Tribeca Interview: Every Day's Richard Levine
Superheroes, maniacal serial killers and historical figures brought back to life are great, but sometimes you just need a good old family drama that feels real and Every Day is just that. Our family of four, played by Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Ezra Miller and Skyler Fortgang, take on a hefty load when grandpa Ernie (Brian Dennehy) comes to live with them. That's on top of routine troubles, like work frustrations and struggles with sexual identity, all of which send the clan into an amusing and often touching period of confusion and frustration.
Youíd never think this type of story would come from the pen of Nip/Tuck writer Richard Levine. Levine does away with the profound happenings at the plastic surgery practice and adopts a far more true-to-life tone. In fact, Every Day is somewhat true-to-life in Levineís case; much of the piece evolved from his experience with his own family.
While promoting his film at the Tribeca Film Festival, Levine took the time to elaborate on the filmís connection with his personal life as well as the casting process, an unusual method of rehearsal as well as his upcoming ABC show, Scoundrels. Take a look at what he had to say below.
Most of the film feels very true-to-life. Was any of the screenplay inspired by things that happened to you or stories youíve heard?
I would say that the genesis of it was somewhat autobiographical in that Iím of a certain age and I have two kids and one of them came out when he was 14. My wife and I did bring her father to Los Angeles for the final months of his life, and my wife and he had a very complicated relationship. And I did work on a television series, Nip/Tuck, for six years. So in that respect, the seeds of the screenplay were inspired by circumstances in my life, although it certainly is ultimately a work of fiction.
Has your family seen the film?
Oh, yes, theyíve seen it many many times! In fact, they were all there for the premiere on Saturday and they love it. I think for my kids itís a little bizarre, but exciting in that they know what liberties Iíve taken. My older son will joke that my depiction of the gay club scene is simply a parentís worst nightmare and I think he understands a certain seed that inspired that story. My younger son thinks itís weird sometimes when certain lines accurately reflect things heís said and that I forgot to change a couple of names of friends of his. But in general, I think they really love the movie and theyíre really excited about it.
This must be a really nice thing to share with them.
Yeah, it is. Itís funny because before the premiere, weíre a tight little foursome and we sort of gathered, and my older son now is 21 and my younger son is 16, and I just thanked them so profusely for being so game in letting me have this artistic expression at their expense in a way.
How was it adjusting to working with a piece for the big screen as opposed to TV?
I think itís really different, because movies are so finite, you know, they have a beginning and a middle and an end, and television series you hope just go on for year after year. I think thereís a different kind of story telling. And also the fact that it was truly mine and I wrote it and I got to direct it I think was a different kind of experience and a different level of satisfaction for me as a writer and as a director. So I really did love it and I loved being able to sort of step into the world of film, which is a world I hope I can continue exploring.
Nip/Tuck is fairly outrageous, whereas this film feels very normal and real. Did you ever feel your Nip/Tuck tendencies creep up on you and have to tone it down?
Actually, yes, I did wrestle with that. At one point I was writing feeling the need or a certain kind of pressure to push it and I even went down that road. In writing this it wasnít just a clear trajectory from beginning to end, there were missteps along the way and going down roads that didnít actually bear fruit. At one point I did sort of go off in a more salacious direction definitely inspired by my Nip/Tuck experiences and it didnít fit. It seemed too big, it seemed too forced and so I reconsidered.
Was that medical drama Ned writes for a way to funnel that extreme Nip/Tuck urge into a controlled space?
Absolutely. This is a fictionalized version of it, but I had such a great time writing for that show and it was just the most unique experience, and I just thought it was so much fun to write about. It seemed I was creating this character who was in the throes of some sort of midlife crisis where all these different elements in his life were sort of piling up, conspiring against him. I thought that giving him the environment of a Nip/Tuck-like show would be a lot of fun and so I really enjoyed that.
What was the casting process like? Did you approach the roles in a particular order?
Well, I donít know if I had to, but just instinctively I did. I went after Liev first because I felt that that was really the sort of center of the movie. Once Liev read the screenplay and liked it, then I met with him a couple of times and once he agreed to attach himself to the movie then I went after Helen for Jeannie. Once Helen and Liev were on board then the financing began to come into place and then the whole process of sort of finding everyone else began to happen.
And what about the kids? I thought they were both perfect. This was my second Ezra Miller film of the festival. I think heís great!
He is fantastic. Finding the right kids was arduous and really important because I knew that if I didnít have the perfect kids, you wouldnít care that much about the parentsí relationship. Because the kids were somewhat based on my kids, my criteria was really high and I really really searched. I think I saw near 70 kids before I saw Ezra. I really lucked out I think, because both of them had an element of originality and purity and sweetness, and they were smart and they were themselves.
Was there much rehearsal time? Iíd imagine the cast would need time to get to know each other to create that family dynamic.
Bcause of the budget of the film and the time constraints weíre shooting in, it was really challenging, but we did have maybe about a week for rehearsals. When it came time for the kids, I was sort of thinking, ďWell, how do I want to rehearse with the kids?Ē I didnít want to over think it, I didnít want them to get stale in how they were thinking about it, and so I thought the best way of doing it was to get together for dinner and go bowling. Thatís really the main rehearsal that they did as a family and I accompanied them, but it was such a great night and I could feel instantly when we were at a pizza parlor having pizza that the chemistry was perfect and the kids they werenít intimidated.
Thatís such a great idea. Every director should rehearse that way!
Well, I think with kids. I just felt like something besides the dialogue needs to be built and needs to be established and experienced and I was really happy with how it worked out. I thought it was a great idea and it worked beautifully.
So whereís the film at now in terms of distribution?
I know that thereís interest from various parties, so Iím really hopeful.
And how was your experience at the festival? Do you think it put you in a good position?
I think I did. It was really interesting because I hadnít seen the movie with any kind of house really. Iíd seen a couple of people seeing it, but I never experienced a group of people seeing it and so I was so gratified by the laughter. I thought that was really a wonderful thing. And it seemed that people really responded to it, that they were really touched by it, so it was just really satisfying and really wonderful.
I was told you left the festival to return to a set. I assume itís to get back to work on the show Scoundrels. Is that it?
Yes, I am busy shooting and editing that, which is a new summer series that is going to be on ABC starting June 20th. It stars Virginia Madsen and so that is currently happening.
Can you tell me a little about it?
Itís about a family, itís a family sort of comedy about a family of smalltime crooks and then when the father is imprisoned, the mother decides that the familyís got to go straight and itís sort of the fun of watching this family try or pretend to try to do something that isnít in their bones. So itís a really fun family dramedy.
That sounds different. And whoís playing the rest of the family members?
Oh god, we have the best cast. It really is fantastic. Virginia Madsen is amazing as sort of the mama lion, the matriarch and David James Elliot plays her husband and the kids are Patrick Flueger who plays twins, Heather Leven Rambin plays one of the daughters, Vanessa Marano plays one of the daughters and Carlos Bernard from 24 plays the main cop.
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