From director Fabien Constant and writer Laura Eason, the indie drama Here and Now follows Vivienne (Sarah Jessica Parker, in a truly terrific performance), an established singer with a successful music career who receives some life-altering news that causes her to re-evaluate everything. While making her way around the busy streets of New York City, she spends time with her overbearing mother (Jacqueline Bisset), her long-time manager (Common), her ex-husband (Simon Baker) and the musicians that she’s currently working with. Even though she finds no answers with any of them, she looks to make peace with the decisions she’s made, that have affected her life, friends, family and career.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Sarah Jessica Parker talked about why she wanted to work with director Fabien Constant, having such a female-led production, the challenges of embodying Vivienne, what she learned from this 16-day shoot, getting to sing an original song for the film, and what it was like to shoot on the streets of New York City again. She also talked about her desire to seek out work that’s worthwhile, and the staying power of Hocus Pocus, which marks its 25th anniversary this year.
Collider: Your work in this is just incredible. I would imagine that getting to explore someone like this must have been so challenging.
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: Yeah, I loved it. It was definitely challenging, in new ways, but it’s certainly everything you want, as an actor. You don’t wanna do what you’ve done before. Well, at least I don’t. I don’t think that’s super interesting. At this point, I’m so old that I don’t wanna do anything that doesn’t terrify me or feel different or unfamiliar. It was a thrill, and I loved it.
It sounds like you knew you wanted to work with director Fabien Constant before you knew exactly what you would make together. How were you made aware of his work, and what was it about him that made you want to work with him?
PARKER: Well, I was aware of a lot of his documentaries and, in particular, a documentary series that he did for the Sundance Channel, years and years ago. I just loved the way that he told stories, and I loved the things that he seemed to be concentrating on, with the smaller parts of our lives that are often not seen. Maybe that has to do with the fact that he’s a Frenchman, and French cinema often pays attention to those smaller things, and to those smaller, quieter stories. So, we had an occasion to meet, and my producing partner Alison [Benson] and I met him. They forged a friendship, and thus grew this idea of this movie and this story. And then, we found Laura Eason, who wrote a beautiful script. All of the parts and pieces just came together with such ease. I knew that he could take care of fictional characters as well as he could of real-life human beings.
You also hired a lot of women behind the camera, with an entirely female producing team and half of the department heads being female.
PARKER: Yeah, that’s our company (Pretty Matches Productions). It’s all women.
We’re so often led to believe that there aren’t more women behind the scenes of films because there just aren’t enough women in those positions to hire. Did you find it more or less challenging to find women to hire for those roles?
PARKER: Our company that produced it, we’re a company of five, and we’re all women. That’s the way that we’ve functioned for many, many years now. The hardest part now, which is wonderful, is that there just aren’t enough women to fill the positions. We have this great shift in our attempts at making sure sets reflect more of society, in both diversity and gender, but we haven’t created the pipeline. We should have female sound mixers, DPs, camera operators, gaffers, riggers, teamster captains, and all of that. We just don’t have a pipeline that’s strong enough. We’re running out quickly. But for us, it’s just the way that we’ve always worked, and it’s wonderful.
Once you knew who you would be playing, who this woman would be, and you had a script for this, what most appealed to you about playing her, and what most scared you about playing her?
PARKER: Everything about it appealed to me, even things that scared me. The scary part was, would I be able to access the emotions that were required and that I believed were necessary. They scared me because, typically, emotion is provoked and incited by conversation with another person, with things that are said and with how you’re treated, and a lot of the emotional life that’s shared is internal. It comes from internalization. She’s internalizing so much, and I didn’t know how I would find it without provocation, but that proved to not be all that hard. So, there were things about it that scared me in theory, but the exercise was actually wonderful. I found it quite accessible to me.
What was it like to do this as a 16-day shoot?
PARKER: I would tell you that when I finished, I was like, “I don’t know why anybody needs 35 days to shoot a movie. I don’t get it.” In fact, we were boarding Sex and the City 3 at the time, and my producing partner was like, “Well, you know, Michael [Patrick King] is fighting for that 58-day shooting schedule,” which they thought seemed very reasonable. And I was like, “We don’t need that! We only need 24!” I saw it be done, and it was a thrill to do it. At that point, when you’re shooting like that, you’re really just focusing on the most important things. I loved it. What it does is that it wipes out all of the waiting around on the set, which is just ridiculous.
One of the most touching moments of this movie is when you perform the song. What was it like to shoot the performance of that song, especially with it being an original song that was written for the film by Rufus Wainwright?
PARKER: It was incredible. The hardest part was the recording, just getting it right and making sure of the interpretation that we wanted with the phrasing because we would be locked in. You can’t go back and change it later. Of course, you can, but we weren’t in that kind of position. But, it was great fun. I love that song, and I thought it did a lot of the narrative work for us, in terms of telling you more about who she is and what this career has been. I think you got a sense of who she was, as a performer, in ways that we couldn’t have told you. I also think it’s a truly great interpretive song. It’s a song that you can act. Fabien didn’t want a big Broadway performance. He really did want more breadth than sound. I was just really excited about it. I loved it, and I loved doing it. I was nervous, but appropriately so.
This film also really puts you out on the streets of New York City again, interacting and really living in the surroundings. What was it like to actually shoot outside, on the streets of New York, surrounded by real crowds and traffic that you can’t control?
PARKER: It was great. I loved it. We were not calling attention to it, so we didn’t have hundreds of people behind barricades. We were capturing much more of active civilian life. You just move quickly, and then you’re out of there. It’s like the best bank robbery, ever.
Did it feel very different than when you did it for Sex and the City?
PARKER: Oh, yeah. There was so much more production involved, and it called attention to itself, much more. We were a much bigger production then. With this, we were working quickly. We were still around and eventually crowds gathered, but luckily, we had to keep people moving because it had to be an active street. We couldn’t afford a lot of takes, so it definitely felt very different. Plus, we didn’t have trailers. I didn’t have a dressing room. I was getting dressed in people’s cars and apartments. Strangers were letting us have access to their apartments to change clothes in. So, it was very different, but I think it was fantastic. I would do it again, in a heartbeat.
You’ve said that this is one of the most rewarding collaborations of your career. What did you take from this experience?
PARKER: That a lot of what happens, in order to make a film, isn’t needed. That you need a lot less. I wanna be very thoughtful about how I’m spending my time, and this was a perfect example of using your time really well. If you’re gonna be absent from the people you love and other work, you want to make it worth your time, and this was.
Do you have any idea what’s next for you?
PARKER: I don’t. I don’t know right now. I’m just trying to figure a bunch of stuff out. I’m in the middle of lots of other things, but nothing specifically concrete. I’ve got another book publishing in January, and I have my shoe business and my philanthropic work. But in terms of acting, I haven’t made any decisions. I’m in the middle of doing that right now.
This year is the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus (the film was released in 1993), which seems like it would have been such a fun movie to make, getting to play characters like that and working with those two other fabulous women (Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy). It’s one of those films that has really endured, over the years, and seems to just become more and more popular. Of all the films that you’ve made, is that one of the ones that’s surprised you, as far as how long it has sustained?
PARKER: Yeah, it has. It’s funny because, when we made that movie, I remember being in Los Angeles for the premiere and the phone rang so early at our hotel, and Jeffrey Katzenberg was like, “We’ve got a hit! It made $9 million.” My guess is that it’s made its money back now. But, yeah, it has surprised me. So has Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. There are a few of them that have integrated themselves into people’s lives, Hocus Pocus definitely being among those. And people watch The Family Stone, every Christmas. Hocus Pocus has really worked its way into people’s lives, and I would not have anticipated that, but I’m totally tickled by it.
Here and Now is in theaters, on-demand and digital on November 9th.