Opening Valentine’s Day, “Endless Love” stars Bruce Greenwood and Joely Richardson as parents that find themselves divided when their daughter, Jade (Gabriella Wilde), falls hopelessly in love with a charismatic young boy, David (Alex Pettyfer), who loves her as much as she loves him. Their budding romance collides with Jade’s controlling father (Greenwood) who attempts to steer her clear of David, while her idealistic mother (Richardson) encourages the relationship to thrive. The modern day romantic drama is directed by Shana Feste and also stars Robert Patrick and Rhys Wakefield.
At the film’s recent press day, Greenwood and Richardson spoke about love, life and what it was like playing characters with opposing viewpoints that find it impossible to project a united front. They discussed their collaborative working relationship with Feste, how she wanted to set up the conflict and the tension inherent in the story in a believable way, having the opportunity for rehearsal and improvisation, their thoughts on the relationship between love and wealth and the concept of endless love, what the chemistry was like off set, and why this reimagining of the classic story is so different from the original 1981 film.
QUESTION: I would think as parents, you’re supposed to have a united front, and both of your characters in this have different viewpoints on how to handle their daughter’s maturity. How did that relate to your own experiences as parents?
BRUCE GREENWOOD: Let me just make clear that news of me being a father has been greatly exaggerated online. Apparently, I have a daughter, Brianne. However…
JOELY RICHARDSON: Not so weird a name.
GREENWOOD: But just weird that that’s been out there a long time and we haven’t managed to fix it. Once it’s out once, it just trickles out everywhere. I don’t know where it came from, but my experience raising children is …
RICHARDSON: I think that you’re absolutely right that if you were to do a list of the top 10 parenting tips, they say that parents should present a united front, but most of us know that’s so rarely the case. Part of the dynamic and conflict and tension in the story is that they are completely torn in their take on this blinding love that has taken place.
Q: Was there a lot of discussion with Shana Feste, the director, about how far to go with it?
GREENWOOD: Shana was really involved and we did a lot of rehearsal and improv beforehand. We improv-ed scenes that didn’t happen in the movie. We improv-ed the scenes that are written in the movie without the dialogue as written. We played around a lot to try and figure out just how we could flow with what was already written in the story and how we could highlight those imbalances and those points at which we came to loggerheads. Shana was very aware of trying to set that stuff up in a way that was believable.
Q: The movie raises questions about the choices you make. I’m wondering if you can pontificate about the relationship between love and wealth, because it seems that too much of one inevitably damages the other. What do you think?
RICHARDSON: (Laughs) Well that’s a funny question.
GREENWOOD: If you want to pontificate, I’m certainly willing to pontificate. That’s why Joely was laughing because you don’t know what you asked for. Malcolm Gladwell, in his newest book “David and Goliath,” writes about how sometimes things that we think of as handicaps often times are just the opposite. Or the reverse is also true. Things we think of as tremendous advantages can get in the way of being happy, and wealth is one of those things where people can become isolated within this luxury and not connect. I think what happened with this family after losing a child was they managed to get around that thing and they came together, but part of that coming together made the father incredibly dependent on managing his daughter. And when his daughter wants to grow up and experience something over which he’ll have no control, he finds it virtually impossible to let go. Shana was very conscious of trying to set that up in a way that felt believable and also have the flip side of the mother whose heart is beating as loud as her daughter’s and wants for her daughter to feel that purity and that joy.
RICHARDSON: I think that love and wealth have nothing to do with each other, because otherwise as we know, often the richest people can be the most unhappy. I think they’re just two different categories. They say there are two basic emotions. One is love and the other one is fear. What the mother and the father feel towards David isn’t to do with his finances – maybe more Hugh’s (Greenwood’s character) – but Hugh’s, I’m guessing, is more a desire to protect his daughter. As the mother, I just feel instinctively that there is some goodness in this boy and that he can love her in a capacity that perhaps others couldn’t. I don’t think love and wealth have anything to do with each other.
Q: What do you think of the concept of endless love? Do you believe in it?
RICHARDSON: I do.
GREENWOOD: Yes, so do I. I mean, I think love courses through all of us, and we can express it to one person all the time, or we can express it to everybody in our world, in our immediate world, in our extended family and all that and to strangers. I think as a concept. I don’t mean you and me later. (Laughs) I mean, the concept of endless love is something that we can exercise in all kinds of ways.
RICHARDSON: Yes, and in the poem, “Splendour in the Grass,” one of the lines is “which having been must ever be.” I personally believe that when we have loved someone in whatever capacity, be it parent or friend or lover, that love even when it ceases to exist, the love still exists. So, I think endless love is just when we love someone, you can’t take that away.
Q: Joely, in the movie, your character has written a book. I was wondering if you were afforded that luxury, what book would you want to write?
RICHARDSON: Oh, very good question. We talked a lot about that. I would like to write a book that would be part journal, part comment of our times, just opinions, observations. That would be the sort of book that I would be interested in writing rather than historical.
Q: Your character has that wonderful moment of vulnerability or ego, whichever you want to call it, when she’s in the book store and she moves her book to the front. I was wondering as a celebrity in your own life, has there ever been a moment like that for you?
RICHARDSON: I’m an actor hopefully, not a celebrity.
Q: When you’re looking for recognition, is there ever a moment that you have where it’s nice that people see you?
RICHARDSON: Well, let’s be honest. Everyone in this room, whatever their work, there is some moment when it’s really nice if you have some sort of recognition – a pat on the back, a friend saying “well done.” I think you’re absolutely right that ego is a dangerous one for all of us. I’ve certainly had it as a component in my life at times. I would say that one of the good things about getting older hopefully is that you get further and further away from your ego. I’d say in my twenties I probably had a much scarier ego than I do now, I hope.
Q: Bruce, how much do you think your character is overtly protective or how much in a way he’s jealous because he has the potential to lose his daughter?
RICHARDSON: Oh, good point.
GREENWOOD: I’m not sure jealousy is the word, but I think fear is the word. On some gut level, he knows – not that he has a choice as to who he’s going to let his daughter end up with – but whomever his daughter chooses is going to require him to step into the background. Fear of losing that expression of love from her and waiting for that love to appear in a different way from her is something that he’s just not ready for.
RICHARDSON: Just a little side note, one of the most beautiful things I ever heard was a friend of mine, a man who when he had his daughter, he said to himself, “Oh my God, now I have to become the man that I will want her to fall in love with.” It really pulled him up because he suddenly realized that’s what he wanted to become, not him himself but the man that she would fall in love with, a stereotype.
GREENWOOD: I just had a friend who said, “You can’t date ‘til daddy’s dead.” (Laughs) But she was three then. She didn’t really understand. (Laughter)
RICHARDSON: That’s a nice lullaby.
Q: During the movie, you character seems possessive, sometimes tender and sometimes quite a jerk. Was it hard for you to play that character?
GREENWOOD: I’m all those things. No, it was fun to layer all that stuff in there and to have him try his level best to be even-handed initially, thinking his daughter’s going to make the right choice without his influence, and then as she becomes deeper and deeper in love with this guy, him just digging his heels in more and more and getting in the way. That was fun to play, and it was fun to play with this cast, because the cast was all so receptive and into what we were doing. Shana Feste, the director, is not just really articulate and sincere, but she’s full of love, and she was eight months pregnant and still has this glow. But she had this beatific glow where whatever was happening on the set, whatever we had to achieve that night in a given number of hours, which are always too few, she had this way about her that made you go, “What do we need to do? Whatever you want to do, let’s just do it.” She’s really, really inspiring that way.
RICHARDSON: She really is a terrific actor’s director. She’s very precise about the work that everyone needs to deliver in the scene to orchestrate it. But at the same time, she’s very good at the overview. Let’s say you have three scenes to do in a day in a day’s schedule, unlike someone who spends three-quarter’s of the day doing one scene and then you have to rush the rest, it’s all about proportioning times, and she was amazing at that.
GREENWOOD: I never felt like we were up against it.
Q: In the movie, you’re part of a family and there are many scenes where the whole family is together at the party or at the dinner table. What was the chemistry like off set?
GREENWOOD: (to Joely) Remember the family dinner at the lake when we all got together after?
RICHARDSON: Oh yes, yes.
GREENWOOD: There was just the family at the dinner and one producer and Josh. We were howling. Do you remember? We were marveling at how it felt and that this was kind of weird but it felt like a real family.
RICHARDSON: In the scenes when there were a ton of us, all the family and Alex (Pettyfer) as well, it just meant that those were very long days because it means that there’s lots of coverage. So, you’d have to do the whole scene looking at the dad, the whole scene looking at the lovers, and they’re very long. And yes, you fill in time by playing games. (To Bruce) You and Rhys (Wakefield) played chess. Gabriella (Wilde) and I would have a good old session talking about everything – love, you name it. (Laughs)
GREENWOOD: It was super easygoing. Everyone got along really well. It’s easy to say that after a movie is over and you’ve done it. Always pretend that’s how it was. But, that’s how it was.
Q: How familiar were you with the original movie?
GREENWOOD: After taking this job, I thought I should watch the other movie if only to avoid repeating what they did here and there. But that other movie is so different. This is a very different movie. This is really a celebration of falling in love. I watched it. I was scared to see it and I was nervous, but I really enjoyed it. I really felt good.