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It’s quite obvious that a key element of a family drama is the family aspect. Some actors are talented enough to make that dynamic seem real even though it might be far from it, but why put yourself through all the work when you can just develop a real life family-like relationship with your co-cast? It certainly worked for the cast of Jake Scott’s Welcome to the Rileys.
The film stars James Gandolfini as Doug, a man who hasn’t been the same since the passing of his daughter. The same goes for his wife Lois (Melissa Leo) and in her case, the pain is rather debilitating. She’s agoraphobic and refuses to step foot out of their house. While on a business trip to New Orleans, Doug winds up meeting a young stripper named Mallory (Kristen Stewart). Rather than leaving their business at the strip club, even though Doug had no intentions of getting on to any real business to begin with, he winds up driving her home and leaving with her for a bit. He takes it upon himself to try and help her disheveled house and her act, too.
In honor of the film’s October 29th release, Gandolfini, Leo, Stewart and Scott attended a press conference to remember their time working on the production in New Orleans. Not only do they look back on the gig fondly, particularly when it came to working with one another, but they still maintain the relationships they built on the set today. Check out all the details on the prep process, their characters and experience working with one another in the interview below.
James, how did you figure out the back-story? Your Southern accent from Indianapolis was a little surprising.
James Gandolfini: Yeah, to me too.
Is this guy going through a classic midlife crisis?
Gandolfini: Actually, I’ve reached an age where you look back and you question how did I get here and with me it’s mostly good, with him it’s not what I expected, it’s not what the man expected. He has to go back in his mind and go somewhere and try to figure out what to do now. I think a lot of people do that; they just can’t really go anywhere or just disappear and I think he just takes the opportunity to try to figure things out.
And the accent?
Gandolfini: Please. Sometimes you make choices, [laughs] and you look back and you wonder, just like we were talking about, and I really don’t know what else to say about that.
Do you think there is a part of Doug that blames Lois for what happened to their daughter?
Gandolfini: Yeah, sure.
Leo: Oh! [Laughs]
Gandolfini: How’s that? [Laughs]
What surprised you the most about making this film?
Leo: How much fun a Brit could be. [Laughs]
Gandolfini: A what could be?
Jake Scott: The one who made you do the accent.
Gandolfini: [Laughs] Actually, yeah. How kind and smart and special to the actors he was. How different his set was from his uncle and his father. [Laughs] I never worked for his father. How smart [Kristen] was. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean for a young girl. Really, for a young woman how together and how smart and how she’s doing this all for the right reasons and how well we got along and how wonderful it was. I had a great time with her and I don’t necessarily think acting is fun, but I had a really good experience on this.
Leo: What comes to my mind was when I read the script and you turn each page going, ‘Oh, he’s going to fuck that girl.’ [Laughs] ‘Oh yeah, he’s going to fuck her,’ and he never does!
Gandolfini: I was hoping that, too. [Laughs]
Kristen, those bruises were makeup, right?
Kristen Stewart: Yeah, they were. I got the bruises initially in rehearsal. I learned how to pole dance, you never really see it in the movie – you do for a second, it’s like in silhouette in the background - but it really hurts and you don’t realize that, of course, it’s going to show. There were so many that I wasn’t sure do you keep all of them or is that too much? I think what surprised me most was the fact that I was so unaware of the fact that I was walking down the street with my robe open and wearing fishnets and not caring at all. I had no inhibitions. I wasn’t scared and I’d known about this for a while before it got up and running and I’m really glad that it took a while to do so because I think that I was old enough to play the part as opposed to not ready. I think I would have shied away from too much. So it was shocking to find myself in situations like that and being completely fine with them.
How old were you?
Kristin, how’d you prepare for the role?
Stewart: I went to my first strip club with this [Jake] and upon entering the guy was like, “You’ll have to come back later if you want a job.” [Laughs] They must have thought that [Jake] was my pimp. [Jake] was also really on me about that as well, you’ve got to do some work before you’re going to be able to do this. He gave me a couple books that really helped. Raised by Wolves was the one that really got me like where you have really candid stories. This guy endeared himself to this group of runaway kids in Hollywood and they really just let it all out. Then just pole dancing and stuff like that, but basically we didn’t have that much time and it was really comforting to know that it validated me, it made me feel like I’ve done enough to do the part, but at the same time everything was in the script so once we started shooting luckily feel like I didn’t have to add a thing. It was just doing it justice. It wasn’t like I had to add real elements; it was already there.
What was it like shooting in New Orleans?
Leo: I’ll start of because a month and a half after I worked with Jake, Kristen and Jimmy I found myself back in New Orleans where I do the HBO Treme show, when I really go to know New Orleans. When I was there with Jake, Lois has never been there before. She doesn’t particularly like being there when she’s there, so they housed me at the Windsor Court and if you’re at all familiar with New Orleans, it’s actually got a gated drive, so it’s walled and you go in behind the gate and get out of the car and never have to actually be really in public. They had a lovely young man they hired to drive me and pull up in front of the Windsor Court, pick me up and take me to set and a handful of times he took me to the grocery store and otherwise I just isolated myself in my glorious room so I didn’t get a chance to know New Orleans at all and that aided my performance, but I’m very grateful I got to know the town a bit.
You all have very different ways of preparing for roles and didn’t do a lot of rehearsal, so how did you establish that you were a married couple?
Gandolfini: I like her. We just did it very professional and also she’s pretty good looking, which helps. It’s in the work. Where are you from? You’re from New York State, right?
Leo: New York City.
Gandolfini: Honestly that stuff helps; it just gives you a shorthand. I enjoyed it. I just want to say something about the places [Jake] picked in New Orleans. It’s an incredible city for its lack of rules, it’s lack of regulation and lack of everything being on top of you and I think that’s why [Kristen] can walk down the street dressed as [she was] and it seemed easy. I remember the strip club that you picked and you’re walking up the steps of the strip club and there’s a circular step and there was hairs hanging off the bottom of the stairs.
Stewart: Like a lot.
Gandolfini: Like people’s hairs have fallen off and they stepped on it and you could see it these steps hadn’t been cleaned for hundreds of years and just the whole feel of it really really helped. He didn’t pick places and dirty them up; we just went to the places so that helped a lot.
Leo: I just want to say also in response about working with Jimmy, I still have the engagement ring that Lois wore. I wear it quite a bit. That likability and just sort of hitting it off, it’s an amazing thing when you work with a really terrific actor and you can just together pretend and I think the willingness on both of our parts and the warmth that I felt from Jim right from the beginning in meeting him, it was so easily done and it’s hard to find words for it.
When you’re working on a film this small with just three of you, there’s a sense of being a surrogate family on the set. So what kind of family did develop during the making of this film?
Gandolfini: I think that’s any small film you do and we’re all trying to do the same thing. I think you’re not out hanging out every night, you’re working 14 hours, 15 hours. I guess there’s a sense of family, you’re doing all this stuff together and we had a few evenings together, which were fun.
Leo: It really is a relationship that’s developed in the work. Socializing is of very little importance to us when we’re shooting. It is a working environmental and I know that I’ll always have a mother’s love for Kristen and a wife’s love for Jimmy. I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my days.
Kristen, do you have a process for coming out of a role, especially going from playing Bella in Twilight to Mallory and back to shooting New Moon?
Stewart: No, the few things I’ve done in between the Twilight movies have just coincidently been very different, but I haven’t been like I’m going to shock everybody right now and just do this because it’s totally different. It’s always been totally informed. Something speaks to you and you need to do it and that’s what it is. Also, I’m really lucky to have my cast on the series. You always think that it’s going to be hard to get back there, but it’s not because we’ve all wanted to tell the story for so long an it’s finally going to come to fruition and it always just sort of falls out luckily.
Kristen, how hard was it to really let go of Mallory? Do you still have her in you in a way?
Stewart: You probably have that with everything. It’s not just parts you play, it’s sort of every experience you have in life shapes you and makes you who you are and when some of the biggest most monumental experiences have been working on films and playing parts, and this one more so than, I don’t want to compare them, but really more than normal, I think it’s had an effect on me.
Kristen, your character is in many ways a mystery. What did you imagine was her back-story and why she’s such an angry person?
Stewart: Obviously this was something that was really important to us and Jake had a few ideas about what those details were and they weren’t so defined to be honest, but it was just enough. It’s weird to talk about. One of the first things that he told me when we met on the movie was that some of the stories, and I don’t know if this will sound bad, but a lot of these girls’ stories are really typical. A few things add up to being able to do something like that as a job and we sort of inserted those little bits, a few little details. I know where she’s from, I know that she’s not lying when she says to Doug where she’s from and I know that would never come across in the movie, but little things like that. But to go into it would be really weird.
How much does your character’s wardrobe effect how you portray her?
Stewart: It helps. I guess it seems like the most obvious thing; if I was wearing …
Gandolfini: If you were naked.
Stewart: [Laughs] Anyway, I think what was cool about the costume was that you think stripper – I don’t really think a whole lot when I think stripper, to be honest. A lot of people have certain ideas about how they must be and I really didn’t have any, but I always sort of imagined that they’d be kind of sexy at least or something because that’s sort of their job. On the contrary, you’re exposed so often that you’re entrenched the entire time. Literally, imagine never wanting to take off a trench coat, but living in New Orleans and it’s hot and so that was interesting. And also the stuff was really dirty and everything helps like makeup, sets obviously, anything to make you feel more like you’re there.
Can you talk a little about filming in New Orleans and what you missed the most about your respective hometowns?
Stewart: I’m not being deadly serious about this, but I tend to really offend people that are in my life when I go and especially on this one because it was the first time I’d ever been alone on a movie and I loved stomping around the city like it was mine and that’s totally what Mallory was supposed to do, so I didn’t really miss too much. I was having a great time.
Gandolfini: I missed my son and my wife as we say and New York food because I had heartburn for six weeks. It’s great food, but, man, you know?
Leo: I loved working on this movie. It was very happy times. My son is now 23 and there’s no husband to worry about at home so I very happily go and relocate myself wherever the work brings me and hunker down for the duration of being there and tend to not miss home although I love getting back up to the Catskills when I get there.