How long was the shooting schedule for this?
So half the time you might have normally had?
Well, “French Kiss” was three and a half months in Paris. I can’t complain too much about that. But you had that luxury. I remember shooting “The Ice Storm.” Ang Lee said, “We don’t have one extra day to go over. We can’t go over. If we don’t finish this scene this day and move on to this scene tomorrow and that scene the next day, we’ll just have to start cutting scenes.” I think that was my first independent film experience. And yet, within that, Ang was meticulous, detailed, extremely focused. He never left the set. In the budget, there was not a trailer for Ang on the set. Always thinking, brooding.
Most of your time in the film is spent with Diane Keaton. How did you two work to build your relationship and convey that you had been married for a long time and you still love each other but you’ve reached this rut?
I like to say it’s because we took an immediate dislike to one another which was tantamount to 30 years of marriage. We just cut right to the chase! No, in fact, I loved her. I loved working with her, but we had this kind of teasing fun relationship from the beginning. It’s something unconscious almost. Borderline subliminally, you tend to construct an off-screen relationship with someone that somehow is maybe parallel or may have nothing to do with the plot, but somehow can feed in, can be tapped into when the camera’s running.
And I think both of our senses of humor meshed in such a way that there was this kind of sparring. Witty sparring. There was a lot of laughter. I loved being teased and I love teasing. And she does too. And in a very superficial way I think that there was an almost instant kind of non-connection. Because we’re distanced at this point in our relationship. I’m not letting her in, she’s not letting me in. There’s this standoff.
It may be a tribute to Larry’s unerring sense of casting because he knew Diane and knew me and he thought we would somehow mesh and not mesh until push comes to shove and we find our way back into each other's graces, if you will. Because we’re put through this test. We’re sort of pitted against nature and loss and we’re losing our children and we’ve lost our dog and we’re losing our minds and we sort of have to find our way home. So it’s a romance of sorts but it does not follow the prescription or the formula of many Hollywood films.
So what was it like working with the dog?
It was great, because the dog didn’t care much about me and I didn’t care much about him. We used it. I think he used it really more than he needed to. No, he was fairly indifferent to me. Because he’s mostly there with the trainer.
Have you worked with a lot of animals in your career?
Yeah, in fact I was just thinking yesterday that I’ve done a lot of films with dogs. In “A Fish Called Wanda,” we kept killing dogs, squashing them. In “Silverado” there’s a little backstory that you never see but they’re teasing my character about what happened to the dog because in order to save a dog’s life I apparently… I don’t know, I forget what it was, but I cared more about the dog than a good gunfighter should have. Something got screwed up because of it. There was another couple of dog things... Maybe that’s it. I’m trying to find some thread, some theme that gives my life, my career… makes some kind of sense of it.
Some cosmic purpose?
Yeah, some overriding theory… It’s chaos.
So you’re kind of notorious for being very selective with your projects...
Some people think it's like the old studio system where you’re assigned roles and you just beg the studio to just trade you to MGM for the week so you can shoot this. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be selective. So you see what’s on the table and you say, well, this one actually interests me. This would be an interesting challenge or this is not original but it’s really well-written or none of these options. And you play the piano and read books until something better comes along.
So is there anything specific that you look for when you’re choosing you’re next project?
Nope! Something original, something that’s different, something’s that’s different from me. Something I haven’t done before if possible. Or if it’s something I’ve done before but I can do it differently. There’s a lot of factors but it starts with the script. Is the story worth telling? Is this a movie worth making? Is this something you want to devote this chunk of time to, this piece of yourself you want to invest in it? Are these people you want to be with every day for six weeks? It’s very important. Because that’s what it comes down to. That’s why this movie is really… You’re spending a lot of hours a day and in sometimes very emotionally intimate situations. I remember hearing a story about how Albert Finney was offered "Lawrence of Arabia." He said, “I don’t want to go to the desert with David Lean for nine months, thank you very much.” Something like that. But Peter O’Toole said “Yeah, I’m in.” So yeah, there you are.