I'll admit, I had to do a little digging to remember why the name Drake Doremus rung a bell with me when I was asked to interview him about his upcoming romantic drama LIKE CRAZY, which is scheduled for release at the end of October. Doremus has directed a small handful of films in the last few years, including one that played Sundance last year called DOUCHEBAG, which I'm pretty sure is sitting in my "To Watch" pile on my coffee table. I promise to watch it before I see LIKE CRAZY, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at this year's Sundance; the film's female lead, Felicity Jones, also nabbed a Special Jury Prize for acting.
LIKE CRAZY is the story of a young American man (Anton Yelchin) and a British woman (Jones), who fall in love despite her having limited time on her visa to stay in the states. She actually overstays her welcome, and when she's discovered, she is denied access back into the country, thus turning their relationship into a long-distance nightmare. I haven't seen the film yet, and the trailer just premiered this week. You can watch it here if you're so inclined:
All the reviews from Sundance were glowing, and it sounds like this is a gut-wrenching story about two crazy kids trying to make it from a distance. And Doremus had such a great experience working with Jones that he's already cast her in his next untitled project, starring Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan, which he is prepping right now. Doremus was a lot of fun to talk to, and I hope I get to chat with him further once I've seen LIKE CRAZY. I can't wait. Until then, please enjoy Drake Doremus…
Capone: Hey Drake, how are you?
Drake Doremus: Hello, Steve. How are you doing, man?
DD: It’s going good. It’s going really good.
Capone: So you have just been sitting on your hands since Sundance, right?
DD: [laughs] Totally.
Capone: I know you are actually gearing up to do another movie, I know that.
DD: I am. I got tricked into continuing to make movies. I was really hoping I was going to be able to retire and stop making them, but somehow I got tricked into doing it again. It’s shocking to me. [Laughs] I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do some more stuff, so it’s been great.
Capone: First of all, I’m probably going to feel dumb when you tell me who it is, but I can’t quite place the singer’s voice in that LIKE CRAZY trailer.
DD: Oh, it’s Ingrid Michaelson. [Check out the full version HERE.]
Capone: Okay, I don’t feel stupid.
DD: [laughs] She’s a really cool indie singer-songwriter.
Capone: Did she do that for your film, or is that something you found?
DD: [Joking] Yeah, she totally did it for us. [laughs] No, it’s something we found. It’s actually a live covers, it’s really cool, because it’s a live recording that she did on stage, and the quality was great, and we put it in the trailer and then we watched and felt really emotional about it. So it was something that we were really excited about using.
Capone: So I remember reading about the film based on it’s Sundance coverage, and it got sold at Sundance, which this seemed to be a really good year for these kinds of films to find people who are ready to buy again. What do you remember about your Sundance experience? You come there hoping people will like it and then you end up having Paramount pick your film up.
DD: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy. I mean we certainly weren’t expecting that at all. Even just last year with the way the movies were being bought, we had a tiny movie in competition last year at Sundance, and it’s just a totally different climate. It’s just so exciting to see independent film come back in such a big way this year, and so many of these smaller independent films being picked up by larger studios doing so well and being received so well, so it’s just so exciting. It’s just a great time to be in independent cinema.
Capone: I assume there was a certain level anxiety that goes with taking a film to a festival, and then just the elation of having people like it and a studio wanting to buy it.
DD: Just shock. I was sitting there in the premiere just hoping it’s going to finish. I’m hoping we are going to get to the credits before the tape blows up. So it literally went from that about noon to the next morning at 6a.m., we finally ended up with Paramount and those 15 hours or whatever was a whirlwind. It was crazy. We were hoping to maybe get a theatrical release of the film somehow, so to end up with such a wonderful distributor as Paramount, we were just overwhelmed by it.
Capone: From the reviews that I’ve read, people were really impressed with… I think one reviewer called it a “compressed narrative.” There’s as much that you don’t show as you do show. I mean there are certain kind of key moments that any relationship film would make a big deal out of that you don’t even show on camera, and we don’t see moments like that in the trailer either. Why did you choose to make that your narrative style?
DD: You know, that’s a great question. I feel like it’s because that’s what a relationship is to me, as a person and as a filmmaker, that a relationship is in the little moments and the little looks and the little details, and that’s what adds up to a romance and that’s what adds up to a relationship as opposed to the things that every body would think that it does. To me, it’s in the small moments that don’t feel like a big moment at the time, but when you look back nostalgically, they really add up to big moments. That’s sort of what I wanted to make, a very nostalgic look at a very realistic moment in film in a way.
Capone: In taking that a step further, it sounds like by doing it that way you tried to make the whole experience more relatable and believable to the audience than maybe your typical romantic comedy might.
DD: Sure. Yeah, I mean you know it’s funny I never even was thinking about the audience when I was making the film, to be honest with you. I was just thinking about trying to be as honest as I could about my feelings about past relationships and how I feel about love and being an optimistic and romantic person myself. I wanted to inject that into the film and I didn’t want it to be essentially a look at what we've seen before, but something that maybe we've longed to see and that we want to see.
Capone: Long distance relationships are the worst things on the face of the earth; let’s both agree on that before we move on.
DD: [Laughs] Absolutely.
Capone: So I’m kind of curious, are you deliberately torturing us with this story? It sounds like in Anton's character, you’ve got a more rational thinker versus Felicity’s character, who I guess is more of a free spirit. So you would think at least one of them would know better, but apparently not.
DD: Yes, well hey, it’s a movie about the heart beating the mind in every way, and the mind not ever being able to able to concur the heart. Even if you had two logical people it would fail in a way.
Capone: I read that the performances are largely improvised. I’ve got to imagine that tapping into the perils of these kind of relationships, actors might have some insight, being away from home for weeks or months. This would be something that they would be able to relate to as much as you were having written it.
DD: Sure. Yeah, I think so. I mean, both of these wonderfully talented kids have been basically working since they were very young, so I think that that’s something they can very much relate to and Felicity is all over the world all year and has been for the last couple of years doing plays, doing movies, and know that’s something that she really relates to very much.
Capone: I’m curious, so how did you find Felicity? In this country at least, she is a bit of and unknown in this country. You have to have seen a lot of British films to have seen her at all.
DD: She was really a last-minute find. We had narrowed it down to a bout three actresses in Los Angeles that I had seen with Anton and done some chemistry reads with Anton, and she sent in a tape of herself that she taped in her flat in London where she actually got into… There’s this really important scene in the film that takes place in the shower, it’s a very emotional scene. She actually went and got in the shower with the camera and propped it up on a tripod and did this really emotional scene in the shower, and as soon as I saw the tape I was just… the way she performed the scene was just mesmerizing.
I basically called her up right then and said, “Can you get to L.A. in the next 24 hours, because we start shooting on Monday, so you’ve got to come and you're in the movie.” [Laughs] She was like, “Okay, okay. I’ll see you soon.” So she came and she transcends what acting is for me, I mean she’s magnificent. And because of it I wanted to work with her again and have cast her as the lead in my new film.
Capone: I was just about to say and you liked her so much you made her stick around.
DD: She’s very special.
Capone: And I see Jennifer Lawrence is in the film, which threw me for a second, because I'd just seen her and Anton in THE BEAVER. Does her character respresent the real world crashing in on this long-distance relationship?
DD: She is. In a way, she’s kind of a perfect girlfriend for him and kind of the perfect person and she embodies what we think he would want or what we think he’d be with, but in reality there are X factors that you can’t replace in a person. And she’s sort of the perfect girlfriend in a way, but there’s something about it that doesn’t give you everything you need, you know?
Capone: How soon after you saw her in WINTER’S BONE did you want her in your movie or did Anton recommend her?
DD: Right away! She was the perfect actress for this style of filmmaking, because she’s so committed to the moment and so grounded, and she is always doing what’s necessary--nothing more and nothing less, which is exactly what I like in a performance. She’s just magnificent, and I was very fortunate to be able to have her in the film.
Capone: Will you not be satisfied unless at least 75 percent of every audience that sees the movie is in full blown-out tears by the end? What’s your number?
DD: [laughs] No. My number? 100 percent! Why would we stop at 75?
Capone: You can't expect all the men to cry.
DD: Yeah, exactly we’ve got to make the men cry, that’s the goal. We’ve got to make the men cry. I just hope that people who have felt alone in these relationships don’t feel alone anymore, and they really feel like somebody else understands their pain and somebody else understands what they have been through and are going through. In a way, that brings people comfort more than makes them cry. I don’t want an audience to feel sad about this film; I want them to feel uplifted and excited about the idea of love, that it is out there and that it is important and that it’s something worth being a part of.
Capone: So it’s basically your version of group therapy. As long as everyone can say, “You are not alone.”
DD: [laughs] You got it! That’s it!
Capone: Drake those are all of the questions that I had based on the trailer. Hopefully we can talk again after I’ve actually seen the movie.
DD: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, that would be great, Steve. Let me know when you get a chance to check it out.
Capone: As soon as they tell me I can watch it, I’ll watch it. I’ve been eager to see it since Sundance. Best of luck with it.