Written by Sheila Roberts Friday, 10 February 2012 08:39
Director Michael Sucsy knows how to deliver on the promise of a great script. After his successful HBO film, Grey Gardens, he was the perfect choice to helm The Vow because he was able to discover things about the story that no one else had thought about. “I just thought it sounded like an incredible premise for a film,” says Sucsy. “The fact that two people are already in love when the movie starts, and then they’re ripped apart, and then they have to find a way back to each other. That really touched me.”
Roll Credits sat down with Sucsy to talk about filming The Vow and how he found the right talent to bring the characters to life. He told us about the casting process and reteaming with Jessica Lange, why the budget and day count were major challenges on this shoot, and what it was like collaborating creatively with a terrific editor like Nancy Richardson.
What do you like about filming in Toronto? You shoot all your films there…
They have great crews and great locations. Actually it felt like a different city because in Grey Gardens we were covering it for
Rachel McAdams is from Toronto; can you talk about casting her?
That was just coincidence! She’d been in
Rachel and Channing Tatum had not met before they were cast. Did you worry about them having the right chemistry?
I actually met Channing first. The films that I’d seen him do, he had played a cooler character and that wasn’t who Leo was. So I flew and met him. We had a great meeting, and I called the producers and I said ‘This guy has got a heart bigger than his chest cavity.’ Channing is the white knight that Leo is in this film. [And] they did have chemistry. I mean, it was immediate. You could see it in the dailies. You didn’t have to edit it together and put a bunch of violins over everything to make it look like they had chemistry. They had chemistry. It’s totally real.
What was the big challenge for you on this project?
Any director will tell you that it’s always the budget and the day count. We only shot this movie in 40 something days. When I first started working on movies as a production assistant, we were shooting 65, 75, 85 days. I mean, granted some of those things were Godzilla, Deep Impact and those kinds of things, but these days it’s like 30-35 days or 40-45 days and you just feel like you’re humping trying to get everything done. It’s like ‘Move on, move on, move on!’ That’s not the way to get the best performances. It’s not the way to get the most interesting shots. And so, you have to constantly balance schedule and quality of work. For me, that’s the biggest thing because you want to create a calm environment for actors to do their best work, but you’ve got to get the shots and you’ve got to get the coverage. So, for me, that’s it.
The film is beautifully edited. Can you talk about the contributions of your editor, Nancy Richardson?
She is wonderful! Actually one of the first things that we had to work on with
Actually, one of the good things, someone told me recently, [is] the relationship between director and editor used to be more contentious. Studios used to leave directors alone more during the post production process and now they’re clamoring to get in. So, the director and the editor end up teaming up sort of against the studio to fight what they’re doing and you lose the creative tension that you used to have between an editor and a director.
What was it like to work with Jessica Lange again?
In short, amazing. She wasn’t available at first [and] I was really upset and I kept waiting and hoping it would work out, and then obviously it did. When we were in those discussions, the part was thinner, for lack of a better word. But Jessica is also a very opinionated person, so we did this and we did that and that is what I wanted. I didn’t want Rita and Bill to come off as these arch, two-dimensional characters. It really does relate to Grey Gardens, because with Grey Gardens. I wanted people to walk out of it and say ‘Oh, the daughter was blah, blah, blah and the mother was right to do that.’ And another could say ‘Oh the mother was so awful to do that.’ I wanted it to be like a jury discussion where there was enough evidence on both sides that you could build an argument one way or the other, and definitely less so in this situation. I wanted you to be able to see that at least from Rita’s point of view, even if she was doing something awful by lying or hiding or whatever, you could see why she was doing it. People don’t wake up and say ‘I’m going to be an evil bitch today’ or ‘I’m going to destroy someone’s life.’ Sometimes you do things out of selfishness. It doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do, but it’s a human thing to do. I wanted that humanity brought into it.
What are you working on now?
I have a project with Fox next called Rosaline, which is a period comedy. It’s the story of Romeo and Juliet told from the point of view of the jilted girlfriend. We’re still casting, but right now what’s been announced is Deborah Ann Woll and Dave Franco. We had Hailee Steinfeld but she just went off to do another Romeo and Juliet story so it’s a little bit up in the air but hopefully…
The guys who wrote 500 Hundred Days of Summer [Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber] wrote it, so it’s a super, super cute script. It’s actually very well written.
The Vow opens in theaters on February 10