For those of you who made up a fairytale ending after the ambiguous final scene of 2 Days in Paris, forget it. Rather than picking up where the film left off and showing Marion (Julie Delpy, also the film's writer and director) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) gleefully pushing strollers around the City of Lights, 2 Days in New York, the rom-com's unexpected sequel out today, finds Marion, now a mom to Jack's son, back in Manhattan and in a new relationship with Mingus (Chris Rock), her live-in boyfriend and a father to his own children from a previous marriage.
But the image of the New York City isn't as picturesque as those Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movies have made it seem. The film captures the city's chaos, which is heightened by Marion's bubbling anxiety at the fact that, this time around, her oddball French family is visiting her and inadvertently testing the limits of her relationship with Mingus.
One of those people driving Marion insane? Her nymphomaniac sister Rose, played to comedic perfection by the film's co-writer Alexia Landeau. With her extended part in the sequel, Landeau undoubtedly carries some of the most laugh-out-loud scenes of film, namely an audible bathroom romp and an attempt to hotbox an elevator with her dimwitted Parisian boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon).
Complex got a chance to speak to Landeau about why she and Delpy unraveled the romance of the original film, their decision to set the film in New York and how her recently discovered talent for screenwriting is helping her further her career.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
Did your working relationship with Julie Delpy begin with 2 Days in Paris?
Right when we met, when I first moved to L.A., we had this idea of writing a screenplay together, which we tried to write about Hollywood. We got 50 pages in but it never went anywhere at that particular point. So, we had already tried to write something before she wrote 2 Days in Paris.
So did she ask you personally to star in 2 Days in Paris?
Yeah, she had this idea about writing a small relationship comedy in France ‘cause that’s where she could get the money, I think. So then she told me it was about a character who goes home to visit her parents, and I think I remember being like, “Yeah and she has a sister.” And I never heard back again. Then, she called me after she had written it six months later and she said, “She does have a sister! Do you want to play the sister?” [Laughs.]
I’m half French and, actually, my boyfriend, who’s now my husband, was living in France at the time. Julie said, “We’re gonna shoot in the summer, will you be in France?” It was local, so I said I would. It was a tiny movie. I think it was like $400,000.
Given that movie was made for such a small amount of money and on such a small scale, did you even imagine that it could have a sequel?
No, I mean, when we shot the first one, I literally did not even think people would see it. I didn’t think people would not see it. But I just thought that an American audience would certainly not see it since we were shooting in Paris and sort of stealing locations in the city, like Julie’s parents’ apartment. So I think none of us saw past that. When the movie was bought and did well, I was not expecting that at all, much less a sequel.
How did you get involved with the script for 2 Days in New York?
We were both in L.A. around the same time, we both just had a son each, and her mother had just died. She told me that there had been some interest in the movie. The producer of 2 Days in Paris had a lot of interest in a sequel and so she had this idea that now they would live in New York and she’s dating an African-American. She always wanted Chris Rock and she hoped to get him.
She had this sort of skeleton for the movie, which I told her sounded like fun, and she was like, “Why don’t you help me write it?” So I said OK and that I’d try to see if I could help out ‘cause I had never written one before—other than with her on that ill-fated project. [Laughs.]
It was initially sort of a trial period. She was like, “Just come and write and expand on your character,” but then I just stayed on and helped write the whole thing. It was very tentative and then it bloomed into something else. Everything with Julie happened because we’d been friends. A lot of it happened quite casually.
Why did you decide to write new love story? Especially considering that with romantic comedies, you’re meant to have a happily ever after.
I think that’s what was interesting. What happens after happily ever after? In this case, they don’t stay together. You can see in the scenes that the relationship is not perfect by any means and [2 Days in Paris] ends on this ambiguous note.
Julie was initially interested in exploring what happens in that second part of your life, in your mid-30s when you’ve had a child with someone and it hasn’t worked out, but you’re still dating and wanting a romantic life. Basically, what we were initially interested in exploring for 2 Days in New York was this idea of what your life looks like when you divorce and you have to redo your family.
So, you wanted to make sure it was grounded in realism.
Yeah, it started with Jack and Marion, but they don’t stay together. And then she’s got this other relationship and he’s also in his late 30s, so he has a past. They both come together with a past, whereas in your 20s, you’re much more of a blank slate. They’re adults now with lives that existed before they met and then what happens at the point that they come together is the theme of the movie.
What happens when your family comes and you have to navigate that? How do you reconcile who you are as a mother, as a daughter, as a girlfriend and create a cohesive whole? She’s one way with her family and then she’s a different way with Mingus. So she has to make everyone happy while staying true to herself.
What did setting the film in New York allow you to explore?
So in the first one it was set up that they lived in New York. What I thought was neat about the movie was that it wasn’t that sort of picture-perfect postcard thing of New York. Julie shooed away from shooting some of the typical stuff, other than the Empire State Building. I think she wanted to do an interracial love story and she wanted Mingus to be African American from the get-go and she had set it up that Mingus lived in New York.
What we were initially interested in exploring for 2 Days in New York was this idea of what your life looks like when you divorce and you have to redo your family.
Really, 2 Days in New York is that converse of 2 Days in Paris. Julie wanted to see what happens when the family comes to New York and explore the cultural dissonance from that angle. Now it's the Parisians in America as opposed to the American in Paris. It didn’t necessarily have to be New York, but I think New York is so rich and it’s a beautiful and amazing place to shoot in because there’s so much texture.
We initially thought about doing it in L.A. but we thought, "Well, what does that mean? Will there be a lot of driving around? Will they go to Disneyworld? What will they be doing?" First of all, it was cheaper to shoot in L.A. New York is a pretty expensive place to shoot in—well, it was, at least. Now, it has a lot of tax breaks but it was expensive two years ago for some reason. And it’s a more complicated place to shoot in. So yeah, we had thought about L.A. but that’s just a different movie. It’s not a real city.
Since you wrote for the film, how much control did you have over your character?
Above and beyond, this was Julie’s film and I was very clear about that. I was brought in to help her have someone to bounce ideas off. The backbone of the movie was already there and that was not my role, nor did I want it to be. She had set up certain things in the first movie and frankly, if I had written the part, I might not have been a nympho. [Laughs.]
But you know, there were certain things that were set up in the first movie that we had to expand on since my part was bigger in the second. But Julie was very attached to the fact that the sister was a nympho and she was very sexual. Those were givens and I sort of had to work within that. Anytime I would sometimes try to veer, she would tell me that this is the way it should be. So I had freedom in the framework, which was pretty iron clad.
And for some reason the second one ended up being an ensemble film, whereas the first one is pretty much a two-hander. That was not the the intention. The heart of the movie was always Marion and Mingus and we were very clear about that from the get-go.
Did you always want to be an actress?
I did but my family would always tell me, “You would be such a better writer.” [Laughs.] Intrinsically, I have a lot of things in who I am that aren’t necessarily things you expect in a typical actor. I’m really shy in real life and my parents were always like, “There’s kind of a disconnect in who you are and this idea of wanting to put yourself forward.” I struggled with that a lot. So writing was always something everyone around me thought I was more suited for, so I kind of shunned away from that. The more people tell you to do something, the more you don’t want to do it.
And then it became this thought that Julie had always encouraged me with, which was that if you’re an actress, you’re still passive and you’re just waiting to be chosen. Whereas if you can write for yourself, you can say, “I pick me.” Whether or not that happens, you end up playing the part. You can take charge of your destiny a little bit more and being an actress is such a passive role to play. You’re really just waiting for the phone to ring.
Once I could reconcile writing with advancing my goals to want to act, then I was like, “This is so fun.” But I think I would’ve lacked the discipline to start writing for a third party. Now, I’m doing that, too, as a result of 2 Days in New York. I’ve been hired to adapt a movie, but I’ve also found a way to write to give myself more stories as an actor.
Do you have anything in the works that you’ve written for yourself?
I do. I wrote this other screenplay [Swimming Pool] with a friend of mine and we’re supposed to go into production in the spring. It stars Rosemarie Dewitt, me and Will Forte. It’s also about thirtysomethings and how a divorce has ripple effect through a community of friends. The script’s gotten great responses and we’re supposed to start in March because one of the actresses is on a TV show.
So I’ve done that and I’ve been hired by the producers of Y Tu Mama Tambien with Jessica [Goldberg], the other girl I wrote the divorce movie with, to adapt this Argentinian movie called Boyfriend for My Wife for a U.S. remake. That’s not for me. That’s a writing assignment, for sure. [Laughs.]
In acting, I’m doing Zoe Cassavetes’ new movie and we’re starting that in January. I guess I’m the lead in that. I hate saying it like that but yeah. [Laughs.] I’m the lead! It’s called The Business. It’s about an actress who’s in her mid-30s who used to be quite successful and is sort of going through this valley in her career, as you tend to do especially with Los Angeles being concerned with predominantly young people. She’s getting sort of aged out of that business so it’s about her comeuppance into something else.
It’s very much like a character study because Zoe’s influenced by her dad [John Cassavetes]. You’re following one character through her journey in L.A. It’s going to be interesting to do a movie that’ll be so much about L.A.
Earlier, you mentioned you were going to write your own script about Hollywood. How does that compare to Zoe's film?
That’s very different from Zoe’s script. The one that I had written with Julie was more of a global picture of everyone that’s out in L.A. pursuing the same collective dream and how that bleeds over into your personal life. And that has it’s own nefarious effect on everybody. [Laughs.] But it’s kind of on the backburner.
You’re from Paris, right?
Yeah, I grew up in Paris because I have a French father, then I went to college in America on the east coast. Then, I moved to California, and now I live in Brooklyn. Yeah, I came to the U.S. when I was 16, but I was going to an American school in France.
What do you notice are the main cultural between L.A., New York and Paris?
Well, New York is so multicultural and such an international city, and I think a lot of the complaints about L.A. is that it’s so provincial and so suburban. There’s no city, there’s no center. New York, especially Brooklyn, doesn’t have those problems. There’s street life and it’s an amazing city.
I hate generalizing, but in New York, there’s a sort of can-do ethos there, like if you work hard enough, you can move mountains. Whereas in France, there’s a little more of a naysayer saying, “What? No, you can’t do that.” You’re much more boxed in societally; it’s less encouraging to try different things. I feel like you’re freer to explore in New York.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)