For his romantic weeper “Like Crazy” — the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner about two college sweethearts torn apart due to deportation — director Drake Doremus tapped a veritable who’s who of Hollywood’s young, up-and-coming talent, including Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence. But he took a real gamble on 27-year-old Felicity Jones, casting the actress after having only seen an audition tape filmed in her London flat. He said it was a risk well worth the return.
As part of our Fall Movie Preview, Doremus spoke with MTV News about the autobiographical nature of his tender drama, taking a chance on Jones and all those comparisons to “Blue Valentine.”
MTV: This is such a heart-wrenching love story. Is it autobiographical in any way? What was your inspiration?
Drake Doremus: I think, trying to make a genuine love story, it would be silly not to try to dig deep and find pieces of yourself and put them in the film. So there’s a lot of emotional truth in the film that I’ve gone through and relationship elements, for sure. It’s a very personal love story.
MTV: Felicity Jones is already gaining a lot of buzz for her performance. It seems like she kind of came out of nowhere. How did you cast her?
Doremus: Felicity sent me a tape from London. I had seen about 50 girls in Los Angeles. I’d brought a few of them in with Anton and did the chemistry read, and I was not quite feeling it yet. She sent a tape of herself in her flat in London. She just embodied everything that was this character. I immediately called her and told her to come. It was a total gut call. I had never even seen her with Anton, and I didn’t even know if they’d have chemistry, but something in my gut told me we had to cast Felicity Jones and that she was the right person for this. And man, oh man, that’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career.
MTV: Were you surprised by the actors’ intense chemistry given that they hadn’t tested together?
Doremus: Yeah, I was shocked. I mean, it’s a tribute to how game they were to go down this path and go down this journey. At the first rehearsal session, I asked them very specifically, “You have to understand what kind of a journey we’re going on here. We’re going to live this thing. We’re going to breathe it, and it’s going to come from the inside out. You’re going to have a four-week love affair. Are you guys game to do this?” They were 100 percent game.
MTV: You improvised a lot of scenes in this film. Is that a process that was specific to this project, or a method you prefer?
Doremus: It’s a formula I’ve been developing for the last couple of years that I’m continuing to fine-tune and use. It’s essentially just a form of writing the characters, the backstory and the emotional arc and where we’re going. The actors are always encouraged to do and say whatever they feel and let things happen sort of organically.
MTV: Does this approach leave you with a lot more footage to work with than if you’d strictly stuck to a script?
Doremus: Absolutely. It’s crazy, actually. We could have cut four, five completely different versions of this movie. It would have been the same story but how we got to the end point would have been very different. You give yourself options, and the editing process becomes the third leg of the writing stool.
MTV: Many critics have been calling “Like Crazy” this year’s “Blue Valentine.” What do you make of those comparisons?
Doremus: Well, first of all, it’s an honor. I think that’s a very beautiful film. But I think they’re very different. You know, I think this film is a much more romantic, innocent and hopeful and optimistic look at love.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Like Crazy.”
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