Before writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s dramedy, You Hurt My Feelings hits theaters, Collider’s Steve Weintraub had the opportunity to talk with with the filmmaker and stars of the movie, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies. From filming on location in the streets of New York City to the “enormous amount of eating” involved, the trio discuss this latest slice of life from A24 Films.
Oscar-nominee Holofcener is known for films that provide intimate portraits of relationships, as in Enough Said and Walking and Talking. In You Hurt My Feelings Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, an author with a new novel, a loving husband, Don (Menzies), their grown son and a beautiful apartment. Life is happy for the two of them, until Beth overhears her husband talking to his brother-in-law, Mark (played by Arian Moayed), admitting that he doesn’t like her novel. Realizing he’s been lying all this time, Beth’s foundations start to shake, and You Hurt My Feelings takes a look at what it means to love someone and yourself, to be truthful, and if that truth always equates to love. The movie also stars Michaela Watkins as Beth’s sister, David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, and Owen Teague.
During their interview, which you can watch or read below, Holofcener shares with us how long You Hurt My Feelings took from conception to screen, and they discuss how the script changed from the page to the ad-libbing onset. Despite celebrated careers, with roles in Seinfeld and The Crown, to Oscar nominations, the trio open up about how they relate to the characters, and who their worst critics are in the end. Read on for all of this and more on take after take of ice cream, their most challenging scenes to film, and Holofcener’s work on Apple TV’s Extrapolations.
COLLIDER: I just want to start with how much I loved the movie, and say congrats, it’s awesome and I’m done. I’ll see you guys later!
NICOLE HOLOFCENER: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Thanks, take care!
Jumping into why I get to talk to you; Julia, what was your reaction when you saw you’d be doing a lot of walk-and-talks in New York City, but in some of the scenes you’d have ice cream? Because that’s not one take.
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: My reaction was, “Get me a spit bucket, or give it to Nicole because she’ll eat anything!”
HOLOFCENER: [Laughs] I’ll finish hers.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: I know there’s an enormous amount of eating in this movie, which I didn’t honestly realize until we were at Sundance and we saw it, and I was like, “Wow, it’s endless eating.”
HOLOFCENER: She gained like 10 pounds
LOUIS-DREYFUS: I gained like 10 pounds in the film! No, I didn’t, but as an actor, I like having the business of eating in a scene because I think it’s a great sort of prop.
TOBIAS MENZIES: Also, no one eats in films anymore, do they? They sort of do clever ways of pushing it around.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yeah, you want to see mouths full. Totally.
HOLOFCENER: Which is ironic because I have a misophonia problem.
MENZIES: Do you? You don’t like watching people eat, is that what that is?
HOLOFCENER: No, it’s the sound, it’s the sound of eating, and so I had to cut all of their disgusting noises out.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: Is that true?
HOLOFCENER: Yes, absolutely true.
MENZIES: [Laughs] Devastating.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: The woman, she’s nuts by the way.
You know, something, Nicole, you’re a great writer and Larry David is a great writer, and maybe both have a little bit screws that are not altogether tightened.
HOLOFCENER: I’m in good company if you think that, very good company. Thank you.
One of the things about filming in New York City, I’m so curious, do the people actually care anymore when you’re filming a movie, or do they sort of just say, “Get the F out of here?”
LOUIS-DREYFUS: Let me explain to you something, the scene outside Paragon, when I’m vomiting on the street, we had somebody walk through that shot and give us the finger.
HOLOFCENER: In Los Angeles, they just honk while they’re driving by.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: They get a kick out of ruining a take.
HOLOFCENER: But New York, it’s tough for both of them to perform. Paparazzi-wise, that’s harder for you guys, for sure.
Yeah, I deal with it every day. It’s terrible, following me to Starbucks and the supermarket. It’s awful.
HOLOFCENER: Well, you’re fascinating.
[Laughs] Nicole, I love your writing, and I’m just curious, for a project like this, how long from when you start thinking about the idea to you actually having a completed screenplay?
HOLOFCENER: I wish I remembered exactly because I have stacks and stacks of versions of this script. But I don’t know, a year maybe? But maybe two years prior, trying to nail something down by writing other things. But once I could nail this down, a year, and then we shot it exactly a year ago, so that’s a pretty quick timeline for me, at least, it is.
Also for movies in general, that’s very fast. So once you guys started doing rehearsals, you’re reading the script, how does it actually change, and how precious is Nicole with like every comma when you’re on set?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: She’s not precious with punctuation at all, or really the actual language in the script. But it’s not like we go and throw out the script and start from scratch. We are working with a very finely tuned script, but Nicole is collaborative. So if we have thoughts about tweaking something here, or adding this joke here, she’s all ears. And so, it has a very organic feeling in the moment.
HOLOFCENER: There’s probably not a scene that hasn’t been ad-libbed a little, or fussed with.
MENZIES: They’re really only just grace notes. I mean, really, you are sticking to Nicole’s writing because it doesn’t need to be changed very much.
HOLOFCENER: But there’s some really funny ad-libs in there.
Yeah, I laughed a lot watching this, and also related completely. I think the reason why so many people are all in on this movie is that everybody lies to the people you love, you know? It’s one of those things, a universal truth.
HOLOFCENER: Yeah, it doesn’t matter what you do.
Without a doubt. All three of you are very talented, and most people love your work, but how much are you sort of like Beth a little bit in terms of a little bit of criticism can end you?
MENZIES: I’m pretty sensitive, yeah. I don’t like criticism. How are you with it?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: I’m more of a self-criticizer, to tell you the truth. So if I don’t like something that I’ve done, it’s hard for me to let that go. If somebody else is criticizing me, yeah, I mean, it’s not pleasant. If I get a bad review, or somebody says something nasty, yeah, that can be very hurtful. But if I don’t like something I’ve done, I’m like a dog with a bone on that one. It’s very hard for me to let it go. That is not a good feeling.
HOLOFCENER: Right, me too. I mean, watching my films over the years, you know, I’m definitely a self-criticizer. “Why did I make that choice? Why did I do this?” You know? And it’s too late on film, nobody’s gonna let you open it up once it’s done. But yeah, I’m pretty sensitive.
For all three of you, when you saw the shooting schedule, and you’re looking at everything you have to do, what was the day you had circled in terms of either super excited to film it or a little bit nervous to do the scene?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: Day one! Day one was difficult because it was the pivotal moment in the film when we went to Paragon, and she overhears her husband, and then the vomiting, and the et cetera. That was day one. So I was very nervous about that, very nervous.
HOLOFCENER: And it couldn’t be helped. I mean, the actors came to me, and it was like, “What the fuck?” They were more like, “Can this be changed? Does this really have to be our first day?” And for a variety of reasons, it did, and I think we were all a little anxious about it. And the fact that it turned out as well as it did is a tribute to professionals.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: I just remember thinking we hadn’t had any time to even get to know each other personally, and all of a sudden we’re pretending like we’re– yeah, it was wild.
HOLOFCENER: That’s what good actors do.
MENZIES: I think my day was the scene, the lunch where Beth sorts out what’s happened.
HOLOFCENER: The birthday dinner.
MENZIES: Sorry, the birthday dinner. Yeah, I think I had that a bit circled.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: That was tricky.
It’s so interesting, I spoke to Donald Sutherland and he said that he always demands the first few days of filming are from the middle of the movie because that way, by then, people just buy into what he’s selling. It’s just the middle of the movie, not the beginning or the end.
HOLOFCENER: That is interesting. Well, you know, schedules are a mess, and so we kind of did maybe not quite the middle, but somewhere in there, and a first act.
Nicole before I run out of time with you, I loved your episode of Extrapolations, it’s fantastic. It’s one of the best of that series. I want to shine a light on that, as well, so can you sort of talk about working on that series and the importance of that series?
HOLOFCENER: Well, I jumped into the series for obvious reasons. I think it’s hard to turn disaster and impending doom into something watchable, and I think that Scott Burns created a show that made us able to watch this and also be entertained. So I was really happy to do it, and obviously I worked with some amazing actors. It was a great opportunity.
You Hurt My Feelings is now in theaters. Check out our interview with Arian Moayed and Michaela Watkins below.