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Edward Zwick talks about the challenges of film making

Love & Other Drugs
20 November 2010

Chicago-born Edward Zwick is one of the most well-respected and highly-regarded directors in Hollywood. His show reel boasts the Oscar-winning ‘Shakespeare in love’, as well as ‘Traffic’, ‘Legends of the fall’ and the ‘Last Samurai.’ The Fan Carpet caught up with him ahead of the impeding release of his latest picture, ‘Love and other drugs’, set to hit our screens on December 29.

Hathaway portrays Maggie, an alluring free spirit who won’t let anyone – or anything – tie her down. But she meets her match in Jamie (Gyllenhaal), whose relentless and nearly infallible charm serve him well with the ladies and in the cutthroat world of pharmaceutical sales. Maggie and Jamie’s evolving relationship takes them both by surprise, as they find themselves under the influence of the ultimate drug: love.



You combined various conflicting themes, such as illness, love, sex and drugs. Was it difficult to incorporate them all into one movie?

Well its been my experience of life that there are always competing and conflicting themes happening at any moment, that there’s something going on in your relationship, with your children, something happened in your family, something happened at your work, something to with your health – and they all seem to be happening at the same time and part of the juggling act of life is to reconcile the chaos of that and I was just hoping to try to capture some of that in the film, as films, particularly in this genre, tend to put these people into a bubble where the real world doesn’t seem to affect them all at all, where they have nothing else to deal with but each other, and I find that unrealistic.


Tell us a little bit more about the emotional effect that the film had on your leading lady.

Anne Hathaway is a very committed artist and is demanding of herself and I think this film posed a very high degree of difficulty for a lot of reasons, and as capable and as talented as she is, and as much as she’s done, she hasn’t done a lot of films like this. So I think to encounter some of these challenges, it tested her, and I think there were certain moments where she felt that she had not necessarily accessed the depths and all the nuances that she felt she could have, but she was wrong and I think she knows that now.


When the character of Maggie was being added to the story, do you know why Parkinson’s was picked as the disease that she would be suffering from, because it isn’t one that we see terribly often?

I think that in an age where there is a quick pill for everything, and a fix that’s being sold, here’s something where there is no fix. And in a love story, the idea that all of our youth and beauty is transient, but for a young woman to actually grapple with the fact that it’s going to be much faster gives it a particular poignancy I felt.


How much research did you do into Parkinsons? Who did you speak to?

Lots of neurologists, I went to support groups. I know a couple of people who are suffering from it and through an odd set of coincidences I’m in a relationship with Michael J. Fox and I read his books and then spent some quick time talking to him about it.


Jill Clayburgh sadly passed away since the making of the film, did you know when you were making the film that she was ill?

No – she kept that totally quiet.


Were you pleased with the film as a fitting tribute to such a great actress?

I think it was too little. I think what she was capable of was so much more that what we had her for. We were just so thrilled that she was willing to come and do just a small thing, I think it was a nice nod and support of what we were doing, but also the kind of person that she was, she had great humility.



Were you working your way though your iPod when deciding on the songs that are featured throughout the movie?

The mid-nineties weren’t the greatest period for music but it was surprising to find how many things evoked emotions in us. I never though for instance that I’d ever hear the ‘Macarena’ again, never mind use it. That’s a joy of doing a relatively contemporary movie, which I hadn’t done in a while.


Did you find any challenges in doing a smaller, intimate picture, as opposed to the big features, such as the Last Samurai?

The challenges are that you don’t have the opportunity to break into a battle scene or a horse charge or a big crowd extravaganza, its all there and it has to be accomplished in the nuances of the relationship, and those are the challenges, but those are also the joys.


Which genre would you say find more challenging?

I think when I’m doing ‘The Last Samurai’ I find ‘The Last Samurai’ more challenging, and when I’m doing this, I find this most challenging.


The on-screen relationship in the film between Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal was very believable, did you have them both in mind when writing the screenplay?

I think that you do that at your peril. I think that its best to write these idealised characters because your only then setting yourself up to be heartbroken when someone is unavailable or uninterested. When I had written it though, I went after them specifically and directly.


The two had worked before on Brokeback Mountain, so was the chemistry there beforehand or did you have to work on it?

They worked for like six or seven days together on that movie and obviously liked each other, but what they were doing was not of the same depth or perplexity of this. We did begin at a point though of familiarity and comfort, and that helps. We were obviously going for different things and it was a much longer enterprise.


You’ve mentioned some of the perplexity in the film; conversely with people like Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria on set, were there days when it was difficult to get a scene completed because of the jokes?

Josh Gad, Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria are screamingly funny, and there were days when you had to say, can we just get to the work at hand – but that was a relief. There are a lot of problems that are worse than that one.



Love And Other Drugs Film Page