Tribeca 2012 Interview: "Jack And Diane" Director Bradley Rust Gray Talks His Horror-Infused Lesbian Love Story

Tribeca 2012 Interview: "Jack And Diane" Director Bradley Rust Gray Talks His Horror-Infused Lesbian Love Story
The idea of a monster representing the extreme pains and extreme joys of a new love is really fascinating, and it definitely sets Jack and Dianeapart. Once you started finalizing the script, and all of the film’s harder edges and riskier touches were in place, was it difficult to get people to jump onboard?
Yeah. [Laughs.] I mean, I’m glad that you get it—I’m still wondering if people are going to understand it. I think you just described exactly what it’s supposed to be, at least hopefully. It’s not about a creature attacking people; the creature is her, it’s how she feels emotionally about love, so it’s just a different representation of love.

But, yeah, it was really hard to get people to sort of understand that, I think. To my surprise, it was difficult to get people onboard with a lesbian love story—they found it “gay,” and that made it harder to finance then I thought it was going to be. I started it, and Brokeback Mountain had just come out not too long before then, and people were still hesitant about Jack and Diane. I’d say, “Well, look at Brokeback Mountain and tell me how that’s different.”

So it was that, and it was also the creature that was throwing people off. Because there’s a creature, the budget also had to be a certain number. I didn’t want to do it in a way that was like… I could have been creatively abstract about it, but I wanted it to look a certain way. In the very first film we made, the Icelandic film, the girl turns into a seal, but we did it in this very poetically abstract way, and I’m happy with that. But on this one, though, I really wanted to see this creature and I really wanted it to look real, like it’s really there. That’s just expensive to make, so that meant that our budget was a certain number. That’s what took so long, just getting the people to understand that.

And who were the first people who first really understood it and helped make Jack and Diane a reality?
Well, my wife is a producer on the film, so she’s always got it. [Laughs.] And then we’ve had another producer, Karen Chen, who’s been on the project for almost the entire duration of the film. We hired a new producer about a year and a half ago, named Jen Gatien, and she was the one who had the connections to financers, so it’s a large part to her credit that we were able to convince investors that this was going to work. Actually, I don’t the investors have seen it yet, so hopefully they’ll like it. [Laughs.]

When did you first start working on it, exactly?
Probably 2003, maybe. It’s been a long, long process. I first sent the first draft of the script out to producers the day we began shooting my wife’s first film, In Between Days, and she made three films before I shot Jack and Diane. [Laughs.]

It was really long. I finished the script, and then we had Ellen Page attached, so it was just me, my wife, and Ellen. And then we got Karen, the producer, onboard, and that’s how it was for some time. It was probably a year and a half before we found Olivia [Thirlby], and then the cast changed even more as the project went on and on.

After Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby were both attached, Ellen Page dropped out and then Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) came onboard in her place. On your end, how was it dealing with the task of keeping actresses attached throughout the film’s slow, years-on-end road to production?
Ellen and Olivia were really, really supportive of the project. We got the money to do the film a few weeks before Juno premiered in Toronto. And, also, they were attached to this way before they made Juno, so it was a big coincidence that they were in both films together. They both emailed me and said, “So Juno is doing really well out here in Toronto. Can we talk about Jack and Diane during the Toronto Film Festival press meetings?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course! That’d be fine!” [Laughs.]

So they were really supportive of it, but then Juno just became this huge, huge, huge movie, and then Ellen got nominated for an Academy Award. Then, that world just became too sort of massive, in the sense that she became a commodity, and worth a lot of money. I think a lot of people wanted to steer her in a certain direction—the Hollywood machine sort of came in. We were told that we’d have to wait a year for her to sort out what she had to do.

At that point, I had spent so much time working on the film that I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing the role. So I came up with this idea to do this other film, which was my second film, The Exploding Girl. That was a project that I did within the year that I was waiting for Jack and Dianeto come back. After that year, Ellen was kind of a little bit of a different person, so we started looking for other people. And that’s just part of the project—you think it’s going to be one way, and then you find somebody else.

There’s definitely an element of, if Ellen would have never been there, it wouldn’t be the same film; like, there are specific scenes that were written for her. She was on the project for three or four years, and we’d talked so much that I definitely changed things to fit her, and a lot of those things are still in the film. I think there’s a big part of her in the film. And with Alison, too, we talked, and she wasn’t attached for that long, but I think there’s a little bit of her presence in the film, as well. And now with Juno [Temple], we changed it again; now, Diane is going to be English.

So all those things influence the film in certain ways, and when you finally finish the film, you see that the journey was with it. You wouldn’t have the same film without all of these different pieces. At the time, of course, it was very frustrating.

Tags: tribeca-film-festival, jack-and-diane, bradley-rust-gray, juno-temple, riley-keough, ellen-page, olivia-thirlby, horror
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