The Knockturnal was on the scene for the New York Film Festival premiere of Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.”
The film is about the rapid tangling and gradual untangling of impetuosity, resentment, and abiding love between a married couple negotiating their divorce and the custody of their son. Noah Baumbach (Director, Screenwriter, Producer), Adam Driver (Actor), Scarlett Johansson (Actor), Laura Dern (Actor), Ray Liotta (Actor), Alan Alda (Actor), Julie Hagerty (Actor), Azhy Robertson (Actor), Martha Kelly (Actor), Wallace Shawn (Actor), David Heyman (Producer) and more were in attendance at Alice Tully Hall.
The Knockturnal: Speak about working with Azhy Robertson, who plays your son. He’s crucial.
Scarlett Johansson: Yeah, he is. He’s an incredible actor. He’s a wonderful young actor. There’s such a natural way about him, as you can see in the film. And, I don’t know, when you see that in a kid that’s so young, I think it’s like a gift, you know? He’s just a gifted young actor.
The Knockturnal: He showed us the bracelet you gave him.
Scarlett Johansson: Oh. Was he wearing it? Very, very sweet kid. He’s a sweet, sweet boy, and his parents are very nice, too. It probably comes from that. He’s a very, very talented guy, and I don’t even know if he’s totally aware of it, because he’s so young, but he has that thing, whatever it is, you know? He’s got that thing. Special.
The Knockturnal: What surprised you about working with Noah?
Scarlett Johansson: I’d never worked with Noah before, so I didn’t know what his style of directing was going to be, and he’s relentless. He is relentless in his pursuit of truth, of his curiosity about these characters. Nothing is off limits with him. But it’s exhausting because you’re doing 70 takes of something that’s really emotionally … It was a marathon, for sure. So, that was surprising to me, because I just didn’t know what to expect, and I was like, “Oh, okay, we’re doing that. Okay.” You know? I got strong doing it, though. I built a lot of dramatic muscles.
The Knockturnal: So, just watching this movie this morning, the performances from Scarlett and Adam are just heartbreaking and exciting. Can you speak about watching them play these scenes out as a director?
Noah Baumbach: Yeah, I mean, they really gave so much of themselves to these parts. I mean, I can watch their performances in ways that I usually can’t watch my own movies, because I feel like it’s their movie, you know? They really took it and made it theirs in a very personal, exciting way.
The Knockturnal: Speak about collaborating with Noah on this.
Laura Dern: He’s the gift of a lifetime as an actor. He gave us truly the most perfect script I could ever dream of. I wept for 40 minutes after I read it, and then I did when I saw the movie. I was very privileged to be invited on a journey both with Adam and Scarlett, as well, as he was writing, through a year and a half process. So, it felt very personal to all of us. He did so much research. He invited me in to researching the world of divorce law in Los Angeles. And he achieved the dream, which was, he said, “I want to make a love story,” and then like three weeks later, he said, “You know, I think I want to make a love story about divorce,” which is so brilliant, and wild, and magnificent.
The Knockturnal: Can you share what you admire about Scarlett as an actress?
Laura Dern: Easily. She’s fearless, she’s meticulous, she’s an incredible professional, but she’s also, unexpectedly for me, incredibly disciplined as a prepared person in their workplace. And we had an amazing time together.
The Knockturnal: How did you get involved?
Julie Hagerty: Noah called my agent and asked me to come over, and I auditioned for him and got the part, which was thrilling, because I really wanted to work with him. He’s one of our great filmmakers. So, to be able to work with him and this cast … it was a real dream. And everybody was so lovely, and he’s so easy and loves actors. I mean, to watch Scarlett and Adam in this movie is just heart-wrenching. Heart-wrenching. They just hit it out of the ballpark as far as I’m concerned. Just beautiful performances.
The Knockturnal: And your character has some comedic moments.
Julie Hagerty: I guess it does come across funny … But there’s the seriousness about, “No, you take it. No, you do it. No, I don’t want to do it, you do it.” So, I guess it does come across funny.
The Knockturnal: And how was working with Merritt Wever, as well?
Julie Hagerty: She’s absolutely darling. I love her.
The Knockturnal: Speak about working with Adam on this. You guys are so fun to watch.
Alan Alda: We’re fun to be together with. We really enjoy each other’s company. Adam, I think, is one of our best actors, and maybe the best. He can do anything. I’ve seen him play two completely different parts, diametrically opposed, in the same week, and he looked like two different people. He has in him a wide range of people, and he’s able to reach them. And he’s such a good person. He’s so nice to be with. He’s smart and kind, and very, very helpful to other people. He has this wonderful program to help members of the Armed Forces, he brings plays to them, introduces them to theater that sometimes they’ve never seen before. And it’s good for both parts of society to get to be exposed to one another.
The Knockturnal: What did you love about the writing in this script and working with Noah?
Alan Alda: The thing that I love about Noah, both in his writing and his directing, is that he understands that life is bright and dark, sometimes at the same time. It can be funny and tragic at the same time. Unexpected things are happening. And he has this amazing ability to show you the rough texture of life, the uncertain texture of life, and at the same time be highly organized. You don’t sense the organization, but you feel it as you watch the movie. You’re satisfied by watching it. He’s a brilliant writer and director.
The Knockturnal: Your scenes/moment in the film are hilarious.
Martha Kelly: Thank you. It was really fun to do it.
The Knockturnal: So, how did you first get involved with the film?
Martha Kelly: I auditioned at Francine Maisler’s office, and she really coached me. So, that’s the only reason I got a callback. And then, so, I did a callback, and then a third one where I met Noah, and then a fourth one where I met Adam, and we did this scene with Noah. It was nerve-racking but I love them so much that I … pushed through it instead of just being like, “I can’t do it.” Because it was nerve-racking. But it ended up being really fun.
The Knockturnal: Did you realize at the time how funny it was going to be for viewers?
Martha Kelly: Thanks. I never know what’s funny with acting, because I’m normally a standup. In that, you have a real sense of what works and doesn’t. With acting, I really don’t know until I see it with an audience and whether they laugh. But it was definitely … We laughed sometimes during it, because it’s so absurd.
The film will be available on Netflix this fall.