On Saturday night, the Midwest premiere of Like Crazy took place at the Twin Cities Film Festival and it was followed by a Q & A with the film’s director Drake Doremus and its star Anton Yelchin. The theatre was packed with patrons eager to see the film that took home two top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival – Grand Jury Prize for Best Actress for Felicity Jones and Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature. The audience reception of the film was very warm and they greeted Doremus and Yelchin with a loud burst of applause.
Twin Cities Film Festival Programmer Steve Snyder opened up with a question that addressed the open-ended final scene of the film:
Q: How many people think this is the beginning of the relationship warming up again?
[A few hands are raised.
Q: There are the optimists in the room. And who thinks the last shot of Anton’s face is mourning that it wasn’t what it used to be?
[Many more hands are raised.]
DRAKE: It’s colder here.
DRAKE: We’re going to make “Like Crazier” in about ten years where we’ll pick them back up again.
DRAKE: It’s funny, I love that intense and sincere feeling will last forever and I like to think that no matter what they do and who they see after that point, they will stay with each other forever.
ANTON: That’s so sweet, now I don’t know what the fuck to say. For me it ends emotionally there, because that’s really the arc for Jacob. I’m probably with the cynical people, which is I think why it breaks my heart.
Q: This film is autobiographical in a sense, it’s a long distance relationship that actually happened, so I wonder if you could tell us where this comes from and how that relationship ended?
DRAKE: Sure…I went through a long distance relationship that involved a couple of continents and it was wonderful and magical and special and I had a lot of feelings and emotions in me that I wanted to share. We’re good friends, she’s seen the movie and we cried through it. It’s a special part of our lives that we’ll never forget and it shaped us as human beings and I think it was a special way to commemorate the relationship.
Q: Anton, so much of the movie was improvised. Maybe you could talk about some of the scenes and what direction you had and what direction you didn’t have as you went into it?
ANTON: Basically Drake cast Felicity [Jones], like two days later she was in L.A. and we had like 5 or 6 days straight of rehearsals before we started shooting. Rehearsals were at least 10 hours a day, so the three of us in this weird abandoned part of this production office in Culver City hung out for hours well into the night and we did exercises, went over the scenes, and we just hung out and through that process the three of us really came to trust one another.
We shot the sort of honeymoon period first. We would go to the…what’s it called…not golf carts…
AUDIENCE: Go Karts.
ANTON: Go Karts! I wanted to say “Mario Kart.” I’ve never been.
DRAKE: It’s a stunt driver.
ANTON: Yeah, the CG’ed my face on.
ANTON: We had this rig and we just took it on the beach and walked around and shot a bunch, then we went to the third street promenade and shot a bunch, then we went somewhere else and shot a bunch, and we…went a lot of places and shot a bunch.
DRAKE: [Bursts into laughter.]
ANTON: I guess that was a good one. It was a lot of shooting. How much?
DRAKE: 97 hours of footage. That’s a 2% ratio used, so the other 98% is just Anton being goofy.
ANTON: That’s how it went and…I guess the actual serious point I’m trying to make in all this bullshit I’m saying is that we had gotten to this intimate place where it didn’t matter where we went and what we did it was just Anna and Jacob and Drake.
Q: Drake, when people think of movies they think of $10 million budgets and getting greenlit and it’s like Entourage. This is not the story of Like Crazy. Can you tell me about the budget you had and how it comes into the Sundance Film Festival with hopes and dreams?
DRAKE: Yeah, we shot the movie on an iPhone as you can clearly see.
DRAKE: No, it came from very humble beginnings the movie cost a very small amount of money, we made the movie for $250,000 which normally is a very small amount of money especially when trying to shoot something in 22 days so we really relied on everybody being passionate about what we were doing. Everybody involved from the actors and the crew wanted to be there, they weren’t there to be paid they were there to make a special movie and we were going to do something very intimate.
Q: Can you tell us about the timing of casting Jennifer Lawrence in terms of her career?
DRAKE: It was very good timing.
DRAKE: I had a film at Sundance the year that she had Winter’s Bone at Sundance in 2010 and I saw her film and thought she was terrific and we started talking in the Spring and she knew Anton and they had rapport which was great and she was game and she wanted to be a part of making a film like this and the process, which was great and she was fantastic.
Q: Anton, can you speak a little bit about how liberating having the improv setup is for an actor. Is that the way actors prefer to work? I know you were talking about Brick earlier today, a very stylized film you were in…
ANTON: I wasn’t in Brick…
Q: What were you…
ANTON: I just brought it up earlier as an example…I would LOVE to have been in Brick…I am Joseph Gordon-Levitt…
ANTON: …and Taylor Lautner all packaged into one. Please go see my movie Abduction.
ANTON: It’s a gift for an actor to be able to do a film like this because you always have to know your character as best as possible. The breaking down of the script is the initial element that you do. Here it’s once you broke down the outline and figured out who these people were you had total freedom to go wherever you wanted to go. With scripted dialogue you usually look at it and figure out who the person is and if something doesn’t work, hopefully the director allows you to tweak it. The reason I brought up Brick is because that is such a specific example of where you can’t go and where the dialogue is so fundamental to the style of the film unless the director has a formalist experiment in mind. For me personally I think it’s extraordinary to be able to do this, but then again you have to fit into the film; it’s not just you doing whatever you want so if it fits the film, if as a tool the director allows you to go to that place and it works, it’s extraordinary.
I think the most interesting moments come out of embodying the character to such an extent that whatever comes out of your mouth is that person. It’s a challenge because you have to know that character so well, you don’t have dialogue to rely on. It’s so exciting to just sit there for hours and not say anything and go wherever you want to go, there are no marks.
With Drake, he’s so sensitive to actors and allowing them to do their thing, which is what a film like this requires. It’s dangerous because if you just let the actors do whatever the fuck they want it can go a lot of ways, but you have to have someone who is so sensitive to what they are doing.
Like Crazy will be in theatres in the U.S. on October 28, 2011.