What happens when your new best friend is your husband’s mistress? Madelyn Reid (Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden) accidentally learns of her husband’s infidelity when she saves his sexy young mistress Lucy (Talk to Her’s Leonor Watling) from a bungled suicide attempt. When her unsuspecting young rival suggests the two new friends take each other’s advice – on everything – Madelyn sees an opportunity to seize the upper hand. But the plan backfires when Lucy, an aspiring actress, insists Madelyn keep her end of the bargain and orders her to star as King Lear in a community production, with Lucy playing The Fool. Things really get out of control when Lucy starts giving Madelyn instructions on dealing with an amorous coworker and a handsome stranger (Aidan Quinn). if i were you is a very entertaining look at the unexpected places that life can take us.Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with writer/director Joan Carr-Wiggin to discuss the creation of the film, the process of bringing her characters to life, the challenges involved and much more!
Good morning, Joan. I want to start by taking a moment to thank you for taking time out to talk to us!
Thank you for talking to us! We appreciate it! On our end, we are happy for any attention we can get for our tiny movie, so it is very much appreciated!
It is a great picture. Before we get to that, I wanted to take our readers back a bit. How did you find yourself pursuing a career in the entertainment industry?
I think it was temporary insanity that we then got stuck with! [laughs] My husband and I, he is the producer of the film, entered it in our forties. I think we were just crazy! I was a huge movie fan and I was always taking in movies. My husband would always say “Let’s make one!” He is just that kind of person. He raised the money and I wrote a script and that is how we got into the business. I think we are insane! [laughs]
For being insane, you are doing an incredible job with filmmaking!
Thank you! I think more people should have second careers. Unfortunately, life isn’t structured that way very easily. You end up a different person than you were in your twenties. I would have never would have done this in my twenties but now I really, really enjoy it. I think life, in general, should be looser and people should have more opportunities to do more things, instead of having fewer opportunities, which the way the world is going unfortunately.
Who would you cite as your biggest influences or inspirations along the way?
I am not sure I actually had a lot. I think shows like ‘Mad Men’ where they show women’s lives are a good example. These are dreams I wouldn’t have had when I was young. I grew up near Jim Cameron. He talks about being in school and the teachers would say “You can be anything you want when you grow up.” I had teachers saying “Learn how to type so you can be a secretary.” There weren’t that many early on. If anything, it has been my husband. He is a dreamer and someone who is never afraid to say “Let’s do this!” Where as I am like “No, we can’t do that! It’s too hard!” He truly has been a big inspiration for me just because he is just the kind of person who likes to make things happen!
Very cool! That brings us to you latest project, “If I Were You”. What inspired the story for this film?
I tend to start a lot of scripts and then put the little pieces together. I actually dreamt the very first part, where she is walking along and sees her husband with the mistress. Three times I have dreamt the start of movies and I dreamt that part, where she felt like she wanted to take some kind of control and not to just be a victim. I had other bits and pieces for other scenes and it went from that. I knew my basic goal, which was to write something more tolerant. I don’t like things like “Fatal Attraction” where someone does this and that must follow and pets must die. [laughs] I wanted to make something more about real life where people make mistakes and they get through it.
One of the most striking things about the film is it’s cast. You have no shortage of talent in the picture. What can you tell us about the casting process of the film?
I had seen Leonor Watling in a spanish movie, “My Mother Likes Women”. Even though it was in Spanish, she lodged in my head. As I wrote, I thought of her, even though I didn’t know if she spoke English or not. Fortunately, she did and was willing to come to really, really cold Canada in the winter from sunny Madrid and do our movie! That was great! I wrote the character of Madeline, when I finished I thought “This is too hard. No one is going to want to do something that goes from slapstick comedy to King Lear!” Our casting director, Mark Palledini, said “Marcia Gay Harden really has the tools to do this.” It is hard to find people to do things on a tiny budget, a tight shooting schedule and no rehearsal time. He called her manager and she came on really, really quickly. I couldn’t believe our luck! Truthfully, if we didn’t have a good Madeline, there was no point in making the movie.
What did these actors bring to the characters that might not have been something you had envisioned when putting it to paper?
I think they both brought a lot. No matter ho hard you try in writing, it is just words on a page. I feel Leonor brought a vulnerability and a sweetness. She was adorable! Our digital colorist for the film, who was doing the final color work, was yelling out “She’s adorable!” [laughs] I think that was a quality which made you stay with Lucy, even though you think “Well, she is stealing this woman’s husband and has done some things which aren’t very nice at all!” The loneliness and kindness in Lucy’s soul s something which made the audience like her and is why, ultimately, Madeline becomes friend’s with her. I thought Marcia gave it a reality where you felt the depth and layers of that character. Even when see is doing extreme comedy, you just feel a reality that this is a real human being not just bits and pieces. You felt her through to the core.
How much of the film comes from improvisation? Or did you stick to the script pretty closely?
Because we didn’t have a lot of time when we shot and it is very, very hard on the actors, I like to stick to the script but encourage them to add things. I get nervous if we cut things because we can’t afford to come back and do reshoots and all those things like big Hollywood movies and Woody Allen can do! What is there is all we have the money for! With that said, I like to do every line that is in the script but I really encourage the actors to play with it and add things. They often add things that make the film. For example, Leonor added that “Maybe I can Google it…” line. Marcia added the part were she is on the street with the liquor bottle and says “What are you lookin’ at!” It was Marcia yelling a people with small children who just happened to be walking by! [laughs] They were absolutely stunned to have an Oscar winner suddenly screaming at them! [laughs]
Did you approach this film any differently than the films you have done in the past?
Even though I am old, I haven’t made many films. I made a micro-budget one, one other film and then this one, so I feel like I am still learning. Every day is a leaning experience! I hope I am improving! [laughs] I know at my stage in life, I should be a settled, finished human being but I don’t feel like that at all! I still feel like a teenager sometimes and every day I am learning something new. This whole thing was a learning experience of “What can I do today that is new and open?”
Is there something which stands out in your mind as the biggest challenge of making this film?
I think doing the [King] Lear material on such a tight schedule had us absolutely terrified! We had no rehearsal time and were all really, really scared. We also have a woman playing Lear, which I don’t think has ever been done on film before. We were in absolute terror there! Marcia only had two days to shoot it with no rehearsal time. I truly don’t think anyone has ever done that before. When we finished, we were absolutely giddy with relief! We were all like small children afterwards! Marcia and the actors actually put on a performance for crew, singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business!” They had high kicks and everything! We still had another week of shooting to do but everything after that point felt like a dream because we had been so terrified about the Lear. I think we were crazy to take it on!
They say you learn a little something on every project and carry it with you. What did you learn for your time on this set and with these amazing actors?
I learned that being open to what the actors bring. It isn’t so much about changes in dialog but letting them bring things to the characters that you perhaps didn’t see when you were writing the script. I don’t feel my job, even though I write and direct, is to force everyone to do what is in my head. I want it to be different than what is in my head. I want it to be better! We hire these amazingly talented people and I want to see what they bring and how they can bring it to life in ways I would have never imagined! I am so lucky. I was a movie fan before I got into this business. I am so lucky to be on set and seeing these amazingly talented people do their work. I want to be as open as possible to see what they can contribute to the film!
You have done two very solid films at this point in your career. Is there a particular type of film you are looking to take on in the future?
You know, I like 30s and 40s movies a lot. I like sophisticated films and I don’t care for really judgmental or violent films. I think I will stick with what I have been doing because those are the types of movies I like to watch, films with intelligent people that have comedy, reality and heart to them. That is what I like, so that is what I want to make! When you make a movie, you have to see it again and again and again, so make the kind of movie you like!
That is great advice! Any other tidbits you can pass along to aspiring filmmakers?
Don’t follow the rules! Don’t try to make a movie like everyone else’s movie. Make your own movie and shake things up. So many movies are generic and predictable things, so don’t try to copy other people’s movies. Make the movie that only you could have made!
Thank you for your time today. We are looking forward to spreading the word on “If I Were You”. We really enjoyed the characters and performances!
Thank you very, very much! Take care!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.