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Amid a season full of loud blockbusters, and going directly up against the third film from comedy titan Judd Apatow, Max Mayer is quietly presenting his small, touching dramedy Adam, a movie that debuted at Sundance earlier this year and has become another in a long line of small jewels picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight. For Mayer, though, Adam isn't just another Searchlight indie-- it's a project he was willing to make his passion for six years.
"I look for a strong personal reaction to something, that feels like it will sustain me," Mayer said about writing the romance between a young man with Asperger's and a schoolteacher. "I thought that this was an opportunity to give people a window into something that was strange and yet universal at the same time."
Adam, like all movies about people with mental disorders, walks a fine line between schmaltz and truth, never making Adam the kind of mystical, Forrest Gump figure with lessons to teach the world. Mayer credits lead actor Hugh Dancy with a lot of the character's success. "He listens with a certain intensity and an active mind that's amazing, and that is unbelievably helpful. His performance was revelatory to me every day on the set."
Dancy in real life, with his posh British accent and striking good looks, doesn't immediately make one thing of a quiet recluse, and Mayer admits that, when he first met Dancy, he thought he might not be right for the role. "At the beginning he came in and he was so social and so easy and charming and all this stuff that I thought, maybe this guy isn't the right guy at all for this. But getting to know him a little bit more exposed the fact that that was all a mask," Mayer said with laugh.
In the clip from our interview below, Mayer talks about the experience of screening Adam at Sundance in the gigantic Eccles Theater. I also asked him about being daring enough to make a romantic comedy, at a time when the common assumption is that all the good stories have been told. Adam is out in limited release this weekend.