SWEET HOME ALABAMA - 2ND Q&A with JOSH LUCAS & ANDY TENNANT
How well did you know Josh before casting him?
ANDY TENNANT: Well originally we had Reese on board and we were looking for the two guys that the story required for this love triangle. While the studio was looking for movie stars to cast to play opposite her, in order to kind of hedge their bets, we embarked on a large casting search to find them. We were looking in New York, in LA and in Atlanta. And Josh walked into our very tiny little office in New York City. I was there with my producer, who's a British woman, and with my casting director who's also a woman. Josh did the scene a couple of times and as he left the room they both looked at each other and said 'we're done, we've found him'. We had another 500 people to see over the next few weeks. But they were adamant that this was the guy.
But you still had him read for you again, didn't you?
ANDY TENNANT: We had him come back, and he went through some of the readings with Reese, and we embarked on the whole thing with the studio to say that it might be more interesting for us as a movie if we only know of Jake's character through what Melanie thinks of his character. Then the discovery process for Melanie will be the same as the audience, to actually learn who this guy is and what he's about. If you have somebody like Brad Pitt walk out on the porch then of course the audience feels she should end up with Brad Pitt. We were hoping for a photo finish at the end with two relatively fresh, nice guys.
What is it about Reese do you think, that has brought her so much success in recent years?
ANDY TENNANT: It's a question of timing as far as we were concerned, as well as some real good fortune. We turned in the script a week or so before LEGALLY BLONDE opened. It took the studio a couple of weeks to green light it and start to get a list of suitable people to star in it. As they did that LEGALLY BLONDE came out and on the Monday there was a list of one - they went straight to Reese Witherspoon. And fortunately, because I had worked with her before, we had only had lunch a couple of months before just to talk about stuff. I told her then that I was doing a rewrite on a script and I didn't know if it would be any good, and she told me that she'd done this movie called LEGALLY BLONDE but she hadn't seen it yet. Just two people sitting in a coffee shop wondering if our careers were over, and if in fact they weren't we figured we should work together some time.
It seems odd that someone so young and successful should even be contemplating the idea that her career might not continue onward and upward?
JOSH LUCAS: Reese is interesting because I sat down and had a few drinks with her before we started filming, and she very genuinely talked about how as an actress she felt she really had until her early 30s and that was it. She said she would basically fly as hard and fast as she could for this period of time then not only get out but feel like she's been forced out.
You originally hail from the American South Josh, what is it about that part of the country that makes it so different?
JOSH LUCAS: The Mason-Dixon line separated the north from the South in the Civil War and I think ever since then the South has held onto its history with such tenacity, and that's what leads people to have their own sense of identity which is quite separate from the rest of the country. It has a lot to do with being incredibly hospitable and gracious. Women are raised in a very specific way too, and there are many cultural traits that are also very specific to the South.
That must have made the way the film portrayed the South of crucial importance to you then?
JOSH LUCAS: It was incredibly important to me that this movie was dignified to the South and portrayed it in a really honest light. That had to do with the accents as well, getting them right. I was terrified of it and put a massive amount of pressure on myself. I knew if I got it wrong then the whole thing was off and my family and friends - who are all Southern - would just demolish it. It's been a really cool experience though to sit and watch it with a group of Southerners, because it so catches the South in a way that is not presented by Hollywood.
If you are originally from the South what happened to your accent?
JOSH LUCAS: When I eventually got to New York my accent was so askew from being Southern and that odd north-western influence. I think as an actor it's important that you have a very broad accent because otherwise you're limited specifically to a certain kind of character.
The story plays up the differences between life in the sleepy South and the hectic metropolitan lifestyle, and values, of a city like New York. Are they portrayed accurately?
JOSH LUCAS: The differences in the film are very realistic. New York has got this sort of wonderful romantic idea of the South. It's the South that maintains the idea that they're different, which is interesting because nobody else really cares. People aren't judgmental about it. There've been some critics - who aren't Southern - who claim that the movie portrays the South in a clichéd light, but I totally disagree. Everyone I know from the South who's seen the movie does as well. We didn't create the scene of the Civil War re-enactment. That was filmed in five days during the largest re-enactment that the South has done. If that's a cliché it's a real one. I think that's an example of the kind of detail that the movie hits in a very correct way.
Did the fact that you yourself moved around a lot as a kid lead, in some way, to your current choice of career?
JOSH LUCAS: My nomadic childhood dramatically fed my eventual decision to be an actor, but not in the way you might think. I got so used to being unstable that I started to only be comfortable being unstable. It wasn't so much a need to fit in in each place, it was a need to transform each place and be different each place. So when we finally settled down outside of Seattle I felt totally uncomfortable with that idea, I was terrified by it honestly. I also really missed the South, and didn't like the place where we were. That really helped me relate to the experience Reese's character goes through, absolutely.
Was there a particular moment that you can recall when you thought this was it - you definitely wanted to act?
It's funny, but we were living on this small island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina when I was 9. They were making a movie in Canada that had got too cold, there was too much snow, so they had come down for some reason to match up this little town to this island that I was growing up in. They put Christmas trees, huge Christmas trees, in front of every single palm tree on the entire island. And they rented the house we lived in as a production office, so we weren't allowed to be in it during the day. But we needed the money. That was my first experience of ever being around or even seeing a movie set. I remember I snuck in to this beach scene where a father was confronting a son and the son had gun on his father. I had snuck in with my friend and we were on these rocks looking down at it, and it was really cool. I had never seen anything like it before. That was funny when I read SWEET HOME ALABAMA that was one of the first thoughts that I had in that opening scene, with those two kids being on the beach.
Did you have any idea before the event that SWEET HOME ALABAMA would prove to be the success it became in its first few weeks on US release?
ANDY TENNANT: We had no idea it would do this well, but up until the Monday that it opened, those few days were the worst of my life. I think we'd felt that we had done the best we could, there are things we wish we could have done different, scenes that don't work as well as they should but at the end of the day you run out of time, out of money and out of ideas. You just hope for the best, and I was just hoping that it wouldn't disappoint people. I didn't believe it Friday night when they said we were on target for some incredible numbers, and I didn't believe it Saturday when they said we were going to beat the opening weekend for any romantic comedy ever made. And I didn't believe it Monday morning when they called and said that Julia Roberts never opened a romantic comedy bigger than this movie, and every one of hers opened in the summer where Friday is a holiday. We did it in two days. You can't anticipate that.
Patrick Dempsey's character actually proposes to Reese's character in Tiffany's, which he has had opened after hours especially for her. Forgetting for a moment the unnecessary pressure that this detail places on all the guys in your audience, what is the most spontaneously romantic thing you two have ever done?
ANDY TENNANT: Actually that scene came about because my wife was proposed to in Tiffany's. In the original script it was just a proposal at a cocktail party, but the studio didn't like it said we needed to come up with something different by the following morning. I went home and as most husbands do said, "Honey, I'm in trouble. What shall we do?" I know my own proposal was not cinema worthy at all, so we started talking and she said she was proposed to in Tiffany's. And I asked by whom? When? Do I know him? She started telling me, and we had had this conversation earlier about how there are some movie stars who can actually go to these stores after hours and shop. I thought that was pretty cool. That idea was a marriage between those two things. But it is kind of funny to watch that scene in the theatre though, to see the women go 'aaah' and to hear the guys go 'oh, God!'
JOSH LUCAS: I met a woman who I asked to fly to Australia with her seven month old baby and live with me for a year. And I only met her the week before. And she did.
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