The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne and starring George Clooney, opens in theaters this weekend! The film closed the New York Film Festival, which is where lodeplus.com caught up with the cast at the press conference and on the red carpet.
Check out highlights from the press conference and our video from the red carpet to the left!
Q: To George and to Alexander. How did you find each other?
George Clooney: Alexander failed to find me fascinating when I met with him for ‘Sideways,’ which I have not yet let go and it was about 2 years ago, we met in Toronto and he said, ‘I have a script coming and I would like you to look at it’ and I said, ‘I’m doing it whether I read the script or not’ and then we met at an Italian restaurant. You take it from there.
Alexander Payne: I was in the midst of writing the script. George was my first and only choice. I flew to Toronto to grab dinner with him, he was up there with a couple of movies. This was exactly two years ago in September and I said I got a screenplay coming your way. In November, I explained to him the story. He received the screenplay in November and we were shooting by March.
Q: So for you Alexander, what was the core of the novel, of the story, the reason behind this project?
Alexander Payne: I liked the strange emotional story, that had little contrivance in it and it took place in a beautiful setting. If I were to say one more thing about why I wanted to do it, I would say the two anchors in the story that really attracted me were the two decisions. One by his character Matt King when he decides to find the lover and tell the lover that the woman’s gonna die. He wants to kill him, but he decides to do it anyway, an act of love and I liked the wife of the lover shows up at the hospital and says my husband was too cowardly to come, but that didn’t seem right to me. I liked those two moments. Those are my two ins to the story.
Q: And you speak of the shooting in Hawaii and one of the striking things of the film is the choice of locations and when you went to shoot there and present Hawaii in a different way than we usually see. How did you approach the location shoot in Hawaii?
Alexander: Well, I have to say approaching Hawaii, in general Honolulu, specifically because I like cities, I wanted to see Honolulu. It’s not just differently from other movies, I haven’t seen it in other movies and I didn’t watch the old Hawaii Five-0, which might have been a great location show, but I have just never seen it and yeah that was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to make it because I am so interested in location, having that certain physical documentary aspect of the film and I wanted to see Honolulu. I have never seen Honolulu in a film.
Q: Shailene Woodley, How did you get involved with this film, it’s such a wonderful part and such a terrific performance. You’re just great in it. How did you meet Alexander and get the role.
Shailene Woodley: It was kind of a standard auditioning process. I was in Toronto when he was in New York auditioning girls and I flew down and auditioned for him and that was kind of it. I guess I did a good job.
Q: For you and Amara, what were the most challenging or interesting scenes and moments for the two of you in the film? Because you both were running through the whole film and there was so much emotion and things happening along with comic moments. What were the most interesting scenes in the film for you both?
Amara Miller: Probably, the most challenging scene for me was when I had to eat all the Ice Cream because I didn’t knew when to stop and because it got me sick the next day. Yeah, I didn’t show up at the work the next day and I felt horrible and I regretted that I ate so much ice cream and so that was definitely a challenging scene in the film.
Shailene Woodley: Challenging scene? Probably the scene in hospital when me, Amara and George go in and he says something to mom and she says something. That was challenging because to see your mother, so to say, on the bed for the first time, looking the way she looked and then to be mad at her, but vulnerable, and missing her and I don’t know. That was a tricky scene.
George Clooney: She also cries under water, I have to say. That’s a pretty tricky thing.
Q: Just like to ask you because I want to hear from everyone briefly what your experiences for Beau, Robert and Judy you worked on quite a few films and TV shows. How was this experience different from other films? What were Alexander and George like during the shooting if your scenes.
Beau Bridges: For me, I had worked with George before in The Good German, we had a great time so this was second time around doing that. And also I was kinda working in my backyard there, I have a house in Hawaii and that bar, the Tahiti Nui, is avery serious local hang that my friend Christian owns and Christian was sitting right next to me in the scene. So the whole thing was just really easy-going and Alexander is that kind of a guy, he makes a really fun set, and very open to ideas, everybody was relaxed and it was good.
Judy Greer: I was so nervous all the time when I was working with Alexander because I was so in awe of him and the movies that he’s made and I thought that that works well for my character. And in my life I am always kind of nervous, but working with George made it feel lighter and easier and I have worked with George before so thankfully I wasn’t as nervous about him, but he keeps everything so fun yet professional and a lot of times when you get a knock on your trailer, that they are ready for you on set, you have about 15 minutes before you actually go to set, but George was always the first person on set, so I was really impressed that you better get to set when it’s time to go to set because he is there and he is ready to work and I was really inspired by the fact that you are playing this part and what it’s gonna do for your career. I’m so excited for you.
George Clooney: You remember what our first scene was ever, not in this movie?
Judy Greer: Yeah!
George Clooney: We did a scene in ‘Three Kings’ and our first scene together was us having sex.
Judy Greer: Yeah, like crazy sex. Sex I had never even knew about it.
Q: I’m curious Judy the final scene you have at the hospital is so great. Is that something as an actress, when you are preparing 15 minutes before that you just want to do it once and hit it, or did you do it numerous times in different ways. Tell us about that scene.
Judy Greer: I don’t remember how many times we did it. I feel like we shot that scene over the course of two days. I think we started and then stopped, maybe, and then went back to it. I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for that scene because I tried to just get everything I have ever felt in the world in that moment. So, it was hard. I listened to a lot of music on set. And I stared at Patricia Hastie, I stared at her and looking at her I was so moved by this woman. She was like a prop, but she was real and that’s I guess what it’s like when you are staring at someone in a coma. It was so moving to see her there and how hard she had to work to be in that character. It was just a lot of things that led to that scene.
Alexander Payne: The woman who plays the wife in the coma, local hire in Hawaii and took it very very seriously. She lost a lot of weight preparing for the part. And then to come into work everyday, she would to stay up all night, come into work, get into makeup, get hooked up to the machines, take a Melatonin and tell us don’t even wake me for lunch.
Judy Greer: Sometimes I would see her standing up in the corner and it was so freaky to see her walking around ever. When we were done shooting she’d be walking to her trailer. I was like ‘ohh, she is alive.’
Q: Robert, any memorable or goofy moment you remember from the shoot. How was it?
Robert Forster: All the shoot was great. I was there twice in Hawaii. It was great time. And I almost worked with George once on a military thing, but I didn’t, but when I did and this is true, you got the best set that I’ve ever worked on, warmest and funniest with more jokes and Quentin Tarantino’s set was good too, but you gave it the personal touch and everybody had fun and that’s a big plus. When I first got a call from my agent asking ‘would you do one scene in the picture?’ I said sure. I have had low points in my career, with four kids, when any job of any kind, one scene was good, but then when I met with Alexander and he said, Oh No! There are two scenes. All I can say is that it is really beautiful stuff, and it was easy to play and I got to smack my friend Nick.
Q: Nick, Any thoughts or memories of yours on this project?
Nick Krause: Getting punched in the face by Robert Forster was one of the more memorable things, definitely, but as he said it was really not just a process of filmmaking, it was being with really great people who were having a lot of fun doing what they did best and learning so much from all of them. For me, it was a crash course. I have not had that type of experience before. To be immersed in it for so long, learning so much was amazing, really amazing.
Q: You got an opportunity, you see the character for quite a while being kind of a dufus and kind of out of it, then you get that one scene with George so revelatory, so touching. That must have been a very special scene for you?
Nick Krause: It was pretty frightening to go into that. I just didn’t want to mess up, but once I got there, yeah that was a really cool scene in the film. Really, really great.
Matthew Lillard: I have the greatest role in the history of films. I steal George Clooney’s wife. There’s Rocky and Lawrence of Arabia and then there is Brian Speer. Never to be duplicated ever again. I literally just looked at him all day and thought I’m better than you. Not that handsome. I know all your secrets. It was great. I have done a lot of movies and to come back and do a movie, I’ve been gone for a long time. And to do the greatest movie that I’ll probably maybe ever be involved in. To be apart of something that’s an instant classic, to be with one of the greatest filmmakers in America, in the world right now, it changes your life. It changes your perspective of the work, your career, and gives you something to be proud of and that doesn’t happen very often in the business that we are in right now. It’s really difficult to be an actor and to have an opportunity to work with this great cast and crew and that director and it is just a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Q: Mr. Clooney, so much depends on your relationship with your daughters and I want to know from yourself and from these young ladies, what was the process of coming together as a family? Did you do any sort of bonding exercises?
George Clooney: Yes, we did bonding exercises. I would say you guys stay over there and don’t talk to me. It is a process that I have very much embraced in the rehearsal process, which is we go over the scenes a little bit, but mostly it’s about spending time with one another, because the truth of the matter is once you go into the set, everything is so different. We could sit here and work out the hospital scene, but all of a sudden the blocking alone is different. Patty laying there is different. Everything changes, so drastically when you finally get to do that, that the rehearsal process in general is about trusting one another and so the big part of that is getting to know the gang and the ability to feel comfortable enough to give each other shit. But you know there’s some truth in that and once you get to that place, it’s easy and so lucky thing is that they are all such talented actors, but we got a really good script and a really good director, so that protects everything else. So, that was the process.
Amara Miller: It was actually very easy for us. Me and Shailene were just best friends, we would hang out on weekends. We would always be together on sets and same thing with George…Almost every second on set we were with Shailene and George and Nick. Everyone was so tight, so together. It was really like a family.
Shailene Woodley: A lot of people always ask were you intimidated working with George? The first time I met him, he came up to me and gave me a hug and said, ‘Welcome sweetie,’ and that was at the table read before we even started filming and from that moment on there was no intimidation factor. There’s nothing, he is a really good guy and a very good human to look up to and learn from.
Q: Alexander Payne, for someone who dresses as good as you do, you managed to put George Clooney into the ugliest pants I have ever seen. My question is about the hibiscus flower overload, what were you doing with the costumes. How did you work with the costume designer and how did it feel to wear those pants?
Alexander Payne: I remember when we did the costume test the first day, the camera test and George came out in his outfit: the aloha shirt tucked in his Khaki pants. I looked at him and he said, ‘You know I’m never going to get laid again.’ I think the costumes in the film are fairly accurate to what you see in Hawaii. It’s pretty much what you see is big floral cacophony. The costume designer just replicated what she saw and it caused some consternation for the DP who saw all these clash of colors in his frame. We just had to go with it. That’s what it is.
George Clooney: I’m not completely against Khaki’s. It’s just the level you have to wear them. The higher you pull them, the more excruciating it is. This whole process was just about slogging up a little bit. This seemed kind of easy for me, I grew up in Kentucky this is standard, just different colored shirts.
Q: Voiceovers in this film really worked.
Alexander Payne: Thank you. Well, I’m a big fan of voiceover and had it before in ‘Election’ and ‘About Schmidt.’ And I used it in a short in Paris a few years ago, a voiceover film. I did a TV Pilot a couple of years ago…I’m a big voiceover fan.
Q: What is the siginificants of voiceovers to you as a director?
Alexander Payne: It may be different in every case but in general, it helps two things, I very much like first person literature, I like first person cinema and entering the story more or less through the eyes of a protagonist and using devices of subjectivity, not just voiceover but visually as well and also, it just helps to propel the narrative a bit. I think the first act of this film is slightly too voiceover heavy. There was a lot of exposition I had to get across to the audience and I was aware of it, but the audience had to know all that suff and I didn’t want to waste time in a scene to have to get that information across, so I did have to rely on a voiceover, but it also anchors us. Although it disappears…but I wanted to anchor the audience very much into Matt King, into his voice and into his head because sometimes he’s sort of speaking in that omniecient way, but other times it’s his thoughts. It’s actually the first time I have ever used a voice over as someone’s thoughts.
Q: Alexander, I have read the book, The Descendants, but can you talk about the process with the author, Kaui Hart Hemmings, and how you guys worked together?
Alexander Payne: She is asking about the collaboration with the author and adaptation in this case. This is my third or fourth adaptation and this is my closest work. In fact, I’ve never worked with the writer ever before. Sideways came closest, because I had Rex Pickett, give Jim Taylor and me a tour of wine country, to see through his eyes because it was very much autobiographical to him and then I had nothing to do with him during adaptation. But I’d really consider Kaui Hart Hemmings, the writer, my unspoken collaborator because it’s her world not mine and to enter that world, that kind of upper class world in Honolulu, in Hawaii. It’s something kind of specific, small and a little complicated, so I had to take a lot of cues from her. Turns of phrase, for example in the scene between George and Judy on the beach and she says ‘Do you live here?’ and he says, ‘No, on Oahiu?’ and she says ‘So do we.’ I’d originally put in ‘No, Honolulu,’ which you don’t say in Hawaii, you really refer to the island, then to the city on the island. Even if it’s a big city like Honolulu….So I really relied upon her a lot.
Q: With that in mind, George having shot on the familiar turf in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. How you compare working in the familiar areas like your hometown and going to a place where the location is so much of the personality of the film and working with that.
George Clooney: Most of the times, I’m working in the places I’m not familiar with. Sometimes that’s Slovakia and sometimes it’s Hawaii and not to bash on Slovakia, but I really did enjoy Hawaii. I think everybody would agree it’s a great script and a great director, and you’re shooting in Hawaii. There really is no bad, no downside. It was fun for me, I haven’t spent much time here…It’s such an island…but you know on the freeway, the speed is like 45 miles per hour and it takes a while to get into that rhythm, I was driving behind the people and I was like ‘move it.’ That was alien because I wanted to go 50 miles an hour…I really enjoyed it.
Q: How was it different shooting there than in your hometown?
George Clooney: I didn’t have relatives on the sets everyday. When you are shooting in your hometown, it’s like you never met so many cousins. This is your cousin. Really? I have no idea who that is. I didn’t have a whole of that in Hawaii.
Q: I want Mr. Clooney’s and Mr. Payne’s thoughts about forgiveness in the context of the film and also about in real life.
George Clooney: I forgive you. Now, I don’t forgive you. I thought in the film, as you said, a big part of it is forgiving yourself…so much that has happened was also his responsibility. I think a big part of that–at least in the end when he is with his wife and he looks at her and kisses her–was understanding his part in this as well. Yes, she cheated on him but he was not there and he was not a good father as much as he thought he was. He was busy working and that happens. The part of it was coming to understand and I think forgiving yourself is a very big part of that. I think it’s all true. I think we all go through those experiences of understanding. The older you get, the more forgiving you are of other people’s mistakes, when you’re younger you find that anything that stands against something you believe in is just plain wrong…You come to find out later I was way too judgemental of those things. I was making the issue much bigger than it was. I think as we all get older we get a little more forgiving of everything except the guy driving 45 miles an hour.
Alexander Payne: I think what I said at the beginning of the discussion about the two acts, two acts of love when it’s difficult, that interested me in making this film on some level. I think those were also love and forgiveness. Having to rise above the occasion and forgive and deal with also the murderouness inside of one, to overcome that because I think forgiveness is difficult. Forgiving self, to many people, at least for me, it’s extremely difficult and then in a larger context I would say I’m constantly astonished by those who pray daily, forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me and speak very loudly the war drum.
Film Synopsis: In his first film since the Oscar-winning Sideways, writer-director Alexander Payne once again proves himself a master of the kind of smart, sharp, deeply felt comedy that was once the hallmark of Billy Wilder and Jean Renoir. Based on the bestselling novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendantsstars George Clooney as Matt King, the heir of a prominent Hawaiian land-owning family whose life is turned upside-down when his wife is critically injured in a boating accident. Accustomed to being “the back-up parent,” King suddenly finds himself center stage in the lives of his two young daughters (excellent newcomers Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller), while at the same time being forced to decide the fate of a vast plot of unspoiled land his family has owned since the 1860s. Rooted in Clooney’s beautifully understated performance, Payne’s film is an uncommonly perceptive portrait of marriage, family and community, suffused with humor and tragedy and wrapped in a warm human glow. A Fox Searchlight release.
Check out the Trailer for the film:
Regal Union Square Stadium 14
850 Broadway, New York, NY
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AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13
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