Parker Posey and Hal Hartley Interviewed – FAY GRIM

     May 7, 2007

Opening up on May 18th is a film that I liked a lot more than I expected to, it’s called “Fay Grim” and it’s the sequel to 1998’s “Henry Fool”. Before you start thinking that you have to see the first film to enjoy the sequel, I didn’t see “Henry Fool” and thought this film stands on its own merits. The reason is the film explains the back-story rather quickly, so before the new adventure picks up steam you feel like you know the characters and you’re all caught up.

The film is about Parker Posey paying a single mom (Fay Grim) who had a husband who went missing years ago. Back when they were together he had written a bunch of journals that everyone thought were made up adventures of his supposed secret life. It ends up that he wasn’t lying about his life before meeting Fay and now numerous government agencies from around the globe want the journals. So while the adventure starts in Queens, it moves all around Europe as we follow Fay trying to get back the journals and stay one step ahead of the people trying to steal what’s rightfully hers.

The film is written and directed by Hal Hartley and it has a great cast – Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, Saffron Burrows, Liam Aiken and Elina Lowensohn.

“Fay Grim” is also one of those films that’s premiering on movie screens and home video at about the same time. It’ll also be on HDNet almost immediately so you can watch it for free (and in HD) if you get the channel on your cable or satellite system.

During the roundtable interview that took place a few days ago, we were able to cover how the project came together, if there will be another sequel, and what both are working on next.

Hal told us that he’s working on doing:

Hal Hartley: an oratorical in Amsterdam next summer of Louis Andriessen, the composer.

And Parker told us that she:

Parker Posey: just finished shooting a pilot and I’ll see in a couple of weeks whether or not it goes.

What network?

Parker Posey: Fox. Amy Sherman-Palladino who did Gilmore Girls. It’s with Lauren Ambrose, we play sisters—estranged sisters. It’s called The Return of Jezebel James. I find out I can’t have children in the episode and I try to get her to carry my baby.

Tons more to this interview so if you’re a fan of either Parker or Hal you’ll love the interview. As always you can either read the transcript or listen to the audio of the interview as an MP3. Click on the link for the audio.

“Fay Grim” arrives on May 18th.

Hal Hartley

Hal Hartley: So should we just dive in? I guess they’ll come and stop us right?

Parker Posey: Hal Hartley why?

Hal Hartley: Just because.

Question: Did you always know that you wanted to do a sequel to Henry Fool or was it something that hit you a couple of years later?

Hal Hartley: No, I think I did. I used to joke about it even when I was writing the script and like most jokes it was half serious. I think by the time we were shooting I thought about it more and then when we finished it I thought about it more and there were a couple of years there from 1998 to 2000-2001 where I’d often be found after supper trying out different scenarios verbally trying to entertain people. At a certain point I did that one too many times and James Urbaniak who plays Simon said “you know what? I don’t believe you anymore this is not just a joke. You’re serious about this. You’re going to do a number 2.” That just irked me—kind of pushed me. I called Parker in April 2002 and said do you want to do this because I think by that point I actually had the story in my head that I liked. I wasn’t going to write it down if she wasn’t interested.

Well, the first movie wasn’t necessarily a bit hit. How did you get the financing to go make a 2nd one?

Hal Hartley: It was a biggest hit at the time. The biggest money maker of my films. Paid off my mortgage in New York.

Parker Posey: But you’re not a millionaire. What’s wrong with you? Wait a minute, I’m not a millionaire either.

But so many years later was it hard to get the money for it. I mean, this has a much bigger scope than the 1st movie.

Hal Hartley: Yeah, no it wasn’t tough at all. People read the script and they got excited and wanted to do it.

Parker Posey: Ok.

Hal Hartley: See, she agrees. Yeah, it wasn’t difficult at all. I had taken some time to do more experimental work and to teach and do theatre and stuff like that so I think that me and my friend Ted Hope probably did anticipate a little bit more struggle but really once Parker said she was on board and we had to work on her availability but that had a lot to do with it and the script was a good read I think. People could get on board.

Parker, at what point did you know you’d see Fay again?

Parker Posey: When we were doing Henry Fool. Certain stories can carry a 2nd movie. This was kind of like very archetypal. You can see these characters are very rich. It’s Hal’s an American family, the Grim family, Fay, Henry Fool comes to town and shakes up the town. Fay falls in love with him. She gets proposed to as he’s on the toilet. She should have known better, she can’t help herself. It’s like this, you know, where his talent lies is in this kind of writing and this kind of story telling so be to able to be an actor and to work for him saying these lines and moving in these ways is really a lot of fun. All actors love Hal because if they can they get to utilize themselves and how they move and how they speak and being someone like Henry Fool, Agent Fulbright, there’s just this kind of world so we were all talking about it. Wouldn’t it be cool if we did that and then it all came together it was right after Superman that they got some money and they said don’t do it know because I have to do For Your Consideration. They’re like “I don’t know if we can do it, we’re going to have to do it now” and then it all works out in the end which I knew it would. We found ourselves in Berlin in January and February of 2006 and Istanbul and Paris.

It’s an indie film which is pretty rare.

Parker Posey: Except for Kevin Smith.

Hal Hartley: We were up all morning trying to make lists. There have been. You don’t think of them that way.

Parker Posey: Well, the 7 Up films.

Hal Hartley: Documentaries.

Parker Posey: Yeah but still those are major sequels.

But it’s true; you don’t see it much I guess. It’s exciting sometimes I look at bigger more mainstream kind of films and think that would be fun. People in my position—you go to see a James Bond movie. You say God, what would I do if they gave me that job.

Parker Posey: I would love for you to have that job.

Hal Hartley: James Bond #27. What are you going to do? How would you….because that’s what you do with your life is tell stories and adapting stories anything is almost as good as anything else on some level.

So that begs the question this movie sets it up that there could be a 3rd?

Hal Hartley: There could be many.

Do you have any idea for a 3rd movie already?

Hal Hartley: Yeah, I do and we’ve talked about it a little bit amongst ourselves.

Do you know which character it would be based on?

Hal Hartley: The son, Ned. I’ve got to invent a name for Ned. But you think it’s like a couple of years later well, I don’t want to get into it but….

Parker Posey: And Liam can play music so that’s a cool element I think because Hal’s movies are so musical.

Hal Hartley: Yeah, Liam Aiken’s got a band and he’s a very gifted guitarist as well. That’s why I asked him at the Toronto Film Festival when we premiered this I asked him point-blank I said you’re not going to become like a rock star or something are you and get out of the business? Because I had this part 3 in mind and he’s like …..he’s 16 so he’s like sure.

Parker Posey: He’s so cute.

Can you talk about working for Magnolia.

Hal Hartley: In distribution? So far it’s a nice fit. They’re kind of…I think I’ve worked like this since Simple Men, really going on the road. There’s a way this is done. Everybody does it the same way really. You set a date, you send us out on the road and organize. Pretty much all the same.

I was more curious about Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner.

Hal Hartley: Oh HD Net. That was…well, that remains to be seen. I’m very excited about this approach that the film will be out on movie screens in 25 cities and on the same day it will be available to be viewed on HD Net films TV and then apparently like a couple of days later you can get in on DVD anywhere in the states. What excites me about that is the whole idea of the whole nation can all at once see the film. It was always intriguing but somehow disappointing back in the olden days—5 or 6 years ago—when a film would come out in L.A. and New York and maybe Chicago and then depending on how it did there it would go to Minneapolis, Tucson and how it did there it would go to smaller things and it was this long kind of flow and whatever you call it. It would take a while. I can’t help but wonder what would be different now if people in a small town in Kansas can rent or buy it on DVD in the same week that people are seeing it in Chicago in movie theatres. Just the conversation—particularly when the conversation is via the internet and everything is so much accelerated these days. People talk to each other.

Parker Posey: Also the movie experience is you can buy a DVD and have a little home theater in your house.

Hal Hartley: Which is also better than the projection in a movie theater. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie projected in focus.

Continued on the next page ———->


Can you talk about what it was like with that grocery bag in the beginning about using it in all those scenes and what is symbolizes if anything?

Hal Hartley: I thought she was destroying it second by second.

Parker Posey: All the things a woman has to carry, a single mom.

Hal Hartley: She was the only one who knew it was continuity. She knew where the cereal box was and how high…

Parker Posey: Oh yeah I’m good at that. I take a mental picture. I’m so used to doing independent movies… what’s it like to work with Parker Posey. She’ll totally get what do they call those stands? A C-stand? She knows how to operate a C-stand. I hear something fall and I say I’ve got it. I reach over to some guy and like pull out this gaffer’s tape and we’ve got it keep the camera rolling.

Hal Hartley: I have a photograph of you from Amateur—asleep like a child on a big thing of cable.

Parker Posey: Just exhausted, oh yeah. Jason has a really good picture of me from some movie getting makeup put on on a milk crate outside on the corner somewhere.

Parker, how did you react to the storyline—such an extraordinary storyline compared to a much more contained version with Henry Fool? Were you concerned at all about exploding into such a big international thriller from small little Queens?

Parker Posey: I loved doing the kind of imagining your character out to how she is in the beginning to what she goes through in the middle and what happens to her by the end. It’s kind of like…it’s a unique kind of space that you put yourself in and she becomes more calm and more resigned I think by the end of the film because she knows this kind of truth. She kind of always knew that Henry would come again somehow, you know, and she’s kind of haunted in the film I think but she finds herself being her own superhero and all of a sudden she’s in these situations in over her head but not even wanting to know what the problem is and not being able to understand the problem but she knows she loves her husband and even though throughout the entire movie she hates herself for it and she’s denying it and all these guys are trying to flirt with her by the end you know there he is. Yeah, there he is again. I’m not seeing him, he’s not seeing me. It’s just mythological, it’s really a heavy mythological.

Hal Hartley: It’s not so heavy but it is mythological.

Parker Posey: Well, in a sense that it’s not like Broken English doesn’t have a weight that Fay Grim has. It’s not as….I don’t know what the word is but anyway, I like that. I like carrying movies. I think it’s much harder to do a little part than to do a really big part.

You just did a small part in The Eye right?

Parker Posey: Yeah.

So was that harder than the work you did on this and Broken English?

Parker Posey: I like to feel utilized. I don’t want to feel like just some like person who’s used for some plot thing or just like you know?

Hal Hartley: So it’s not as much fun?

Parker Posey: It’s not as much fun. You’re not…sometimes in movies like that even if you want to be a full character they say what is she doing? Don’t do that!

So are you going to be in the next Superman?

Parker Posey: No, I don’t think so. I don’t know though, I haven’t heard. I don’t think so. I would love to be there if only briefly.

So that’s not the sort of thing where you feel under-utilized?

Parker Posey: No, with Superman? Not at all. I enjoyed Superman a lot.

About the evolution of the story from Henry Fool which was in this booming internet age and globalization bearing down on that too… this which is very post 9-11 can you talk about the evolution of that in the story?

Hal Hartley: Um, well maybe Henry Fool in this film might be more obvious about this but all of my films ever since the beginning have always been very important for me to have my films, regardless of what they’re about, to be reflective of the time and place that I’m living in. It doesn’t have to be right up front and center but it should be there. I used a similar technique or it’s not really a technique—it’s a similar discipline when I was writing Henry Fool I was reading the newspapers, reading magazines and watching the news, just trying to get concrete examples of representative things in that time and everybody in that time was a swing to the right in Congress and Senate and a more right wing politics and also all this stuff about censorship of the Internet and the real heated debate going on about how it should be controlled. Should the government control it? So those things found themselves into the core of the story and so I took the same approach here with Fay. I knew it was going to be some sort of espionage thing. It kind of lent itself to that in terms of comedy and in terms of where we left off with Henry Fool. The question—did he get on the plane or did he not get on the plane? So I did the same thing. I kept a folder and clippings and I was surprised to find how many in the daily newspapers, how many little stories there are about really about what we used to call espionage—spy stuff. You read this and say this sounds like a James Bond movie, you know. I collected them and tried to put them all in there. Almost all that stuff they referred to is real. It comes from a real source. The American’s had satellites spying on Britain and Israel during a period of time when they were allies about something and that would piss everybody off. I was just really intrigued by that.

I was going to ask real quick though if you could talk about what you guys are both working on now?

Hal Hartley: I’m working on staging an oratorical in Amsterdam next summer—2008 of Louis Andriessen, the composer. He’s done Dante’s opera—comedy. Dante’s divine comedy is a 5 part oratorical and I’m staging it.

Amsterdam for the summer, huh?

Hal Hartley: June 13, 2008.

You’re going to have a tough summer.

Hal Hartley: Oh, yeah.

Before you leave the room can you say what else you’re working on right now?

Parker Posey: I just finished shooting a pilot and I’ll see in a couple of weeks whether or not it goes.

What network?

Parker Posey: Fox. Amy Sherman-Palladino who did Gilmore Girls. It’s with Lauren Ambrose, we play sisters—estranged sisters. It’s called The Return of Jezebel James. I find out I can’t have children in the episode and I try to get her to carry my baby.

So if the show gets picked up that’s a …

Parker Posey: We’d shoot in New York.

…that’s a big commitment to TV. Is it a 1 hour? 30 minute?

Parker Posey: It’s a half-hour. It’s very Norman Lear in tone. Very 70’s televsion. Serious and funny elements. I like it.

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