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Capone spends some time with the stars of ADAM, the alluring Rose Byrne and the ever-charming Hugh Dancy!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, with a joint interview with the two stars of the new film ADAM, opening wide this weekend, and a film that's been getting a lot of attention since it premiered at Sundance this year and was the object of a bidding war that was eventually won by Fox Searchlight. ADAM is a unique and often fascinating take on the traditional love story formula, and there's no way it could have worked without the help of its two lead actors, British actor Hugh Dancy and Australia's Rose Byrne (both playing native New Yorkers, of course). Each one of these characters has their own set of issues, but Adam's is slightly more series since he has Asperger Syndrome, a more highly functional form of autism. His ability to deal with every day social interactions is impeded, especially after his father/caretaker dies just before the film begins. It may seems like a strange time for him to attempt to start a romantic entanglement, but then again, we don't choose who we fall in love with. Dancy has made a name for himself of late in romantic comedies, such as CONFESSION OF A SHOPAHOLIC and THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. Before that, he starred in such works as Ridley Scott's BLACK HAWK DOWN, Antoine Fuqua's KING ARTHUR (as Galahad), ELLA ENCHANTED (as Anne Hathaway's love interest), the horror film BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, HBO's "Elizabeth" with Helen Mirren, SAVAGE GRACE, EVENING, and the king of the unnecessary sequels, BASIC INSTINCT 2. The slightly stunning Rose Byrne, who plays Beth in ADAM, first came to my attention in an Australian film called THE GODDESS OF 1969, which I saw at a festival but I don't think ever got released in the U.S., but can be found on DVD. About 10 years ago, she co-starred opposite Heath Ledge in another Australian effort, TWO HANDS, and went on to cameo in ATTACK OF THE CLONES (aRose Byrne:s one of Amidala's lookalikes). She followed that up with great work in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, TROY, WICKER PARK, Sofia Coppola's MARIE ANTOINETTE, THE DEAD GIRL, Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE, 28 WEEKS LATER, and most recently opposite Nicolas Cage in Alex Proyas' KNOWING. For many American audiences, she's best well know for her lead role opposite Glenn Close in FX's great series "Damages," for which she recently received an Emmy nomination. I got a chance to sit down with the pair in Chicago for a talk about the unpredictable nature of love, how to form a relationship without the proper tools to do so, why insects live on skyscrapers, and Dancy's "arsenal of charm." It's actually a pretty fun conversation. Enjoy…
Capone: Hello. Rose Byrne: Hello, nice to meet you. Hugh Dancy: Wonderful to meet you. Capone: Rose, I saw a film about ten years ago… I don’t think it ever opened in this country, but it’s called THE GODDESS OF 1967… RB: Oh yeah! From a long time ago… Capone: Love that film, and it's so rare that I remember the exact movie that I first noticed an actor in, but ever since seeing that movie, I tried to keep up with whatever you were in. RB: Oh thank you. That’s a very obscure film of mine, so you are probably one of three people who have seen it in this entire country. Capone: I wrote a review of it and I actually had some distributor e-mail me and said “Tell me more about this movie,” and it sounded like he was considering buying it, but it never went anywhere. RB: Well thank you. I’m glad you saw it. I’m proud of the film. She’s an amazing filmmaker and Dion Beebe, the cinematographer, won an Academy Award. Capone: Really? RB: Yeah, for CHICAGO. He’s shot a lot of Michael Mann’s films. He’s an amazing cinematographer. HD: Who is the director? RB: Clara Law. She’s a Taiwanese filmmaker. Capone: Considering her body of work, it’s not all Taiwanese; it’s a lot of English-language films. RB: She was Taiwan born and then came to Melbourne probably in her early twenties I think. Capone: Just thought I would mention. RB: No, thank you. It’s lovely. We'll get Hugh a copy. [laughs] Capone: I think it did come out on DVD here, because I remember seeing it at some point in a video store Anyway, it seems like in a lot of romantic films, the idea of chemistry is sort of a given; in this film it seems like that almost works to your disadvantage to have that kind of immediate chemistry. And it’s sort of those awkward moments that make this very different than a lot of what we have been seeing lately. Can you talk about what you do not to have chemistry and then to sort of grow into it? HD: It’s become, in a way, the theme of the film with chemistry and what exactly it is and what the word means, and I question whether it means anything. I think two things: first of all, I break chemistry down to casting and secondly writing and acting and just doing a job well. The idea that there’s this intangible thing that we have any control over, I don’t believe in, but [writer-director] Max [Mayer] and who he picks to play the roles, but that’s really out of our hands. Secondly, I think that in most modern romantic comedies, maybe for a moment they are not going to get together, but you just know, it’s a total given that they are one this slope to togetherness for all of time, and there is nothing that is going to get in the way and as you said, we got to play both comically and also, I think, sincerely the possibility of miscommunication and that they wouldn’t be compatible. In that sense, we are way outside the romantic-comedy tradition. Capone: Right and not to give anything away, but part of the way the film ends is certainly not traditional either. HD: No no no… It’s uplifting, but for different reasons. At least that’s my opinion. Capone: Yes. RB: I think BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is one of the most romantic films ever made and that couldn’t be more tragic, but to me and my tastes, I thought it was absolutely heartbreaking. HD: Right, but you couldn’t say that it fell into the “Rom Com.” [laughs] RB: No, but… HD: There are lots of great love affair movies that end… RB: That’s true and I see your point. No, it’s definitely not a “Rom Com.” It’s not THE UGLY TRUTH. HD: Which one of those two guys were you channeling? RB: [laughs] Anne Hathaway is who I was channeling! Capone: Rose, can you talk a little bit about the anti-chemistry? RB: I kind of disagree with Hugh in that I think chemistry is a little bit intangible, because I feel like it’s something that the camera invents or doesn’t invent, and sure, to a point it’s writing and acting and all of those things, but I don’t know. You work with some people and you hate them and you have good chemistry and you work with other people and you become best of friends and you have none. I just feel like it is slightly some sort of cinematic process that then… Maybe it is all just Max and the editors and things, but we met for one day before the movie, so we could have easily been… You know what I mean? It’s not even a thing of rehearsal. So I feel like chemistry is a little intangible. Capone: Well having met only the day before, that could actually work to your advantage in a story like this. RB: I think it did actually. I think it served the story. HD: It was just cold reality, because we didn’t have time or money for a long rehearsal process, but yeah I think it did and it allows… again, something we disagree on, Rose seems to remember this movie as something that was shot chronologically [laughs], and I do not remember it like that at all, but the one thing we agree on is that certainly the earlier parts of our relationship--when we are meeting, when we are sitting on the stoop outside the building--those were filmed earlier on, so that sense of “OK, what’s up with this person?” Particularly coming from Rose towards me is, I think, completely genuine, because we only had a half an hour to shoot each scene, so “Oh, my God. He’s not looking at me” RB: “He won’t help me. He’s ignoring me.” [laughs] Capone: Was there one thing in particular about your characters that you really wanted to get across, that you thought, “If this doesn’t translate to the audience, the essence of this character is lost…” and I guess that would be more on your shoulders, Hugh, since Asperger Syndrome is such an unpredictable affliction. HD: That’s a complicated question and I don’t have a simple, single answer for it. This is a roundabout kind of response, but I think the point of the entire movie, from my perspective as Adam’s character, is putting in all of this work and gently disseminating information and facts about Asperger and about his character and so on, without the audience feeling in anyway as though they are sitting through a lecture, to the point where right towards the end… I think the moment when he’s trying to explain to her the reasons why he wants her to come with him to California and you see how difficult for Adam it is, because he’s not quite making it… It’s in that moment that you can thoroughly stand in his shoes and see the world from his eyes a little bit. And what it means is that this movie is a real slow burn. It takes a long time to really reach that, because you can’t have that thing that you are talking about with chemistry if there are smoldering moments. You can’t manipulate the audience like that, because that’s totally denying these two characters, so you have to truly get the audience to empathize or identify with this person that they know nothing about. Getting to that moment was, to me, the make or break quality and just beyond that, I would say not stressing any one fact and not trying to kind of communicate any one particular truth about Asperger per se, but to create a rounded individual and just let them reveal themselves. Capone: That’s actually one of my favorite-written scenes, that scene at the end, because as Adam is talking and giving his reasons, you realize “Oh.” But I think it even convinces the audience that, “Oh, maybe this is not something that should happen.” HD: Yeah, but then there are other people who, for example the mother of somebody with Asperger who was in the audience last night said “I can’t believe that she failed him, because she didn’t realize that he just can’t communicate it, but that his feelings…” Her sympathy--and I don’t think either one of them were right--but her sympathy is entirely with Adam. Capone: What about your character? Was there any sort of one thing you connected with or wanted to make sure you got across? RB: I guess a sort of nice curiosity and sort of that quality of empathy and inquisitive nature from the start. As soon as you meet her, she’s very curious, and I think that is what that character really needed, so that she would be so intrigued by this person to really pursue the whole relationship. I just wanted to make sure that that was abundant, I suppose. Capone: I was sort of looking for that one thing--especially in the relationship she had with her family--about her that would make her more likely to enter into a relationship like this. A lot of women would not, once they understood the landscape. RB: Well she nearly doesn’t thought and that’s the thing, its like its very well structured in that sense, that I never had a problem believing that it happened, because it was very… For the first half an hour nothing happened, and it’s a very slow process and then he kind of woos her and then he’s just persistent that they must kind of become a couple HD: She does her best to tell him “no,” but she’s not making it clear enough. RB: It’s like “Come see the raccoons, come to the planetarium.” It’s his kind of seduction in a way. And she’s in a vulnerable place and she has been in a lot of crappy relationships and she’s willing to take this leap. And I think she’s probably rebelling a little bit against her father. It’s a combination of things. Capone: This is a little different than a lot of what you have been doing lately. You really seem to have this thing about well, just genre films--SUNSHINE is maybe one of my favorite movies in the last five years. That and 28 WEEKS LATER… Do you love those kind of movies? RB: Well, I do love horror, good horror. I really enjoyed DRAG ME TO HELL, for instance, a few months ago. HD: I haven’t seen that yet. RB: It’s really good! And working with Danny Boyle obviously was amazing and then with Alex Proyas on KNOWING, so there are lots of different reasons for doing all of these different films, but they were primarily genre pictures, but a lot of people have said that, yeah that with this it’s nice to just see me smile, that was one of the comments I've had. [laughs] Capone: Yeah, just not being angst ridden. RB: Or under siege. [laughs] Capone: That’s right, it’s not a life or death situation. RB: It’s not running from zombies, but yeah it’s liberating in that sense. Capone: And then Hugh, you have sort of become this comedic leading man in a lot of American films in the last couple of years, do you consider this film to be different than that? HD: I do. I consider it completely different and to be honest with you, I suppose and I guess this is always true subjectively, that the difference is… I don’t know if you feel like this, but in the characters that I have played have always been much more marked in the similarities, and I guess that’s just what happens if you try and be specific, but this was uniquely different. You could put it that way. In some other movies, you are thinking two things, you are thinking about your character and you are also thinking about contributing to the tone of the movie and making sure that that’s right. But in this, my responsibility I felt was more purely to the character, partially because there’s just less interaction. It didn’t feel particularly like, although it clearly was, it didn’t feel like a shared effort. We were working together, but coming from two entire separate places, and so there wasn’t much interaction. We weren’t sitting and talking before every scene in the way that you normally would, making sure you are on the same page. So it just felt like a more purely character driven piece of work. Capone: Was it scary to have to sort of leave behind the arsenal of charming behaviors that you are often called upon to tap into? HD: [both laugh] No, not at all. I mean, it’s funny isn’t it? I just basically have chosen things that I was drawn to specifically in terms of the writing or the people I was going to be working with, and then it appears to add up to a body of work, but it never feels that way at the beginning, you know? It’s certainly not thinking “This is great, because I can draw from my arsenal of charming behavior!” Capone: You can have that one by the way. HD: Thank you. Nor do I look at this, in fact even less so did I look at this and think “Oh, this is an opportunity to show another side of me” or “This is an opportunity to X, Y, or Z… or to storm the gates of something or other.” I just thought “This is very well written, and it’s going to be a fascinating challenge” and the second thought during one meeting, was that Max would be the right person to do it with. Just thinking about it in terms of career, we both agreed subsequently that while making it, we would just assume that nobody would ever see the movie. RB: Yeah, which is a reality. HD: Which is just statistically accurate. RB: It’s great that it has taken on a life of its own. Capone: Yeah, I was about to say, since it premiered at Sundance, right? HD: Yes. Capone: And I didn’t just mean to imply that it was the charming behaviors that you are restricted too, because this is a character where you have to restrict a lot of your behavior, and I imagine that that must have been pretty tough to get through. HD: It was tough initially. I mean, it was tough constantly, because he is coming from a place that ultimately I can’t identify with, no matter how hard I try, because I think the wiring is different in the same way that… and I wouldn’t want to belabor this comparison, because it’s far harder for them, but in the same way that somebody with Aspergers is constantly having to work to remind themselves of how our world works and the conventions at work, because they can’t get there naturally. It was similar for me, I never felt that sense of comfort that perhaps you might get halfway through a shoot, where you settle into something. I always had to make up that last 10 percent, if you see what I mean. Capone: Yeah. HD: But yeah, all of the things that you normally rely on as an actor, namely communication and empathy and kind of reacting to another person and basically just eye contact were obviously taken away and initially that was daunting, but eventually it became quite enjoyable and I think made it--for both of us, I think--it made it quite, not just interesting, but quite a pure kind of exercise, because your operating without those things, so you are listening, because you are on the back foot. You have to be really present in some sense, and one thing I realized about Adam is that although on the surface he is, and this is true of many people with Aspergers, on the surface he is detached. He’s listening really hard, just trying to translate in his mind, so he’s not always actually there in the sense that he’s not always understanding things the right way, but his effort to be present is intense. Capone: I remember reading a story like in The New Yorker about a guy who had been blind his whole life and is then given sight and the hardest part for him was that he couldn’t read facial expressions or body language. He didn’t understand. He didn’t have a vocabulary for that, and I think they sort of adapted that story into a movie [AT FIRST SIGHT] with Val Kilmer a few years ago. But basically his brain is just went into sensory overloaded to the point where he went blind again, like his brain shut down his eyes, because he couldn’t process all of these things. That’s the closest that I’ve seen to something like that, where you are like “What does that expression mean?” HD: It’s funny that it’s facial expressions, because you would think that color would be so overwhelming. Capone: I’m sure that was part of it. HD: Yeah, it’s really interesting playing that, because I think as an actor, you often get to fudge around that. We cover the distance between what we ought to understand about a scene and what we actually understand by overplaying the intimacy. I often feel anyways with acting in scenes particularly on camera that there’s a tendency to go too quickly to eye contact and so forth, and it’s partially the nature of the way things are shot with cameras like over the shoulders, so you are always facing each other and it’s partially just because it’s a short cut. Capone: Right. Max obviously comes primarily out of theater if I am understanding correctly, so there’s not a body of work for you to check out. Was there something particular about his vision for this film that you went “Yeah, this guy knows what he's doing, and I like what he is thinking, and I like where he is going with this?” What convinced you to work wit ha first time director? RB: I was actually on holiday when I first got the script, so I really took a leap of faith in that I really didn’t know Max and obviously this was his first or second film, anyway he was relatively new to cinema. But you read a lot of stuff and most of it is pretty bad, and this was great. You knew straight away that this was a really interesting setup with a great female character and an intriguing leading man…[laughs] HD: With a vast arsenal of charming behavior. RB: I did take a leap of faith in that sense, yeah. Capone: I have to ask this before we run out of time. Rose, you are in GET HIM TO THE GREEK [Russell Brand's follow-up to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL]. In fact, I think it's the next thing we are going to see you in probably. Tell me who you play in that, because I know that Jason Segel talked to me a little bit about the music that he had been writing for it. Do you do one of his songs? RB: Yeah, he did write one of the songs, yeah. Capone: I think he even told me the title, and it was really funny. I don’t remember what it was. RB: “Super Tight.” Capone: That’s not the one he told me about, okay. RB: I think it’s gone through a few incarnations, but the current incarnation is “Super Tight.” I don’t know if it will end up in the film. There are a lot of songs being written for that character and for Russell’s character and everything like that, but yeah I play Russell’s girlfriend, a British pop star called Jackie Q. They originally said she was like Courtney Love, but she’s more like… She’s not as destructive as that. She’s a bit more like Lilly Allen or Victoria Beckham or like a Spice Girl. A bit like Fergie… Capone: I think that’s what Jason had said, like a Fergie kind of character. RB: It’s a very small role. I’m just there in the beginning and the end, but it’s really funny. Capone: Did you get a chance to improv with Jonah [Hill] and Russell [Brand]? RB: Most of my stuff is with Russell. I don’t actually work with Jonah at all, but it’s all improv, yeah mostly improvisation, which is pretty daunting, because you are not quite sure if it’s actually that good. You know what I mean? It could feel good, but... HD: By definition it can’t all be good. That’s what’s so frightening about it. RB: Exactly. I agree, yeah! HD: It’s like 20 percent good. RB: And even though it might feel good, it really doesn’t mean it’s good, but I’m in very safe hands with these guys, because that’s how they work, but yeah it’s really fun. Capone: And I should have said right off the back, but congratulations on your Emmy nomination. RB: Thank you, sir! Capone: And "Damages" is coming back, correct? RB: Yeah, we have another season starting in September, when we start filming. HD: I’m sorry. I know there is precious valuable time, but being in this hotel, I have been amazed by the number of spiders outside of these windows. Capone: They are everywhere. HD: They must be being born on this building. RB: Have you opened your windows? HD: I can’t. RB: Well you can if you take the screw out, but I haven’t because of the insects. That’s usually the first thing I do, open the window, but no way. HD: You realize that Spider-Man could only have been invented in a world with skyscrapers, really. Capone: That’s true. This is where Batman lives also. RB: Gotham City! Capone: Yeah, this is Gotham City, where they shot most of DARK KNIGHT. RB: Such a great city by the way. I was walking around a bit yesterday, and it’s gorgeous. It’s really got a good vibe. Did THE BREAK-UP film here? Capone: Yes it did, because Vince Vaughn lives here. RB: Oh right. Capone: The scenes in ADAM with Frankie Faison are some of my favorite in the film. Were you familiar with him at all? He’s a legend in my book. HD: Yeah, I was familiar with him from "The Wire," which is some of well the best television I have ever seen I think , at that level, so yeah I was familiar with him from that and I never quite got it together to ask him about it. Capone: That would have been my first question. HD: I know, but you know, we obviously had other things to talk about. Frankie’s contribution to the atmosphere of the movie, behind the scenes so to speak, was exactly the same I think to his contribution to the movie, which is just a burst of life and fun and richness, and he’s larger than life in the best possible way. Having spent weeks just slagging him off to his face, basically that’s how interactions with Frankie work. He comes in and he tells you off and kind of belittles you in the nicest possible way, and then you return the compliment to him and it’s ridiculous, because now I’m going around the country telling everybody how wonderful I think he is and I feel like I’ve blown my cover. Capone: Those scenes come have very easily been taken out of the film and not changed the story that much, but they really humanize the whole experience. HD: I also think a different actor could have made them much less rich than he did. Not unlike Frankie, it’s tough love and with the character as well, and he’s not going to humor Adam particularly, he’s strict with him, “Stop talking about space. You have got to talk to the girl.” But you also sense an incredible love and patience and the history between them and for me it even informs my awareness of what Adam’s father must have been like. Capone: I wondered about that, because he’s clearly not a father substitute, because he had a father, but maybe that’s what he’s becoming. HD: I think so and a friend. I just think, with less humor and a less powerful actor, it could have been a lot more saccharin and much less necessary to the movie. Capone: Thank you both so much for talking to us. RB: My pleasure. Thank you. HD: Nice meeting you.
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