The summer of 2015 could have been the summer of Judy Greer, with the long-time character actress snagging roles in massive tentpole features like “Jurassic World,” “Ant-Man,” the “Entourage” movie and “Tomorrowland,” but what stood out most about Greer’s turns in those blockbusters was just how little they did to capitalize on her talent or charms. In three of those films, Greer was cast as a mostly ancillary mother character, while “Entourage” didn’t even bother to give her role a name (she was just “Casting Director”).
Instead of offering the actress, a two-decade veteran of the industry who has worked in both film and television, a chance to make a well-earned splash on a giant scale, she was mostly pushed to the background. That was nothing new for Greer, but even as she’s struggled from a phenomenon described by Scott Meslow of The Week (which asked, “How did an actress as charismatic and multifaceted as Judy Greer end up in so many tiny, thankless roles?”), the actress has found a promise new outlet as a filmmaker.
Building a Team
Greer, who has always had a firm, if amusing grip on her place in Hollywood (this is a woman who wrote a book entitled, “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: My Life as a Co-Star,” after all), is mostly unbothered by the so-called “effect.” Being recognizable for her sharp wit and comedic timing has often earned Greer sidekick roles, best friend parts, second banana stuff, but she’s stayed working in an industry that doesn’t always foster that kind of career for actresses.
“It’s flattering and frustrating, and sometimes the scale tips more in one direction and sometimes more in the other,” Greer said in a recent interview. “It’s so flattering that people want me to have bigger roles. I can’t even tell you how nice that is, imagine if they didn’t. And then it can also be frustrating because it’s not like I’m not trying to get bigger roles.”
And those other roles? They may have been tiny, but they weren’t thankless, because they allowed her to form her own network of dedicated compatriots, many who happily rallied when Greer decided to make the jump to filmmaker after toying the idea for the better part of a decade.
“Everyone loves Judy. She’s endlessly lovable,” screenwriter Gary Lundy told IndieWire. “She’s one of the more charismatic and smart and passionate people I’ve met.”
Lundy would know – the former child actor, best known for roles in “Donnie Darko” and “Senior Skip Day” – put his trust into Greer when she came on board to direct his first feature screenplay, the snappy comedy “A Happening of Monumental Performances,” Greer’s long-awaited directorial debut.
Greer’s manager, Principato-Young partner David Gardner, first came across Lundy’s script, a day-in-the-life dramedy that centers on a particularly bad 24 hours for account manager Daniel (Common). The film’s tone is its most unique element, a mix of comedy and drama approaching the work of Alexander Payne or Mike Judge. His fears were allayed once he and Greer met for an introductory lunch to talk about the project. “Judy had an amazing vision for this, from the get-go, a vision,” Lundy said.
Greer’s humor and sensibility is clear in the final film, and her personality pops in every scene. “A Happening of Monumental Proportions” is a talky, fun comedy that doesn’t balk at adding on some painful parts. For one thing, its action kicks off with the discovery of a dead body at Daniel’s daughter’s school, zooms into Daniel getting canned and heads on into even more ill-fated waters.
Greer was the one who approached the Weitz brothers, Paul and Chris, and their Depth of Field partner Andrew Miano about producing the film – a fine fit for the production company, which has a special interest in helping filmmakers craft their first feature. (Previous productions include Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” and a number of the brothers’ own films, including “In Good Company,” “New Moon” and “Admission.”)
Paul Weitz was eager to help Greer no matter his place in the film. “Anything that I could do to help her, I would do, whether we were involved in it or not,” he told IndieWire.
The filmmaker had previously worked with Greer on a variety of projects, including a Second Stage play and his television series “American Dreamz,” but the pair really connected on a filmmaking level during the making of his indie “Grandma.” (Incidentally, another film that arrived in the summer of 2015, but one that gave Greer a juicy, compelling supporting role as Lily Tomlin’s beleaguered girlfriend.)
“I think, maybe from doing ‘Grandma,’ she saw me kind of learn how to do stuff for an extremely low budget, and not freak out about it,” Weitz said with a laugh.
Next: Gathering the talent.