A while back actress and
screenwriter Jennifer Westfeldt and her long-time boyfriend, Mad
Men star Jon Hamm, noticed something odd happening in their
lives. Many of their friends, people who they used to go out with
all the time, were now parents. Slowly, these friends started
fading away. Weekly nights out changed to the semi-annual. When
they did go out, the friends were no longer the carefree people they
used to be back in the day.
It occurred to the couple this was
a fascinating dynamic for thirty-somethings to deal with. Westfeldt,
who had co-written and starred in the acclaimed indie bi-sexual
romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein back in 2001, thought
it was a story worth telling. The result is the smart, funny and
just a little tart romantic comedy Friends with Kids, which
Westfeldt not only stars in and wrote, but marks her debut as a
One of the friends she wasn’t
seeing nearly as often was Adam Scott, star of NBC’s popular series
Parks and Recreation. Yet, she knew right away that he would
be perfect to play Jason, the long-time platonic friend of her
character. However, in fiction, the couple takes it a step further,
deciding to have a baby together as just friends. Not surprisingly,
deeper emotions surface.
Hamm signed on to play one of the
married friends, bringing along his Bridesmaids co-stars
Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd. The smart ensemble is
is rounded out by former Transformers babe Megan Fox and
The Brothers McMullen scribe Edward Burns.
Recently, we were
lucky enough to be one of the websites invited to
take part in an exclusive chat with writer/director/star
Jennifer Westfeldt and co-star Adam Scott.
This was your
first film as a director. How did that change the process, juggling
the acting and being in charge?
I hadn't planned
to direct the movie. We were in talks with Jake Kasdan to direct,
which we were thrilled about. But on any indie film, you generally
find one small window when your cast is available at the same time –
and when that time came, Jake was still working on Bad Teacher.
So Jake, along with our other producing partners, strongly
encouraged me to step in. We would have lost our cast otherwise, and
not made the movie. I only agreed when Jake proposed a deal – he
would come aboard as a producer, and was on set for the actual
shoot, as a second pair of eyes when I was onscreen. He was a mentor
and incredible collaborator, and was so, so generous to uproot his
wife and newborn baby to be on our set during the worst winter in
New York in over forty years! My DP Will Rexer was also a great
partner – he was endlessly patient and generous with me. He spent so
many hours in pre-production fielding questions from me. We watched
films together, spent a lot of time shot-listing, blocking out
scenes, making sure I could translate my thoughts to a crew clearly.
It was a steep learning curve for me and I wouldn't have necessarily
chosen it, but I was ultimately happy for the challenge. But I don't
think it would have been at all possible to juggle these hats
without an incredible team supporting me.
What is your
writing process like?
I am not sure I
have a writing “process,” as I have only done this [written a film]
three times in ten years! But on this one, I wrote the first half of
the film quickly, about four years ago, then put it in a drawer, got
busy with acting jobs, and forgot about it. I picked it up again
about two years ago. I guess I just reconnected with the original
idea that interested me – the group dynamic, and how this
alternative family choice that Jason and Julie make ripples through
the group of friends and makes everyone feel jealousies,
insecurities, judgments. How it makes everyone re-examine their
definitions of love and friendship and family. Even physical
attraction. That's when the Vermont dinner scene was born. The night
I finished the first draft, we had a table read at our house
– to hear it out
loud and see if we had anything. A group of actors (Adam came and
read Jason) came – as well as screenwriter friends, and we all
stayed up until about 2 am talking about the ideas in it, what
resonated, what didn't. I continued that reading and workshop
process for the next few months. It was after one of those readings
that Mike Nichols [the legendary filmmaker behind
The Graduate, Silkwood and Charlie Wilson's War]
came aboard as an EP [executive producer].
What was it about
the script that most made you want to work on the film?
I was really moved by it because I thought Jennifer really
pinpointed what it’s like to have a kid and how it changes you. I
was taken aback by it especially since Jen doesn’t have kids of her
own, and I was surprised she really got what it feels like to have
kids. It’s a great character, a great role, and I was really
thrilled that they wanted me to do it. I wasn’t totally sure why,
but was more than happy to oblige.
Adam was great in
the film. How did you decide he was the right guy for the part?
Adam came and
read the role at our house the very first night I finished the first
draft. We had a group of actors and sat around our dining room
table, pasta and wine and a cold table read. Adam was fantastic, as
I knew he would be. After that, I honestly couldn't picture anyone
but him playing this role. I didn't want to make the movie without
him. I think the film is really about Jason, and we needed an actor
with tremendous range to pull it off – that's Adam. I've known Adam
for fifteen years, and I've seen him in almost everything he's ever
done – onstage, on TV, on film. I think he's just as good as it
Adam, I read you
mentioned somewhere that you were one of those friend couples that
had the kids, were any of the couples in the film based on you guys?
No, it wasn’t anyone specific. I’m not saying it was specifically
based on me. I just know I’m one of the many couples in Jon and
Jennifer’s life that had kids and in our particular case; we just
dropped off completely because we got so busy and were overwhelmed
by child rearing. We dropped off the face of the earth for six
months. But no, I don’t believe I inspired any specific couple or
None of the
characters are directly based on anyone in my life. But the kernel
of the idea does come from my life. That is, from being out of sync
with my peer group, and observing so many friends and people in my
sphere making this profound, seismic life transition. Observing the
ways in which different people handle that transition, the ways in
which the friendship dynamic can shift and morph for a time. The
ways in which the romantic relationships can be affected, the way
you miss (and your friend misses) the one on one time you used to
have, and the like.... I am lucky that I have so many close
girlfriends who were incredibly candid with me about the experience
and the identity shift. I noticed a theme or thread in what they all
said – they all said (in one way or another) that they had never
experienced a love as profound or deep or rewarding as the love for
a child – and also, that it was the hardest thing that they had ever
done. And that no one had told them that part! It was that duality
that really intrigued me.
Adam, you do
mostly comedy. How was it to get a chance to show more emotional
range with this part?
Comedy I’ve only been doing primarily for four or five years. Before
that I was on a serious HBO show [Tell Me You Love Me], so I
was kind of able to do both. So it was a great opportunity to do
Friends with Kids.
Did you encourage
improv on the set, especially with comedic actors like Wiig &
I wish we had had
time for more improv on this shoot, given the unbelievably talented
comic actors we were so lucky to have! But when you are on an indie,
up against it every day and not sure if you'll even make the day,
it's hard to find time for too much of it. It was easier in the two
person scenes than in the group ones – just given how many people
you have to cover and the time constraints with our budget. But
there is definitely some improv that made it into in the cut – maybe
10% of the film?
You once said you
still felt like a guest star. Do you still feel the same way? If
not, what has changed?
I still kind of operate form that mentality. When I came to
Hollywood, I didn’t know anybody and so movies and TV was just
something I grew up with, thinking it was another world. Even though
it’s been 18 yrs, I still feel that way – I can’t believe I get to
be on TV sets and movie sets – I really am excited and thankful that
this is my job. Every time a job ends, I’m hoping it’s not my last.
How involved were
you with selecting the songs for the film? I loved how you expanded
what was happening in a scene with lyrics from artists like Jenny
Lewis and Ella Fitzgerald.
I was involved
with every music choice. I fought for every cue and made personal
appeals to the artists, since our budget was so tight and we
couldn't afford many of the tunes!
You are used to
the small screen stuff –
Party Down and
Parks & Rec – how was the set different or similar to the
The set was similar in that it moves pretty quickly – we didn’t have
much time to shoot it, just like on TV. With TV, we have about 5
days to make a whole episode and here, we had 25 days to make this
whole movie. So it was very similar pace-wise with TV.
How long was the
project from the moment of idea, thru writing, to the end of
I wrote the first
half of the script four years ago and then put it away. I took it
out two years ago, finished it in February 2010, wrapped in February
2011, now it's coming out in March 2012 – ten years after Kissing
Jessica Stein came out and five years after Ira & Abby
came out. There have been a lot of weird coincidences on this
I'm curious; did
you toy with any alternative endings? Or was that the only ending
discussed other endings – and I took a few stabs at other endings
during the process. But the ending we have is one that Adam and I
both believed in from the start and stuck with. We stand by our last
With the abrupt
ending, is there any thought to do a sequel?
No thought to a
sequel as yet! Not sure what that would be…!
Do you enjoy
making TV more than movies, or the other way around?
I like them both. I watch more TV than anyone I know, so I love
making TV, but the same goes for movies. They are becoming more and
more similar as the years go by.
there anything you are working on next?
My next project
is a pilot I am attached to co-star in, with Alan Ball Executive
Producing. I am teaming up with another writer to write the pilot
based on an idea and treatment I sold a year ago. It was put on hold
when FWK got greenlit. They have been very patient with me!
So I am happy to be diving back into that next.
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT ADAM SCOTT HAD TO
SAY TO US IN 2010!
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