At its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, then festival director Geoff Gilmore introduced to the stage the group of “fucking tough” women involved in Katherine Dieckman’s “Motherhood.” Beyond Dieckman, who repeated Gilmore’s assertion on stage at the screening while introducing her colleagues, that group includes producers Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen, Pamela Koffler and Christine Vachon, cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, and stars Uma Thurman and Minnie Driver (as well as Jodie Foster, who has a small cameo in the film and was on hand at the theatre to show her support).
“Motherhood” details a day in the life of Eliza (Thurman), a middle-aged mother living in New York City. Struggling to balance her commitment to her children, her husband (played by Anthony Edwards), and her dream of becoming a full-time writer, Eliza belongs to a vastly underrepresented cinematic demographic.
“I realized all of a sudden one day that there no movies that had been written about motherhood that were interesting takes on the subject,” Dieckman told indieWIRE during the festival. “I mean, if you think about it, the only movie that’s been made about motherhood is ‘Baby Boom’ with Diane Keaton [and] that was made many, many years ago – and was completely unrealistic… So I felt there was this real, glaring absence in what I was seeing of a mother that was a multi-dimensional character. And I wanted to write about somebody who was funny and frustrated and angry and loving – a bunch of different things all at the same time.”
Thurman’s involvement came after Dieckman sent her the script but it was never forwarded Thurman’s way. “So I’d been offered the movie and I didn’t know about it,” Thurman said. “And then one of the producers, Jana Edelbaum, was at a charity event that I was at, and came up to me and said ‘Have you read ‘Motherhood’?’ And I said ‘no.’ And I don’t know why, but I asked if she could send it to me… So the script was sent to me with a letter from Katherine and on a night flight to London I expected just to take a peak at it. And I just couldn’t put it down. I just felt a tremendous kinship with the material and felt so close to the humanity in Katherine’s writing. I thought it was beautifully observed, which for me is the greatest gift as an actress – to get to connect to something and feel its both fresh and familiar to you. To me, that’s a very exciting balance.”
Thurman called Dieckman directly immediately after the plane landed, and committed over the phone. Dieckman was ecstatic. “What I always felt about you,” Dieckman said to Thurman. “I loved your performance in ‘Hysterical Blindness’ so much which is really to me my favorite thing that you’ve done… It’s just a fearless, amazing peformance and I felt that – myself as a viewer and I don’t think I’ve ever said this to you – I was very frustrated to not see you get to do what I felt you could do.”
“Me too,” laughed Thurman.“It’s rare to find material like this. One thing I’ve been pretty good at is feeling good writing. I have a good eye for that and my favorite thing is to find writing about our experience now as people – contemporary material that is looking at our lives today. That’s my favorite, if you can call it, genre. And finding contemporary, humorous but dramatic writing that is fresh and open-eyed in the moment is very difficult. They don’t make a lot of movies like that, the way ‘Ordinary People’ was. A movie of the time that kinda made everyone feel like ‘God, that’s now.’ And those kind of movies and that kind of writing have gotten squashed by, you know, high concept. Which can be fun, we all do whatever, I’m not putting any particular genre down. But that’s my favorite thing. So when I read this, it was like someone handed me a glass of water after a long walk in the desert.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was originally published during indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. ‘Motherhood’ opens in theaters this Friday