Zoe Cassavetes & Parker Posey Interview, Broken EnglishPosted by: Sheila Roberts
In a mature and nuanced performance, Parker Posey plays Nora Wilder, a thirty-something Manhattanite who is cynical about love and relationships, in this astute collaboration with first-time writer/director Zoe Cassavetes. Nora plugs away at her job in a posh downtown hotel and canâ€™t help but wonder what it is she has to do to find a relationship as ideal as her friend Audreyâ€™s (Drea De Matteo) "perfect marriage.â€ It doesnâ€™t help that her overbearing mother (Gena Rowlands) takes every opportunity to remind Nora that sheâ€™s still unattached.
After a series of disastrous first dates, she meets Julien (Melvil Poupaud), a seemingly devil-may-care Frenchman with a passion for living. Expecting another disastrous ending, Nora tries to avoid making the same mistakes. She finds herself in Paris looking to break old patterns. Inevitably, Nora has to look inward before she can find a new outlook on life and most importantly, love. Hereâ€™s what Zoe Cassavetes and Parker Posey had to tell us:
Q: Parker, you and Melvil had a really great screen chemistry. Was it there from the start or did it develop while you were making the movie?
PARKER POSEY: When you do movies you always hope that, you know, youâ€™re dealing with projections, and my work is very internal and his work is internal, as well. You donâ€™t know what is going to come together. You donâ€™t know if the chemistry between me and Drea as best friends and with me and Gena as mother and daughter, and all that so itâ€™s a weird kind of trust. And we didnâ€™t talk a lot about it. We hung out a little bit, but the way we shot the stuff is I was alone from the beginning. It started as family, and then it was Drea and then we went to Paris and then we came to NY for the love story. So it was good that that came at the end of the film when Iâ€™d done all that other work before it. I love what he does in his movies. Itâ€™s really amazing. Because I didnâ€™t know what his work was and I was very moved by what he was doing when I saw it on TV.
Q: Why do you think people get so fixated on finding "theâ€ one?
PARKER POSEY: Because itâ€™s part of the huge love myth. And the story is such a [inaudible] and the little princess being rescued and all that and then TV and movies that validate that.
Q: How was it like working with Gena Rowlands?
PARKER POSEY: It was amazing.
ZOE CASSAVETES: You better be nice. [Laughs]
PARKER POSEY: The first scene that we shot was this scene at the restaurant when she tells me to put on some eye shadow and blush and just go out there â€“ that was our first set-up. I met Gena briefly and then I went out with her by her hotel and we just hung out and talked about the scene the day before we shot it. And I said, â€˜What do you think about this line?â€™ [trying to remember a line from the movie] â€˜I feel so desperate, so unlovable.â€™
ZOE CASSAVETES: I feel so lonely, desperate to find someone to loveâ€¦
PARKER POSEY: What do you think of that line? I watched her my whole life. I remember a Cassavetes retrospective in 1990 or 1991. When was that? Was it 1990?
ZOE CASSAVETES: Continual. [Laughs]
PARKER POSEY: No, it was the big one. It was all of them. It was one of the first with all of them. It was by Lincoln Center. I was in school so it was a long time ago. Iâ€™ve always loved her work. Sheâ€™s one of my favorite actresses. So it was like, â€˜Are you intimidated?â€™ What an amazing person she projects as my mom and Zoe too. I felt such a kinship with her. It was all very relaxed, very easy. Zoe has a very familial kind of way of working which was kind of cozy. It felt really truthful and easy.
Q: Zoe, what was the inspiration for the movie? Where did your ideas come from?
ZOE CASSAVETES: What I like to write about are things that emotionally and recurringly bother me in life. I got caught up in the game where everybody was â€˜Whereâ€™s your loveâ€¦whereâ€™s your other half?â€™ and I got caught up and swept up in the whole idea that I didnâ€™t have any worth until I found that person and therefore, creating the ideaâ€¦ The underneath layer of that is that you donâ€™t really like yourself enough to trust yourself enough. So Iâ€™m obsessed with the idea of love on many different levels â€“ love through family, love your friends, love yourself and who you give that love to, who you can take it from. So I just wanted to make a nice, little portrait about what happens to someone when they get caught up in all of that.
Q: Has your mother ever given you warranted or unwarranted ROMANTIC advice?
ZOE CASSAVETES: [to Parker] My mom gave you advice? [Laugh.]
PARKER POSEY: No, my mother just identifies reallyâ€¦I donâ€™t know how you do it, how itâ€™s done, itâ€™s so different, it must be so hard. Itâ€™s that kind ofâ€¦she feels for me, you know. Sheâ€™s not bossy. Sheâ€™s more empathetic.
Q: She didnâ€™t try and fix you up?
PARKER POSEY: My dad got a letter from someone, a friend somewhere down south and like â€˜My son lives up in NY in Brooklyn [laugh] and you might want to meet.â€™ I got this letter and it was hilarious that my dad sent me with photographs â€“ I was just like [she rolls her eyes].
Q: Did they know the people who sent the letter?
PARKER POSEY: They sent a letter to my dad, these friends of my parents. They lived somewhere else. Heâ€™s not spoken forâ€¦sheâ€™s not spoken for and all this spoken for. Yeah, you donâ€™t know what itâ€™s like. Itâ€™s a whole different paradigm for couples right now.
Q: I was watching the "Point Breakâ€ DVD the other night and THEY were talking about how women directors like Kathryn Bigelow have a real attention to detail that a lot of male directors donâ€™t have or itâ€™s just more extreme. Both of you, do you think thatâ€™s true?
ZOE CASSAVETES: For me, the first thing I try to work with is the performance. I care less about whatâ€™s happening in the back of the room or what color. I mean I want it to look nice but itâ€™s not where my eye goes at first. So I think my attention to detail has got to come in emotionally -- what happens. And then, you know, so many things are happening on a set and so many things are happening, I donâ€™t really like watching the monitor as much as I just like watching the actors do their stuff. I mean Iâ€™ll look and see the frame and everything, but itâ€™s great when you go back into editing or youâ€™re looking at dailies and stuff and you watch it so many times and you start to notice different things. But itâ€™s great when actors have their own life and take â€¦ like when you get them to do one little thing and itâ€™s so different or quirky or one little movement or something and you go, â€˜Thatâ€™s so great! I didnâ€™t think of that and youâ€™re a genius and Iâ€™m so glad you did that.â€™ And then you make it work and cut it into the thing and it becomes part of the character. So I guess thatâ€™s where my detail comes in.
PARKER POSEY: You know women have more of what is the underbelly of things, what is really going on inside, and guys are more presentational or kind of â€“ you know, they like their toys. Yeah, whatâ€™s underneath the surface. This is a romantic comedy but underneath it thereâ€™s like a deeper portrayal of what it is to be loved, to not be loved, to feel unlovable, to be lonely. Loneliness is something that weâ€™ve all experienced in our lives and sometimes itâ€™s really, really lonely and sometimes itâ€™s how you get yourself out of it and what it is that happens to us individually that gets us out of it. Itâ€™s kind of like the machinations of that. I loved that about the screenplay. I love that kind of writing because the movie took awhile to get financing and I think itâ€™s because people donâ€™t know how to read that kind of â€˜whatâ€™s going on underneath the surface.â€™ They go like, â€˜Itâ€™s a romantic comedyâ€™ which is like itâ€™s such an amazing â€“ like the dates that Nora goes on and how theyâ€™re portrayed and the detail of that. I think to have like -- you know theyâ€™re at the movie theater and they see an old movie and they talk and how the confrontations happen between people. How Nora hugs Josh outside.
ZOE CASSAVETES: He hugs you.
PARKER POSEY: He hugs me. Yeah.
ZOE CASSAVETES: I make you hug him. [Laughs]
PARKER POSEY: [Laughs] That stuff is very detailed.
Q: Whatâ€™s been your worst date? Weâ€™ve all heard of those disaster dates? Whatâ€™s been yours?
PARKER POSEY: Well I canâ€™t really get this out of my head because it happened to a friend. A friend of mine had a really bad date from Match.com. Iâ€™m going to be talking about this because itâ€™s so funny. [Laughs] She went out with this guy who had built a house somewhere and was really together. I forget what he did but somebody with a really together job. Theyâ€™re having dinner in Brooklyn and he says, â€˜You know, you have a really beautiful smileâ€™ and she says, â€˜Thank you.â€™ And he goes, â€˜You didnâ€™t hear me. I said you have a beautiful smile.â€™ She goes, â€˜Yeah, I heard you.â€™ â€˜But you didnâ€™t say thank you.â€™ And she goes, â€˜I said it under my breathâ€™ and he goes, â€˜Oh, so now itâ€™s this.â€™ [Laughs] And then they went over to the promenade and he was likeâ€¦ they were sitting on a bench and she sits down and he goes [pretends to pat hand on bench to indicate she should sit down next to him] â€˜Come here. Sit down.â€™ Heâ€™s like, â€˜Hold my hand.â€™ And she got really worried.
Q: Didnâ€™t she drive herself though?
PARKER POSEY: Brooklyn.
Q: Oh, thatâ€™s right.
PARKER POSEY: It was a walk. It was a promenade. So then she caught the train and he goes, â€˜So how was it? How do you think it went?â€™ She goes, â€˜You know, weâ€™ll see.â€™ And he goes, â€˜I know what that means.â€™ She was like, â€˜JESUS CHRIST!!â€™ She just walked away. â€˜Well, weâ€™ll see.â€™ â€˜I know what that means.â€™ Oh my god. I need to duty date. Thatâ€™s what I need to do.
Q: What do you think of that concept? That was pretty hilarious.
ZOE CASSAVETES: I think itâ€™s very important actually. I mean in a way I always tried to date guys and it didnâ€™t work out and then finally I was like, â€˜Okay. Hi. My name is Zoe. Iâ€™m encased in glass. You canâ€™t possibly touch me or feel any emotion from me. You can see me but Iâ€™m so not available for you.â€™ I think that once you start to get hurt, you start to build up a shell and you know, it never really worked out very well for me but you put yourself out there again and you give yourself a possibility of some sort of connection instead of justâ€¦ You know you can get really bitter and really scared when things donâ€™t work out so you got to do it I guess.
PARKER POSEY: Yeah, I think itâ€™s important to just remain open, right? Just keep yourself open. Even the gesture for yourself of doing that, â€˜Oh, Iâ€™ll go.â€™ I kind of had a blind date the other night. It was nice to just meet a certain guy and to have a conversation and to get to know someone briefly and â€¦
ZOE CASSAVETES: You donâ€™t have to marry them on the first date.
PARKER POSEY: Yeah.
ZOE CASSAVETES: But you think that you do sometimes.[wavering voice] Iâ€™m going to [inaudible] if I donâ€™t go out with that guy. [resumes normal voice] Itâ€™s like you can or you can leave.
PARKER POSEY: And the thing about Loren is she falls in love with everyone that she meets.
ZOE CASSAVETES: [Laughs] Anyone.
PARKER POSEY: She leaves herself open to be so hurt. So yeah, I think duty dating is good and a recommended thing.
Q: You talked about the film being shot out of order and that you guys went to Paris first before you did a lot of the romantic stuff in New York. That scene at the end of the movieâ€¦.
PARKER POSEY: Was the first scene that me and Melvil did. That was wild. I mean thatâ€™s the thing. He doesnâ€™t speak English. Well he speaks English and he understands it, butâ€¦ I had already been working and had traveled all the way over there. Our first day is the subway scene and the bar scene. And that was wild. You donâ€™t know what people bring and thatâ€™s why love stories are so fascinating when they work like this one does. Itâ€™s interesting. Like, oh he must have had some kind of similar journey. When I see Melvilâ€™s performance in this, I think â€˜He found himself. Heâ€™s known crazy women before. [Laughs] He has this kind of resolve within himself. Heâ€™s kinda like, â€˜I know her. This is meaningful to me.â€™ And you canâ€™t really direct that. Youâ€™ve just got to cast it. That certain thing has to come alive. So that was pretty wild, that was amazing. I love working with European actors. They have so much more of a respect for acting, a seriousness and focus.
"Broken Englishâ€ opens in theaters on June 22nd.