People can’t wait to get out of work. They spend all week powering through long hours just for that glorious 6 p.m. Friday night to come. And sometimes, others can’t wait to go back to work.
Jules Osten and Ben Whittaker are exactly those people. Played by Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro respectively, the two spoke together with writer/director Nancy Meyers about The Intern and what new ideas it brings into today’s technologically based society. The film, which also stars Rene Russo and Adam DeVine, revolves around a fashion site start up created by Jules Olsten (Hathaway) which is moving too fast for Jules and her company to keep up with. This, added with the fact that the company is hosting senior interns (senior citizens; because college seniors still aren’t expected to have any job outlook) provides just the perfect opportunity for Ben to jump in and help Jules out.
The film offered a refreshing look into today’s treatment of people of different ages in society. This truly is a coming of age film, at least for all members of society today. Besides pushing envelopes with gender and age roles, the film itself gives a new look into different relationships and how they all revolve around each other.
The Intern hits theaters this Friday, and for now, check out our interview with the three below.
How are the issues of gender and age and retirement approached in the film?
Nancy Meyers: Well obviously the concept of retirement and that it might happen to you whether or not you’re ready is talked about, and this great desire to be part of things and not to stay pushed aside. I enjoyed enormously all the research I found on start ups and found that whole culture interesting and the fact that Anne plays someone who’s the founder of a company. I was saying earlier to somebody that when I wrote Baby Boom, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make her the boss and it wouldn’t have occurred to me when I was writing Anne’s character to make her an employee. So I think the world has changed and I’ve been able to make films over such a long period of time that we can examine the lives of these women who have lives and have children and then I got to look at the stay at home dad. The mom is running a company, a world that all entails—I totally forgot the question. The primary thing I wanted to write about was the friendship between two people that’s a love story but in its own way, not a romantic one.
Anne Hathaway: Well obviously age and gender and I think one of the things that Nancy’s done in this movie and what she’s done in her career is paint things that we feel via humor, via emotion, and just live our lives. And in this case in particular, she usually has a knack for getting there first and making observations and in this case, I think the observations she’s made about generational humor is she’s really gotten there before the pulse and before other people. And this isn’t an issue about the movie, it’s just something that I love about the movie that I feel I can go to see with any of my friends. I have friends who are twenty years old and I have friends who are 83 years old and I’d love to see it with them. I’d love to see this movie with my parents and I don’t think that we’ve had a movie in a long time that can appeal to everybody specifically of any age and whether they can find humor in it.
Robert De Niro: Well I was honored and flattered that Nancy asked me to be in the movie and reading that script, I read it and liked it a lot. I think everybody said it: it deals with what’s going on today and the whole me part about being the intern is what is interesting and fun. I suppose that is all I would say. I mean she dealt with the issues at hand—
NM: No, you’re right. Having Ben in your life, there’s a void for her, in her life.
Robert, do you see this as a revelation for baby boomers in that there’s more afterwards, and for Nancy and Anne, it seems as if you’re suggesting it’s lonely at the top.
RD: Yeah that’s a good way, but I think it is her love letter us guys to our generation or our people. It’s fun and I hope that it’s seen by a bunch of people, because it’s fun, this movie. We do tend—we feel that if you’re a certain age, people aren’t relevant and you’re much older and that’s just not the case. And people who are aware and sensitive to that and younger certainly realize that and when you get to that age you certainly know it. And there’s a lot of times you don’t know it until you get there, but there’s a lot of people there so hopefully you’ll see the movie.
NM: You know I never would have thought of that. When you said that, I thought, “Wow, that’s interesting that you noticed that.” It never struck me as any kind of loneliness as it did knowing what I know—like any many at this company would need—and I don’t necessary think it’s because she’s female, it’s just that when you’re taking on a big thing like that, it’s you. You’re a one man or one woman band so I didn’t think it was lonely.
AH: It’s so good to hear you say that because I was thinking, “I don’t know how to answer that. Am I a bad actor?” I thought it was not of a gender issue but I think it’s because Jules is a private person. And I think that she is so dedicated to her company and that anything to her personal life will impact her ability to do her job and keep the company going and she doesn’t really have anyone to confide in. And then she meets Ben and their relationship develops organically and she ends up taking to him and really really liking him and opening up to him and taking his advice because he’s very sound. And like I said, it’s not a force that happens organically, I just think she’s more isolated because of what Nancy said, because of her position. And one of the things I like about this movie is that Jules has so much heart and so much structure and she has bones—there’s no connective tissue in it and no one at the company knows how to build the connective tissue and that’s when Ben comes in and he kinda gets everyone to connect to each other. And I just loved that in this day of age when we have the tools of communication at a disposal and that we’re using them in such a way that’s it’s not taking full advantage of them or maybe we’re taking full advantage of them but it’s not as effective as having a one on one conversation. So I thought it was a great observation of how new school meets old school and they just make better the other.
For DeNiro, you’re such a great mentor to Anne in the movie, did you have any sort of mentor, and second, are you as technically challenged as Ben is in the movie?
RD: I’m a little less technically challenged but I’m not far behind. But I never had a mentor like that—I don’t envy but I do think it’s a great thing if you are lucky enough, especially in a certain intangible situations, you will have a mentor that will change your life and they can’t do that. I didn’t imagine myself in a lot of ways. And I like to give advice to young people if they ask me. I have in times asked people further on in their careers and certain actors who are generations older than me and I’d ask them questions about what to look out for, blah blah blah, and all their experiences. I wanted to take a short cut in some things, I didn’t want to do something I don’t want to—it’s going to be a negative one. I just want advice. So I do that if young people ask me—I don’t volunteer it but I’m sort of there if somebody sometimes asks me stuff on my opinion on situations.
Has this movie made you change the way you treat your interns if you have any?
RD: Well I had interns that I now work for. They were very respectful and never forgot where they were working before. So it’s nice, I’m very proud of them, it’s great. Tribeca after all these years, it’s a wonderful thing.
NM: One of my interns is in the movie. The kind of scrappy kid who sits to Bob’s right, he was my intern in It’s Complicated. I think, unconsciously I was kinda writing him, I wasn’t fully aware of it until I emailed him one day and said “Can you act?” That was the subject line, I didn’t actually write him an email. He was pretty good right? He’s never acted before.
AH: I don’t have an intern, because I’m not them—I’m not that impressive. But I was on a photoshoot recently and I was greeted at the top of the day when I arrived at the photoshoot by an intern. I think because of our movie, I went a little bit out of the way to pay her some extra attention and ask her questions about who she was, why she was doing this, where she wants to go. And then I thought I was doing something so nice and I was like, “Hey I have a playlist ready to go, can you be on the music and we’ll be in synergy and you play this song and that song” and she was like, “Of course.” And I didn’t realize the sound system was impossible to work and every time she had to leap from iPod to iPod, she had to do that for some reason, it would create the most horrible screech throughout the entire sound system and everybody was kinda annoyed at the sound she was making. So I was trying to do a good thing for her and, oh, I made a mess.
How was it like working with Nancy and share what you admire about her?
RD: Well Nancy—I’m used to doing movies that took as much time as our movie did. I’m from that generation—I don’t know, but it’s certain types of big movies like science fiction or those types of movies. But Nancy was very specific, great as far as telling us, a lot of takes at times but she was very specific and knew what she wanted and I totally get that and understand it and it was terrific. These days, movies don’t have the luxury of extremely long shoots or high budgets unless you kinda find yourself there because you have to finish it and it’s going to take longer than you hoped it would. But anyways, she was terrific, bottom line.
How long was the schedule?
RD: About 15 weeks.
NM: Half as long as to what I’m used to. But twice as long as other movies. So for me, I was racing on rollerblades the entire time.
AH: So you look at Nancy and you see this tiny adorable woman with awesome hair. And I don’t know, at least at first glance, I had no idea the tenacious uncompromising inexhaustible powerhouse that she is. I am so lucky that I got to work with her on this. The collaboration—it’s true though, I admire you so much, even more so, it’s beyond. When we started, I saw the character in two different ways, and I wanted her to be wearing her stress more on her sleeve and Nancy wanted Jules to have a little more together. And I had this moment where, “Ok, we see it different ways, am I going to go uncomfortably the entire time if I don’t follow my instincts and I’m thinking the entire time, “Idiot, who knows a Nancy Meyers character better than Nancy Meyers. These characters are beloved by you, trust her.” So it became this exercise in being guided through a character which was very new for me. So I felt like it was a true collaboration and Nancy is the funniest person I’ve met, I think she’s the smartest person in any room she’s ever been in and I imagine having been a woman in this industry for the last thirty years, it’s not easy being the smartest person in the room and being a woman but she lives it with tremendous grace. And I think she’s underrated and I hope this movie is such a global hit because she deserves it.
NM: That’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said about me. I love you so much. It makes it easy though—I have to say one thing. But these two actors are great people. So when you’re surrounded by great people, they make you better and they allow you to express yourself all the time and they’re open. Like I was saying to Bob the other time, he feels safe and that’s what you want. Why don’t we make a movie to feel safe and get what we need so they allowed me to do my work in that it’s up on the screen for what we in that short amount of fifteen weeks, that was barely there as far as I was concerned.