torsdag den 7. februar 2019

"Ben is Back": Interview med instruktør og forfatter Peter Hedges

Engang var Julia Roberts verdens største kvindelige filmstjerne. Nu er hun 51 og trives bedst i rollen som mor for sine tre børn. Men familiedramaet “Ben is Back”, om tidens epidemiske misbrug af smertestillende piller, lokkede hende tilbage til det store lærred.



"Ben is Back", der har dansk biografpremiere i dag, er skrevet og instrueret af amerikaneren Peter Hedges ("Pieces of April", "Min brors kæreste", "Hva' så, Gilbert Grape?"). Jeg mødte både ham og Julia Roberts på sidste års Toronto Film Festival, hvor filmen havde verdenspremiere. Hedges lyste straks op og gispede begejstret, da han hørte, at jeg kom fra Danmark:

"'Festen' er den bedste film, der nogensinde er lavet! Det er den vigtigste film i mit liv. Jeg ser den om og om og om igen. Det eneste, jeg vil, er at lave én film i mit liv, der bare kommer i nærheden af den."
- Peter Hedges, manusforfatter og instruktør

Julia Roberts har høstet nogle af sin karrieres bedste anmeldelser for sin stærke og intense præstation som moderen Holly i "Ben is Back". Hun insisterede på, at Peter Hedges' egen 22-årige søn, Lucas, skulle spille titelrollen som den 19-årige Ben, der stikker af fra afvænningsklinikken efter 77 stoffri dage og opsøger sin familie på selve juleaftensdag.

Bens uventede hjemkomst udløser stærke, men meget forskellige reaktioner hos moderen, søsteren og stedfaderen. For som mange andre misbrugere er Ben ikke til at stole på. Især Holly er splittet mellem moderens betingelsesløse kærlighed til sit barn og en gryende erkendelse af, at selv dén muligvis ikke rækker til at redde sønnens liv.

Mit interview med Julia Roberts kan du læse i den aktuelle udgave af Ugebladet Søndag (nr. 6/2019).


Her på Bries Blog-O-Rama får du mit interview med Peter Hedges, der er en yderst sympatisk og let bevægelig herre på 56. Hedges senior fortæller om at instruere sin egen søn og taler engageret om den galopperende opioid-epidemi, der kræver 130 dødsfald dagligt alene i USA. Han deler også sine egne erfaringer med en alkoholiseret mor, der blev tørlagt i en moden alder.

Interviewet er på engelsk og har ikke været publiceret andre steder end Bries Blog-O-Rama.


INTERVIEW: "BEN IS BACK"
Peter Hedges
Brian Iskov, TIFF september 2018

You mentioned Thomas Vinterberg's 'The Celebration' (Festen) as your favourite film of all time. Why do you keep coming back to it?
PETER HEDGES: One of the things I find is, it's so raw and real, and the people are untethered, but the ache and the humanity ... It's if Ipsen and Chekhov wrote a screenplay together and made it. I was a big Ingmar Bergman freak in my youth, so when Sven Nykvist shot "Gilbert Grape" (written by Peter Hedges, ed.) I was blown out of my mind, because I had seen all of the Bergman films. Early in my life it was European films and now of course, South America, they are just blowing my mind. I've just been very drawn to foreign films. There is a rawness and a realness, and the movies just feel like they shine a light on the human condition. ["The Celebration"] for me was, I like the compressed time, I like that the story is about family. [Stories about] broken families that are trying to figure it out move me.

And "Ben is Back" is all those things. Is it hard to make this kind of film in America?
HEDGES: Sure it is. Of course. And that's why, when you get a text from Julia Roberts on September 11th of last year, we are talking 362 days ago, you get a text saying "I wanna be in your film". These movies only happen when Julia Roberts or Courtney B. Vance and even Lucas Hedges say, "I wanna be in it". Because, who am I? I mean, I'm fine, I'm a good guy, I'm working hard. But no. When she says, "This matters", it makes a huge difference.

Why did you send the screenplay to Julia Roberts?
HEDGES: I'll describe her in this way. Since "Mystic Pizza" she's been in our hearts, let's just own it. We're happily married men, it's not like she would have either of us anyway. She's doing fine. But she's very special. I describe it this way: When most actors cry, we are watching an actor cry. When Julia Roberts cries, the world weeps. And I know it seems hyperbolic but to me ... I also know enough about her to know that she is a fierce and loyal and devoted mother. That's her main gig in the world. And I felt that if she comes and does what I know she can do and then some, which she did, this movie will reach all sorts of people.

Julia Roberts og Lucas Hedges i "Ben is Back" | pr-still fra filmen

If it's happening to her ... She's so real. First of all, there are very few faces that move anymore. I'm sorry, I hate to say it. But she's real. She's real and relatable, and you root for her, and she also has a fragility and a capacity ... She can be like glass, she can be tough as nails, and I just felt like, she's gonna take this to a place. At a time when with the new cameras and new TVs, when vanity is at a premium, she came and gave just a very raw and real [performance]. I mean, you saw it. It's a staggering performance. If I'm excited about anything tonight, it's for the world to see her in this movie.

She must be generous as well because you started rehearsing in her house.
Yeah. As Lucas [Hedges] said, "Yeah, there was rehearsal. There was also getting to know Julia's family". And he said it with real love. He was spending the night there, I was going back to the hotel, and he was like, "I'm staying over!". He was hanging out, loved the kids. But it was a big deal for her. To pick up kids her age, and the kind of mother she is, around Christmas, to go away ... She doesn't do it. Why did she need to do this? It was also the kids getting to know Lucas and Kathryn [Winnick, co-starring as Ben's sister]. That's what she wanted. And it was a really great thing. That's how she rolls. Very lovely home. After she said she wanted to do it she said "I really need to talk to my kids". Her text was about, it was a big cost for her to do the movie. Props to her for coming and doing it.

The last part of the shoot got very hard. She's the most prepared actor I've ever worked with. There were times late in the shoot where I'd feel I had failed her. Just in terms of, we [the crew] weren't always ready. She's awesome. I mean, I wanna say something bad about her, what can I say? That there aren't two of her. That's the bad thing. It was awesome and fierce. There were times particularly with Lucas and Julia where they'd done it, they had hit it, and I would ask for more takes. Looking back I'm like, "I could have done fewer takes. They were that good." I'm always trying to figure out what I would do differently. I'd probably do that differently. It was hard, but she's a pro. I didn't play pro basketball but it would be like playing with Michael Jordan. They say when you play with Magic Johnson, I've had friends play pick-up basketball with him and he apparently can figure out exactly where to put the ball for you. You're just [running along] and suddenly the ball is in your hands, and you don't know it. That's what it is like to work with Julia. She put it there, and you go ... [mouth agape] "Guys, set the camera! Let's go!"

Courtney B. Vance, Julia Roberts, Kathryn Winnick og Peter Hedges på TIFF 2018
Foto: Emma McIntyre/Wire Image for TIFF

"Ben is Back" touches upon the opioid crisis that is plaguing the United States right now. A lot of people are getting hooked on prescription pain meds.
Something happened in the 90s, and it's very well-documented, that they started to believe that nobody should ever feel pain. THey started to market pills, it was all done, and I take it on in a very indirect but overt way, I think, in the film that that started to happen. What's happened now is that a generation or two have ... I know 80-year-olds and 70-year-olds who are addicted to opioids. They are addicted. Our prisons are filled with people who committed crime because they were dope sick. Over 60-70 per cent of the people in jail are in jail because they had drugs or alcohol in them when they did their crimes. It's a whole thing.

[Here, Hedges glances at his handler] I know, I know, I'm not supposed to say this. But! The fact of the matter is that we have a huge, huge, huge issue, and it's particularly American but it's not. It's worldwide. Maybe the weapons have changed, or the things of choice, but how are we going to become more authentic and healthier, and how are we going to help each other? I wanted to make a movie that would contribute to that kind of conversation. One family, one day, but at its core for me, it's a love story of a mother who won't give up on her child when everyone else will, and a son who is trying so hard to turn his life around. And it's hard to do. I wanted to make a movie where there was a second family and there was a supportive, loving, strong force. I had that in my life. I had a stepmother who loved me in a way thay my real mother, my birth mother, could not love me. Because of her alcoholism. Then my mother got sober, and she became an amazing mother. But for a while there, I had a pillar of strength that I would not have had. And I wanted to have that here in the film.

Julia Roberts og Lucas Hedges i "Ben is Back" | pr-still: Mark Schafer

Your own son, Lucas, gives an incredible performance in the film as well.
I don't know how this happened but he is a very deep and thoughtful young man who has found a passion. Any of you are parents, I know you know, and I have another son who would never want to  act in a movie and has his own passion. But when a young person finds what they love to do and what they are meant to do, it's an amazing thing. And Lucas, inspite of his bad experience of doing "Dan in Real Life" with me ... He just happened to be in a play in school, and it went well, and a casting director saw him in the play, he was amazing in this play when he was in 7th grade. This casting director called Wes Anderson and said, "You need to see this kid". My wife wasn't even gonna let him audition, and he only auditioned because he said, "I would love to be in a movie as long as my Dad doesn't direct it." And he went off to do it.

But what moves me about him is his deep humanity, he's a deeply thoughtful and deep-feeling young man, and his real interest in growth and learning. He is in rehearsal today, he's not here because he felt he would do a disservice to his play, and they would have let him out to come here for two days and do press. He said, "In two weeks I'm standing on a Broadway stage. I have a cast." He called me and said, "I'm so sorry, I know you're gonna be so disappointed", and of course inside I was going, [heartbroken] "Nooo!". But I said, "That sounds like the right thing to do, and I fully support it," and I hung up the phone and had a good cry. I felt sadness because it would have been fun to do this with him.

One last thing I would say, and I feel this about Kathryn too who I wish were my daughter, and a boatload of young people that I have met, Lucas' friends from drama school, many of whom live with us in the summer who are these really exciting, interesting, vibrant kids. What we need to do is, we need to find a way of giving them hope, and we need to find a way to listen to them. Because they're telling us some things that we don't wanna hear, but they are telling us some things. That's what I had to do in making this movie, once he agreed to be in it, I really had to learn to listen better and to try to listen more. Because actors, if you get out of their way they will carry you very far. Courtney and Kathryn and Julia and Lucas did that. If this movie works it's because I got out of their way. I know, we're done. I'm sorry. I talk too much.

Tak til United International Pictures for at facilitere interviewet med Peter Hedges.

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