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ARCHIVE - ENTERTAINMENT INTERVIEWS
Michael Lehmann Interviewed – ‘Because I Said So’
1/31/2007
Posted by
Frosty
     
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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I loved the movie Hudson Hawk. When it first came out the film had all this buzz as it was supposed to be this huge summer blockbuster. If you are a student of film history you know that Hawk was not well received – in fact, it bombed pretty heavily. But I still loved it. And all this time I have held onto my belief that the film was better than the audience gave it credit for.

 

Where am I going with this story?

 

A new movie is coming out this Friday and it happens to be directed by Michael Lehmann, the director of Hudson Hawk. So while I was happy to attend the press conference and write about Because I Said So, I’ll admit I had an ulterior motive.

 

And if you read the transcript below or listen to the interview - which you can do here – you’ll see I was not the only one who was interested in Hudson Hawk and asking some questions.

 

Back to Because I Said So. The film is about the relationship between a mother and her three daughters. Of course nothing is simple in this family as Diane Keaton is an OCD mom. She constantly obsesses over everything little thing and is especially out of control with her youngest daughter - who is played by Mandy Moore. Unlike her older sisters, Mandy’s character is still single and searching for love.

 

Enter the OCD mom.

 

She takes out a newspaper add to meet perspective suitors and then interviews them like it’s for a job. That one example sums up pretty clearly how she acts and what she is willing to do for her family.

 

The film follows the typical chick flick movie rules so you know what you’re going to get prior to walking into the theatre. But to help me judge the film, I took a girl and she enjoyed it. I will say Diane Keaton was great as the obsessive mom and Mandy Moore continues to prove she is more than just a pretty face.

 

Without wasting anymore time here is the press conference with Michael Lehmann. Also I’ll be posting transcripts of the press conferences with Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore and Lauren Graham.

 

Because I Said So arrives in theaters February 2nd. 

 

 

 

Question: Good afternoon.

 

Michael Lehmann: Good afternoon.

 

Michael, every time I see Bruce Willis I tell him how much I love Hudson Hawk.

 

And what does he say?

 

He says thank you and it’s in profit now.

 

Oh, good. He likes to say that.  Bruce has always liked to say that because the movie was so hated when it came out. I get it now fairly regularly from people. Mostly from people on movie crews who come up to me and say "You directed Hudson Hawk" and I go "yes, yes, yes" and they go "Oh I loved that movie", but....

 

The romantic comedies that are very common formula in Hollywood now, what do you think sets this one apart and why were you attracted to such a female center of the story?

 

It certainly is a very female centered story and it is...I think 2 things set it apart for me, 2 or 3 things. First of all in addition to being a fairly conventional romantic comedy it's also a mother-daughter story.  And I think the mother-daughter story has equal weight with the romance and feeds the romance and makes for a much different balance than you get in most romantic comedies.  I was immediately drawn to that. And I felt that was the strength of the idea of the movie and the strength of the characters that were written. The other thing that appealed to me was the idea of working with Diane who is terrific and brings something to it that helps quite a bit and to work with her in finding the balance between a good strong emotional story mother-daughter emotional story and some romantic comedy that also delves with the character who was older than your typical center of a romantic comedy.  I guess I'll back up and say the mother-daughter story was part of it. The strength of the romantic comedy itself in the conventional way and also the fact that in addition to the Mandy Moore, Gabriel Macht, Tom Scott story there was the Diane Keaton and Steven Collins story which balance that out.  I have to tell you when I first read the script I thought I woman should direct this movie.  It's a very much a woman's movie. It's about how women relate to one other.   It’s about mothers and daughters and girls and at first I thought I'm probably not the guy to do this but...

 

What changed your mind?

 

Well, I had a really good meeting with  Jessie Nelson who's the producer and we talked about it and also I've always felt that as a director in my work, I've done movies that are sophomorically masculine.  I've done movies that have mostly feminine characters and elements and I think that both “Heathers” and “Truth About Cats and Dogs” are in their own weird ways they're different ends of the girl movie spectrum but they’re very much centered around the female characters and I like those movies and I like working with good actresses. I rally like getting inside the heads of female characters. I think I can do that well and I enjoy it.  Jessie and I talked and I thought about what this movie was about and what it had to offer and where I could take it and it got me very interested.

 

Comedies like this always have great DVD features with lots of extras. I'm wondering what kinds of extra stuff that we haven't seen yet that we can look forward to?

 

Oh, that's a good question.  I'll have to think about that.  We did a lot of physical stuff with Diane that was really funny and really good but I found as the movie was cut together that you can only take so much of that because at a certain point it starts to throw the balance off from the more emotional elements. This isn't a movie that is flat out kind of silly physical comedy, but there's some really good bits that Diane did that either got trimmed way down or taken out because I felt that they didn't really help the balance of the emotional elements of the movie which are ultimately as important as any comedy, so, maybe that.

 

How did the cast come together on this film? Who was the first one involved and how involved were you in the casting of the film?

 

It's interesting because directors---you're always involved in the casting of the range of parts in the movie but sometimes you get involved in a film and the stars are already there and you read the script and you say "oh ok, I can do the movie with these people, that's fine” In this case, the script was brought to me first with the idea that Diane Keaton was interested and might do the film.  So I read the script with her in mind and that was helpful. I felt like "ok, good this is a great role for Diane if she wants to do this, there’s a lot she can do with it and it would be fun to work it out with her”.  She was not fully and absolutely committed to the film. She was sort of loosely attached.  When I said I was interested in doing it after meeting with Jessie I sat down with Diane whom I knew a little bit but not very well.  We had a really long good conversation in which she basically read me page upon page of notes which really impressed me.  I thought it was great.  This was a movie she hadn't agreed to do yet but she was taking it seriously enough to look at it and say "I like this, I don't like that, I don't understand this, how would we do that" and so I felt at the end of that meeting I thought either she will not want to work with me and I can walk away or she'll not want to do the movie and I'll have to decide if I want to do it with somebody else, or we'll move ahead.  And pretty much we moved ahead.  So she was the first one attached which was good.  It made it easier to think about who we could cast around her. 

 

The most interesting choice was that in the very original conception of the movie, the idea was the Millie the daughter was actually the eldest daughter. There was a possibly to take this movie and have it be about a single mother of three daughters. The eldest of whom had never gotten her life together. That makes a lot of sense. But there are not very many actresses that can pull that off and whom I think you'd really want to see involved in a romance and a set of issues with her mother.  There's not many 40 year old actresses you'd want to see that with.  So we looked around and we thought about that and as we went though the casting process and thinking about who could be in the movie, Jessie and I both decided we should younger as well because the movie would work quite well with it being the youngest daughter.  Mandy Moore came in to read and I said Ok, sure.  I think she's good. I always liked what I've seen of her.  I wasn't all that familiar with her wok.  I'd seen Saved and I thought she was terrific in that and I'd seen her sing on TV and I knew that my kids knew who she was and I said let's see what she does.  She came in and she gave a really, really good reading.  That to me ....it's a very gratifying thing as a director when you sit in a room and an actress comes in or an actor comes in and does the role, does the scenes that you have them read and you realize oh, this person can inhabit this role and do something great with it.  Mandy was the 2nd person to be cast. Then we went from there and went though it all.  Readings...we read everybody or met with everybody and that was that.

 

Did you have people read together?

 

I don't think we did.  Sometimes you do that.  I think we felt that Mandy's reading was so strong and it was so clear what she could with the character that I talked to Diane about it.  I said "Mandy Moore came in and read. She was very good.  Do you know her work? Are you interested?"  And she did know Mandy's work and she was interested. She felt comfortable with that.  I think maybe at one point we thought should we bring people in the room together but we didn't.  And the guys....I felt so strongly that those 2 guys were the best people to play those roles of the people we saw.  There was no question.  It wasn't like oh, is the chemistry going to work? It was pretty clear it was going to work well.

 

What kind of specific input did Diane give you when you...you said she gave you lots of notes about this. But what was it specifically?  Was it just about how to make her character funny without seeming completely crazy or making it more crazy?  What was her input into that aspect?

 

It was all sorts of things. She was very specific in her notes. It's a great thing when an actor would do that.  She'd go scene by scene and say "I don't think my character would say this line. Does it have to be done this way? Wouldn't it be funnier if? I don't feel comfortable with that. I’m not sure. I wouldn't do this.  I don't feel like my character would do this” These are all just openings for discussion. She was not "I absolutely won't do this. My character wouldn't do that. Take it out” It was "do you think this really makes sense?  Is this the best way to go?” A lot of it had to do with....and this was a really fascinating part of the process. She knew that she needed to play a character that was domineering, who was overbearing, who was controlling, who had certain images of what her daughter should and shouldn't be. But she didn't want to be absolutely unreasonable abut it.  She wanted to make sure there was logic to what she did and how she treated her daughters and she didn't want to violate certain things that she felt that were appropriate for this character to do or not.  She didn't want to break things to make a joke, which I'm always in favor of.  I think you make better jokes when you don't break logic for the joke unless you make a movie just about jokes.

 

I have a couple of questions about the physical comedy.  First, logistically what's involved with getting a balloon to cooperate with you and secondly Mandy said the snort laugh was based on Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality and I was thinking Suzanne Somers in Three’s Company.

 

The funny thing is....her character was written as having this laugh.....this snorty laugh.  Let's make sure it isn't what Sandra Bullock did in Miss Congeniality.  Which I thought was really good by the way and really memorable. The challenge was how can we find for Mandy her own kind of snorty laugh. It took quite a bit of work.  She had fun playing around. It was kind of funny to see her go from feeling like "I don't really know how to do this and I don't know what to do" then letting loose with all kinds of bizarre kinds of laughter. The balloon was a huge pain in the ass so to speak.  It worked so much better that I thought it would.  The trick is super simple.  First I thought we'd need to CGI a balloon in and we're going to have to do all sorts of fancy stuff. But for the most part it was a piece of monofilament pulling through her dress. There's a guy hidden out of frame tugging this balloon at the right time, the right way, the right place, a wind machine and all that sort of stuff.  Those things can take hours and hours and we did ok.  We did ok. We got stuff fairly quickly.

 

That kind of ties in with my question.  How did you use costume design to support the comedy in the film especially the outfits that Diane was wearing.

 

Yeah, and that's also an area where Diane had a lot of input and a lot of good input. She has her own sense of style and fashion.  Shay Conliff, the costume designer, came in what a concept and talked to us and talked to me and Jessie first.  We went though a lot of choices and looked at a lot of photographs and that sort of thing and we narrowed it down. Somewhere in the next ....I think it was shay who came up with idea of these kind of 1950's big dresses which Diane....I can't remember if she immediately embraced it or whether it took her a little while, because she was really involved. She came in and she looked at a lot of choices. She'd say yes, no, I don't like this I don’t like that. She did embrace this sort of 50's mom look. We all thought it was funny and we all thought it was kind of an odd way to portray a contemporary mother. The costumers are not retro but they're retro-feeling I guess.  So that was something we had a lot of fun with.

 

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