LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE AND BLONDE - Q&A with director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Movie Interview by Reece De Ville
Q&A with director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld at the London Press Conference.
How did you find working with the dogs of the film?
CHW: They say you're never supposed to work with dogs. I actually found that if you lower your expectations of what the dogs are going to do and don't expect them to be actors, then it's fun. The main dog's name was Moondog, and he's trained and takes in so much information.
What was it like to have the star of your movie also be the executive producer, and did you think that would be an obstacle?
CHW: I think that to work in a world that is being predominately controlled by artists is fundamentally a better working environment for artists. On that level, I was thrilled to have Reese as executive producer as it meant that a lot of the final control of the movie fell to an artist, not someone sitting in a corporate office somewhere. It's very helpful when artists of any position can provide that level of control, and Reese and I shared a collective vision on what community we wanted to create on the film - where we all work together, working hours are decent etc. On all those levels, I appreciated having Reese as my executive producer.
Is there a technical benefit in the writer being different, and yourself not being the director of the first film?
CHW: Making a sequel was kind of like having an additional script on top of my script, in that I used the original film as almost an additional text. I came to it as an audience member and left as a fan, and so I had a responsibility to the film and tried to leave behind any nerves and just proceed, and not try to re-invent something that already existed.
What will be the special features on the DVD?
CHW: There are a few fantastic scenes that we just left out as they weren't in line with the rest of the film. There's an extended 'snap cup' scene in congress, and a featurette which is a thank you to my cast and crew called 'Without You I'm Nothing', that I made a week after shooting. I think there's going to be a lot of fun. I'm planning on doing a commentary, but I'm not sure when that's happening.
Obviously, this film is on a different scale to KISSING JESSICA STEIN, was there anything you missed about working on a more independent film?
CHW: There were a few days on KISSING JESSICA STEIN that were so hairy, where we thought the whole movie was going to collapse, and never be revived. I'm glad that we never had that moment on this movie. It is thrilling on both levels that I found that I missed the thrill of pressure, yet didn't! The main thing that I enjoy about making a film like LEGALLY BLONDE 2 was having a release date. We made KISSING JESSICA STEIN and it was like having a painting on a wall in the studio, you know, it might never have seen the light of day as we had no studio attached and it was only after our appearance at the festivals that Fox Searchlight heard about it and through the goodness of their hearts they released it. I think what I don't miss is that uncertainty.
Does it give you extra confidence that your instincts with KISSING JESSICA STEIN and LEGALLY BLONDE 2 have been proved right twice?
CHW: I hope what the success of the films will give me is the creative freedom to explore the projects that resonate for me. KISSING JESSICA STEIN, although it was my first movie, was a culmination of 15 years of professional work, so I really hope that these two movies will add up to more freedom creatively.
Does Reese feel the pressure of her status as a box office draw?
CHW: I can only imagine how she must feel. There's a huge responsibility that she bears, it's her face on that screen. I think it's a difficult responsibility, but she endures it creatively and with a lot of good will. As executive producer, she realises that it's important to create a creative community on set. Specific examples of her generosity towards the cast and crew were when she showered us with gifts and it's really nice. Everyone knew she was making a lot of money and it was just nice on that level that she splurged out. Reese bought me an Ipod and wrote me a lovely thank you note.
Reese sees herself as quite clumsy, did you see any of that on set?
CHW: I don't think of her as clumsy at all, she's a gymnast! I saw her trip once and it will be on the DVD. When you consider the hallway sequence, where she runs down the hallway many times in heels, it's amazing she never stumbled.
Did Reese find it difficult being so cheery all the time?
CHW: I think it would be tiring for any human being.
A lot of actresses become production executives, but hardly ever directors. Do you think Reese would move into this eventually?
CHW: Never thought of that. I would say that I've worked with actors that I've had a stronger sense of 'you should direct', but my biggest concern with her is that she may be limited by her star status into going into certain kinds of roles. She has so many different characters inside her. It's my intuition as a director that she has the range to play many different types of characters, both likeable and unlikeable.
What was it like working with Bob Newhart, who is an American comedy legend?
CHW: I had my freak out moments when I thought 'Oh my god, what can I ever say to Bob Newhart that he would ever find useful!' But you're in the company of people that are such masters, that it really becomes more about asking questions and find out what they need. Working with Bob and Sally Field, you have great freedom as a director.
Was it Reese that suggested Sally Field?
CHW: Yes. We were brainstorming, trying to work out who could play the role. And finally, the question was put to Reese regarding who is her role model, and I just saw the moment unfold. I knew she was going to name the person in my mind, and there was a little silence and Reese raised her hand like in class and said 'Oh, Sally Field', and that was it. I could just feel it. So the issue had been that we were looking for blondes, and just hadn't thought of Sally. So it was Reese who had the inspired moment.
What was it like filming in Springfield, away from the studio?
CHW: We didn't have access to areas like the House of Representatives, so we were searching for locations around the country and saw that Springfield, Illinois had the perfect room. In Salt Lake City we found the columns and steps that we needed, and also in Salt Lake was that beautiful marble interior. In Springfield, the entire town came out and became extras in our movie, real senators, and real representatives. The female representatives who had makeovers had a real blast! It was so great to work outside of LA where everyone is so excited by movies, and I remember on KISSING JESSICA STEIN this woman shouting 'Get that truck outta here!' and one of our crew went up to her and said 'We're making movie magic' to which she responded 'you can take your movie magic and shove it up your ass!!!'
Was it you idea to put a clip of MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in the film?
CHW: Yes. We studied it and I just thought why not just put it in there. Why don't we actually show the card? It felt more honest.
Do you feel that the second movie is, perhaps, more political?
CHW: I don't know that the second movie is any more political. Certainly, setting it in Washington resonates differently. But I feel that it's really the same scene, about a town wanting to make a difference and just go for it. And while you're there, add another shade of lipstick!! I really believe in the script, and that you've got a better chance of putting an idea across if you make people laugh until they pee.