Seems strange that I’ve done so little blogging but filming has required exceptionally long hours, plus last week I flew to Los Angeles to film the final episode of The Newsroom, 2nd season.
First, about the movie, “This Is Where I Leave You.” Turns out a lot of people have read and loved the novel by Jonathan Tropper. I think the script is even better, also written by Mr Tropper, seen here between Ben Schwartz, who plays the Rabbi, and my BFF, Paula Weinstein, the film’s executive producer. It is she who bought the novel years ago and has been developing it at Warner Brothers. I never dreamed I’d end up playing the mother in this story.
Ben Schwartz is hysterical. He was in a movie I did last year (well, I narrated it and appear in the final scene), “Better Living Through Chemistry,” but I’d never met him. He started out in UCB (Upright Citizens’ Brigade, a school for improv that Amy Poehler founded) and has gone on to write jokes for the likes of Letterman and Leno, movies for major studios plus being in many movies. I was very glad to learn all this about him cause until then I thought he was a normal actor with some abnormal ability to improv and that only added to my sense of total inadequacy in the humor department. Now I realize that’s what he does. Bad enough to be alongside Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. He has inspired me to attend some of the session of UCB out in L.A. He says they have nights when known actors get on stage with less known but experienced improvers and see what happens. I like this sort of challenge and think it will be good for me . . if it doesn’t shred what’s left of my confidence. He said Helen Hunt did it. If she’s willing to do it, why not me?
Corey Stoll plays one of my sons and I’m so impressed by his talent that I have gone on Netflix and watched all of “House of Cards.” That’s another reason I haven’t blogged. Whew is he gifted . . . and genuinely nice. He also played Ernest Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris.” House of Cards, BTW, is superb. Can’t wait till next season.
Then there’s Jason Bateman who has motivated me to also go on Netflix to watch all the old (and new) “Arrested Developments.” I’d been told many times how funny and original that series is and I happened to catch a couple of the oldies one night and now I’m hooked. Jason, by the way, is not only a serious talent–funny and touching–but he has directed his first movie and I guarantee you, it won’t be his last. It’s so clear he’s meant to do that. One day while all of us actors were waiting upstairs for the camera crew to light the scene, Jason said, “We’re all sitting up here, but the movie-making is going on downstairs.” He’s got the requisite interest in camera angles, eye-lines, where the cuts should come, what lens is being used. Not me. I understand why these things make or break a movie and appreciate when they’re executed skillfully, but it’s not where my interest lies. I’d rather read a book (or write one) while I wait to act.
Then there’s Tina Fey. Everyone has seen Tina in one incarnation or another. Deep talent, deep humor. She just floors me. Funny stuff comes out of her mouth so effortlessly in response to some mundane remark someone makes. Nothing changes on her face when she lets loose with these one-liners. I ask myself, could I, in a million years, have thought to say that right then? Why not? Then I try to imagine what shape my brain would have to be to come up with those lines and I realize I’m just not that kind of funny person. I’m my father’s daughter. He did brilliant comedies like Preston Sturges’ “All About Eve” opposite Barbara Stanwyk, and others. And I’ve done plenty of comedies, “Barefoot In The Park” was one style and “Monster-In-Law” is another style. But what Tina and Jason and Ben do is different and fascinating to me. This is the first time I’ve seen this up close and personal. And with all that gift, Tina, off camera, is quite shy and I get shy around her. We both admitted that to each other the other night right before we did our last shot together, in bed, at 1am.
Then there’s Adam Driver, another of my sons. Maybe you’ve seen him on “Girls” and thus already understand how original and uniquely gifted he is. Our director, Shawn Levy, wanted Adam so much we all had to agree to work on weekends with Thursdays and Fridays off to accommodate Adam’s schedule on “Girls.” As I said in my last blog, he is in the new Coen brothers film, is in “Frances Ha,” played the postmaster in “Lincoln.” It was such a pleasure to watch him work and talk to him, though he is quite shy (which you’d never know from his acting). After 9/11 he joined the Marines and was at Camp Pendleton about to be shipped to Iraq, but he broke his coccyx and couldn’t go. After that he studied at Julliard but has remained very close to his military experience and formed a non-profit called Arts in the Armed Forces which has professional actors perform for the military. Check out his web site: AITAF.com
I had the great good fortune to work with Debra Monk, a splendid actor and writer. She is the first woman I’ve ever kissed on screen and I was her first screen kiss–of either gender. It was fun and touching and her lips were soft. She and I spent a fun day-off with Huey Lewis (as in Huey Lewis & The News) and Jim Carey. I took them down to Jim’s studio in the Village where he paints huge canvases. He calls his studio The Church of No Concerns.
That’s him painting:
Here’s one of his that I love. I can’t remember it’s title but it’s about being seen–or not. A lot of his works are about being seen and identity.
Connie Britton plays Adam Driver’s fiancee and we’ve become friends. Maybe you’ve seen her in the fantastic “Friday Night Lights” and “Nashville.” Kathryn Hahn plays Corey Stoll’s wife and is such a gifted comedian and a joy to have on set because she is so funny and positive.
In other words, you’d be hard pressed to find a better cast! We’ve mostly been filming out in Manhasset, Long Island, about 45 min outside the city . . . sometimes 2 hours depending on traffic. Here is our crew setting up outside the house which is mine in the film.
Here are Corey, Jason and Adam (standing in the plaid shirt), rehearsing a fight they have on the front lawn
Here’s me as Hilary, waiting with Tulea, sleeping. Not in a very comic mood at the moment.
Here is Adam, Corey, Tina, and Jason, my children
Over Memorial Day weekend and for my grandson’s birthday, Vanessa and her family came up to visit. While they were here, my daughter, who has become ordained as someone who can perform marriages (and funerals, I suppose), married Rob Thielemann (left) and Patrick Garver, in Central Park
After the wedding, we had a picnic and gathered several new friends.
I don’t know their names but they were very nice.
Last week, I finished filming early on Wednesday and flew to L.A. where I shot the final scene in “The Newsroom” 2nd season on Thursday (finishing at 1am) and flew back to NY to shoot a big scene on Saturday. Whew! But let me tell you, it was worth it. Aaron Sorkin wrote the greatest, most unexpected scenes. My character, the stern, formidable Leona Lansing, gets high–not once but twice. What a hoot to play. And I got to actually film in the newsroom itself. She’s never been in there thus far.
My scenes were with Sam Waterson, Marcia Gay Hardin and Chris Messina, who plays my son. Here we are. Marcia Gay had recent foot surgery so wore slippers when she wasn’t shooting:
Here’s Marcia Gay with Chris Messina and, in the blue shirt, our director, Alan Poul
The actor between us played a Rockette who’s dating my son, Chris Messina.
Here’s Alan Poul talking to Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer
And here is the one and only Aaron Sorkin with Marcia Gay. Ain’t he handsome!
The film cast is gathering for a dinner tonight in Harlem and Monday is my last day. Tuesday I fly back to Los Angeles for some much needed R&R with Richard.
Here are the female cast members (besides Tina )– Connie Britton, Rose Byrne and Kathryn Hahn, at the cast dinner in Harlem tonight at the Red Lobster
Oh yes, two things I almost forgot, last night I saw “Trip to Bountiful” with Tony-winner Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding. I hadn’t seen Cicely since we made a film together in 1975 in Leningraad (directed by George Cukor and also starring Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner) and I hadn’t seen Cuba since we shot “The Butler” together last fall.
and here we are with my new friend, Jeanne Donovan
Cicily was inspired and isn’t she still beautiful…at 88!!!
The other thing I forgot to mention is that I won the Broadcast Critics Award the other day for “Guest Star in a Drama.” It made me very happy.