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Having penned films like Cinderella Man, I, Robot and the Academy Award-winning Beautiful Mind, Akiva Goldsman has earned a lot of cred with big stars like Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Colin Farrell, and screen legend Eva Marie Saint. Thoughtfully, he used this pull to stack the cast of his directorial debut, Winter's Tale, with A-listers like these as well as luminaries like Matt Bomer, Jennifer Connelly and Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay.
Inspired by the Mark Helprin novel, Winter's Tale unfurls the unlikely but fateful love story between a turn-of-the-century thief (Farrell) and a sickly heiress (Findlay). This past weekend, New York critics were shown this star-stuffed adaptation before a press conference that boasted appearances from Goldman, Farrell, Findlay, Connelly and Saint. Here's what we learned from this event.
Love Scenes Are The WorstIt hardly feels like a spoiler to tell you that Findlay and Farrell share a love scene in Winter's Tale. Asked about it, Findlay, who was easily the most sheepish member of the panel, spoke of the importance that moment holds for her character, offering, "She’s found real, true love from a stranger and it’s become something beautiful."
Asked if their onscreen love scene inspired any real life feelings between co-stars, Findlay shook her head demurely. Then Goldsman took over to rob us all of the illusion that shooting sex scenes is at all sexy. "Let me disabuse you all of something," he smiled. "Love scenes are the most horrible thing you can ever ask actors to do. Just try to take a moment, not take off your clothes, but here. No, really. No, no, really. Love scenes are the hardest thing in the world and if you enjoy them, that’s wonderful, because nobody making them, sits there and goes, 'Let’s do that again tomorrow!'"
No, Riding A Pretend Pegasus Is The WorstAfter Goldsman assured us the performance pressure of sex scenes makes them an unenviable business, Farrell was quick to correct him. "I don’t know that I agree. I really don’t." Having won laughs from the press, he continued carefully, "Maybe that’s awfully sleazy and cheap of me, but it’s not that I get personal kicks or gratification from them, but I do think that human touch in whatever form it comes in--as long as that form is one that is mutually compassionate and respectful--is a really gorgeous thing. So, while it is an atmosphere of absolute artifice and it’s not romantic and it’s never going to be sexy, if two people who are involved in it are on the same page and taking care of each other, there are worse days in the office."
For Farrell that worse day at the office involved straddling barrel-painted green and meant to play stand-in for the flying white horse his character rides throughout Manhattan. "No altitude sickness or fear of heights involved, because I was actually in a green screen studio, sitting on a barrel," he recalled, "It was one of the more mortifying experiences, and I’d it take way after I’d choose a love scene."
The Hottest On Set Romance Was Between Colin Farrell And Eva Marie SaintForget the lovely and breathy Findlay. Farrell only had eyes for the Academy Award-winning On The Waterfront star. From the first question about what the panel liked best about making the film, Farrell and Saint were quick to pick working with each other. Though they have a platonic onscreen relationship, Saint was crushing hard and not afraid to say it. After boasting about her 63-year-strong marriage, she expressed envy of Findlay for getting to do a love scene with Farrell, then later joked, "Colin and I became lovers. You know Hollywood. You know actors."
"Working with Eva Marie was a dream," Farrell flirted back, adding, "I love working with actors who are just slightly older than me, but have a greater kind of depth of history with regards to life and film. And working with Eva Marie Saint, as working with Christopher Plummer, I think were two of my favorite experiences. She’s a wonderful actress. But more importantly--always more importantly--always the cart that should go before the horse, is the human being and how you find them as a person. And I just adored the bones of her and I was really spoiled to be able to spend time with her on the set and it will stay with me all my days, which I hope are plentiful."
Later she teased that he hasn't yet embraced her as he does in the movie, to which Farrell cheekily replied, "The day is young, darling."
A Disaster Movie And A Real Disaster Caused ComplicationsBased on a book some have called un-filmable, Goldsman has had some serious obstacles to overcome in Winter's Tale's creation. When Warner Bros. offered half of the proposed budget, Goldsman began begging his famous friends for their help and star power. "Everyone at this table did it for love or kindness or friendship or belief in some idea of the way the world works and magic inside the world," he said of his passion project. But with Crowe and Connelly also set to co-star in Darren Aronofky's Noah, Winter's Tale had some tricky scheduling to figure out.
Both films were shooting in New York, which would have been a help if it weren't for the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. "It was actually a very complicated time for the city and secondarily, obviously, for movies trying to manage to have two actors in two different movies," Goldsman recalled, "But you know, friendship and alcohol prevailed!"
Winter's Tale Is Intended As A Decoder Ring And A Blow To CynicismHaving experienced the death of his own wife while developing the film, his Winter's Tale became more than a passion project. "For me, what it finally became is kind of a secret message. It’s kind of a decoder ring. It’s a wink and a nod to people who have had loss and the need to believe in magic."
Winter's Tale is a film that delves into magic realism and defies cynicism by Goldsman's count. "I love entertainment that is not cynical," he began, "I choose not to be cynical. I’ll go toe to toe with anyone in the room over reasons to be cynical. So, it’s a choice, and for me, a worthwhile one and a worthwhile communication because the other is too easy. There are too many reasons I think to give up or to not care. It’s my choice. I don’t say it’s right or wrong, but it’s mine, to then convey cynical ideas would be not true for me. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be as old and tired and begrudging of the universe as anybody at the end of a long day. But I try to practice the belief that there is reasonableness and meaning. Some days it’s a lot harder than others, but I like that messaging to be in what I do. It kind of always has been and it’s not that life has given me less reasons to be cynical. It gives me more, but I choose to push past. That’s just me."
Winter's Tale opens February 14th.