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In Her Shoes - Curtis Hanson interview



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You are a very diverse director. What made you choose this which, to all intents and purposes, could be referred to as a chick flick?
A.
The decision for me is kind of a simple one about making a movie. I follow my heart and my head. I don't really think 'is this a chick flick? Or a cop flick? Or a rap flick? Or whatever?'
It's about am I interested in these characters? The people come first. And am I interested in their issues? Next is the world in which the story takes place, in which these people live.
Then the third thing is the plot. In some cases the plot is the first thing which leads to someone doing more similar pictures, one after the other.
I admire the careers and aspire to the careers of those filmmakers who mix it up.
It used to be that there were more of them. Filmmakers like Howard Hawks could do a comedy, like His Girl Friday, and then turn around and do The Big Sleep, a mystery, and then do Red River. They're all Hawksian movies, very clearly, but they're very different worlds.
There are numerous filmmakers like that - John Huston, Billy Wilder, etc - and I feel that allows one to grow as a filmmaker. We're all encouraged - be it filmmakers or performers - if we're lucky enough to do something that's successful to try and do it again, or do another version of that.

Q. Shirley MacLaine's name has been mentioned. We hear stories about legendary figures in the industry, so what was it like being 'in charge' of her?
A.
It's complicated. The casting of Shirley was something I approached with some caution. Not because of any reputation in terms of her being difficult but actually because of who and what she is.
I dealt with this very directly and very bluntly. I had a meeting with her prior to offering the part.
I said 'I am a fan of yours' because she was in some of my favourite movies and I said 'you are big, you are powerful and you have used that bigness and your personality to great effect. But that's all wrong for this character.
'Ella is someone who is quiet, who is hiding from life. She's somebody who's living a part. She's a care giver but she's very separate from everybody. She's living in fear and grief and remorse'.
As I was saying these things to Shirley I could see her eyes flashing like 'am I being complimented or insulted?' But the more we talked her eyes got excited because she also knew she was being challenged. And Shirley, to her great credit as both an actor and human being, is somebody who rises to a challenge; it's part of what keeps her young. It keeps her engaged.
I'm so proud of the work she did in this picture because I feel it's fresh and surprising. When somebody has done the work that she's done, for as long as she's done it, and can still surprise us I think that really says a lot.

Q. How long did it take to settle on having Toni and Cameron for these parts?
A.
Well when I first read the script it was with the knowledge that Cameron was interested in doing it. So I was visualising her as Maggie. So who better than Cameron to play this character who has been allowed to cruise by in life because of what she looks like and because of the way men react to her.
The question in my mind was 'is she prepared to go the distance with this character and go to the dark side of the character? Not only play the fear, the insecurity and self-loathing but also the horrible behaviour that's so reprehensible?'
So as soon as I'd finished reading the script I sat down with Cameron and we talked about the character and when it was clear that we both wanted to tell Maggie's story for the same reasons we said 'let's do this'.
Then casting her sister was easy and difficult at the same time. Toni was our first thought while we were talking about people that we admired. So then we explored whether Toni was available and then I went on a search and thought about anyone you could think of and a lot of people that you can't and kept coming back to Toni.
Then we got her over to LA and she got in a room with Cameron and me and I watched them read some scenes and relate between scenes and that was the way it happened.

Related stories: Read our review

Cameron Diaz interview

Toni Collette interview

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