Actor. Director. Writer. Producer.
In Neil LaBute’s latest writer/director role, he debuts Dirty Weekend, a film about two – rather secretive – work colleagues who spend their layover in Albuquerque getting to know each other better and discovering their own secrets. Starring Matthew Broderick as Les and Alice Eve as Natalie, the two share an onscreen chemistry that widens as they uncover their personal lives and experience the city. The Knockturnal had the pleasure of interviewing the cast and director at the Friars Club on Wednesday night.
You stated before that you shot in 15 days. Were there any challenges you experienced?
Yes I think it makes it a challenge for actors, because there’s only so much that people can cram into their head and make real for themselves and then onscreen. And you’re asking them every day to do that you know? So I think there’s a placem where exhaustion takes over; in fact, it’s sorta helped us in a way. Like in the last scene we shot with atthew was really late at night and on our last day, and it’s really meant to be the time that he spends with this young woman and he was so tired that I think he got relaxed in a way that you might not at 10 o’clock in the morning, you know? He really felt like he was sleeping at that place and woke up tired. So that kind of thing I think you get a lucky break, but you want actors to do their best and sometimes you ask them to work beyond where normal working conditions are for something that’s a bigger budget film. You’re saying, “We have this much money, this much time, can you go above and beyond what most people as you to do?”
You worked with Alice before in Some Velvet Morning, so how was it like working with her again?
I did and she was great. It was so fun to work with her the first time and so different as a character so it was a pleasure to see her become a different character, physically see her become a different character. And we kept pushing that, “How can we make it more different than that last thing you did?” So that’s a fun thing to see how an actor can become different people. And she’s really smart—she takes your words and makes them become better than on paper, so what more can you ask for?
Since this is one of many projects you’re written and directed, did you do anything different now?
I think, like any work, you get better at it, you get more confident. If something comes up that you think you haven’t seen before, you’re a little more relaxed, you’re older. I think you hopefully grow a little bit. The more times I’ve done films or theater or television that’s been in small increments of time, the more relaxed you are about doing it that way. So I think it’s more about the repetition of doing it well enough that people respond to it that you go, “Yeah, I can do this now.” If you told me however many years ago, “Oh, you’re going to do this movie in eight days,” I’d go “No!” I mean, I’ve made one in 11 days and that was really fast, I don’t think I can do eight days. And now you just kinda go, “Yeah, I think I can.” So just more confidence.
Were you ever stuck in a layover?
Oh I have been but nothing like too bad. It’s always been weather related or that sort of thing, or having a plane just cancelled when I was in Eastern Europe, Romania.
In a gulag.
Not quite a gulag, but it’s one of those things that feels so out of your control. When people say “Fly safely,” you’re like, “I’m not really doing anything. I’m just going to sit somewhere and hope it all goes really really well with someone I’ve never met in my life.” So that’s just a strange phenomenon that most of us just pretend isn’t happening, you know, that we’re thousands and thousands of feet above the earth in something that really shouldn’t be up there. You know, it’s like “What is keeping this thing up here?” I try not to think those thoughts when I’m doing it.
Were there any special moments from set? Like that whole Butch and Sundance scene seemed improvised.
No no that was all there. I got to work with four people that I got to work with in some capacity- Matthew I got to work with in a kind of talk to and work together but everybody else that’s kind of a main character in the piece, I got to work with, so it was all very very comfortable set that way. Which was good because I was working with a crew that I didn’t know from New Mexico. But I spent a lot of time just trying to get the “Day” shot and then you’re living out of a hotel in a place you don’t know. Have you ever been?
Well, you get what you pay for. There are some beautiful parts. And the desert is quite beautiful, it’s not like my favorite thing, you know, but it worked perfectly for the film. And we used it as Albuquerque so that was kinda great, so you didn’t have to pretend it was somewhere else. So I didn’t mind the fact that I had a unique backdrop that I had never used before. And it’s actually one of those places that gives you a great tax break so the money stretched further than it would otherwise, so you can’t really complain. I mean, I could complain, but I won’t.
You first worked with Neil on Some Velvet Morning, so how was it like to work with him again?
I feel like it’s a great privilege to have worked with Neil because he is not only a brilliant writer, but he creates a safe, clean environment on set where you can create and touch the edges of yourself and the taboos of society, which is what all of his films are about. He makes it safe to do that so I feel lucky.
And what about working with Matthew?
He’s just a funny guy isn’t he? I mean you can’t complain about funny people—that’s why they have the voice. He’s great. I have a lot of time for Matthew Broderick.
You’re also working on a number of movies.
Before We Go is the Chris Evans one which is a romance which takes place in New York, which is a very cute movie that I’m very proud of. And Beyond Deceit is the movie- that one’s coming out in February- that’s with Al Pachino and Anthony Hopkins and Anthony Hopkins has been a great supporter of my career and this is our first time to get to work together so I feel very privileged to have got to work with him.
Were there any challenges in filming in only 15 days?
Just learning it. You circle the room, clapping your hands, getting in the rhythm of the lines as they kind of go into your body as in your mind as well. And that becomes a physical and mental exercise, just stamping the rhythm into your body. But you know, that’s not sort of a challenge, because as an actor you work two months and then you don’t work four months, so you kind of seize the moments that you’re working and store them up for when you’re on the sofa.
Have you ever been in a layover?
I have been in a layover and I was stuck for seven hours in Heathrow and I made a bunch of friends with a bunch of strangers and that was a great thing. It’s amazing how a layover will bond people you know in the drama of a situation and hopefully it recovers.
How was it like working with Alice and Neil on the film?
It was great. It was short, a three week shoot, but Alice was a great, great partner. Super friendly and we learned lines together. Without that, it would have been very hard. We had to learn like 15 pages or something of just us talking to one another a day so the night before we would go over in a panic over these pages, but she’s always in a good spirit and friendly and very helpful.
You’re also working on the Warren Beatty project.
I just did some more looping—some more ADR in that movie. I don’t know when it’s coming out but they’re very close to finished.
Were there any challenges in filming in 15 days?
Yeah, a lot. You just have to work very quickly, you don’t have a lot of time to try. The hardest part, to be honest with you, is to just learn that much talking. That’s the only thing—some of the speed is fun because you don’t have to wait around, because everybody’s busy. So that’s something good from a five month shoot.
Were there any special moments from set?
Well there were lots. Did she tell you we went ballooning? Yeah it was her idea—we went up in a balloon right when we started shooting. It was some festival in New Mexico- it’s actually really beautiful. Nothing really happened—we tried to walk to one restaurant some night I remember and thought, “Eh, let’s not drive, let’s walk.” And you know how some places like Albuquerque are, unlike in New York, you walk and suddenly you’re like, “Wow, I’ve been walking for two and a half hours and I’m at the other side of a gas station.” I remember that walk, it took a long long time.
Watch the trailer below.