Directed by Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies tells the story of Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), who work together at a craft brewery. They have one of those friendships that feels like it could be something more, and that should make each of their significant others (played by Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick) uncomfortable.
At the film’s press day, actress Olivia Wilde talked about how much beer they drank during shooting, the relationship between Luke and Kate, where she would draw the line with a platonic friend, working with co-star Jake Johnson, what friendship and love mean to her, her favorite scene in the film, shooting the big fight scene, how much snobbier she is about the kind of beer she’ll drink now, and what inspires her. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
OLIVIA WILDE: It was beer! We were really lucky because we were actually shooting in the Revolution brewery that we were pretending to work for. We were so embraced by that community. They were helping teach us about the different varieties of the beer. We each had to learn about which one we preferred, so we could talk about it in our improv. So, we had to learn about it to be able to talk about it.
Have you ever had a workplace relationship, like the one that Luke and Kate have?
WILDE: I’ve never had the experience that Luke and Kate have with work. I’ve had friendships in the past, where you wonder, “Is this the person I’m supposed to be with?” As you get older, you start to really ask questions like, “Is this the road I should be walking down?,” because every decision seems more final, as you get older. I think that raises your level of anxiety, about all things. What’s so interesting about these characters is that the thing that makes them such good friends, is exactly what would make them bad lovers. Personally, I think Kate’s lack of sensitivity is what makes her such a good buddy to Luke. They can hang. She can dish, as well as she can take it. He doesn’t really have to worry about her. She’s low maintenance, and he’s the same way for her. But, when you’re in a romantic relationship, of course, there is a lot more compromise and you have to be a lot more unselfish. She’s not really sensitive enough or nurturing enough for him, so it doesn’t work out. But, often those workplace romances taken into the real world are not necessarily a good idea.
Where would you draw the line with a platonic friend, if you were in a relationship?
WILDE: A good litmus test is that you should be comfortable with your significant other being present when you hang out with your friend. If there is a friendship where you think, “It feels weird when my lover is there,” that’s a problem. That’s probably a bad sign.
WILDE: We didn’t have a ton of time in pre-production to get to know each other. We just got lucky. The amazing thing about this process is that, if we hadn’t had the same kind of chemistry, if we’d had awkwardness with each other, the movie would have still worked. It would have been a slightly different story, but the way Joe [Swanberg] directs, he would have just used that energy. It would have been a story about more of an awkward, ambiguously romantic friendship/work relationship. So, that’s really fascinating. It’s so empowering, as an actor, because instead of us conforming to a set character, the characters were molded by us, through us. I think that’s why the performances are so good. I think everyone is so good in it, and I think it’s because everyone is really honest and not forcing themselves into a mold that they don’t necessarily fit into.
Kate is the only woman in this brewery. Was that a comfortable situation for you? Do you have more male friends than female friends?
WILDE: No, I’m a real woman’s woman. I have a great pack of female friends, but I also have a lot of guy friends. I believe that platonic relationship is entirely possible. My character is based on a real Kate, who has that job, at that brewery. She is the only one of two or three women, and she was really helpful in telling me how she navigates that world. Of course, as a woman who works in a male-dominated business – Hollywood, definitely, being one of them – I instinctually knew what that was like. You have to be strong and take care of yourself. I think women just know that, anyway. But, it was interesting to hear her stories of what it was really like, being in that Chicago beer world, as a woman.
WILDE: I don’t know. It seems like a dangerous concept to have someone who’s just your drinking buddy. Someone you have nothing in common with, if you’re sober, is probably not a good, healthy friendship. I have a lot of friends who I really feel like I can kick back with and let all pretense go and be very comfortable with. I think a lot of people do, and when they watch this film, I think that resonates with them.
Do you think Luke and Kate are soulmates?
WILDE: No. Maybe in their early 20s, they could have had something. It’s almost like it’s too intense to have them in the same relationship. I think what makes them such great friends is, in part, the fact that they’re very low-maintenance friends. Kate is not very sensitive. That’s what also makes her a terrible girlfriend for Luke. I believe there is someone for Kate. I hope she finds love. But, it is impossible for them to be in a romantic relationship because Luke needs someone more nurturing.
What do friendship and love mean to you?
WILDE: I think Luke and Kate love each other. She would give her alcohol-poisoned kidney to him. But, the difference between romantic love and friendship love is that romantic love involves a lot of compromise. It is a very giving type of love. With friendship, you can be a little bit more autonomous. You are not expected to compromise, in the same way. Maybe that’s why friendships tend to last longer. I don’t know.
WILDE: I think my favorite scene is the scene where we are in Luke and Jill’s apartment, and we are drinking a lot and hanging out on the couch. It’s a scene where I think the audience suspects we are going to cross the boundaries. There’s something so fluid about that scene. Luke puts on the record, and we are listening to music and talking, and Joe just let the cameras role. He edited it so perfectly. Every time I see the movie, I really love that scene.
How did you react with the scene where Kate and Luke have the big fight? Was that difficult to shoot?
WILDE: We were shaken up. I think [Jake] called me. In this day and age, if you get a phone call, you’re like, “Who’s dead?! What’s happening?!” It was intense for both of us because it was so honest and we had to hurt each other, which we didn’t want to do, but it had to be done for the scene. It was something that the entire crew could feel. That was the scene that I have to out him for being such a softie, but I looked over to our DP, Ben Richardson, who was also operating the camera, and he was crying, at the end. He’s so sweet. I should mention, in order to film an entirely improvised movie, as a camera operator, you have to be a part of every scene. He said that he started to learn our tells. He noticed that, before I spoke, I would shift my feet. By week two, he could cover it pretty accurately without knowing what we were going to do. So, that’s a credit to his genius.
WILDE: I don’t think she thinks she’s hot shit. I don’t think she feels beautiful, which is an issue with her. She is insecure. It’s sad for me to think about her loneliness. I want Kate to find love. I just think she has insecurities that prevent her from having real friendships with women. She doesn’t seem to be surrounded by a lot of women. And I think there’s something about her that is afraid of the idea of the unselfish commitment of a real relationship. She’s too messed up in the tornado of her own mind and heart. I don’t think she thinks she’s really pretty ‘cause she doesn’t use her sexuality to get what she wants. She feels entitled to sexual exploration and is horrified when she feels judged by her best friend for sleeping with somebody. I think she’s just discovering herself.
Now that you have had an education in beer, what are you drinking?
WILDE: I’m more snobby about beer. I really loved the Chicago beers that we drank. I love Revolution. I love Three Floyds. A beer called Daisy Cutter is really wonderful. Kate, my character, loves dark beer. I like a little bit lighter beer, but still strong, like IPA. The brewery was working while we were shooting. We’d be shooting a scene, and then a guy with a forklift who was trying to move some kegs, would honk on the forklift horn and be like, “Guys, I need to [get through here].” They were incredibly kind to let us invade their space. The first scene that I shot, the first day, Joe said, “Go over to that couple, at the end of the bar, and sell them a type of beer for their wedding.” That’s it. That’s all he said. I was trying to remember what I learned about the different [beers]. So, I pulled two different pints and brought it over to them, and I just bullshat my way through it. But, that wouldn’t have been possible, if we hadn’t had time to learn the specifics of beer.
Beer inspires Kate, but what inspires you?
WILDE: Gosh, people like the people we worked with on this movie. A process like this inspires me. People getting together to tell a story, and devoting their time to it. Music plays a big part in my life. I am a big music nerd. Writing is the other thing. All these things feed into what we do. My life is about politics, a lot of about music, and a lot about things other than acting. I like traveling the world. But, what makes me want to stay in this business and keep doing this are movies like this, when it’s a true labor of love. We didn’t make this film for the result. It was only for the process. If no one saw this movie but us, it would have been just as successful to us. That’s a great feeling.
Drinking Buddies opens in New York City on August 23rd and in Los Angeles on August 30th.