Flash of Genius, co-starring the lovely and witty Lauren Graham, will be released in films this weekend, Ocotber 3rd. The story is about based on the true story of, Robert Kearns (played by Greg Kinnear), a man who fought a decades long battle with the Ford Motor company over ingenuity. He gave up everything including his wife, played by Lauren Graham, and his six children in order to win his fight over principle. The story is heart breaking and yet hopeful all at the same time.
We were lucky enough to get to sit down with Lauren Graham, to talk about her working with Greg Kinnear, meeting Phyllis, the woman she played, and of course, cement!
How did you get involved with the film?
Lauren Graham: Well, I’m not really sure exactly. I don’t think that Marc Abraham knew me which in the film world can actually be a good thing, if someone doesn’t know you from television or doesn’t know a character or doesn’t identify you as one thing. But I happened to be on ‘The Ellen Show’ when my agent was talking about me on the phone. He said, ‘Yeah, I guess I know who she is. I don’t know.’ And so my agent was like, ‘She’s on right now!’ So he turned on the show and somehow based on that was interested in meeting me for the movie which is very strange because it has nothing to do with the tone or anything for the movie. I think we just kind of connected. We definitely connected as people, all of us. I just did a lot of research. I read ‘The New Yorker’ article. There’s a whole other world of sort of preparation you can do when something is based on a true story that I never get to do. So I just looked up everything I could and I really loved the script.
So what was it like working with Greg Kinnear?
LG: I loved it. We had such a good time. The beauty that this movie has kind of been doing nicely and going to festivals and stuff is honestly that we just continue to have fun. It’s been one of the changes since ‘The Gilmore Girls’ ended, having an experience that’s with a certain group of people and then you leave and then you come back and you’re refreshed. You’ve all fallen in love with each other again because you’re not with them everyday, but this is such a particular group that I think we were bonded and I think we all ended up working together because I feel like we have a similar aesthetic. I think we also shared a similar way of working. We really talked it out. We really did our work and then we’d go to dinner at the end of the day and have a good time.
We’ve been counting this morning the number of times that someone asks, ‘What was the last flash of genius you had Ã¢â‚¬â€œ’ and or ‘What’s an invention you couldn’t imagine living without?’ I only make fun of the questions because I have no clever answers for them. Alan Alda said in Toronto that he thinks an important invention over the last twenty years was “cement,” which is such an Alan Alda answer. He’s so smart and I’m sure there’s a really good reason [for that answer], but it’s also sort of abstract. Like you don’t really know what that means. Cement. That’s going to be my answer for everything.
Did you collaborate at all with the real family?
LG: No. The director really kind of did that. Marc had done a lot of that before we started and so the script was in a place where he could answer most of the questions and I think that he felt sensitive about, since we’re not impersonating these people, keeping a little bit of a boundary so that our work was what we were doing because you can only really work within the limits or the sort of story of the script. I did get to meet some of the family and Phyllis who I played. [I met her] at the end, on the day we were shooting the courtroom when I was saying goodbye to Greg [Kinnear] and walk down the hall. It was very moving to meet her actually. I’ve just never had that experience before and just to see an actual person who shared their story with you and was so vulnerable in that way and to think about what that must’ve been like for her. I thought about it for me as the character, as the person playing the part, but it kind of takes you out of yourself and you think about it for her. That wouldn’t have helped my work, but it was a very Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I don’t know. I’ve just never had that happen before and she was really sweet.
Did she surprise you when you met her? Did you have an idea of her before?
Graham: No. I’d seen pictures of them and some family photos and stuff as we were looking at clothes and just trying to make decisions on that stuff. So, no, it didn’t surprise me. I think the whole thing surprised me. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, she’s shorter than I thought Ã¢â‚¬â€œ’ or whatever. It was just putting the person to the experience that I had just had and it just so happened that it was one of our last days too. It was a cool experience.
You weren’t intrigued by any of her actions or did you have any questions for her when you met her?
LG: [laughs] I wouldn’t put it like that. Of course I was. A, I was in the middle of a workday. B, it was very, very emotional to meet her and it was the wrong emotion for the scene that I was in. I was really moved to meet her. I just feel embarrassed talking about it because it was a very personal thing. It was a set visit too. Again, I got enough out of the story that I told. If I met the writer of the movie I would probably have far more questions. To meet the person, I can’t explain to you how you feel. You feel so respectful of them that I just wanted her to have a nice time. I felt very careful. It just felt so personal. Like, they’re sharing this story and I know we’ve all seen biopics and stuff, but when you see what that is and you watch people react and whether they’re psyched that it’s you or do they wish it was Meryl Streep Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I don’t know. It’s all that kind of stuff. That’s not relevant to the making of the movie. That’s just your personal kind of worry. I hope that if I’ve done my job, for the limits of the script the questions that I had were answered, what choices she made along the way and why.
Did you learn anything about what her and Robert’s relationship was like after the trail?
LG: No. She ended up with somebody. He didn’t. Really, from there the story gets darker. He had many victories along the way, but he never gave up that fight and that’s sort of hinted at in the movie. We talked about how much you put that in there. It’s a movie and this is a story of a triumph. So it’s already kind of sad and a story with a lot of conflict. Do you put a thing at the end saying he died surrounded by documents and still fighting lots of cases and spent a lot of the money he got in pursuit of that same goal which was for them to say, ‘It was your idea. You’re right. We took it.’ So that wasn’t the focus of this. That’s ‘Flash of Genius II’. It’s going to be a water ride at Universal [laughs].
Do you think it was worth it for Robert Kearns?
LG: For him? Honestly, those people exist. So I would never say. I already played the lady and it’s like none of my business if it was the right thing or the wrong thing. They had the experience that they had as a family and I’m sure they all have a feeling about it. I hope for them, that to see this story kind of lift up what was heroic about their father and also show what was flawed, that that’s been a satisfying feeling for them.
Where the scenes with the family, when you had six kids and a husband running around chaotic to shoot?
Graham: It wasn’t that chaotic. I mean, these were kids who in some cases who had worked before. They were mostly Canadian kids and they just happened to be incredibly well behaved and if anything, we had to kind of incite them to more violence and riotous behavior. They were just really well behaved. We were like, ‘No, hit him! No, go ahead. Hit him.’ We were trying to make it feel messy
You’re someone who decided to pickup, come to Los Angeles and do something where the odds were against you. Did you identify with him in that way?
LG: Yes. I relate. That is the job. Did I have the exact same experience? No. But I absolutely relate. I think that you can ask any actor that. There are none of us who are supposed [to not relate]. Everyone got told the same thing unless you grew up in a show business family and even then you still probably got told it. ‘It never happens. There’s no way.’ My father is a lawyer. There’s no one to look at and be like, ‘See, they made it.’ You have a vision for something and in certain ways no one else’s opinion about it matters. You’re just going to go down that road until you personally can’t take it anymore. What I think is interesting in the Bob Kearns case is his threshold for pain, for rejection, for obstacles. It’s kind of astonishing.
I just love that speech that Alan has that says, ‘Nobody says it’s fair. You get a check. That’s justice today. That’s America Ã¢â‚¬â€œ’ or whatever. It’s through the eyes of this cynical, but realistic lawyer. I mean, Alan was talking about it last week and he said that in this country if you’re an accident and you lose this much you get this much money. I mean, really, there’s a whole world out there of equating money with suffering. Isn’t that strange? When you think about it it’s really strange. So in that way I get how he thought this wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted them to say that he was right. He was like, ‘I want them to say that they were wrong. That’s what’s really important.’
Do you have an idea for something that would make your life easier, an invention perhaps?
Graham: In fact, I’m in the opposite world. I grew up in a family where we had the same crappy car for a long time. My father drove a little hatchback and then one day in his ’50′s pulled up to a stoplight and looked over and there was a college girl driving the exact same car. He was like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m an older man who works. I can have a car.’ But we didn’t have a microwave. We didn’t have a VCR, and not because we were backwards, but you just didn’t need it. So I’m catching up with things that have already been invented that I didn’t need, but now I’m trying to use because someone invented them. Consequently, I have like my CD’s all in a thing so I’m trying to put them into the computer so that I can put them into the iPod that then crashes. So I actually feel behind and I don’t need any new inventions for a while. Cement.