Allen Coulter admits he's not exactly a young man anymore-- he's a Hollywood veteran with TV directing credits stretching back to the 80s, and the 2006 drama Hollywoodland to his name. But when he got the script called Memoirs, about a young man's intense first romance with a working-class girl in New York CIty, Coulter saw the opportunity to tell the kind of love story you don't see anymore, one that really captures the nature of all-consuming first love.
The result is now titled Remember Me, starring Robert Pattinson as the angsty young man and Emilie de Ravin as the girl he starts dating, at first, to get revenge on a cop who arrested him. I talked to Coulter recently about his inspiration for taking on the film, what he saw in Robert Pattinson well before Twilight mania, and the one time he snapped at the paparazzi while filming on the streets of New York. Check out everything he had to say below. Remember Me opens this Friday.
You helped Will develop the script. What was it like when you first saw it?
It was a little different, but not a lot. It changed in a lot of subtle ways, and became more subtle. I was really intrigued by the idea of making a movie about young love, particularly in New York. I haven't seen a lot of good movies over the years that I think are truthful about what it's like to fall in love at that age.
Was there anything in particular that you wanted to add to it?
Yes. Accuracy about New York City, because he's not from New York. The other was just deepening the characters, and making them more subtle. And [Rachel Getting Married screenwriter] Jenny Lumet came in. She added another layer of complexity to the characters, to make it feel even more rich and complicated and layered and unresolved, all those things that movies aren't supposed to do.
It's definitely a young man's story, and you at least don't appear to be 22. What appealed to you about revisiting that time?
Just that-- revisiting that time. You have to go back to something like Splendor in the Grass [to find that] very accurate depiction of a certain kind of intensity at that age, and I wanted to do that. I remember that very intensely. Everything at that age, no one's been in love like you have. No one has felt what you are feeling. You are at the center of the world.
Both of the main characters are dealing with their own tragedy, and one is depicted onscreen and one isn't. How did you decide to do it that way?
It just evolved that way. The girl being present when [the tragedy with her mother] happens was not in the original script. That was actually Jenny's idea. In some way the film begins and ends with her. Her survival, if you will, tells us something about the main theme of the movie, the way one's life can be knocked out of its trajectory by an unexpected event. In regard to the brother and what we learn about Tyler's brother, it was just one of those mysteries. You don't want to say everything up front. One event happens upfront, and the other is something that unfolds.
Twilight is part of this movie even if you didn't intend it, in the way it brings attention to the movie and just the fact that Summit is releasing it. How has that worked for you?
When we cast him Twilight wasn't out, and I didn't know who he was. That was an advantage, because I cast him just because I liked him. We hope people will go to this movie who might not have pursued it otherwise. If he wasn't this phenom, you wouldn't automatically assume that tens of thousands of teenage girls would show up the first day. We hope that is the case. But this is a movie I made for adults.
When did you realize you had the biggest star in the world in your movie?
Certainly the first day, when we had the thousands of girls standing outside from dawn until dusk. We realized what we were in for. It was not easy, believe me.
[what follows comes from the roundtable interview with Coulter and screenwriter Will Fetters] We understand there was one day where you snapped at the paparazzi?
We found ourselves in a situation with the movie that we never expected to be in. No one had an idea that basically we had unleashed Elvis. It was tough from the very beginning. All of us were a little gobsmacked by this. We just struggled the best we could. That was just a day that I felt the sense of entitlement the paparazzi had, that they had the right to demand certain kinds of shots. We were just trying to make the day, the sun was falling, the last shot that we did, that was it. They were angry they couldn't get a shot of him. They felt it was their right, that we should accommodate them. I lost it, and they deserved it. They deserve worse. That was the one time I couldn't hold back.
What inspired you to cast Rob to begin with?
We needed someone who could embody a certain kind of angst that one feels at 21, and the complications and complex relationships that grow from the confusions of being 21. And Rob seemed in our initial meeting to understand that and grasp that, but have enough distance on it to be able to act that.
How would you feel about people revealing the twist ending?
It's a shock, but not a twist. One haas to deal with these things; there's nothing you can do. Any drama that has any kind of ending, if the story is not compelling, then it doesn't matter. But if the story is compelling. I figured out The Sixth Sense in the first 10 minutes. I still found the movie touching. Everybody knows how Romeo and Juliet ends. You hope that it's a wonderful story, and that people are compelled by the story.