Roadside Attractions releases Miss You Already nationwide on November 6th, 2015.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Miss You Already is hard to fit in just one genre. How do you feel about the concept of genre?
Catherine Hardwicke: I don't get too hung-up about the word "genre," and I don't worry about it. To me, the best movies are the ones that mix genres and that you can't put in a box. Miss You Already is about two messy lives, in a way. Milly, Toni Collette's character, is a hot mess. She doesn't quite have it together which is how most people are.
NYC MOVIE GURU: As a director, how challenging is it to detect charisma and chemistry when it comes to actors?
CH: With Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, I knew that they would have chemistry even before I met them in person because I've seen their work. You see how fun and spontaneous they are. I hoped that they'd have that spark when I met them. Both are just off the meter because they've got so much soul and heart. They're funny as hell, witty and original. The stuff that comes out both of their mouths you cannot make that stuff up---and sometimes things that they improvise in the movie. Everyone in the cast has charisma---you want to be around them. I didn't have the good fortune of having Drew and Toni in a room together before a week prior to shooting. That's the opposite of how I usually am. But they did fall in love with each other the first day that they met.
NYC MOVIE GURU: If Milly's husband were to have breast cancer instead of Milly, where would he find his emotional support? Do you think that there's a unique kind of emotional bond that women have with each other?
CH: You might be onto something! I think so because, traditionally, women are known to be more nurturing and sympathetic to somebody. I know that there are men who are very sympathetic and very sensitive, so of course it's not dependent on gender. Both men and women have been deeply affected by this movie. Disease happens to everyone---nobody goes unscathed.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How important is it to have at least one character that's likable?
CH: You're touching on something that we did with Milly. We did have talks with some of the financiers about, "Is she too unlikable?". She's cheating and narcissistic. [Screenwriter] Morwenna Banks and I agreed that that's why she's likable---because she wasn't perfect or a saint. She wasn't a hero. She had all these flaws. She's the kind of friend who, if you go out with her, you could get into trouble and even get arrested, but you know that it's going to be fun and not going to be boring.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you define a good friend? How do you think that the advancement of modern technology is affecting the quality of human relationships?
CH: What's the difference between a Facebook friend and a real one? How do we find that level of intimacy with people? I realize that sometimes I stay on the surface with some friends at a party and then if I actually say, "Can I stay at your house one night?" or "Let's go on a trip together!", how do you build those deeper bonds where you spend a deeper amount of time where you can reach out to someone who really does have a problem? They don't even reach out, but you're just there for them anyway. When it comes to cancer patients, instead of just sending and email "if you need anything, just let me know," a good friend would say, "I'm going to bring over a meal to you around 7 PM. Is that good?" It's something concrete: just show up with the meal.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How important was it to get a PG-13 rating for Miss You Already?
CH: I think that we always thought that this was a PG-13 movie because you have Milly with a crazy mouth on her, but she says a lot of creative stuff. Everyone says a lot of creative stuff; it doesn't just have to be the F word.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Special effects should be considered as everything associated with humanism onscreen while CGI should be called standard effects. Do you agree or disagree?
CH: I think that's a great idea, and that's probably why it is harder to understand and describe this film. Do we have the courage to go to see a film about friendship and humanity? It doesn't have any guns or anything. Can we connect with our hearts to a film and its characters? With a director and actor, it is a special effect to create, somehow, an environment where they feel vulnerable enough to be open, to be in that moment and to live through them. At times, there are very intense emotions in this film. That humor has to fly in, and that's what I loved about it. As heavy and intense as it got, there would always be levity or a zinger. Somehow it lifted you back up and made you smile.
NYC MOVIE GURU: If you were give $100 million by financiers and were forced to turn Miss You Already into a standard modern Hollywood film filled with CGI, what kind of "big event" would you imagine happening in the film?
CH: They'd go on a trip somewhere and do something on their bucket list. So, maybe they could've gone to Machu Picchu or some incredible place that Milly always wanted to go to instead of just the moors. They could've gotten into something crazy like an earthquake or maybe alien abduction---who knows, maybe aliens did build Machu Picchu? So maybe they discover an ancient civilization or a cure for cancer.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would it be safe to say that cancer is the closest thing to a villain in Miss You Already?
CH: Yes, and when you see the little chemotherapy shoot at all the bad cells, it is like a villain. It's an external villain, like a volcano or earthquake or a disease that you cannot control. That's why the husband can't do anything---men are used to being great providers. Drew's character, Jess, could probably always make Milly feel better no matter what.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is the purpose of hardships in one's life? Would one still be able to create art in a world without hardships?
CH: If I didn't have conflicts, I could just paint, make art and movies, but what would they be about? Would I be driven to make them? You're absolutely right. Would you have that passion to create art if you didn't have anything to rub against? The script that I just wrote is about someone who becomes incredibly successful and had every obstacle thrown at her when she was a kid, and that's what forged her will to create something. As I examined her life (it's a true story), I went, "Wow! Somebody bullied her and made fun of her, but she never gave up!" So, I think it would be impossible to have no obstacles. I'm sure everyone who makes $100 million movies, like Christopher Nolan, have big challenges, too.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Given your background as an architect, what do you think that field brings to your experiences as a filmmaker? Is there a connection between mind of an architect and the mind of a film director?
CH: Yes, I think there's a strong one. They taught us a skill called structural visualization which means that you can pre-visualize something. When I did production design on the movie Three Kings with director David O. Russell, we went out to a completely flat tailings pond out in the middle of nowhere and a copper mine, and I said, "Okay, I'm going to build the Iraqi village right here," and I'm like, "I'm going to have this and have this.." I handed David my drawing and the producer said, "What? You're going to make an Iraqi village here?" And that's the kind of thing that, as an architect, director or production designer, you have to take a look at absolutely nothing and say, "I am going to make something out of it! This is just a script with words on a page. I see that these characters could be real people living in a cool house. I could take this trip to the moors." You have to immediately translate to something visual--I already kind of had that gene, but I learned that in architecture even more.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think would make a great double feature with Miss You Already?
CH: The first one that popped into my head was Thelma and Louise because I love that bad-ass friendship movie. Maybe there's something more fun than that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What about double-featuring it with something different?
CH: Charlie's Angels, Bridesmaids, or something that's a complete contrast like Stepbrothers.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Which actresses from the rolden Age of Hollywood do you imagine casting in Miss You Already?
CH: I'd love to see Katharine Hepburn as Milly and watch her shaving her head. Or maybe cool and off the wall Dorothy Dandridge or Anna May Wong. I'd go for Anna May Wong and Katharine Hepburn. We've never seen that combo before.