It’s strange that two of the biggest stars in the world are making a low key romantic comedy, but such is the industry. When Julia Roberts rocketed to the A-list, it was because of her role in the hundred million dollar hit Pretty Woman, while Tom Hanks cemented his leading man status with a film like Sleepless in Seattle. Hanks and Roberts partnered together for Larry Crowne – Hanks’s second directorial effort – and their chemistry together is as palpable in the film as it is in this interview. Check it out…
Tell us a little bit about how you met each other and the origin of spectacular.
Tom Hanks: We’ve known each other, I’m guessing 10 years? We met, I figured this out…
Julia Roberts: We can’t really remember when we met, but we figured out when we became friends,
JR: it was when we did that photo shoot, an explicable photo shoot.
TH: For Premiere magazine, so Premiere Magazine had to be in existence, so that’s how long ago, or how recently it was. And we laughed our heads off.
JR: We did.
TH: And from there it became a pleasant thing. Charlie Wilson’s War, then we wrote this. Spectacular comes from the Apollo 16 astronauts, who were jumping around on the moon and said: this is spectacular! I tell you I’ve never seen anything so spectacular in my life. So Spectacular.
What does the scene of the movie say to college kids out there?
TH: You’re talking to a guy who left college after his third year because I began work in the field that I was studying for. Someone offered me a job as an actor and I was studying theatre at the time, and that’s what happens to Talia in this. College isn’t necessary for everybody and it’s only from what you put into it what you go there for and I think Talia was actually going to college to hang out with cool people. I think that’s the only reason she was going to college – in which case mission accomplished. She got that job, she got that offer and she moved on. That’s in time bravo to her. She took a bigger risk by leaving college and opening up that store than she would be in college taking classes that she didn’t really understand.
The casting was very diverse, was that a conscious effort?
TH: It was a conscious thing because that’s the college that I went to. When I wet to Junior Community College it was loaded with every conceivable type of, it was greatly diverse in an individual, and every single sort of race that was represented. We shot at Cal State Domingus Hills, which is down in Orange County, and has the most diverse student body of any four-year university west of the Mississippi. So we wanted to reflect the world as it actually kind of looks, particularly in a community college.
What are some of the behaviors that you would call a deal-breaker in a relationship?
JR: well, you know, I’m happily married to a person I admire and enjoy, it’s not really far to say or conjure some kind of bad scenario that I wouldn’t tolerate. I mean people have their different ideas of what’s good and what’s happy in this particular scenario that Tom drew for me, it was you know fun to play and Bryan (Cranston) is hilarious. But it’s sad for both of them in the situation they’ve gotten themselves into in that house.
I believe you also didn’t go to college.
JR: I didn’t.
How do you feel like you got the education that you may not have formally received?
TH: It’s the school of hard knocks.
JR: I have very smart parents, I feel I learned a lot from both of my parents, and life experience. Two of my three siblings are older so I suppose I learned from them and became very avid reader at an early age. And enough cannot be said for what you can discover through literature. So I think that was probably my most valued characteristic as a teenager.
I remember while you making an appearance on the David Letterman Show and mentioned you were casing Peter Scolari in the film. I don’t remember seeing him in the movie.
JR: He cut him out.
TH: No, no. He was in the movie but he had a conflict that we could not work out. He was doing an off-Broadway play I can’t remember the name of it, forgive me, that it was actually opening the week that we would have shot his stuff, so alas it didn’t work out. He was doing it, along came the conflict, and such is show business. It actually would have been Frank, the owner of Frank’s, but we were lucky to have Ian Gomez, who we worked with before in the past as well, so, it’s just one the things that happens in big time professional, show business. But Peter was in From Earth to the Moon, Peter was in That Thing You Do, and I always want to work with Peter.
JR: They’re bosom buddies.
TH: There you go. That’s how close we are.
Because directing is a lot more involving than just acting, what about this story drew you to commit to that challenge? And in a summer of huge movies, how do you get people to come see this movie with a potential downer subject?
TH: The six years of talking about this with Nia [Vardalos] really started off when I examined the theme of reinvention, and not just reinvention by way of fate dictating it, but in a really proactive place and how you move on to the next chapter of your life. It really began, I lose my job, go to college and my teacher is Julia Roberts – what would happen? And you just go back and continuously fill up the reasons he would go to college in the first place, and what those issues are. I think it’s fascinating any time you’re going to talk about an individual’s adventure, and in this case it’s the adventure of what he’s going to do for the rest of his life. It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s a midlife disaster. A mid-life crisis is when you wake up and you go, “I have everything but I’m still unhappy.” That doesn’t happen to Larry, Larry thinks it’s the greatest day in the world and he gets fired and he loses all of his community, as well as, he possibly loses his house. That to me is something that we just started off and we just built on it, and it was an idea that just never left and I thought if we could just do it in a very authentic manner, meaning we show it as truly possible. The logic of it all makes sense, as opposed to the usual contrivances of a movie like this – an evil father in law who doesn’t want his daughter to marry him, a boss who is trying to blah blah blah blah, or whatever is going on. It’s a type of move that I, myself, am attracted to as an audience going guy, and I think it’s a delicate balance to make a movie about it.
How do we compete in the marketplace? Forgive me, I haven’t the slightest fucking idea. It’s going to be interesting because you say, here we are in the summer, a big time, it’s not the summer, it’s year-round! The nature of the movies is different than it was five years ago, and they’re all driven by the possibilities of CGI, which means you can make anything happen on screen that you can possibly desire. That’s a great brand of freedom that is given over the filmmaker. When you’re going to try to have people talk in a room and actually reflect as we know it and have people recognize themselves and their own street and their house, then you’re aiming for the high country, and it’s a much bigger gamble. You can interview all the marketing gurus and the people in charge, and the people you have to fight with in order to get your seats here, and we all talk about release dates an counter programming blah blah blah. But at the end of the day it’s got to be a good movie, a funny movie and it’s got to make people think, hey, I couldn’t have spent my time any better. And by the way, the thing about the guy who wore a suit and the planet exploded and he still got the girl by traveling through time, that movie sucked! I’m not saying any movies suck, but you know what I’m talking about.
When the recession happened, the movie took on a whole new meaning.
TH: Yeah, and it’s still going on. You can make a movie about that (the recession) and the first best version of that would be a documentary where you could really see what’s going on. The second best version of that, I think, would be a movie that is at the end of the day extremely depressing and/or serious or so hard hitting that it offers up no hope. But we are competing in a marketplace in which the thing we might have going for us is the true battle against cynicism. That’s what Larry Crowne is about more than anything else. It’s funny – at the end of this film, Larry Crowne lives in a crappy apartment, he still has a lousy job that he can’t even afford to pay his gas in his big car, and he’s going to school with no real set future of what’s going to happen. But he’s got this amazing new forceful presence in his life and he can honestly say “the best thing that ever happened to me was getting fired from my job.” Now that actually does happen in the real world and oddly enough it’s a glamorous beat in order to create a motion picture. That’s what we’re going for and if you do that well enough, enough people will respond to it.
What is it like to have a significant other in the film?
JR: I would just like to say this about all the married people working together on set, it was a joy and that is te great joy – the go to work with people that you love or people you’re in love with, or people that you just love, and be creative and artistic and make things that you want to send out into the world and make people feel good. It was a great environment to work in, leaving my family behind and coming to work with this people. It was a dream. So, we do what we want to do and we appreciate that.
TH: Yeah, my wife and I – we met making a movie it’s not just our job, it’s our life. It’s what we do naturally whether we’re working together or not, I gave the script to Rita (Wilson) and asked who do you want to be? So she picked it out her part and she went to town on it. It’s just a blast, it’s fun. It’s what we do for, you it’s amazing we get paid to do it.
JR: And she was hot blonde.
TH: I said “baby, is there any way at all we could take that wig home at the end of the work day? Can you just keep it on? Let me take it off later on tonight.” No, we get to play at work.
In Larry Crowne, it seems like your life is over, but you make the best out of it and have you two been in a situation when this isn’t going the right way, something came along and changed it for you? And the second part of the question is, you both have Oscars. Where are they, do you still look at them?
JR: well, the darkest day for me would be the fifth day of shooting.
TH: yeah, that was a bad day. I called you the C word, it was horrible. I’m joking, sheez.
JR: My Oscar’s at Tom’s house because I have all of his. We switch.
TH: Mine are up on the shelf with all the kids’ trophies and horse ribbons and soccer plaques, shiny bits. All the bling, the family bling, celebrating all that. But what was the first question. Now, quite frankly our careers have been pretty well-chronicled, but there is a time I’m going to guess for both of us when we’re living in a house in the Valley that we cannot afford, we have been fired from the job that we had and it’s been 13 months since you’ve worked in the city and the phone is still not ringing, and you wonder if in fact you’re going to take the job at the Der Wienerschnitzel. When you have that moment it never quite goes away.
JR: I had the Manhattan version of that.
TH: what, The Brewburger?? Instead of the Der Wienerschnitzel?
JR: I sold shoes
TH: that’s right, she sold shoes. There you go. Thank you very much everybody.
You’re not going to wait another 10 years to direct a film, are you?
TH: I tell you, it takes it out of you. Both of these, they take a long time to develop and it percolates in your head until you want to get this off, it’s like a very personal mission.
Now this one must have been a little harder since you were going to star in the movie
TH: In all honesty, I’ve made a bunch of movies like Cast Away where I’m the only guy in the movie and the only place to be is right next to the camera, in costume and ready to go, and the years and more specifically the four month prior to beginning shooting, is where the big preparation as the director goes. Because I knew we were going ot get on the set and the best way to go about this is relatively seamlessly, jump in as Larry, come back and go back forth and just play. Because the good news is, if you’re the boss, if it ain’t good you don’t use it. You just cut it out.
Larry Crowne opens July 1. Check it out.