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In "Lola Versus," Zoe Lister-Jones plays Lola's friend Alice, a sharp-tongued single woman who's there to support her BFF when she's dumped by her fiancé and has to navigate the hellish NYC dating scene. Greta Gerwig stars as Lola, "Robocop"-to-be Joel Kinnaman appears as her former fiancé Luke, and Hamish Linklater plays their mutual friend Henry.
In real life, Lister-Jones is coupled up with Daryl Wein, who directed the film and cowrote the screenplay with her. The two previously collaborated on "Breaking Upwards," an indie about when they tried opening up their relationship to other people. Lister-Jones also appears in NBC's "Whitney," and she had a lot to say about women in the movies and on TV. "Lola Versus" opens in limited release on June 8. Watch the trailer.
"Breaking Upwards" was very personal. How much of you is in "Lola Versus"?
I think the seed of the idea came from my experiences when Daryl and I were in our open relationship. When we were talking about it in the aftermath, we realized how different it was for me as a single woman to be on the dating scene than it was for him as a single man. I was talking to my mom about it and I referred to it as my year of traumatizing sexual escapades, and she was like, "Oh, that's a great title for a movie," which obviously didn't make the cut.
So that's sort of where it started germinating. I think Daryl and I felt like we were craving a relationship film with a female protagonist who could be unapologetic and sometimes alienating and not always winning and the shiny object that so often carries a romantic comedy, and that we wanted to see an authentic portrait of what it was to be single in New York City without the glamorized gloss that a lot of those movies put on it.
Did you know that you didn't want to cast yourself as the lead immediately?
When we first wrote it, we thought it was going to be a tiny "Breaking Upwards"-type micro-budget movie, and so in that scenario, we were thinking about me playing Lola and then a friend of mine playing Alice. But then the script got a really overwhelming response, and we got a lot of interest from talent, and that was really exciting. We were just thrilled to cast Greta as Lola because we come from the same world and I think she's a really interesting leading lady. She's very unconventional. Even though she's beautiful and charming and funny, I think there's sort of an air of mystery to her, and her rhythms are really unique, and so it just felt like a perfect fit.
What have you picked up on the set of "Whitney," especially from Whitney Cummings? Being a woman in the industry, getting a lot of crap for doing your thing…?
Whitney is such an inspiring example of a powerful woman in the industry, because I think she's that rare combination of beautiful sex goddess and razor-sharp intellect and wit, and also ambition. I think that [she]'s a really amazing role model, sort of a new archetype for people to be able to aspire to. And she is unapologetic and I think that that is what has made her such an outstanding icon at this moment, because she is very true to her own voice.
I had shot other television pilots before ["Whitney"], and when you read the script as an actor to audition for it, it's like this amazing, interesting, edgy piece of material. Then by the time you shoot it, it's been so watered down because there are so many cooks in the kitchen and you're trying to appease so many people, and a lot of the decisions, I think, creatively that are made are fear-based.
Working on the pilot of "Whitney," I was so impressed because the script really didn't change at all, and that's a testament to how steadfast she is about the authenticity of her voice and not backing away from it. I think that that appeals to people, obviously, because the show is successful, and so that that was really a good learning experience for me, because it's hard when you're not a total commodity for people to really protect your vision.
What do you think of the state of female-targeted or written TV? I saw on your Twitter that you're a fan of "Girls," and of course that's getting an equal amount of … stuff.
I think "Girls" is pretty brilliant. I know Lena [Dunham] socially. When we went to South by Southwest with "Breaking Upwards," she ran up to us at the airport -- she was still at Oberlin -- and she was like, "I'm so excited to see your movie, oh my God!" and I was like, who is this cool [girl]? She was covered in tattoos, but she wasn't a snarky hipster, she was really excitable and open. She was there with her first film called "Creative Nonfiction," and so it's been really exciting to come up sort of together, and now she's skyrocketed.
When we wrote "Lola Versus," it was pre-"Bridesmaids" and pre-"Girls" and pre-"Whitney" and pre-"New Girl" [laughs], and it's exciting to be a part of this moment because clearly there was a sort of collective desire to see funny women at the forefront and funny women who could be crass and honest and talk about sex and sexuality in a way that felt authentic. So yeah, it definitely feels like there's a sort of zeitgeist-y thing happening.
Are any of your dates going to recognize themselves onscreen?
No, I don't think any dates will recognize themselves. I mean, there might be bits and pieces of [laughs] of different people here and there, but I don't think anything so overwhelming that -- listen, probably most of the people I dated are such narcissists they will see themselves in it because they'll probably see themselves in anything. [laughs]