IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Drake Doremus talks 'Like Crazy'

Monday, 08 August 2011 17:09 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Drake Doremus talks 'Like Crazy'

Last week we brought you the new trailer for the film Like Crazy, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Filmmaker Drake Doremus, who is best known for his 2010 film Douchebag, directs the movie, which stars Anton Yelchin (Fright Night), Felicity Jones (The Tempest), and Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class). The film tells the story of Jacob (Yelchin) and Anna (Jones), two lovers who meet in College and begin a committed relationship together. The trouble begins when Anna, who is British, overstays her visa after it expires and is eventually forced to move back to London causing the couple to continue their relationship from long-distance.

I recently had a chance to speak with director Drake Doremus about Like Crazy, which will be released in theaters on October 28th. Doremus spoke candidly with me about his film, its cinematic inspirations, the process of making it, his young cast, filming across the pond, and the agony of long-distance relationships. Here is what he had to say:

To begin with, as director and co-writer of the film can you talk about the genesis of the project and where the idea for the script came from?

Drake Doremus: The project came from trying to make a really personal story that hopefully resonates with audiences as being really true and really authentic. The film is mostly improvised from a fifty-page outline that my co-writer and I wrote. We wanted to just do a story from our generation's perspective that was really honest.

The plot of the film revolves around a young couple and their long distance relationship, which is a theme that we've seen portrayed on screen in the past. Can you talk about your vision for the film as a director and how you were able to deliver something different that what audiences have seen before?

Doremus: I wanted to make a really classic film. A sort of ‘70s art film in a way is how I started out the project. I wanted to do something that had a more classic feel than sort of the modern conventional filmmaking. So that's what I was hoping for, sort of do something really unique.

You just mentioned ‘70s movies, what were some of the films that you took your inspiration from?

Doremus: Well, Woody Allen’s work for sure. I mean the way the characters interact and the way the dialogue is used. A Man and A Woman is a film that some people compare Like Crazy to in a way, which is a film that has very little dialogue in it and it’s pretty much trade French new wave cinema. That film is something that I was thinking about.

You also mentioned that you had an outline for the film but allowed the actors to improvise a lot of the dialogue, as a director how do you juggle that on set?

Doremus: I feel like my job is to sort of guide them in the moments as they're happening organically and just make sure that we're on track to keeping the overall scope of the film in my mind. The actors are encouraged to lose themselves in the moment and they're not thinking about anything other than what they are doing. My job is just to continually be aware of where the story is going. In a way I almost feel like I'm trying to be nuanced, nudging them as opposed to heavy-handedly saying hit this mark … use this prop and say this line.

Did you direct your previous films in the conventional way or similar to how you directed this film, and which do you prefer as a filmmaker?

Doremus: I did one. My first feature was pretty conventional in the script, a little bit of improvisation, but it was mostly just the script. It was good and it was a funny experience, but it felt very constricted. My second film, which is a really tiny film, I really started to support this through a style of filmmaking. I really started to understand what it was and started to make decisions and bold choices that I felt comfortable making, while just trying to fine-tune a process. I feel pretty at home in that sort of realm of filmmaking.

Do you feel like as a filmmaker you have found your voice in a sense with this movie?

Doremus: Hopefully. I never say fully because every time out it's a goal to try to continue to find it more and more and more every time. So if I ever fully find it I'd probably stop making movies. I'm continually trying to find it and I'm continually trying to explore it organically, without trying to force it. I'm just trying to let the movies come to me and make the things that I care about and hopefully it will resonate with people.

What can you tell me about Jacob and Anna's relationship in the film and the struggles that they have to overcome throughout the course of the movie?

Doremus: Their love story is essentially fighting to maintain what they have and what they had, through the course of the journey. That's I think what a lot of relationships are, especially long distance relationships. It's a very innocent childlike and beautiful romantic optimistic look at love.

Do you have firsthand experience with the long distance relationship? Was that something you were able to draw upon for this movie?

Doremus: Yeah I do and my co-writer did as well. So we've certainly drew upon that and that was something that we were very interested in exploring.

You’ve assembled a terrific group of young actors for this movie including Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, and Charlie Bewley. Can you talk about casting your film and the process of finding the right actors for this project?

Doremus: Yeah, well Anton’s great. He's so young, smart, and so talented that he was actually the first one to be cast in the film, and then we just built the cast around him. He has so much strength and so much maturity for such a young man. He's such a leading man to me so it was so exciting to cast him. Then Jennifer Lawrence came on second, she and Anton had worked together previously on a movie. I had seen her in Winter’s Bone and sort of fell in love with her work, so I asked her to be in this film and she was excited about doing it. Then Felicity came on last. She sent in a tape. I had never seen Anton or Felicity together at all and just sort of took a chance. I just went with my gut and cast Felicity. That was a really important decision during the process. Charlie Brewley is also a great, young actor who's in the Twilight movies, and who's also in this film. He's given a great performance here as well.

You mentioned that you cast Felicity without seeing her read with Anton, was their chemistry together instantaneous on set and was it everything that you hoped for from the characters?

Doremus: It was! I mean they were so committed to exploring it and then the exploration process turned into chemistry. They jumped in together and we started shooting about two weeks after they met. So it was a really organic way of having them work together and it helped them find Jacob and Anna's relationship and their special chemistry.

How does Jennifer Lawrence's character Sam come into the story, and what role does she play in the film?

Doremus: Jen plays sort of the girl that comes in between them when they're off for the first time and in and out of their relationship over years. She represents the perfect person but doesn't quite have that X-factor that Anna does. She's kind of a slice of Americana in the movie. She's like the perfect southern California girlfriend. She's wonderful in the film and really does embody it.

What can you tell me about the music in the film?

Doremus: The film is musically hip I would say, but it's got a lot of classical piano and some very beautiful music by the composer Dustin O'Halloran who did the score. Paul Simon's in the film, and this really cool band called Stars, so there's a lot of really cool bands in the film.

I understand that you shot the film in both Los Angeles and in London, so what was it like for you shooting the film in the U.K.?

Doremus: Oh it was great! Everybody there was so nice and so welcoming. We were such a small crew so they were just really excited to have us. I feel like shooting in L.A. people sort of don't give a shit. But in London people were just so cool and excited to have us there.

Finally, as a filmmaker does this feel like the type of movie that you are most comfortable directing? Are you most at home making realistic movies that explore the nuances of human relationships?

Doremus: Definitely. To be honest, I feel like I'm kind of exploring that scene, just different facets of it, which is what excites me. But eventually I’d like to explore it in different ways, in different worlds, and in different genres.

Like Crazy, is scheduled to be released in theaters on October 28th.

To watch the latest trailer for Like Crazy, please click here.

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