This week The Orchard and SAG-AFTRA hosted a special screening of “Blue Jay” at New School Auditorium. Stars Sarah Paulson, Mark Duplass and Director Alex Lehmann were in attendance.
Film Synopsis: Former high school sweethearts Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson) have been out of touch for more than 20 years — but by sheer coincidence, they run into each other at a grocery store back in their alpine hometown of Crestline, California. Jim’s mother has died and he’s here to put her house on the market. Amanda is visiting her pregnant sister. They get to talking, first over coffee, then over beer and jellybeans. Before they know it they’re at Jim’s mother’s house, where everything sends them spiraling back into the past. Jim and Amanda’s lives have taken different directions, yet here they are, reconnecting like nothing has changed.
Read what Sarah and Mark had to say below:
Sarah, you’ve played such a wide range of roles over the last couple of years. What particularly about this project appealed to you – since she’s someone different, more playful character than the other roles you’ve played?
SP: Definitely for playful than Marcia Clark (laughs). Yes, this is very different than anything I’ve done in a big chunk of time. I didn’t know that’s why I was saying yes. I had never worked in that way. I’m a real nerd about script. I feel very safe working that way, knowing just exactly structurally what’s in front of me and that the blueprint is – and there was no blueprint! It was scary for me because I’d never done it but Amanda (Peet) kept saying to me that these are the guys to do it with. So I just jumped in.
Do you have a strategic diversification strategy when it comes to your roles, or is it more that things come to you? Do you have a longer term plan?
SP: Boy, I sure don’t. Does it really work that way? Maybe if you have your first movie at Sundance and you become an enormous movie store right out of the gate and maybe you’re inundated with scripts and you’re just tossing them around going “This one. No! This one!” That never happened to me, so every choice I made was by virtue of there was nothing else in front of me. I was an actor who wanted to work and I wanted to work more than anything.
Once I entered the Ryan Murphy world – he just kept throwing me the ball and giving me more outrageous things to do and trusting me with more diverse characters. I thought I was very lucky. I had a plan when I was 20 and just started acting. Boy did I want to be Julia Roberts and then it just became someone else because no one wanted me to be Julia Roberts. So, i just sort of went where things led me. Sometimes I was doing things that I wasn’t excited about and other times, I couldn’t believe my good luck.
How was the preparation different. Obviously you’re coming off of the Marcia Clark performance. What is the difference with a role like this where there is no one to base it on?
SP: For me, there was no shortage of footage and things for me to read. I loved it. I get very nerdy about that stuff. I get consumed by it and I enjoy it. This was scary because I didn’t have all that to focus on. I was very terrified of playing Marcia Clark. I did not know how I was going to do it, if I could do it. The way for me to move beyond the fear of that was to really focus on the text and everything I could read and I could worry about just trying to be truthful. This was scary precisely because there was nothing for me to hide behind. I couldn’t put my fear in the research pot. I had to confront the fact that this was going to make be feel vulnerable and expose my shortcomings as an actress. I didn’t know how open, or willing I was going to be.
It’s very different.
How did this film come about?
MD: I’m a big schmaltzy movie fan. I love Same Time Next Year and Somewhere in Time. If I have the flu and the vulnerability is there – I can even go Nicholas Sparks. I’ve always been afraid to put that into my work. I’m always curbing that engine and thinking, ‘I don’t want to spill my melancholy all over everyone.’ Then I thought, ‘What if I spill my melancholy all over Sarah Paulson?’
I had this idea of two ex high school lovers who see each other twenty years later and what would that mean? That was about all I had. We knew each other socially because she’s really good friends with Amanda Peet. I was like, ‘Hey i want to do this movie. I don’t have much right now. It’ll be about us. It’ll be about improvising.’
This is more emotional and melodramatic than your previous work. There’s more heavy drama than your average Duplass project.
MD: This is the least prepared I’ve been for any movie that I’ve ever been involved with. It was purposely that way. I had the idea, I wrote a two page outline, I brought it to Sarah, I brought it to our producers. We all started meeting once a week and said, ‘Okay, how can we make this story better? What are some personal things we can bring to it that won’t make ex boyfriends and girlfriends mad at us?’
We really built this story that was in my opinion – I try to build movies that I know can succeed and that I can do well. The Skeleton Twins – we produced that. We knew it was going to be a good movie. Blue Jay, we were scared shitless. We had seven days to shoot the movie, it had a very loose outline. So if Sarah and I couldn’t find the magic between us – the movie would be dead. When we were shooting we knew that it could either be a miracle or boring as shit.
I think it was part of the fun of making the movie. We went in with a twenty page outline and we shot the film in chronological order. We would adjust as we went.
These are such lived in characters. We there preparation, in terms of a backstory?
MD: From the minute I met Sarah, I was surprised as how she was. I was like, ‘That’s not the girl from Carol, that’s not Marcia Clark.’ She’s this really giggly, goofy, bubbly, fart joking, awesome person. I was like, ‘I’ve never seen that person on screen.’ We had a nice chemistry. We could hang out and talk. I think because we shared Amanda as a friend, that helped. I knew if we leaned on that, we’d at least have something interesting. That was our backstory. Just that energy.
The Orchard will release BLUE JAY in New York on Oct. 7, Los Angeles on Oct. 14 and on VOD platforms on October 11.