died, and – my grandfather died. And like, you would think after a 60-year marriage, like, you just feel bad. It’s over. And she – that – immediately was back at church, back with her group, back having fun, back playing cards, back celebrating, you know, all the same and – and enjoying all the same things that – that she always did.
And I think it’s that idea that like you just keep going and you ke – you can keep having fun. You can keep having a full life. And there’s an opportunity to continue to make it as full and rich and – and beautiful and fulfilling as you want.
Tell us who each of these women is and what each one is struggling with.
Did you ask the other – did you ask the other writer? (I did.) She probably had a really elegant, articulate answer.
Diane is – she’s struggling what it is to be a parent of adult children, and in a – in an age where parenting has become so sort of overblown in terms of the pressure that parents feel to not mess up their kids and not disappoint or not deliver on the promise of like what their kids – what they should be for their kids. That’s one element for Diane. The other element for Diane is the obstacle of trying to get back to her own fun, youthful, child-like self.
And I think that Andy Garcia helps bring her out of that, but it’s really something that she brings herself out of. And I think the dynamic is, she feels so much pressure as a parent, but it’s becau – and she’s kind of using that and projecting that onto her kids. And I think what she has to overcome is – is that sense of responsibility and shifting from my responsibility to other people, versus my responsibility to myself. And I think she has to overcome that idea of like, you guys are set. I’ve done what I can for you. Now I have to take care of myself.
And I think that’s a really hard thing for people. I think people often find themselves trapped by that idea that, like I just have to take care of other people, cause it’s – on one hand, it’s almost easier. Cause it’s hard to look at yourself and be like, what do I need? And it’s not something that we celebrate right now. But I think it’s something that, you know, for any individual, it’s an important component. And I think you can only be as good as you are for other people as you are to yourself. And so I think that’s what Diane is – is wrestling with and struggling with. And I think it’s a universal challenge that she sort of represents in the film.
Vivian. Oh, well Vivian – Vivian is – she’s struggling with something that I think happens to people at all ages, which is vulnerability and building up walls around yourself to protect yourself from all of the, you know, potential disappointments that life can bring about. And I think she’s hidden behind her success and she’s – you know, she’s been so driven and so afraid of – of intimacy and she’s hidden the – she’s hidden her fear of intimacy by being so open with physical affection.
She – sex, yes. Love, never. And I think she has to overcome that ability to be vulnerable with someone else and believe that you’re worthy of their vulnerability as well. And I think, you know, for her, she – the struggle, you know, like the joke. The struggle is real. The struggle is real that she can – she’s willing to sort of tear down those walls and be available to be hurt.
Sharon has a different challenge. Sharon has lost her belief in herself. Sharon’s obstacle is her own self-worth. She’s a victim of what society says, which is women at this age are no longer relevant, no longer sexy, no longer should be in physical relationships. No longer have sex appeal. No one would find them, you know, attractive. And so she’s up against her own reflection of society’s point of view, that women at a certain age don’t have worth in this capacity.
And so she’s shut that off and just focused on her – on her career and being a very successful, powerful federal judge. And what she has to overcome is her belief that, yeah, she is worthy, and yeah, she can put herself back out there, and yeah, there’s maybe someone out there who’s gonna, you know, fall in love with her and enjoy her company and she’ll enjoy his. And I think it’s a real challenge for people of all ages to believe that, like yeah, I’m worth someone else’s time and love.
Carol’s challenge is – you know, Carol is the only one who is in a successful marriage. And Carol and Bruce are at a crossroads. But for Carol, it’s the ability to communicate and to express her own desires. And I think, you know, one of the things, whether – whatever you think of the 50 Shades series, what it did, it – it hit the zeitgeist of a certain – sorry.
Whatever you think of the 50 Shades series, it – it hit on the zeitgeist of a certain sort of desire and a rawness to people’s sort of sexuality. And I think, for Carol, wanting to maintain that excitement and that physical relationship with her husband is the obvious obstacle for her. But the subtext of that is the ability to communicate what you want. And I think, you know, part of what the book does and part of what Carol learns to do is ask for what she wants and – and have that level of open communication with her husband that sometimes, in a long relationship, is the thing that goes away, where you get comfortable and you get complacent and you forget that people aren’t mind readers.
And she needs to go and ask and listen. And I think, for her, the obstacle is to overcome that communication breakdown.
How important are these ladies’ friendships to each other?
To me, one of the main themes in the movie is friendship, and I think, you know, as technology brings us together, it also pushes us apart, and we find ourselves – there’s a barrier to – to friendships and relationships that there didn’t used to be. And I think one of the things that this movie, being about a book club, it’s about people coming together and talking and sharing their thoughts and feelings and in the same room and looking each other in the eye. And – and building on that experience over decades.
And I think that friendship between the characters, what we hope in the movie is, we hope that fabric of friendship is part of why people are drawn to the movie, which is, these women, they all – they’ve been friends for so long, and they all support each other, and they all want great things for the other, but they’re also there when other people are, you know, having a hard time. But they’re also there to be like, hey, get off your ass and go do something. And I think that is friendship, and it’s – you’re there in the good times and the bad times, but you’re also there to like call someone out when they’re not fulfilling their own expectations of themselves. And I think that friendship, to me it’s like the – it’s one of the main themes in the movie.
It’s one of the things that the movie is about. It’s about these people coming together and having that time to, you know, share and – and hopefully, draw strength and – and power from each other. And then outside of the movie, I’ll say one of the big question marks was, how do you bring four characters together and make it feel like they have a 40-year friendship? And it’s a huge challenge for the actors, and it’s a big challenge for the movie. And I think the thing that, again, one of those production miracles that happened was these four women, who knew each other socially but never – they didn’t – hadn’t worked together, and they didn’t really know each other, some of them.
And I think in the making of the movie, they got really close and they – now, I mean, they talk on the phone and they have dinner with each other at each other’s houses, and they’re texting. And it’s like their friendship has become real. And it – and you see it – to me, you see it in the movie. It’s like, it – it is – it’s – they reflect a real friendship, and it’s because the foundation of what ha – what brings people together has brought them together in real life. And it’s – again, it was a blessing that they all had that – that chemistry. Cause it’s not always the case.
It was the director.
I got lucky. They did that. I did nothing. I stood back and watched the magic happen. And, you know, tried to make sure that we were pointing the camera in the right direction.
BOOK CLUB COMES TO DVD ON OCTOBER 8