Speaking to Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Dustin Hoffman about their new Noah Baumbach movie on the Red Carpet at the 2017 New York Film Festival.
Hitting the festival circuit now, The Meyerowitz Story (New and Selected) is a bittersweet movie that looks deep into the delicate intricacies of an aging family dynamic. Harold Meyerowitz, played by Dustin Hoffman, is an accomplished yet frustrated New York artist who has long since reached his peak. As he faces the inevitable end of his career, perhaps even his life, his family is forced to shift and adjust for the grumpy and resentful old man that he has become. As a result this fragmented family must come together for, even if they’re all too close for comfort.
Could you relate at all to this dysfunctional family?
Stiller: “Sure! Of course. What family is functional? Everyone in private has there own issues – that’s the thing about families! But hopefully there’s a real love between the people despite all the obstacles in the things you face in terms of life and personal issues. Sometimes when you’re so close to a person the same rules don’t apply as they do in life in terms of how you treat each other.
But this movie to me is a very open and sensitive movie! I think Noah was exploring some very vulnerable issues in terms of what it’s like to get older both for the parents and the kids.”
Hoffman: “Yes but there’s a caveat to that. I have never met anyone who said they grew up in a functional family. I think by definition they are dysfunctional. Because they haven’t chosen each other, grouped together just by accident!”
Sandler: “I’ve been involved with meals that get a little out of control at my house, yes – but this isn’t my family. This is a very interesting dynamic because of a divorce and because of different childhoods, siblings with different relationships with the dad. In no way is it my life!”
What was the rehearsal Process like?
Sandler: “It was like making a play, like when I was in college [Tisch]. A lot of rehearsing. All day talking about the script and talking about your characters and being with different actors at different times. A lot of preparation. And then when we got there, there was a lot more work to be done but we felt a little confidence going in for what we talked about.”
What was key to finding your character?
Stiller: “Talking to my director more and more and making sure I was more what he was thinking. What he’s been through. What he wants out of life. He’s alone for the first time because his daughter is going out to college and he just got divorced. It was easy saying Noah’s lines, and just bring the right emotion to it.”
Elizabeth Marvel: “Normally I play a lot of really intense women, and this was a much quieter person. A person who had a lot of social phobia, a person who works at Xerox! As an actor it is such a joy to be able to create someone and travel to someone that is so different from myself. It was a deeply satisfying experience.”
What was it like working with Dustin Hoffman?
Stiller: “To me Dustin Hoffman is one of the most amazing human beings. He’s one of my favorite actors growing up and one of the reasons I wanted to be in movies. He is also just an incredible caring and generous person for someone who is so talented and has the ability to shut you down in one second – look at his career and the history of the movies he’s made. He’s so kind to anyone who comes up to him and to the other actors.”
Marvel: “Well! It was an experience of a lifetime! It was incredible. He’s given the greatest film performances of all time. Over and over, movie after movie! But he was also just another working actor like me at the end of the day. We all showed up, we worked really hard, and we all had a wonderful time!”
This movie is all about a father seeking validation for his craft. Your parents were actors too. Any familiarity?
Stiller: “I grew up with parents that were actors, I am an actor too, now a parent. For me it’s been this experience of seeing my parents do this and that and you have all these criticisms when you were a kid and you get older and you have kids and you start doing all those things because you see how hard it is to be a parent. Especially to be a creative person and a parent and to figure out that balance is tough. I think Noah took a really unflinching look at it.”
The Meyerowitz Stories is a Netflix production directed by Noah Baumbach and is scored by none other than Randy Newman (well, supposedly Adam Sandler wrote some of his own music in the film too: Sandler “I’m just glad to have my name next to Randy Newman!”). The movie is a comedic but sincere look into this complicated family whose trials and tribulations are at once universal, yet so damn unique!
Reviews are already naming it one of this year’s best for reasons that will soon become clear to all when Netflix premieres it on October 13.