The most relatable films often times come from filmmakers who take on subjects from their own point-of-view. First time feature film writer-director Jason Boone did just that with his new comedy-drama ‘Stuck in Love,’ which is opening in select theaters on July 5. Featuring a cast of award winning-actors and celebrated up-and-comers, the movie showcases how even in the struggles of marriage, divorce, parenting and growing up, the family ties that plague people are often the ones that also save them.
‘Stuck in Love’ follows veteran novelist Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear) who can’t stop obsessing over his ex-wife, Erica (Jennifer Connelly), who left him three years ago for another man. Even when his married neighbor-with-benefits, Tricia (Kristen Bell), tries to push him back into the daing pool, he remains committed to his ex-wife.
Meanwhile, his independent collegiate daughter, Samantha (Lily Collins), is publishing her first novel while recoiling at the thought of first love with romantic classmate Lou (Logan Lerman), or reconciling with her mother. Her young brother, Rusty (Mat Wolff), is trying to find his voice as a fantasy writer and as the boyfriend of the girl of his dreams, Kate (Liana Liberato), who’s struggling with substance abuse. The family’s crises bring them together as they uncover surprising revelations about how endings can become beginnings.
Boone generously took the time recently to sit down in New York City for a one-on-one interview to talk about shooting ‘Stuck in Love.’ Among other things, the writer-director discussed how he based the script on his life when he was younger, and Woolf’s character is reflective of his adolescence; how the actors contributed ideas to make their characters and the story more authentic, such as Connelly making suggestions for the strained mother-daughter relationship; and how he was happy to have the experience of working with both skilled and up-and-coming actors on the set.
ShockYa (SY): You made your feature film writing debut with ‘Stuck in Love.’ Where did you come up with the idea for the movie’s story?
Josh Boone (JB): Well, I based it a lot on my own life when I was younger. Nat Wolff’s character is very much me when I was younger; that was who I was when I was a kid. My parents got divorced, and I wanted to write about that. So there were a lot of personal things in there. So maybe it was a way for me to sort out childhood problems.
SY: You also made your feature film directorial debut with the comedy-drama. Do you feel that writing the screenplay helped you in your directorial duties?
JB: Yes, but once you go on set, you’re not the writer anymore. It’s almost like you hate the writer. You’re like, why did they write that? You become a director, and the writer has to go bye-bye in order for you to do it properly.
SY: Did you generally allow and encourage the actors to improv while you were on the set?
JB: Yeah. I told them when I met them all for the first time that if we just ended up making what I wrote, I’d really be disappointed. I wanted them to bring something to the table, and I wanted them to be as personally invested in it as I was.
Jennifer Connelly has been one of my favorite actresses since I was in high school. I had a big crush on her. (laughs) In the original script, her character never goes to the book party, or has that altercation with Lily Collins, or goes to save Liana.
Jennifer was like, “I love this script and these characters, but I think the mom needs to be there during the party.” She was right, and I re-wrote the script for her, and she came on board. So they all elevated the material, and made it better than it was when I wrote it.
SY: ‘Stuck in Love’ features an acclaimed and up-and-coming ensemble cast, including Jennifer, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Bell, Lily, Nat Wolff, Liana Liberato and Logan Lerman. What was the casting process like for the actors?
JB: It was a six-month process. A lot of it was taking the time to make sure it looked like a family. Greg came on board, and then I had to find the mom, and then we went through the process to find Jennifer. Once we had Jennifer, I had already met Nat and Lily. Liana was the first one on board, and she actually brought Nat to me. So I would have never had met him if it wasn’t for her.
SY: There’s a strong physical resemblance between Jennifer and Lily in the film.
JB: Yeah, it’s the eyebrows! (laughs)
SY: So was that intentional on your part?
JB: Yeah, they were aesthetically perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother and daughter. When they were having the face-off at the party, you feel as though they really are parent and child.
SY: What was the experience of working with both the established actors and the up-and-comers?
JB: When you get both spectrums, you get the super-experienced professionals, who have been doing this for years, and you get the young kids, and you bond with them, because you’re closer to their age. The way you relate to them is very different than the older actors.
Everyone says this, but being a director is like being a shrink. You have to know how to talk to each person, and each person needs something different from you. There are some actors who don’t need anything at all, and then there are other actors who need to talk a lot about what they’re doing. So you have to be their therapist, and help them figure out their character.
SY: Did you have a rehearsal period before you began shooting, in order to build the working relationships between the actors?
JB: Yeah, we rehearsed for about a week. It was great. We had to shoot the movie in 20 days, which is a short amount of time to shoot a movie. We had to shoot five to seven pages a day in order to complete it, and normally when you shoot three. We had to do many camera setups every day. With each camera set-up, we could only do two or three takes.
There was no time for the creative process to happen during shooting. We spent the entire week playing with the scenes and getting the dialogue right, and making sure it sounded natural. I’ll never do a movie without a rehearsal period-it’s so important.
SY: What was the overall process of shooting the film in a short period of time like?
JB: I had an amazing cinematographer, Tim Orr, who shot diverse films, from ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ to ‘Pineapple Express.’ He’s just an incredible DP, and knew how to shoot fast.
Having actors as good as I had, they were good enough to give me what I needed in a short amount of time. There was no time for people not to be ready, and I got the best I could possibly get.
SY: You shot the film in the Wrightsville Beach area of Wilmington, North Carolina. What was that experience like for you?
JB: It was wonderful, because the crew was so nice there, and the people there were so supportive. When you make a movie in New York or L.A., it feels as though people can just go home at the end of the day. But with this, we just had to keep hanging out. So we all became really good friends, and it became a great memory, like a great summer camp experience you may have had.
SY: Would you be interested in working in Wilmington again?
JB: Yeah, please. If I ever had an excuse to make another movie there, I’d be there.
SY: Would you be interested in filming here in New York, or in L.A.?
JB: One of my upcoming movies, ‘Pretenders,’ will shoot here in New York, and it’s set in New York. I’ve spent so little time here, I’m excited to come and hang out, and get to know the city a little bit.
I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which is a big metropolitan area that doesn’t feel very southern. It has one of the largest naval bases in the world. So it’s more of city life.
SY: Did growing up on the beach influence your decision to have the Brogens’ house on the beach?
JB: Yeah, Virginia Beach is a beach town. I was kind of writing about what I remembered from Virginia when I lived there. It’s a tourist town with beach houses and hotels and a tourist strip.
SY: One of the main issues the movie chronicles is Liana’s character, Kate, struggling with drug addiction, which at times puts a strain on her relationship with Nat’s character, Rusty. Did you have any knowledge or background on the subject?
JB: The relationship between the two was close to a high school relationship that I had. I fell in love with a girl who had a drug problem, and I have any other people in my life who have had drug problems. So it felt natural to talk about it.
SY: One of the other issues the film explores is Jennifer and Greg’s characters, Erica and William, having been divorced for several years. Lily’s character, Samantha, blaming her mother for the family’s separation, while Rusty still maintains a relationship with her. Do you feel that children taking sides between their parents is reflective of in modern society?
JB: It is very true to life. One of my siblings was angry at my father for many years, but I was more like Nat; I just didn’t judge. I’d drift between each household and be friendly with all of them.
It depends on how old you were when your parents got divorced. I was 16 or 17, so I always felt I had dodged the emotional bullet. But I guess I didn’t, since I made this movie. But my brother and sister were 12 and 13, so they had it much harder than I had it.
SY: The movie has played at several film festivals, including the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival and was the closing night film at the Phoenix Film Festival. What was your reaction when you found out the movie would be playing at the festivals?
JB: This whole thing has been a surreal kind of dream. It doesn’t seem real a lot of the time, because I spent a lot of years trying to do this, and thinking I would never be able to. I still wake up and pinch myself over how lucky I’ve been to have been able to do this.
I think so many people can’t fulfill their dreams a lot of the time, just because of things in their life. I just was very lucky that I was able to persevere and do that, because I’m sure there are more talented filmmakers out there who just weren’t able to do it. Either they couldn’t afford to, or they had to go home, or they just gave up. It’s just perseverance and talent. You just have to keep hitting your head against the wall until it cracks. (laughs)
SY: How have audiences who have seen the film reacted to the film?
JB: Great. When we screened it at Toronto, it was a full house, and I think it was a few thousand people. They all laughed and cried, and there were women with tissues. It was amazing. Every audience we’ve seen it with really seemed to have loved it.
Q: VOD seems to be the new platform to reach nationwide audiences for many independent films, even if they receive a limited theatrical release. Are you a fan of watching films on VOD?
JB: Yeah, I download movies on iTunes and HD to watch on my iPad all the time. I have a Blu-ray collection and a bunch of movies on my iPad. I watch a lot of those indie movies that come out the same day on iTunes.
It’s all about if you have time to go to the movies, and what you want to see. I think there’s an audience for everything; it’s just figuring out how to get it to them.
SY: In the future, would you be interested in both writing and directing films you work on?
JB: Yeah, I’m getting ready to make a movie for Fox right now, called ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ which is based on a best-selling novel by John Green. I wrote the script for ‘Pretenders,’ which I’m going to do after that. I wrote the script with Judy Cairo, who produced ‘Stuck in Love.’ So I’m booked for two, and hopefully I get to keep working after that.
‘The Fault in Our Stars’ is a young adult novel by John Green, who’s a very famous novelist, and has a very strong online presence. He does YouTube videos with his brother that millions of people watch.
He wrote this beautiful book about two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. It’s very snarky and cynical and funny, and says interesting things about life and death. We cast Shailene Woodley from ‘The Descendants’ in that. We’re going to shoot that in Pittsburgh, staring on August 26.
When I came to this one, the script was already on the table. The guys who wrote ‘(500) Days of Summer’ (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) adapted the script. It was such a beautiful script, I really wanted to do it. I was really lucky that Fox liked the movie, and let me do it.
Then I’m going to go make ‘Pretenders’ with Michael B. Jordan. He’s (currently) in ‘Fruitvale Station,’ which was a huge indie film at Sundance and Cannes this year. Immogen Poots, a brilliant British actress, is also in it, as well as Anton Yelchin from ‘Like Crazy.’ That’s a darker film, kind of like ‘Carnal Knowledge.’ It’s about two guys who meet in college in the early ‘80s and fall in the love with the same girl. It follows them over a decade.
SY: Do you enjoy working such up and coming actors, like in ‘Stuck in Love’ and ‘Pretenders?’
JB: I just love actors. I wrote ‘Pretenders’ for Immogen, as I met her during the casting process for this movie, and we became good friends. I wanted to direct something for her.
You just meet people who inspire you or who you think you know how to utilize them as an actor to get a good performance out of them. I have another project that I’ll do with Nat at some point. You try to find people you’re friends with. Since you spend a lot of time making a movie, you want to work with people you like.
SY: Would you be interested in doing a follow-up to ‘Stuck in Love,’ to see where the family ends up?
JB: I don’t know; maybe if it was successful and people liked it enough. But I’d wait 10, 15 years. It might be interesting to see them that much further down the road.
SY: Are there any lessons you learned from ‘Stuck in Love’ that you would take to your next projects?
JB: I learned how to work fast, since we only shot in 20 days. I learned how to work under the gun very quickly, which I guess was the biggest thing. I have way more days to shoot the next one, so it’s almost like a reprieve, after having to do this one so quickly.
‘The Fault in Our Stars’ is a studio movie for Fox, and it’s a completely different experience than an independent film. It’s fantastic and great, but both are just different.
SY: Do you think doing an independent film for your first project taught you, or helped you learn, how to direct and write?
JB: Yeah, I think so, especially learning how to work with actors. I’ll do independent films again. ‘Pretenders’ with Immogen is an independent film. Then I’m probably going to do a studio film based on a Stephen King book. It’s all exciting, so we’ll see what happens.
SY: Are there any particular actors who you would enjoy working with in the future?
JB: Jack Nicholson is certainly my favorite actor. I also love all those actors from the ‘70s, like De Niro and Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. Those were the kinds of movies I loved as a kid. I also think Ryan Gosling’s a genius.
The actors I really want to work with I am getting to work with. I really wanted to work with Immogen and Michael B. Jordan and Shailene Woodley. So I was trying to find material and opportunities to work with those people.
Written by: Karen Benardello