Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Southerner Looks to the North: Part Four

A Chat with David Gordon Green: On the Cast (click here for part three)

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The Criterion Collection: Spine #152

In spite of the commercial challenges his films have faced,
Green has emerged as one of the most interesting and idio-
syncratic independent filmmakers of the last decade.
-- George Ducker, The Believer (2006)

*****

You've talked about some of the differences between shooting your last two films, but were you working within the same time frame? Or did you have more time?

Same time-six weeks-and about the same budget.
Well, there was a little more money for Snow Angels.

How does that compare to your first two films, in terms of the shooting time?

My first movie was 19 days straight; second, third, and fourth were six weeks: five-day weeks, 30 days. And I just finished one [Pineapple Express] where I had 45 days.

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Amy Sedaris at the Shrek the Third premiere
I don't know about the crew, but that must've felt like a major difference to you. So, how did you end up casting Amy Sedaris? Did you know her from North Carolina?
I had a big crush on her. I didn't know her from North Carolina, but I
did know her. We had some friends in common, and I had gone over
to her house and had cupcakes one time, and so I knew I liked her.
[Sedaris has a sideline in cupcakes and cheese balls.]
She's good. She's funny at first. And then when she's not supposed to be, she isn't.
I like her a lot. I was trying to find someone-you know, the trick with that character and with the character of her husband, Nate, is that they're not in it that much, so they need to say a lot in a very brief period of time. They need to be interesting, they need to be likable, and they need to be a breath of fresh air. You've got to take that evolution, because if she just jumps right into dramatic heaviness, then that's-it's just not Amy. I don't think the audience would take that leap. So, it was about trying to use her comedy and her energy and her naturalism to our advantage, and to show the audience a different side of her, because when I met her I hadn't even seen Strangers with Candy or anything, and since then I had become a big fan of her work. I look forward to another-I'd like to do a vehicle for her specifically.
That would be awesome. It's interesting, because when I read about the cas-
ting-Amy Sedaris and Kate Beckinsale play best friends-I couldn't see it. I get intrigued by things like that, because you want to see if it'll work, and it does. And her
[character] being married to Nicky Katt is interesting, too. It's funny, but at the press screening, certain actors-and I'm sure you've seen this at screenings you've attended, too-people just respond to them. Like when Tom Noonan comes on the screen, people start laughing, and the minute Katt comes on the screen, same thing. It's not, 'Oh, there's that ridiculous guy.' It's more like, 'We love this guy.'
You just know what you're gonna get when you get those guys.
They both have this way of delivering lines. Like Nicky Katt...he amazes me.
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Kool Katt
He's a funny individual.
Is he funny in real life?
Oh my God.
I have no idea what he's like outside his movies.
[Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, The Limey, Planet Terror, etc.]
His name wasn't Nate in the book, but he was so different
that we changed it, just so he could invent his own character.
Are those his tattoos?
Yeah, but that's not his moustache. You know, he's in that
leopard-skin banana hammock the first time you see him.
That was scary.
He was supposed to do it totally nude, but he chick-
ened out. I'm never gonna let him live that down.
It works the way he plays it.
It's a little less distracting, I guess.
Doesn't he also wear a woman's robe at some point?
When he's in the water, he's wearing a karate outfit.
How about Michael Angarano? Arthur wears this pink"sh hat throughout the
movie. I came up with this theory, because it seems like such a weird choice, that his Mom put it in with the colored wash. He
[a teenage boy] wouldn't choose a pink hat-and it was this really light pink-so I wondered if it wasn't forced on him.
I don't think it was forced on him. I did want it to be his Mom's hat.
I knew there must be a reason for it. That's not accidental.
I wanted it to be his Mom's hat, and I wanted there to be a closeness. Anything I could do to connect him to his Mom, because there aren't any real scenes-I mean, there's the first scene and the scene in the car-I wanted there to be allusions to the closeness to his mother. I like it that way, because it's funny, a character thing.
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Arthur in his Mom's hat
I like that explanation. So, from what I understand Sam Rockwell
was attached to the film while you were working on the script?

Yes, the other director [Jesse Peretz] had cast him, but Sam came after I had written it. I was done with my job, and I did another movie. I was working on other things.
So, you weren't thinking about him when you were writing?
Uh-uh.
Were you thinking about any actors?
Mostly, I was just thinking about my friends. I wasn't projecting who would
act in this; I was thinking about people I knew and what they would say. I
find it easier to write that way. It's more realistic, because I have a limitation.
It gives you a boundary as to what the reality of the character should be. Like
with Arthur, a lot of it is what I would say, how I pictured myself [at that age].
Also in the press notes, Sam Rockwell talks about his preparation, and it's real-
ly extensive: he watched all these movies and read all these books. That's a lot
of work. Have you worked with other actors who prepare that extensively?

Yeah, it's a lot of work. A lot of actors within that same time just try to memorize lines. I don't focus on that. I have them do the research to get to the core of the character. I usually just cast people where that's their process, because it's more entertaining that way. It's more uncertain. I always work with people that are that crazy, unless they're just not actors and they just are who they are in real life.
He works pretty regularly, so I thought if he's putting this much
work into your film, he probably does the same for his other films.

That's why I went to hang out on the Jesse James set, because
we were rehearsing. We did this right after they filmed that.
So, he was overlapping.
We were overlapping a little bit.
Poor guy. He had a tough year-as an actor. Aside from Snow An-
gels
and The Assassination of Jesse James, I saw Joshua, too.

[Rockwell doesn't make out well in any of these films.]
He did do a lot of heavy stuff. I can't wait to see Choke. I haven't seen it yet.
I'm looking forward to that, too.
Next: On actors and producers
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Green's Judd Apatow-produced follow-up, Pineapple Express (with Seth Rogen and
James Franco), opens on 8/8 (there are no more Seattle screenings of Snow Angels). Images from AOL Television, About.com (copyright Richard Chavez), Collider.com (click the link for the Pineapple Express trailer), and The Criterion Collection.

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