Soho Hotel a couple of turns from Oxford Street and OWF and a few other possibly respected journos are sat in a plush conference room of animal print comfy armchairs waiting for Jonathan Demme (director), Anne Hathaway (lead actress) and Robyn Hitchcock (musician) to tell us the inside skinny on RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. You may remember I reviewed the movie HERE. A couple of minutes before they come in were allowed to put our voice recorders on the guests coffee tables and after weighing up all the seating possibilities and acoustic ramifications place mine smack in the middle. Sitting back down my animal print chair decides to exhale very loudly much to the amusement of all and sundry The 30 minute event is hosted by another journalist whos name Im afraid escapes my attention. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that as he says it Anne Hathaway walks in the room. Q: It says in the notes, which are always true, that this was hoped to be the most beautiful home movie ever, tell me about the decision to go for that particular style.
DEMME: Ok, the only reason the word beautiful is there is because you cant say we want to make it feel just like a home movie, which is what we actually did want to do, but we had to impose the caveat that itll be really nice to look as well. And it really had to do with two things, one was Jenny Lumets screenplay, which is a great script in my experience Ive never read an original screenplay with quite the promise of that script and its very stripped down. Jenny wrote the script in such a way that it had no indications of how the reader, i.e. the viewer, is meant to feel about any of the stuff thats being presented; it didnt have any camera instructions, it was sort of heres whos in the room, and heres what they say, bam, bam, bam. She didnt try to make the characters likeable, she was trying to make them real, unique, as we all are, but real. So if you can do that script, which I very much wanted to do, youre faced immediately with the question how are you gonna shoot it, and the quote unquote style that I previously have been trying to quote unquote develop over decades of film-making was extremely, for a film buff, enjoyable but very manipulative kind of designing shots meant to manipulate the viewers emotions one way or the other, and this time the sense was lets do it like a home movie, lets not manipulate, lets not even rehearse; lets just go gather great actors, put em in a room and pretend were making a documentary. I just want to say quickly that Declan Quinn, the director of photography, is so fundamental to being able to have an idea like this because Declan, who Ive been working with for the last couple of years on documentaries, and actually we did one even in the early 90s together, has an incredible gift for capturing reality in the most cinematic way. Whether it was Jimmy Carter or stuff weve done in New York City, he just finds that cinematic perspective, hes a tremendous storyteller. He adores actors and is a tremendous appreciator of performance and nuance so Declan made it easy for me to decide to do it that way. That was very long, sorry (laughter), the answersll be shorter in the futureQ: Robyn, with this particular style of shooting the film, do you see a parallel with music, in the sense its almost like a free-form style, a jamming way of developing themes or ideas that you can expand upon?
HITCHCOCK: Well yeah, in as much as youve got landmarks in the movie so you know where certain feelings are gonna happen, especially if youre directing it, and that carries through to if youre playing in it. But what was fun about the film was this sort of synesthesia because the sound and the action are all happening at once, its not dubbed on afterwords, so all the musicians and theres about 15 of us actually in total at various points are all happening in real time so nothing is dubbed, youre not told how to feel with post-production. So, I suppose it is I remember you telling me Jonathan a while ago that it was all performance anyway. I had a part as a sinister operative in The Manchurian Candidate and Id never been in a movie before, and I said Well Jonathan Im really a songwriter, singer, I havent done any acting, and he said yeah but its performance, its the same thing. And its doing it very similarly, it was multiple takes. And the nice thing about this is that there were virtually no multiple takes, everything seemed to happen.Q: For you Anne, is it very liberating to work in this way, or does it raise the stakes for those moments you know you have to pull it all out? The wedding rehearsal speech for example, is that particularly nerve-wracking?
HATHAWAY: I found the whole film process, reading the script, liberating; and the whole process of creating the character and then actually getting to shoot it It really felt like doing theatre every day but just having a documentary crew there to film it, and so the point was not to make a film, the point was to play the scene. All we can do is play these moments as theyre supposed to be played so it didnt become about this is my big scene, it didnt matter in that way. And quite frankly it was great not to have the distraction of alright, now its Rosemaries close-up Ive gotta give her everything that I have, but also save enough for me because my turns coming up too; and then think about oh my god I felt so good on her close-up why can I only act when the cameras not on me That thought train, there was no track for it so it could never leave the station and that was just fantastic to be able to act without that. So I just really loved it. I do think its worth saying that it took Neda (Producer) organising everything, Jonathan seeing everything, Declan shooting everything, in order for that very focussed chaos to reign, but it was beautiful and it led to a lot of creative, inspired moments.Q: Jonathan, it was nice you could give your old friend Roger Corman a break by handing him a camera.
DEMME: Im glad you spotted Roger, Roger famously will do anything to get a pay cheque even though hes like gajillionaire at this point; if he gets a choice to do a couple of days at SAG (Screen Actors Guild) minimum on a movie he feels like hes sticking it to the man somehow. But in recent years hes demanded dialogue so we made up a character for him and gave him dialogue, and then he even improved some stuff with Anne and it was fabulous but in a film that was too long something had to go, but Im so happy theres a shot of Roger Corman.Q: Anne, you said how spontaneous it all was, and the music was such a huge part of this film, but apparently you found the music a bit too intrusive on one occasion and snapped and it was incorporated in there; and how much improv was there?
HATHAWAY: I would just like to say in regards to the quote unquote snap I asked permission to snap before I did, far be it from me to ever impose anything on Jonathan Demme, or any director for that matter
DEMME: No, go ahead.
HATHAWAY: No! And I remember because I was so appalled at my own instinct that these musicians shouldnt be there when you felt that they should be there; so I said how married is Jonathan to the idea of music in this, could we try a take without it and the response that I got back from the other room was If you dont like it do something about it!, so I did, and that was scene where I snapped. And then how much of it was improv very little actually, 100% of the screenplay is on the screen and 95% of that is dialogue that was there on the page that didnt change from the read-through that we had together a couple of weeks before filming. A couple of things were thrown in to pad scenes, to get from one place to another; should the camera find you, you dont just want to be sitting there waiting, so Jonathan would come over and say during the wedding scene why dont you have a conversation with Sidneys sister and describe the accident to them and just dont tell them what youre going to do beforehand but just describe it, stuff like that. But its not a moment you see, or you hear what Im saying, you just see my mouth moving. The script was written in such a way it was easy to make it seem spontaneous, but I think the way it was shot had more to do with giving it an improvisational feel than any brilliant improvisation the actors came up with.Q: Punching Debra Winger; discuss did you have to play it out a few times, and did you accidentally catch each other
HATHAWAY: Um, I dont think so. DEMME: It looks so real HATHAWAY: It looks so real, DEMME: Every time I see it Im still shocked. HATHAWAY: Its just amazing. We rehearsed it quite a bit, and Id love to have some dramatic story that Debra and I grabbed each other by the shoulders and made bull faces at each other, and breathed through our noses in order to rev ourselves up, but it was just acting. Thats what the scene says it has to do so thats what you do. Thats the way I felt about this whole movie; Jonathan cast us very specifically and our instincts were different but similar, they were in the same arena, so none of us were ever in different movies than each other. We didnt have to talk things to death to make sure we were on the page, we just kind of knew that if we stepped out of bounds Jonathan would be there to kind of reign us back in. So what can I say, leading up to it I thought oh my God I get to have a scene with Debra Winger, and were punching each other, and then during it, it was very much about Abby and Kym and then afterwards Im just like I was in a scene where I got punched by Debra Winger (laughter), so I can acknowledge as an actor how cool it was but also as a performer how amazing it felt to actually get to do the scene. DEMME: Can I just say, because that was an excruciating day, that on the one hand I knew that Annie and Debra, being consummate professionals, meant that nobodys gonna get hurt; on the other hand theyre each total, total in the moment actors who once it starts happening its happening We had stunt people trying to figure where people would land and stuff, and I felt part of being a director is youre responsible for the safety of everybody; so we did everything we could and then we started shooting the scene. And I think actually my memory is that both of you guys took a clip here and there, no one got terribly damaged and I was like relishing the horror of this encounter so much I stopped worrying about safety and just went ah this is great!. We didnt do it very much at all really, I mean that scene probably took us 2 hours to film HATHAWAY: No, it didnt take very long at all. DEMME: We shot everything really fast, this thing of no rehearsals really helped speed things along HATHAWAY: And to be fair the no rehearsal thing was for the first 3 days, the way I remember it, it was lets just shoot the rehearsal, like see if anything interesting happens, and then after the first few days it just kind of - the illusion fell away and we were just shooting from the get-go. DEMME: Have you noticed we never got to the takes? HATHAWAY: Yeah, youre rightQ: What about the casting of Debra in the first place, because its interesting that that character comes in and shes a recognisable face, and that gives the part that much more weight for the viewer.
DEMME: Every part in the movie demanded a fine, fine, fantastic actor, and it always does The part of Abby was interesting because its a character who even when shes not in the room, and shes usually not in the room, it has to be one of those people like most of our mothers, who are in the room even when theyre not in the room And Debra has that so I had the audacity to get a script to her, and I was thrilled that she agreed to play the part.Q: You dealt with the dialogue and the improvisation, but with the camera shots, how many were pre-set and how many just happened; and when filming whether the actors knew when the cameras were on them. And can I just say about Rosemarie, how amazingly like Debra Winger she looked.
DEMME: I know Rosemarie was cast first; the first time when we had Rosemarie meet Anne and do a little bit of a reading she came walking through the door and it was absolutely, sisters absolutely. Physicality, sure why not; vibration complete , just that other level of stuff. And it was a beautiful co-incidence that Debra and Rosemarie have a pretty aggressive look-a-like quality. But in terms of the camera (to Anne..) HATHAWAY: In terms of that we never knew where the camera was going to be beforehand. Sometimes youd be staring at someones back and all of a sudden Declan would turn around and theres a camera in your face (Demme laughs). And so you do become aware in that moment, but no, there are shots in the movie I had no idea the camera was on me. Most of the time I did, I did know. The thing is though there were usually 2 or 3 going at the same time, in group scenes, so in some of those I had no idea but that was really liberating.Q: How about you Robyn, with your guitar on the set there, knowing that you could be filmed doing anything
HITCHCOCK: No, I think its great because it means youre not wasting time. You know so much in film and in making records involves multiple takes but here its the economy of it; I dont know if you realise but in a lot of the wedding the wedding guests themselves had cameras so maybe if there were 3 cameras on you one of them was Declan and the other 2 were just wedding guests, and it was great. They were being extras, and wedding guests, and camera people. And when you see the movie suddenly it gets grainy and you realise youre watching one of those wedding guest shots, and I love that. So little is wasted.Q: In those moments when you werent aware of being filmed did you come up with any new musical ideas, that this was in a way paid research?
HITCHCOCK: Um (laughs), I wrote some songs on the set of the Manchurian Candidate, but it was so economical on this production that I had no time to hang around in my trailer, you know, writing notes DEMME: You got a trailer? HATHAWAY: I was just thinking wait a minute, hold on, what film was I on? HITCHCOCK: It was my ghost trailer HATAHAWAY: I had a Chevy But to be fair we had a beautiful house to live in, so we didnt need one.Q: Anne, do you consider this a diversion from more traditional film-making? Has it tempted you to try more experimental type films?
HATHAWAY: Oh yeah, Im a big weirdo, so Id love to do much more experimental stuff. That I havent done it up until now is not a lack of desire its just a lack of opportunity. So absolutely, I just think the freakier the better. And we were saying the other day how cool that our weird, little movie is taking us all around the world and people are seeing it and we get to talk about it and people are reacting to it, being made sea-sick by it (laughter).. And so Id love that. I know some of my choices are a little more mainstream, a little more commercial and I dont judge myself for those either, I think theres a creativity to that as well, but I think how great to be 25 years old and to say yeah I want to go off and make a wedding movie with Kate Hudson (Bride Wars), and then turn around and say but Ive also made a wedding movie with Jonathan Demme, and its pretty cool to have both of those ends of the spectrum.And that was the wrap, I managed to get a hand shake and a thanks from Mr Demme, and a hand shake from Anne Hathaway and some mumbled nonsense from myself. Im such a pro. It was lucky I remembered to pick up my voice recorder RACHEL GETTING MARRIED opened in the U.K. on Friday.