Whit Stillman ‘Damsels’ interviews

Stillman has been doing more interviews around the launch of Damsels in Distress.

Whit Stillman
Damsels in Distress: Whit Stillman on set

First of this batch is a brief one with Stephanie Merry at the Washinton Post. In my previous roundup of reviews I questioned J.Hoberman’s comparison with Woody Allen, but Stillman seems to go for it here:

“It’s fantastic, the reference to Woody Allen,” Stillman said. “But I thought it was a little illegitimate before, because he is very funny and breaks all the rules in order to have the comedy the best it can be. So he’s not naturalistic and realistic in a lot of his films. And this is the first film where I think the Woody Allen comparison is more relevant, because I think we’re taking liberties with naturalism in this film.”

At Gothamist John Del Signore has a much more substantial interview with Stillman, which is well worth a read. He talks about the film’s low budget, the locations, the casting, and the dancing, but regular fans will be most interested in the discussion of favourites from previous movies:

Gothamist: I was wondering about was Chris Eigeman. That’s probably the only problem I had with the film, that he wasn’t in it.

Stillman: Yeah, I’m still pissed off at the guy. I wanted him to play Professor Ryan. I would have made it a bigger deal. He would have been great in that.

What happened?

He wouldn’t do it.

Why not?

You’ve gotta ask him.

Maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention but I don’t remember seeing him in anything recently.

Well that’s one of the things he told me, that he was feeling really bad about acting, he was really down on acting. He’s been trying to get a film off the ground. But then I see that the other person who no-showed on my production was that Lena Dunham girl. She then cast him in her TV show so the two people who no-showed to our film are collaborating together, acting. What ingrates and traitors.

Said, one assumes, with his tongue in his cheek. And then there’s this, which is also interesting:

Do you ever entertain fantasies of where those Metropolitan characters are now? What they might be doing?

Yeah, we have a tentative joke thing where Taylor Nichols cast as Charlie Black in this film, so that’s kind of an afterthought and I’m not too sure how serious that is. I liked what we did with Last Days of Disco, that was more seriously thought out, that he appears there with Audrey Rouget. That really seemed to make sense to me. I’m not really interested in those characters later in life. I think there are other things. We could continue this film, the guys from the fraternity. I think they could be a funny TV show.

Ella Taylor has a shortish interview with Stilman at NPR:

“I do find something touching about a sincerely scholarly idiot,” he says – “these people who are wound up and have aspirations, but they’re not intelligent at all, and their sensory apparatus is limited, but they’re determined to prove themselves in this way. To be an intelligent barbarian is kind of awful. But someone who is unintelligent, and aspiring to scholarly achievement, it’s really touching and encouraging. It’s a utopian thing, I think.”

Matthew Perpetua at Rolling Stone does things a bit differently, interviewing both Stillman and novelist Mark Leyner (who’s releasing his first book in 15 years) at once. It’s quite a nice conversation, arguing over who’s had the longest hiatus, and discussing problematic past projects. Here’s Stillman:

It’s terrible to write what are essentially comedies for people with no sense of humor. Everyone thinks they have a sense of humor, but observably not. I think I wrote the funniest scene I have ever written in my life for Little Green Men, and the person who is the development person at the company I was trying to do it for is foreign and very pretentious and very serious and very dramatic. Very dramatic, everything is dramatic. When he was explaining why he didn’t like my draft, it was just such a hilarious conversation; this person was sort of struggling to say, “This is weird, this is strange.”

Todd Gilchrist on the Wall Street Journal blog confronts Stillman a little about only writing films with rich people in:

WSJ: How then do you think about this movie in terms of it potentially being interpreted as sort of a “one percent” kind of movie because it does exist in a financial or an economic strata that some people can’t relate to?

Stillman: Well, that would be a very mistaken impression, because these protagonists of this film are not rich at all. I strongly think the whole concept of 99 percent more percent is totally ridiculous and detestable, but Violet and Rose, who dominate the film, are not affluent people. Violet’s parents were penniless writers and they died and she’s probably been brought up by some grandparents, and maybe you would see her and say she’s sort of this opinionated, dominant stylish person, but that has nothing to do with her or her economics. I mean, I think people are getting misdirected because I made Metropolitan, but there’s no relationship economically between these girls and the Metropolitan characters.

WSJ: Sure. But throughout your career, fairly or unfairly, you’ve been associated sort of upper-crust characterizations. Have you thought consciously about trying to do something that people might see as different?

Stillman: Of course. The two projects I was working on that didn’t get made were people on a collective farm in China during the Cultural Revolution, although they were people from an educated background who were forced on to a collective farm. And then, [the other one was about] people from a church in Kingston, Jamaica. So we have been trying to do different things but you know, God didn’t want me to do them.

At IFC Stillman is joined by Adam Brody and Hugo Becker. On Brody:

By embodying many of Stillman’s recurring themes – as Chris Eigeman used to – Brody becomes a bit of the writer/director’s surrogate. In fact, Stillman hopes to pair the two actors in his next project. “I don’t know why he’s taken such a liking to me,” Brody said. “I’m flattered, but I don’t feel nearly as sharp as Chris Eigeman. I’m not worthy!”

And that’s all the Stillman interviews for now.

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