Exclusive: Zoey Deutch, Ry Russo-Young and More Talk ‘Before I Fall’

Marie Claire hosted a star studded screening of Open Road’s ‘Before I Fall’ in one of New York City’s most beloved theaters; a small venue that just begs you get comfortable and watch a movie.

Last night began at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York City with the wonderful stars of the film Before I Fall, Zoey Deutch and Jennifer Beals, its brilliant director Ry Russo-Young and the film’s originator in novel form, author Lauren Oliver. Olympic medalists Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson arrived in the excitement and We Are Your Friends’ Shiloh Fernandez came along to show support for the film. The screening was followed by an after-party at Delilah in the Lower East Side, a cool, cozy place that had a killer signature cocktail, delicious canapes and music from DJ Lauren Flax. The night was a pure celebration of a touching film and, as the cast would agree, of life. 

The Knockturnal met up with the cast and the film’s creators at the screening to get some insight on the movie.

Jennifer Beals, who plays Sam’s (Zoey Deutch) mom in the film, on what drew her to the role: Oh it’s such a beautiful story. Like I knew after I read the script, and I just was sobbing and not out of sadness but out of real joy and gratitude for life, that I wanted to be part of the story.

On working with Zoey Deutch.

Jennifer Beals: Oh she was phenomenal. Just really and truly brilliant and emotional available and intellectually so astute and just a really lovely person. And funny! You know she makes me laugh.

Ry Russo-Young: It was very collaborative is what I would say. I feel like she helped me make a better film and pushed me to keep my head in the right priorities and—I don’t want to do this long, I don’t want to be a director, it’s lonely. That’s why I’m not a writer, I don’t want to sit alone in a room. I like the collaboration and Zoey gave me so many ideas and thoughtful choices about her character and options and range and so it was the best part of the movie. Meeting Zoey and finding Zoey.

On working with Ry Russo-Young.

Jennifer: Oh she’s a great director. Really great director, really trusts her actors and very, very communicative and very creative. I would love to work with her again.

Zoey Deutch: She’s wonderful. She’s really—she’s like my creative soulmate, I love her.

On the playing with the different dynamics of their characters.

Jennifer: She’s behaving differently because my character’s not privy to this cycle that she’s [Sam] going through all I have to do is react to what she gives me. So one day my daughter is misbehaving and the next she’s hugging me and I just don’t even know what it make of that.

Zoey: Oh I loved it! It was a film that explored the different facets of the female adolescent experience and I don’t know who you feel, but sometimes when I watch movies about young women I’m like that’s not my experience at all and I look at who wrote it and it’s a middle aged white man and I’m like I don’t know how to write about being a middle aged white man! I have no idea! So how could I expect they know how what it was like for me? So to be in a movie that the book was written by a woman, script was written by a woman, it was directed by a woman, I’m a woman. To be a part of that process where we were authentic and not trying to belittle the female adolescent experience was wonderful.

On what to take away from the film. 

Jennifer: Oh really that on any given day you can change the rest of your life. And really but just following one good thing, it’s such a good directive. I took that to heart and saying that line as her mother, I took that to heart. When you leave the theatre you call the person that you love and tell them that you love them and you treat other people with compassion.

Zoey: This film, I mean, I just said it but to me what it honestly—in a time of what feels like unparalleled meanness in our country and negativity, to be a part of movie about learning to be kind to yourself and other people feels wonderful and special and poignant. It’s about a young woman who discovers that she matters and she has a voice and she has a purpose and a great message to spread. I want them to watch it and reflect back on their life and realize that they matter and what they do today matters. Now and into infinity.


Lauren Oliver on any reservations she may have had that the film wouldn’t be true to the novel: Well, I mean I think that actually weirdly didn’t but I think it’s for several reasons. One, the script by Maria Maggenti was so good and you know that that’s going to be basis of the blueprint and also I mean it took eight years from when it was first optioned and there were all of these different permutations of how it could work and by the time I met Ry and she came on, I was at a point where I thought let’s get the people I connect with, the best people that feel emotionally right even though there was at that point no clear path to how that would be made. But once I assembled this kind of—once the super hero team was assembled interestingly then things fell into place and at that point no, I didn’t have any reservations because I trusted everybody so much and we all connected and talked and had the same vision for it.

On feeling the need to control certain aspects of the adaptation process: No, not at all. In fact when I went to set I found it so profoundly disturbing that I hid in a closet after about twenty minutes and it was not because people were like “oh! Is that because you couldn’t stand that it was being bastardized?” or something and I said “no, it was the complete reverse.” It felt so intimately similar to things that were only amorphously in my head, I mean they were in my head but when you see a book when you’re writing it’s not like seeing it in real life. Once they were out there, it was like if somebody had read your journal out loud in front of lots of different sound and light guys. It was so uncomfortably intimate in a way but uncomfortably intimate for the right reasons where it was like this is exactly what it should be.

On her novel evolving out of her imagination to the screen: You know I think it’s interesting because a lot of people feel very differently about this and I think I would feel differently about other books but Before I Fall is still, even though it’s my first book, it’s personal to me in ways that I can’t exactly describe and probably don’t want to. But it feels inmate and so I mean I saw the movie when it premiered at Sundance and I’d seen it once I’d insisted that I see it alone on my computer, which is not how they show the author normally, and I felt so connected to it, and upset by it, and moved by it and it was wonderful to see it at Sundance but I will never see it again. I mean because it does, it feels like somebody plunging past all of these layers into the things that normally you’ve generated all these layers not to be looked at.

On drawing from personal experience to architect the novel: Oh one hundred percent. So I mean like many many things, I mean first of all the high school is very similar to the one I grew up in, Cupid Day was a real thing, I have three best friends and we used to drive to school together everyday. But I think more emotionally and that’s the thing that makes the difference. Not those details that makes it feel intimate, it’s about, you know I’ve said to people in the past that really the movie’s about a pretty girl who feels very ugly and then learns that’s she’s beautiful by transforming herself into love for other people and I think that if you extended Sam’s journey from seven days in the book to seven years it would be very very close to the journey I took. So there are just ways in which watching that process be mapped onto screen it feels rough. Especially because I’m so much older now and so I also then have a thing where, which I didn’t when I wrote it, where I’m like “oh, she’s a kid.” You know what I mean? So then there’s an added layer of feeling like these kids are all lost, or you want to help them, you want to fix it. And even feeling, I mean when I had to go back and do a special edition, so I was editing it, and I hadn’t read in like eight years. I had to completely—I mean always knew she was terrible, but reading it again in my thirties I was like, I was so appalled because I have, I’ve transformed so I see them in a different way. So for all of those reasons and at the same time I’m really happy, I’m really glad that if anything that’s going to have my name first attached to it that it’s a movie and book that I do feel is actually meaningful. It’s not about like space unicorns although that would be awesome and someone should do that.

On the importance of realism in the novel and the film: It’s very important. I mean I think one of the most bizarre kind of inversions is that people show teen movies often and they look very glossy and neat and teen life is anything but glossy and neat. That’s part of it’s transient beauty and also it’s deep pain. I mean there’s a lot of things I’m happy about, one thing that I would love to call out and I hope you know, you see this in the movie, this is the only movie I’ve ever seen where a girl has sex and it’s not used to identify her as either the evil character or the one who’s about to die. In this movie it shows consensual sex, it’s still lonely and bad but like many women and men, presumably, will experience in their life. And then immediately afterward she has a romantic interaction with somebody different and it’s as though that separate sexual experience has not defined her entire being and worth but sex is used in every other movie I’ve ever seen as a short hand for the girls that we’re supposed to dismiss versus the girls who are the love interest and so things like that, little details, also seeing women who, the girls in the film they do, they truly love each other and they’re also bad to each other and they dominate and have power struggles and that doesn’t they don’t leave other. I mean dimensional girls are very hard to find and so for all of those reasons. I mean it’s not just that I take realism seriously, it’s that I take people seriously and I take women seriously and I take young women seriously.

Before I Fall opens in theaters March 3rd.

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