An interview with Lisa Cholodenko

 
 

AE: Moore attached herself to this project from the start — why do you think she’s one of those actresses who play gay so often?

LC:
I think Julianne just really loves to stretch herself and go to places that she doesn’t go to in her real life. That’s not her orientation but she’s obviously open to opening up any box that a film world will let her into. I think that’s just one of the things that she really enjoys as an actor is trying to stretch into these other worlds. She does a great job with it. I think a lot of what attracts her is the psychological and psychosexual realm, the emotional, interpersonal realm. So it would make sense that she’s trying on these different hats.

AE: How would the film have been different with Robin Wright Penn as Nic instead of Bening?

LC:
I don’t really know. But I do know that Annette Bening brought a kind of mama bear kind of largess to the film that was really funny and touching. She’s one of the few actors who has the extraordinary gift to be sarcastic and funny and kind of large that way, then completely grounded and dramatic and heartbreaking the next second. I felt really glad that I could tap her and get that kind of performance from her. I think that really was a great asset to the film.

AE: Was it more difficult to find backers for the film because of its content?

LC:
Again, I can’t really comment on that because nobody talked about that expressly to me. I can only imagine that people felt torn when they read the script and really liked it and thought, “Oh, but you know we can’t plug this formula into the computer because we haven’t seen this film before so we don’t know how this film is going to do. We haven’t seen a film that has gay content sort of packaged this way as a comedy and that’s more of a mainstream film or a film with two lesbians at the center.”

I would venture to guess that people were timid because of that but I think it would be more accurate to say that the people we almost got involved with — which was a series of different companies over the years — felt genuinely torn and not sure what to do. That all came out when we went to Sundance (in January) and every company and more than we’d ever talked to started bidding on it.

AE: Do you think the social climate has changed in such a way that you can make a movie about a lesbian couple and have it be a comedy as opposed to the tragic lesbian drama that we’ve seen in the past?

LC:
I do, which I think is a great thing. We’re a pretty long way from The Children’s Hour. I think we’re in a climate where people are very candid about their lifestyles and gay marriage and that’s slowly, incrementally moving forward. And now with the issue at the Supreme Court, it’s something that’s really in the zeitgeist in a multitude of ways. So to have this idea out there but not have it be the focus of the film per se is really testament to sort of how far we’ve come and where we are with the culture and I think it’s promising, I think it’s great.

AE: Why aren’t there more upbeat films with lesbian story lines coming out of Hollywood right now?

LC:
Because I don’t think it is just about “lesbian plus comedy equals good film.” I think making a good film, casting it right, doing it for the right price — all the elements that go in to making a film that works. There’s a laundry list, there’s a lot of things, whether it’s gay or otherwise and there’s just not that many great films that get made. When this film is profitable commercially and does well, then I think the studios — I’d bet on it — they’ll definitely be apt to put those kinds of screenplays at the top of their reading list rather than to the side.

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