At this year’s Toronto Film Festival, I was able to sit down with Jon Hamm for an exclusive interview about Friends With Kids. Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), the plot centers on a pair of thirtysomething best friends who observe the toll that having kids has taken on the couples they know and resolve to bypass that stress by having a child and then date other people. Adam Scott and Westfeldt play the lead couple, while Hamm (who also produced), Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph play the couples with kids. Edward Burns and Megan Fox are also in the film.
During the interview, Hamm talked about being back at TIFF (he was there last year for The Town), was it tough to get Friends with Kids made and how did the project come together, his recent comedic work on 30 Rock, Bridesmaids and Funny or Die, and we ended the interview talking about Mad Men and his thoughts on the show coming to a close. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the conversation.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below. As of today, Friends with Kids hasn’t landed a domestic distributor, but it’s a very funny film and I’m beyond confident someone will pick it up.
Collider: I was just interviewing Jonah Hill and it worked for him too. How are you doing today?
Jon Hamm: Very well. How is Jonah?
Jonah was excellent. Very thin and in a good mood.
Hamm: I know. I saw him last week and I am very excited to see his film.
It’s very good. Your film is also very good.
Hamm: Thank you.
You were here for The Town and this is obviously a more personal film with you producing and starring in it. Can you talk about the TIFF experience and how it is like being here?
Hamm: It actually goes back much further than that. We were here 10 years ago. It was a rather significant time in everyone’s lives. We were here with Jen’s [Westfeldt] first film, Kissing Jessica Stein. The film was incredibly well received here. In fact, Fox Searchlight picked it up. I don’t think it was out of TIFF, but we were kind of bought by Fox Searchlight here. So we had an incredible experience until it turned weird. The people not only of Toronto but also especially the people who work on the festival are so gracious, welcoming, and supportive not only just of our film but of film. Whether it is action, genre, horror, or whatever – it is truly a sort of welcoming of all commerce kind of environment. There is no snark or a too cool for school attitude. It’s a little bit like there is something here for everyone and you have to go find it. It is a perfect city for it. It is incredibly easy to get around. It is safe, clean, and all of that great stuff. You don’t feel like you are jam packed on top of everyone where you can’t move. So we had an incredibly different experience last year with The Town. It was Warner Bros and this whole sort of studio machine. That is a kind of incredible thing to behold. Now we are back here with our film and it is as equally welcomed. It is a nice thing to see that whole gamut of experience be tied together with the fact that TIFF and Toronto in general are so welcoming.
Hamm: It was tough. Part of it was a little bit self imposed because we wanted to make this movie this year. Normally you go, “Well, we will make it when we can make it. We will make it when we get the money, and then we get the thing, and then we will cast it. We will see how long that takes and then we will make it.” But we were like, “We are going to make it in this chunk of time because of my schedule and the schedules of other people that we wanted to be in it.” So we kind of did it ass backwards where we were like, “We are going to do it in this number of time! What do you we need?” and it was like, “Well, you need money, people, and cameras.” And it was just like, “Okay. We have twenty minutes to get all of that together!” So we set ourselves up to fail miserably. But due to Jen’s incredible hard work, diligence, effort, talent, and charm we were able to call in favors and basically move mountains and do the impossible to get this done, and we did. We shot it in 24 days and we shot it in one of the worst winters that New York has see in 30 some odd years with snow every couple of weeks. We were digging out grip trucks and the lenses had frozen over and we were like, “Okay. Well, let’s get a hair dryer on the lens and we will dig up the truck while we are defrosting the lens and then we will be fine. Hopefully the trains will be running by then and we can get some PAs and people up here.” So it was a challenge. It was a tremendous challenge, but it was exciting in that way that independent film can be. It was like, “Well, no one else is going to do it. So we have to do it.” That was kind of my capacity. Obviously, Jen had her plate very full with directing, starring, producing, and writing the film. So my job was to take out as much from her backpack so that she could stand up straight and share the load a little bit, and hopefully I did.
Hamm: No. We are looking for distribution and hopefully we will find that and get it in front of a paying audience.
Were there a lot of hawks circling last night or it is still too early to tell.
Hamm: A lot of that stuff happens…those hawks circle it at a relatively high altitude. I don’t generally participate in a lot of those discussions. Hopefully, yes, we have had several hawks that wanted to get into a hawk fight. But I honestly don’t know. We had a lot of positive feedback. I thought the screening went very well. We were standing in the back sort of hiding. But it was well received and people laughed in the right places and cried in the right places. The movie is a very real exploration of relationships and what happens. Ideally, what we wanted to make was a movie that was kind of funny and also heartbreaking, and I think we did that. Hopefully it will find a distributor, an audience, and all of that good stuff.
Something that I have really enjoyed about your work from the past few years is all of the comedy. I’ve really been a fan of you making me laugh. Is that something that you are maybe pursuing more of or has it just been a little bit here and there?
Hamm: Well, yeah. I’ve just been really lucky in the last few years to be asked to be a part of some really funny things. Whether it is Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Bridesmaids, or Funny or Die stuff – it is just fun stuff. A lot of my friends and I are goofballs and we like to goof around and have fun with Adam Scott being one of them. I think a lot of people are now realizing just how funny Adam is and can be with his work now on Party Down and Parks and Recreation. But also in our film he is a tremendously dramatic force. We happen to see a film that he did that very few people saw, but it was a wonderful film called The Vicious Kind. He is just incredible in it and not funny at all. It is a heartbreaking performance and we actually made all of our people watch that saying, “This guy can do it. If you think he is just this guy, you are wrong.” So I’m lucky. I get to stand next to funny people and I am happy that is the case. If that is a conscious choice, I don’t know. Hopefully I will get to do interesting projects. Some of them might be funny and some of them might not be.
I do think that Adam hits a huge homerun with his performance in this film. I think that people are definitely going to take notice of him. I definitely have to ask, the end of Mad Men is on the horizon. Is it sort of mixed feelings or are you sort of like, “We’ve had an amazing run. I would rather go out on top.”
Hamm: It is long enough away that we may not go out on top, but I remain confident. But I think it is nice when things end. I think that is what stories do – they end. It is hard to write endings and it is hard to come to the end of things, but I think when it is done right, it is a very satisfying way to appreciate something. I’m a big fan of a lot of British television shows and the way they make TV shows is that they do very few of them and they have an end. That is a nice thing. It is mixed feelings. I’m excited that it is there and I am excited that it is far enough off that I don’t have to sweat it yet. It will be interesting to not have that in my life because it has been such a big part of it for so long. So talk to me in two years. [laughs]
Do you know what you are doing next?
Hamm: Going back to work on Mad Men. We just started a month ago on season five. So at 6:15 Monday morning I will be back on set.