While people are shaped by their past experiences and relationships in life, the idea of forgiving those who have wronged us and letting the past be the past is something that a lot of people can relate to. This all-to-important issue is a major motivating factor in many of the actions of the main characters in the new comedy drama ‘Peace, Love & Understanding,’ which hits select theaters and VOD tomorrow.
‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’ follows uptight Manhattan lawyer Diane (Catherine Keener), who decides to visit her hippie mother Grace (Jane Fonda) in Woodstock for the first time in 20 years, after her husband Mark (Kyle MacLachlan) asks for a divorce. Diane brings her two teenage children, Jake (Nat Wolff) and Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), who have never met their grandmother before. What’s meant to be a weekend getaway turns into a summer adventure of romance, music, family secrets and self-discovery, as Diane and the kids learn to adapt to Grace’s hippie lifestyle. Along the way, the family finds love in Woodstock-Diane with carpenter-songwriter Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose impulsive ways contradict Diane’s demeanor; Jake connects with local teen Tara (Marissa O’Donnelll) as he shoots a movie and Zoe falls for butcher Cole (Chace Crawford), even though his job goes against her vegetarian beliefs.
Keener and Morgan generously took the time to sit down with us recently during a roundtable interview at New York City’s Regency Hotel. The two discussed, among other things, what it was like working with two-time Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford, two-time Oscar winner Fonda and the locals in Woodstock, and how they relate to their characters’ rebellion.
Question (Q): Jeffrey, you live in New Paltz?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (JDM): No, I live outside of Rhinebeck. I bought a house there after the movie. I love it.
Catherine Keener (CK): Yeah, I remember that.
JDM: A little log cabin.
Q: Because of the movie?
JDM: Yeha, I fell in love with the Hudson Valley. It’s not as cool-Catherine had a killer house while we were up there.
CK: For some reason, I got the best house.
JDM: It’s way cooler.
CK: Jane said, this is the best house.
JDM: Yeah, Jane moved like six times. (laughs)
CK: She did. For some reason, I got a really cool house.
Q: What was so cool about it?
JDM: The view is really cool.
CK: The neighbor’s dogs were always around. It was really pretty, and there was a porch. All the stuff you’d want in a house over the summer while you’re filming.
JDM: A good fire pit, for bringing the guests over. It had a good pond, that I went boating in. Catherine had parties every weekend, so it was good. We had a good time.
Q: How long did the film take to shoot?
JDM: Seventeen years. (laughs)
Q: How much of that was partying?
JDM: Sixteen of them. (laughs) No, how long did it take?
CK: A couple months, three months.
Q: What was Bruce Beresford like to work with? Is he good with actors?
JDM: He’s great.
CK: He’s perfect. He’s the most gracious. We can’t say enough about him.
JDM: Yeah, it’s kind of why we all wanted to do the movie, because of Bruce. You won’t meet a sweeter guy. He really knows how to talk to us actors.
CK: He also pulls no punches, which is great. He’s credible, and his way is what should be done. It’s so appropriate. You want someone to be honest and give advice.
JDM: Remember when we would say, Bruce, what did you think of that scene? All you would hear is, uhhh…(laughs) You’d know, oh, we probably should do that one again. But he’s fantastic, and brings a certain amount of fun and niceness to every scene.
His wife and son were there a lot, too. So we had a big sense of family while we were doing it. When you do a movie like this, it’s a nice thing to have.
Q: Was it a ’60s throw-back feel? Was that important that he had that instilled on the set?
CK: I think Bruce just sort of works that way. I think he was that effect on his crew and his actors. I think that’s what he wants to do, but he’s just naturally like that. He brought a lot of good feelings to the set. He always works with his cinematographer (Andre Fleuren), who’s fantastic and a good, old friend.
Q: Do both of you have hippie sensibilities that were engrained in you, or did they come out while you were making the film?
JDM: Jane does, certainly. (laughs)
CK: She doesn’t say that she’s a hippie. I think she’s coming late to the party, because she enjoyed the part because of that. She enjoyed learning. There were a lot of people with music, and she was taking it all in, loving it. She had a good time, we all had a good time. But I think the part really allowed her to broaden her horizons. But she’s a tremendous person.
Q: How did you bond as mother and daughter? Did you hang out before?
CK: We were friends, we started a friendship. We hung out a little bit, but not like when we got to the place. I don’t know how we bonded, it was so easy. She’s so loving.
Q: Can you talk about working with the locals? It seemed like a lot of this movie was populated with the locals. Is there anything you learned from them?
JDM: Yeah. Clothes are optional in Woodstock. (laughs) I think that the protest stuff and the party at Jane’s were really populated with Woodstock locals. I think they bring an authenticity to that. That’s kind of who they are, which is awesome. There’s a lot of love in those people, more so than in other people you meet. I think people live in Woodstock…
CK:…for those reasons.
JDM: That’s exactly right. They have either lived there their whole life, or they moved there to be part of that Woodstock vibe. What you see is what you get.
Working with them is great. We spent a lot of time laughing, and having such a great time, on this movie. The movie was really set by Bruce and Jane. But it’s sort of infectious, and a lot of that has to do with the locals in the movie, too.
CK: There are generalizations about people who come from New York who have this perception of Californians, and people like me, who have a perception of people in Woodstock. When you get there, it might be true, but then when you get, it’s not so much the stereotype that’s in your head. It’s actually kind of wonderful that that really exists. It was actually nice that all that stuff in my head was unfounded. (laughs)
Q: Did Jane talk about that time, the ’60s, and Woodstock, or politics?
CK: No, not really, because she was out of the country during the time. I don’t think that was really her thing. She was really generous with anything. She’s a free thinker and a free person. It’s really great and inspiring to be around someone like her.
Q: There’s a lot in the story that revolves around generations, and what’s passed down from a mother to a daughter. Do you identify more with either Jane’s character, your character or Elizabeth Olsen’s character? Is there anything that you would have done differently, in terms of dealing with the teenage rebellion, as a parent?
CK: I could probably identify most with the character that I play, ironically, because I would never think that. But in terms of emotions and what you’re talking about, yeah, the teenage rebellion was extremely strong.
Here’s resolution, and you’re extreme with some things, and not as extreme with others. But no way do I share any kind of political views with that character. (laughs) But I think they’re all kind of rebellious characters, all three generations of women.
Q: What was it like working with Elizabeth on her first film, and where do you see her in the future?
CK: I see what’s happening, which is all great things. I think it shows that she’s a great, great person.
JDM: It’s the first time I had ever done a table read in my life. I called my agent, and said, there’s this little girl, Lizzie Olsen, and you have to sign her right now.
Q: Did they sign her?
JDM: No. (laughs) I never talk to my agents, so they probably thought that I was lying. (laughs)
CK: She’s good, you can see it. I think the valley took us all on on this trip.
JDM: We all kind of liked each other. I think (producer) Claude (Dal Farra) put together a great group of people with Bruce, and put us in an environment where they could do their thing. It was safe for all of us.
Q: Catherine, how much did you draw on your experiences with your mom, and being a parent?
CK: With my mom, I think all of us have strong, potent feelings about mothers. It was easy to draw on my own personal ones that I probably wouldn’t talk about. But there’s that yearning for that type of love, a mother’s love. If you don’t experience or feel it, and you can, I think it’s kind of a shame, when so many kids can’t.
I felt pretty hard on her, I think she should have came around. It’s ridiculous, but I’ve seen people do it, I’ve seen grudges kept for lifetimes.
JDM: That’s why you had Jude.
CK: That’s exactly right, that’s why I had you.
JDM: I couldn’t have been in this movie, if she figured it out on her own. (laughs) Movie’s over before it starts. (laughs)
Q: Jeffrey, did you have other scenes with Jane that didn’t make the movie?
JDM: I don’t remember, I don’t think so. We shot this a couple years ago, but I guess I didn’t.
Q: It’s great that people can see you in this role, as sort of a laid-back hippie, and then in ‘Magic City,’ you’re in the Mob.
CK: Oh, you spoiled it for me! (laughs)
Q: Now that the season has aired, how do you find out what people are thinking? Do you read blogs on the Internet?
Q: What is the main thing that people have been saying about this season and the second season, since it’s been renewed?
JDM: I don’t know, because I don’t read that kind of stuff. It scares me, there’s too many opinions out there, so I stay away from that. But I’m very proud of what we did, and I’m excited for Season 2. If I read everything everyone was writing about it, I’d go insane.
But what I know from the people I know, whose opinions I respect, everyone’s really liking the show, and I guess that’s good enough for me. Except Catherine, she hasn’t seen it yet.
It’s a complete departure from, say, Jude. As an actor, it’s what you dream about doing.
Q: Speaking of TV, is it true Catherine that you’re doing something for ‘The Big C?’
CK: What’s ‘The Big C?’
JDM: (laughs) I guess that answers that question.
Q: The show with Oliver Platt and Laura Linney on Showtime, and she has cancer.
CK: No, I’m not doing that. I’m doing a pilot for HBO, in theory, that Charlie Kaufman’s doing.
JDM: That’s awesome.
Q: Can you talk about it?
CK: I would if I knew what it was. (laughs) I can’t talk about it because I’m not allowed to, I can’t talk about it because I can’t be articulate about it. I’m sure it’s going to be amazing writing.
Q: Catherine, Jane represents so many things to so many people. What does she represent to you, and are there any performances that you enjoy?
CK: Yeah, ‘Klute,’ obviously, all of them. ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ I know all her movies. For me, she was this European actress, who was American. She didn’t have this mindset that was narrowly fed from our country. As an actress and and American, she had a scope that was different from other actresses from the States.
She’s unique, and had a lot of things to say. She said them, and I respected that. She speaks from her heart, and has since I’ve been aware of her. She’s a feminist, and a lot of things that I respect in a person and as an actress, and I look up to her. She’s gorgeous and amazing.
Written by: Karen Benardello