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Cooper Raiff’s ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ Channels the Post-Undergrad Slump with Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann

Sundance: Director Raiff and stars Dakota Johnson, Raúl Castillo, Leslie Mann, and more stop by the IndieWire Studio, presented by Adobe.

Dakota Johnson appears in CHA CHA

“Shithouse” director Cooper Raiff stands to break out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival with his sophomore feature, “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” Named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch for 2022 and already riding off acclaim for his SXSW debut film, Raiff directs, writes, and stars in this low-key comedy about a 22-year-old named Andrew in a post-undergrad slump, and with no clear life path forward.

Raiff and his cast including Dakota Johnson (also a producer on the film), Leslie Mann, Raúl Castillo, Vanessa Burghardt, and Evan Assante popped by the IndieWire Studio, presented by Adobe, to discuss the film about a young Jewish man who, in New Jersey, befriends a local mom and her daughter while tumbling toward whatever his future might be out of college.

“I love all three of these actresses so much, but it was so exciting when literally every single person came on. It started with Dakota, and then Leslie, and then Vanessa, and Evan and Raúl. Every time, it felt like a dream,” Raiff said.

“But bottom line, I’m your favorite,” Mann joked.

Dakota Johnson talked about coming on board the film as a producer after discovering the promise of Raiff’s debut “Shithouse.” “I was filming a movie in Greece [“The Lost Daughter”] and my producing partner met with Cooper. They had a great meeting. She said, ‘You need to watch this movie.’ [‘Shithouse.’] It was so special. We met on Zoom and he told us he had a project called ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’… so we developed it. We went back and forth a lot and really just went through and made everyone super special, and when it came to casting, we started the search for both Evan and Vanessa, and that was really amazing because, first of all, they were both, immediately, it was like, ‘OK it’s them.’ We got to see so many incredible young actors, and then when we were casting Leslie’s role, I was like, maybe she will do it because I love her so much. So I texted her, and we sent it over. It really felt like everyone signed on because they loved it.”

Raiff said the movie was very much related to his own experience in his 20s. “My 20s are very much like Andrew’s own 20s. It’s the time when you have to start your own parties, so I wanted to write a character who is not good at that. He’s great at setting other people’s parties. And I relate to that.”

Watch the full video Q&A, moderated by IndieWire Managing Editor Christian Blauvelt, in the video above.

Presenting sponsor Adobe — with a mission to enable creativity for all — is committed to supporting, elevating and amplifying underrepresented creators, so the world can see, learn, and benefit from diverse perspectives. Learn more at Adobe.com Diverse Voices. The upcoming 2022 festival marks the fifth consecutive year IndieWire and Adobe have joined forces for the IndieWire Studio at Sundance.

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