The 2011 Scottsdale International Film Festival opened with Like Crazy, an unconventional love story starring Anton Yelchin and newcomer Felicity Jones. We were fortunate enough to have the stars on hand to introduce the film for the audience, as well as to answer questions during a post-film Q&A session.
WARNING: BEWARE OF SPOILERS
Moderator: Do you feel that the ending of the film is self-explanatory?
Felicity Jones: I think the ending is exactly what you, as the audience, bring to it. It seems to be something that divides people, and so I think it depends what experiences you’ve had in a relationship, and that would dictate whether you think they stay together, or they don’t.
Moderator (to Anton Yelchin): And what about you?
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, that was pretty well-said. (audience laughs) To me, I think the most heart-breaking thing about the outline, when I read it, was the fact that it ends in such ambiguity, because you see so much effort on both their parts to stay together and maintain something that really isn’t there anymore. And then they finally get what they’ve been aiming for, only they don’t know how they feel about it anymore and they don’t know where they’re going, which is kind of more heart-breaking then saying “no, they’re not going to be together” or “yes, they are.”
Moderator: I’ve heard that this film was largely improvised. What were some of the challenges with that process?
Jones: I think one of the biggest challenges is trying not to be too self-conscious, and actually trusting Drake [Doremus, director], because we actually shot about 55 hours of footage, which was then cut to two hours. So you have to make sure that the person who is editing and putting it together, that you trust that you both have the same ideas about the character and about the film.
Yelchin: Yeah, man. (audience laughs) I concur. (audience laughs) The biggest challenge, I think, is at first, when we got together for rehearsals, we couldn’t stop speaking. It was like we had to talk, or else the scene wasn’t working, and now you don’t have any dialogue so you’re just talking, talking, talking. And then you realize that the most honest thing is really the silences, especially in a relationship, because they can mean so many things. They can mean you’re so happy that you don’t need to be speaking, or that you’re so lost you don’t know what to say. Or sometimes you can’t stop speaking because if you drop the ball, you’re not gonna know where to go after that, so the truth is really in finding those moments that balance, making sure it’s honest and realizing that you’re not on a film where they’re gonna have to cut around you if you’re taking your time, because it’s really about that, about the study of those intimate, quiet moments.
Moderator: What were some of the more enjoyable moments, either while filming or when you saw them onscreen?
Yelchin: I have none, it was brutal. (audience laughs) We shot something that’s not in the movie, it’s actually going to be on the DVD. We were in the countryside, in England, and we went to a graveyard, and… I dunno, it’s a really interesting moment… it’s completely irrelevant to the movie, it does nothing for the movie and therefore it’s not in the movie, but it’s really interesting what comes out of two people, and a camera operator and a camera, wandering into a place that you didn’t expect to find and seeing how the characters would react. The scene is basically Felicity saying “Come on, let’s walk to this bench that’s at the end of this graveyard” and me going “no, people’s souls are here” and her going “their souls aren’t here, trust me, it’s okay,” and me like, really freaking out, really uncomfortable, saying “no” and stealing Nicolas Cage’s line from Bad Lieutenant saying “their souls are dancing.” It’s just an example of how we made this movie, how we’d go and just shoot whatever.
Jones: Yeah, I think that’s one of the best things about improvisation, that you never know what’s going to happen. It’s about the unexpected, and I think that’s what makes it so different from more conventional films, things like a graveyard scene that you don’t expect.
Moderator: Alright, audience, we’ll open it up to you.
Audience: Before reading the script, did you two know each other?
Jones: No, the first time we met was the first day of rehearsal. That was kind of scary, knowing that we were about to film a very intimate, intense film about a relationship, and we’d never met before.
Jones: Are you gonna say anything?
Yelchin: (shakes head, audience laughs)
Audience: What was the budget, and how long did it take to shoot?
Yelchin: The budget was $250,000, and it took three six-day weeks, and four or five days more, so a little under a month. It was shot on a Canon 7D, which is a consumer-level camera, but we just used 35mm lenses.
Audience: Do you think a film like this could have been done from a traditional script?
Jones: I dunno, I think the technique that we used in this film, that it is improvised, allows it to feel as natural as possible, and you feel like these are real people, in a real situation, and I think it would be a different film if there had been traditional dialogue and a traditional way of making it. It’s definitely the film that it is due to the process.
Audience: You said earlier that you didn’t think anyone would see the film. Did you not get distribution until after it was well-received at Sundance?
Yelchin: Basically, we shot the film and Drake cut it, and we went to Sundance. Then we went to bed –
Jones: Not together. (audience laughs)
Yelchin: Not together. We don’t actually even talk anymore. (audience laughs) We finished the press day, and we saw Drake the next day, and he’d been up all night and was just delirious, more delirious than he normally is, and he had been up all night bidding with all of these studios after the first screening, and he’d settled on Paramount, and we were really lucky to have Paramount have us.
Audience: When you were portraying these roles, how much of your characters were inspired by your own personal experiences?
Jones: I think, inevitably, you bring your own experiences to something like this. I think it’s such a personal story that you can’t help but bring your own life int0 it. But at the same time, as actors, we both wanted to play people who were different from us, and that was the challenge, because if we were just playing ourselves it wouldn’t have been as interesting. So probably a combination of the two. I think, as an actor, you definitely draw on your own experiences, because that’s what’s true for you, and therefore it’s inevitable.
Yelchin: I think for me, personally, Jacob is very different from me, but certain moments, I think just by virtue of this job, you’re aware of because you’re always traveling and inevitably you’re in a relationship where you’ll be away from someone for months at a time. You’re very aware of those moments like the last night with somebody, and how you wanna make it feel like something special, but then you’re kind of heartbroken at the same time. I think also, when you’re doing this you’re so fully committed to these people that you’re not self-consciously going “oh, I’ve gone through this, too,” you’re just going through it with them, as them, and like Felicity said, you’re looking at it through their eyes, and I think on a subconscious level it’s being fed by what’s inside of you.
Audience: After viewing the movie, which are your favorite scenes, and why?
Jones: I have a few favorite scenes. I like the one where we have the argument in the kitchen.
Yelchin: What does that say about us? (audience laughs)
Jones: I also love the scene where Simon proposes to Anna, it’s incredible. And we did that scene about five times in close-up, and he had a different proposal story for every take that we did.
Yelchin: I have to agree, those two are some of my favorite scenes, and there’s one thing that [Charlie] Bewley does, when he gives you the chair, and you go “oh, thanks so much, it’s so great” and he just goes “meh, meh.” Every time I watch that, I laugh. It’s so good, it’s so much like that character, it’s perfect.
Audience: How did you both get involved in the project?
Yelchin: I knew Jonathan Schwartz, the producer, we’d been friends for a couple of years and had wanted to do something together. He had this project with Drake, and Drake wanted to sit down with me, so we sat down and we connected in a lot of ways, and then I read it and that was pretty much it. I thought it was a really beautiful outline, and speaking to Drake I could tell he was so emotionally committed to it and so sensitive to it.
Jones: I received the script at my flat in London, and read it and thought it was incredible, and identified with the characters and the story, then spoke with Drake on the telephone. It’s not very often that you read something that you’re just dying to do, and I communicated that to him, so he said to make a tape. So I made a tape in my apartment in London, I chose two or three of the scenes from the script and improvised them, then sent the tape to L.A. and waited for his response. Luckily, it was positive.
Audience: How did you get into the process of acting, and how old were you when you started?
Jones: I’m 27, and I started acting when I was 11 years old. I did a TV drama in England, and then did a kids’ TV show that I would do on my school holidays. I realized later on that it was something I wanted to pursue, so I started doing it full-time when I was about 23 in the UK, and this is my first American film.
Yelchin: I’m 22, and I started when I was about 9. I went to an acting class… my parents are athletes, and I’ve always sucked at that. So I went, and I loved it, and they were very supportive, which I’m extremely grateful for. I did some commercials, did a Chuck E. Cheese commercial, did a Radio Shack commercial, I believe. I loved it, and I feel very fortunate that I get to do it. The only thing I really love passionately is filmmaking.
Audience: In what ways do you think the editing style influenced the storytelling?
Yelchin: John Guleserian, the DP, is very talented. Drake really talked about Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Wavesa lot, and the kind of really intimate, voyeuristic quality of that film, and obviously the handheld work, and that was sort of the launching pad for that kind of filmmaking. I think what’s interesting about the movie is that it’s very voyeuristic, and it allows you to peek into moments that are normally not the ones you focus on in a romance.
Jones: It’s something that doesn’t really get talked about a lot, but John Guleserian, who shot the film, had such an extraordinary presence. I think he was part of the reason we felt so comfortable, he made it feel safe to make mistakes and do silly things and not feel embarrassed. I think he was a vital component to this film.
Yelchin: And Jonathan Alberts – Drake has said this, and I’m quoting him, I think – Jonathan Alberts, the editor, is really like the third writer on the film. We shot so much footage, it must have been a nightmare sitting through it all, and I think he never lingers too long on anything. One of my favorite things about the film is the editing, it’s very emotional, and it just sort of allows things to keep going, without preaching or under-appreciating the audience. I think that’s one thing that Drake does, he really gives credit to the audience for being able to see the transitions in time, and the emotional transitions, especially.
Audience: Have you ever thought of getting involved in other aspects of filmmaking besides acting?
Jones: I think, at the moment, acting is quite enough. (audience laughs) Maybe one day, but not at the moment.
Yelchin: I’d like to. I’ve been shooting this weird little thing on my own, on DV, it’s part documentary, part fiction. I think right now the most exciting thing about filmmaking is that, within a studio system that is largely focused on a different kind of cinema, with the technology and the resources that people have, you can really perform professional-level production and post-production on a very consumer-level budget, and I think that’s really inspiring. And it should be inspiring to anyone, if you have a good idea and a group of people that are dedicated to that idea, you can just create things. We shot this with the Canon 7D, and it looks gorgeous. And that’s a still camera.
Audience: Was the issue of immigration a political statement? Or was it merely a device to move the plot forward?
Jones: I don’t think it’s supposed to be a statement. It’s not as though the film is trying to say anything horrific about the American immigration system, it’s just about these characters in that specific situation, and how they deal with that situation. But a lot of people have asked that question, which I think is interesting.
Yelchin: And that was something that Drake went through, so it’s very personal for him, but it’s more about their initiative, they’re so blindly in love that they ignore an institution like the government.
Moderator: We have time for one more question.
Audience: Was there any additional footage filmed that could give any more insight into the characters?
Jones: There was a lot of footage of me laughing that was cut, and a lot of Anton saying “babe.” (audience laughs) Probably for the best.
Yelchin: The shower scene was always the end of the film, pretty much. We shot a little bit that was the emotional equivalent of the shower scene, but it didn’t work as elegantly or as simply as that, so we scrapped it. There was a scene with Jacob, where they’re in the bathtub in Catalina, and he was supposed to jokingly get up and run downstairs wrapped in a towel to get a bottle opener, and it was very “hehe, haha,” and then we got there on the day and we were like “this is so stupid.” (audience laughs) And it was like 40 degrees in Catalina and they were gonna make me run around in a towel, and I was like “I have to finish this movie, I can’t die today.” (audience laughs) So there were things like that, things that just didn’t work for the movie we were making.
Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us.
Yelchin: Thanks so much.
Jones: Thank you.