*note this piece is written by Matthew Rovner.
There's a memorable intimate scene between the characters of Nick and Norah that requires Kat Dennings to act having an orgasm. How do you direct a scene like that?
Well...it was tricky, you know? And I think Kat was a little anxious about doing it because it's very intimate like you said. It was interesting shooting that scene because they fall out of frame so she wasn't on camera. And when we shot it, we shot them kissing, which is a little awkward but it's not terribly uncomfortable. They fall out of frame and we did a long tracking shot along that cable in the studio. But she didn't give her orgasmic performance then. She gave her orgasmic performance later on a quiet sound-stage. And it was challenging, she was shy. What we did was, we talked about it a bunch and then I wrote it out phonetically. I think that giving her a script made it make sense a little bit more. She could interact with the experience as she would with a scene of dialogue. And it really worked.
How does one write out an orgasm phonetically?
[Laughs] I'd think about pleasant experiences and try to write out what I heard.
Did that scene make it difficult to get a PG-13 rating?
Yeah. We had a lot of challenges with the rating. They really wanted to give us an R and we were committed to a PG-13 for the studio. And it was tough. It was a battle of inches. We sent it back to them four, five, six times. But the one thing we really couldn't lose was the thing they were most sensitive about, which was that orgasm. But we had to have it, it's the climax of the film both literally and figuratively. They consummate the relationship, that's what the whole film leads up to.
Why was it important to get a PG-13?
To the studio the rating was very important because they can market the film to a younger audience and more people can come and see the film. They want to have as good of a shot at making it as profitable a venture as possible.
On to another actress in Nick and Norah, Ari Graynor. I'm noticing a pattern in your films where at a certain point in the movie a supporting character will projectile vomit-
[Laughs] Perhaps I should make it my signature.
[Laughs] Was the scene of Ari/Caroline throwing up in the stall of a Port Authority bathroom originally in the script?
There was a scene of her throwing up, but I requested that it be...enhanced...
[Laughs] Were you actually filming in Port Authority?
It wasn't actually the Port Authority bathroom, it was on a sound-stage and the toilet was brand new. It was purchased from a store and cleaned that day. And it was filled with ginger ale, ginger cookies, and food coloring. Then they put frozen corn, peas, and carrots on top of the bowl [laughs]...And she didn't have to pull that gum out of the toilet because if you notice, her hands are out of frame when she pulls it out and it's actually just the prop master handing it to her. He washed his hands before he handed it to her...
So, not the method John Waters used in Pink Flamingos?
I love Ari, and I'm not going to have her eat shitty gum...hell no.
I wanted to talk about some of the cameos. I was happy to see Frankie Faison (Ervin Burrell) from The Wire.
He did a film that Paul and Chris Weitz directed (In Good Company, 2004); they were two of my producers. We wanted some cameos in the film, so for the day playing parts we'd go out to some actors and ask them if they were interested. And Kerry Kohansky, one of our other producers who works with Paul and Chris, suggested him and he wanted to do it and I couldn't believe it. But he was in New Jersey where he lives, so he would come in for the night and it was easy for him. He's a good actor and we were lucky to have him.
There were also some SNL actors.
Seth Meyers was also in one of Paul's films, he was in a movie called American Dreamz (2006), I met him at a dinner once with Paul. I think he's hysterical. I love him on "Weekend Update" on SNL. He seemed like a good person to ask because he was already in New York. And the writer's strike was going on, so they weren't shooting. There were all these SNL actors who are wonderful and couldn't work and they wanted to do things. And Seth told us that. So we asked him to be in that one scene and then he suggested to (Andy) Samberg to do something. He's hysterical too. And we've got Devendra Banhart, he came through a friend of mine, Kevin Barker who occasionally plays in his band...And the novelists are also actually in the movie. Rachel Cohn and Dave Levithan are in the Veselka scene, they're sitting right behind Michael and Kat. They're the other couple in the restaurant.
If you enjoyed parts one and two of this interview, you will probably also enjoy the third and final part. In the conclusion, you'll discover how it is possible to shoot on location in New York City yet be in Ohio at the same time and imagine The Breakfast Club as directed by Ingmar Bergman. If that sounds surreal, wrap your head around the idea of making a film without a camera.
END OF TRACK 2
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