WARNING: The only way to experience the full effect of Some Velvet Morning, is to walk into the film knowing nothing at all. You have been warned.
After putting colossal productions like Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on their resumes, Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci opted to do a complete 180 with Neil LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning. Eve and Tucci are the only two actors in the film, the entire narrative plays out in a single location and in real time, over the course of 83 minutes. Hit the jump for more.
Tucci is Fred, a man who opts to ditch his wife for his mistress, Eve’s Velvet. After years apart, Fred shows up at Velvet’s door, confident she’ll be thrilled that he’s finally all hers. However, in the process of trying to tap back into their romance, tempers flare, passion ignites and hopes are crushed in a back-and-forth that slowly exposes the layers of their unusual relationship.
With Some Velvet Morning on its way to a December 13th limited release, Eve and Tucci sat down with Collider to run through the challenges of being in every scene of a movie, the tight shooting space, their approach to playing particularly multifaceted characters and more. Eve also offered an update on the Chris Evans-directed 1:30 Train and Star Trek 3 while Tucci enlightened us on the movie magic behind Caesar Flickerman’s exceptionally white teeth in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Catch it all in the interview below.
Who was cast in the film first?
STANLEY TUCCI: [To Alice Eve] You were on board first.
ALICE EVE: Probably.
So what was it like waiting to see who’d be cast as Fred?
EVE: That’s a good question.
TUCCI: She was on her knees praying for me.
EVE: I was actually.
TUCCI: You were?
EVE: Yeah, I was.
TUCCI: Oh, thanks.
What was your initial reaction when you heard Stanley was in?
Now what was it like working with this script? I thought there was loads of improvising going on, but now I hear that I’m wrong.
EVE: Oh, no. Yeah, you’re wrong. Not with Neil. He’s a writer.
Everything felt so natural.
TUCCI: Was it exactly what he wrote, particularly for me? Not necessarily, but I didn’t improvise. But really, they’re his words. The thing about Neil is that he’s so smart, he’s such a good writer, and he knows what’s necessary and what isn’t, as we’d be doing stuff, we’d say, ‘Do you think we need this?’ And literally like a whole section. And we’d read through it and he’d go, ‘No. I only think we need that one line right there.’
Was that happening on set or just during rehearsal beforehand?
TUCCI: Well, some stuff in rehearsal, but also then suddenly, as you’re shooting, you’re on page 60 in your fifth day of sixth day or whatever and you go, ‘I think we’ve done this. I feel like this is redundant.’
TUCCI: And he’d go, ‘Yeah, I think yeah. Okay.’ He was great.
How would you describe him as an actor’s director? Was he giving you notes on set?
EVE: He doesn’t give that many. He creates quite a safe environment so you feel like you can jump all the way down the rabbit hole and still come back up for air, so you definitely go for it. And I don’t feel like we were heavily noted, which is why you probably find great moments. He probably has a lot of sh*t moments that we did on the floor. I think that he allows you to really feel free, so that to me is the best kind of actor’s director.
TUCCI: Exactly. You feel safe and if you feel safe then you can go wherever you want to go as an actor.
How about the two of you? I know every actor has his or her own process, but is there anything about the way you two like to work that went together particularly well?
EVE: I think it was about just working out a way that we’d all make it work together. I followed Stanley’s lead on that to be honest. I would have panicked probably, but Stanley was like, ‘Let’s not panic because it’s really a choice at the end of the day.’ [Laughs]
TUCCI: Well, it’s daunting. You’re confronted with this 90-page script that you have to shoot in nine days or whatever and it’s daunting, but I had made a movie like that before that I was in and directed and had co-written, re-written, so I knew the process so I wasn’t really afraid of it. I mean, you’re a little afraid, but it was okay. And when you have somebody like Neil and you have really good writing, it’s not as hard as you think it is.
Having directed something similar before, do you get that itch to ask questions and make directorial suggestions?
TUCCI: Oh, all the time. I would just say, ‘What shot are you doing and why are you doing it that way?’ Just because I was curious. [Both Laugh] He likes to shoot the way I like to shoot, which is really quickly, let the actors feel comfortable, don’t do a tremendous amount of coverage and don’t do a huge number of takes if you’ve got it in the can.
EVE: Yeah, that was definitely his thing! Do you really like that? Is that how you did it?
TUCCI: I love it. Yes, exactly. If you get it, you got it. Move on. Time to go.
EVE: Yeah, that’s good. I like that too because you can sort of stay sane, can’t you?
TUCCI: Yeah, otherwise you exhaust the actors.
This one’s got a lot of incredibly long takes. How many times on average would you say Neil had you do those?
EVE: I’d say four.
EVE: So we were a good team!
What about it terms of coverage? There’s a lot of two-shots getting both of you, but then you’ve got singles, too. How is that for continuity? Do you have to be really aware of where you’re standing at each point in the conversation and all the blocking?
EVE: Yeah, you have to hold that in your head.
TUCCI: Yeah, you do, but they’re not hard marks. In certain films, you have hard marks where if you deviate from that mark – because the shot’s so specific, the lighting is so specific. But this was much more organic. You could be a little off your mark. It left room for spontaneity. And we were shooting a lot wider shots too so that helps.
What was the environment like on set? It’s a big house, but so is a film crew and both you two and the camera move from room to room quite a bit, too. What does it look like from your point of view behind the camera?
EVE: Or, what does it smell like?
TUCCI: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly! Yeah, it was summer.
EVE: [Laughs] Sweaty.
TUCCI: It was really hot, kind of gross, lots of people packed into this narrow brownstone with lighting equipment. If you wanted to get to the bathroom, you couldn’t get to the bathroom sometimes. It was pretty funny.
How about the nine-day shoot? Does that add on a lot of pressure or do you prefer to just plow through all the material? Especially because the film plays out in real-time; I imagine that might connect in a way.
EVE: Yeah, and we shot chronologically. It does take pressure off at the time because you’re sort of like a live wire getting through it, but then when you’re through it, the pressure comes on and you get tired and you have to recover. It’s got pros and cons.
TUCCI: I like the intensity of it. You feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day whereas a lot of times on a movie, you go home and you think, even at the end of a week, you go, ‘What the hell did I do this week?’ You’re utterly exhausted and you’ve had three lines. [Both Laugh] Most of the time it’s just waiting in your trailer or you’re in makeup and then you have to be off-camera for this guy, we need a pick-up shot here and you’re talking, you’re like, ‘Where we gonna eat?’ And then this is like, you finish a day and you’re like, ‘Oh, fantastic!’ It’s like today I built one part of the house and by the end, you have this whole house that somebody could live in.
EVE: That’s a huge sense of satisfaction.
Is there anything you had to do when you went home from this shoot to make sure you were fresh and ready for the next day?
TUCCI: Just get as much sleep as possible and have a couple of martinis. That was the key thing. We had nice lunches, didn’t we?
EVE: We did. We’d have an hour and a half lunch break, we had to take that. And then at the end of it, I think I isolated myself for a bit.
TUCCI: Isolated yourself?
EVE: From the world.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can understand that because there’s one scene here that must have been truly emotionally exhausting for you. I can’t even imagine having to put your head in that place.
EVE: Yeah, right. It costs you. It was emotionally exhausting, yeah.
What does it take for you to get through something like that? Do you have to gradually prepare yourself or is it more gritting your teeth and just doing it?
EVE: It’s a bit of both. At some point you always have to jump. Preparation is everything, but at some point you have to jump and when you jump then you have to climb back up again. So all of that’s real. It does have its price, yeah.
How about managing them throughout the film? One minute they’re laughing, the next there’s loads of tension and then there’s romance, not to mention their multiple layers. Is it tough to nail all that and still make them feel like cohesive people?
EVE: No, because people are weird. We’re weird, you know? And that’s how we are. We do live on all levels at the same time and you can be fighting and flirting, and there can be fury and sexual tension. All that stuff can co-exist so it’s just a testament to how complex we are. Or maybe it’s a testament to how boringly we try and simplify everything. How boring it is that we won’t live in the grey area and we want everything to be black and white and we want to think people are nice or good or evil, because they’re not. We all live on all levels.
WARNING: The next two questions pertain to a plot point that will definitely spoil the experience of the movie. Please skip them if you have not seen Some Velvet Morning.
When you’re performing are you thinking about both sides of the character, what they’re pretending to be and what they really are?
TUCCI: Absolutely. You have to. Every character, no matter who you play, at times is pretending to be somebody else. People have a public face and a private face and, as you were saying before, you have other thoughts in your head. The conversation that we’re having right now, we are thinking about other things. All of us. I know Alice is thinking about alcohol and stuff like that – and sex, and that’s fine.
EVE: [Laughs] I wasn’t thinking about any of those things. I was thinking about the dating patterns of a friend of mine.
TUCCI: See? There you go.
Considering I saw Catching Fire right before I saw this, I’m busy thinking about how a lot of what you’re saying totally pertains to that, too.
TUCCI: Yeah, exactly! But I think that the complexity of these characters is the thing that compelled us to do it and the idea of role-play is inherent in everyone’s life, no matter who you are. I think it’s a great exploration of that.
END SPOILER ALERT
Clearly you haven’t shot anything, but can you tell me anything about what Chris Evans is like as a director so far?
EVE: Nothing yet. [Laughs] No, he’s pretty good. He knows his shit. He’s pretty well informed. He’s got a good idea about how he wants to shoot it. I like him. You like him too, don’t you?
TUCCI: Yeah, I love him. I think he’s great. Nice guy, too.
EVE: Yeah, he is a nice guy. I like him, I think. I’ve only known him five days, but I like him so far.
Are you moving into production on that soon?
EVE: Tomorrow night we start, all night.
TUCCI: Are you kidding?
EVE: Yes, all night.
TUCCI: And the temperature’s dropping every day I’m afraid. I’m so sorry. Is it a lot of exteriors?
EVE: Yes! It’s walk and talks through the streets of Manhattan. I don’t quite know what I’ve committed to. I think I’m crazy. Do you think I’m crazy?
TUCCI: A little. Why does it all have to be at night?
EVE: I don’t know. Because it’s written that way.
How is the story broken up? You’ve got the train incident and then is the bulk of it after those walk and talks?
EVE: So, it’s about a girl who misses her train and this guy is there and kind of helps her out and then they end up spending this night through New York, and they get into some adventures and they go inside, but it’s a lot of outside stuff.
EVE: Yeah, I don’t think they’ve confirmed who the director’s gonna be and until then we won’t have a start date, but I know they have an idea of what they want the story to be and the guys are working on it. So, while JJ is doing Star Wars, we wait for Star Trek.
And now for Mockingjay. I loved seeing Caesar’s composure crack a bit in Catching Fire and it’s going to happen even more so in the next film. Are you doing anything yet to prepare for that transition?
TUCCI: Nope because I haven’t seen a script yet. Until they give me something, I don’t know what’s there and what we can work with. It’s not a huge amount that I have to do. It’s very minimal really what I have to do in the next one and the one after that.
EVE: How many are there?
TUCCI: There will be four. So, two more. But for me, honestly, these last, it’ll be a couple days of work or something. But it’s great. I love playing the role. It’s so much fun. So much fun.
Can I ask you about his teeth?
Not your teeth?
TUCCI: No, not my teeth. God, no! I had the teeth made because I really wanted him to be that extreme. I had the teeth made while I was shooting a movie in England and then we brought them in and played with them. I had top and bottom made, but we didn’t use the bottom. It was too much so we just paint my bottom teeth white – you don’t see them as much – and then you just have those enormous white, gross fake teeth.
Do they make it hard to talk?
It probably adds some time to the hair and makeup process, too.
TUCCI: The teeth? No! You just pop ‘em in and pop ‘em out. It’s great.
EVE: What do they make you talk like? I haven’t seen it.
TUCCI: Well, it’s just bizarre.
Everyone I saw the film with walked out of the screening calling everyone cheeky.
TUCCI: [Laughs] Really? [To Eve] I call her cheeky.
And it’s the laugh. That really solidifies that as an unforgettable line.
TUCCI: You should see the stuff that ended up on the floor. I think that would have been a very different movie. [Laughs]
What kind of stuff was that?
TUCCI: It’s just crazy! You know, just improvisation – like crazy!
EVE: You get to improvise on that movie?
TUCCI: I do because that character can do it. He’s the emcee so he can just sort of – and with Gary, we improvised even more.
EVE: Did you?
TUCCI: Yeah, Gary, that’s what he wanted.
What’s the most outrageous thing you said that you wish made the final cut?
TUCCI: Oh god, I can’t remember the things I said. I mean, in both movies, like, I don’t even know. Stupid stuff, you know? It’s just fun.
Some Velvet Morning will get a limited release on December 13th and expand to select cities on December 20th.