READ MORE: Sundance: ‘Bachelorette’ Director Leslye Headland on Incredible Sex and Why Directing is a Female Act
The story about the will-they-won’t-they platonic relationship between two old acquaintances may sound like a giant romantic-comedy cliché, but never underestimate the edgy charms of Leslye Headland (“Bachelorette”). Her new comedy, “Sleeping With Other People,” has all the hallmarks of a rom-com eye roll, but rarely is her new film’s inevitable trajectory an issue, thanks to the former playwright’s hilarious screenplay and the undeniable chemistry between leads Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, both of whom balance R-rated raunch and real humanity with vibrant skill.
Promoting the comedy at a special 92Y screening in New York City, Headland joined her two actors for a post-screening discussion and didn’t hold back from dropping blunt truths about the film’s inspirations, production and storyline. Check out the 7 biggest highlights from the event below.
Sudeikis on Finding the Humanity in a Jerk
Sudeikis’ character may initially come off as an inconsiderate womanizer, but the actor never saw the role that way. “I didn’t see him as a jerk at all because I think it’s our job to find the humanity of these people,” he explained. “I got to see ’12 Years A Slave’ at the Toronto Film Festival and hear Sarah Paulson and Michael Fassbender talk about their characters in that movie, and those people are jerks. But they used the evils of their time to their advantage. It’s our job to find the humanity of these people.”
“I feel like Jake is a guy who is in a great deal of pain, yet at the same time wants not to let anyone he’s involved with deal with that pain, and so that’s why he’s very candid and forthright with his information,” he continued. “He’s being very transparent, and I don’t think that’s a jerk. There’s a lot shittier people in the world that say one thing and are actually another. I think hypocrisy is much worse than transparency.”
Brie on the Emotional Truth Behind Lainey’s Obsession
“For me, Lainey is a character with very low self-worth. That’s at the heart of her character — she just puts her own value in the hands of someone else and waits for permission to love herself,” Brie said of her character’s intense desire to end up with Adam Scott’s Matthew Sobvechik. “She’s matured in other places in her life but not romantically, and she’s just holding her breath for this guy to come around and choose her. She’s blinded by it. She doesn’t see him as an asshole because his character is at his most vulnerable when he’s with Lainey.”
Headland Drew From “Fatal Attraction” and Christoph Waltz
“I usually start with characters either based on real life experiences or people that I know. But once I get to the point of writing them on the page and directing their performances, I like to think of them in cinematic terms,” Headland said of creating Jake and Lainey. “I always thought of Jake as Christoph Waltz from ‘Django Unchained,’ except he’s talking about pussy instead of whatever Christoph Waltz is talking about in that movie. I don’t really know what he’s saying, but it sounded convincing and that’s how I feel about Jake. I think Lainey, I always thought of her as if you told “Fatal Attraction” from Glenn Close’s point of view. I feel a lot of sympathy for Alex in that film.”
Headland Discovers Her Films By Asking Questions
“The characters are both me, for sure. The characters feel my feelings for me. Most of my stuff starts from my personal experiences or questions that I ask myself. With ‘Bachelorette,’ my first film, the question that I asked myself was, ‘Are we really all trying to get married?’ and this film it was like, ‘Am I worth loving? Do I still believe in love? Can I find love in this world?'”
Sudeikis’ Character is a Jack Lemmon You Can F*ck
Headland has already gone on record saying she was looking for a Jack Lemmon quality in her lead actor, though she made one big clarification: “[It had to be a] Jack Lemmon you could fuck…because nobody wants to fuck Jack Lemmon.” Sudeikis revealed that he had gotten the Jack Lemmon comparison before from Peter and Bobby Farrelly on the set of “Hall Pass.” Keeping with the theme, Headland discussed drawing inspiration from one of Lemmon’s biggest hits.
“‘The Apartment’ was one of the big inspirations for this movie — that’s the Jack Lemmon character I think of when I think of Jason — and Billy Wilder said the story of the movie is of a guy who goes from being a schmuck to a mensch,” she said. “When you start that film, he’s a fucking asshole but he’s so adorable that you don’t notice. He’s basically pimping out his apartment to pimp out women in order to get ahead at his job, but he’s doing it with so much charm.”
Headland Doesn’t Let Her Characters’ Problems Define Them
“One of the notes I got on the script early on was like, ‘Why do you introduce [sex addiction] if you’re not going to make the whole movie about it?,’ and it’s because I don’t think people’s dysfunction defines them. The reason that you’re hurting isn’t the only thing that’s going on in your life, especially in a love story. One of the reasons the rom-com genre is so hated is because you don’t really see people change over the course of 90 minutes. They start out likable, they end likable — attractive people fuck each other. If only that woman could get rid of that job and stay on that dick!”
The Movie is a F*cking Rom-Com, Don’t Ever Forget It
“It’s a fucking romantic comedy,” Headland said when asked about the movie’s ending. “The financiers in all their infinite wisdom said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to rewrite it? Are you sure you don’t want to have an ambiguous, ‘meh’ feeling like the end of most indie films?’ Indie has become a genre now as opposed to like a way to make a movie. It’s like if you don’t end a movie like how ‘The Graduate’ ended you’re a fucking piece of shit. But like, guys, Jake and Lainey get together. The whole point of this — I’m going to start crying, I’m sorry — but the whole point of this is that these people have taught themselves and they have taught each other how to love each other.”
“The last shot you watch them go into the rest of the world — they can face everything now because they have each other. That’s the whole point of falling in love. Falling in love isn’t to get a feeling or to be a certain social stature or just so you can have it to tell other people about it. Love is about accepting yourself and finding somebody you can hold hands with as you just walk into the fucking mass of humanity, which is just a garbage nightmare. I was so offended they would ask that they wouldn’t get together. The whole fucking point of this is that they get together. Obviously you can tell I have some feelings.”
“Sleeping With Other People” opens in theaters September 11.