People’s lives often drastically evolve as they begin to get married, and those changes can often intriguingly infiltrate such diverse areas as their friendships, careers and opinions on life’s biggest moral debates. If the personality and actions of even one person’s spouse leave ramifications on the lives on everyone closest to them, almost everyone will understandably want to take radical actions against them, even if they’re well aware of the dire consequences that may face them as a result. Actor Scott Foley enthrallingly and comically showcased the amusing, yet equally problematic, consequences of what happens when close families and friends are driven to take drastic and life-altering measures in his feature film writing, directing and producing debuts on the new comedy, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife.’
Now playing on VOD and iTunes, and set to open in select theaters on Friday, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife’ follows the tile character (Donald Faison) as he tries to contend with the emotional abuse he regularly endures from his wife, Stacy (Dagmara Dominczyk), which has only become worse since the birth of their son. While she doesn’t find anything wrong with belittling her husband, even in front of his friends, including Tom (Foley), David (Patrick Wilson) and Ronnie (James Carpinello), he becomes increasingly more determined to find a way to stop her abuse and enjoy his life again.
After Ward’s friends joke around about how much all of their lives would be if they killed Stacy and never dealt with her spiteful attacks again as a result, David determinedly sets out to find ways on how to get away with murder. While Tom and Ronnie later rebuff David’s further suggestions they go through with their impromptu plan, Tom accidentally does end up killing Ward’s wife during a party, after she harrasingly questioned him about his own marriage. While Tom and even Ward then contentedly follow some of the suggestions David found online to hide Stacy’s body, Ronnie is the only one who expressions serious doubts about their cover-up of the crime. Despite his constant concerns, the friends genuinely seem happier now without Stacy in their lives, even though their participation in her death will now forever threaten their futures.
Foley generously took the time recently to discuss starring in, as well as writing, directing and producing, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmaker and actor discussed how he decided to pen and helm his feature film, after directing episodes for several television series, and based the story on the fact that after he and several of his close friends got married, they found themselves growing apart, as they started focusing more on their families than their friendships; how he tried to balance each harrowing moment about the hostility within the friends’ marriages with moments of levity, because even though he took the topic of domestic abuse seriously, he wanted to emphasize how the friends were able to support each other through those difficult times with comedy; and how it was important to him to have Carpinello’s character harbor guilt over the group’s involvement in, and be the voice of reason over, their cover-up of Stacy’s murder, because most of the story’s comedy comes from how everyone else is on board with covering up her death, and how their lives become better because of it.
ShockYa (SY): You made your feature film writing debut with the new comedy, ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife.’ How did you decide to pen a script that chronicles how relationships change after they get married, and how the person you marry not only affects your life, but also the lives of the people closest to you?
Scott Foley (SF): Well, I’ve been acting in the entertainment industry for almost 20 years. I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors and people I’ve looked up to, from J.J. Abrams (who co-created, wrote, executive produced and directed ‘Felicity’) to David Mamet (who wrote, executive produced and directed ‘The Unit’) to Shonda Rhimes (who writes and produces ‘Scandal’).
Throughout my career, I’ve been able to occasionally switch hats, and write and direct some episodes for some television networks. I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to have a bit more freedom. So writing my screenplay, and then being able to direct it myself, was the next logical step, at least in my mind. I’m not sure if it was the smartest thing to do. (laughs)
The idea for the film came about during a time in my life a few years ago where I was married and had a new baby, and some of my close friends were doing the same thing. But we found ourselves growing apart from each other, and I didn’t really understand what was happening. It’s hard for men at a certain age to make new friends, so we want to hold onto the ones we have.
But we were starting to fracture, and during that time, I heard someone say, “I recently lost a close friend of mine. He got his finger caught in a wedding ring.” I thought, oh, that’s what’s happening! We’re all going off and forming our own lives and families, and these friendships were becoming less important. So I thought that was an interesting emotional place to write a film about.
Then about two weeks later, I looked up at this script that I had. Instead of it being a sweet, touching film I initially had in mind, it was a dark, twisted and during some parts, gruesome, dry comedy. (laughs) I liked it, even though it wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s not necessarily the tone I usually respond to in scripts and films, but it was this honest portrayal of this idea I had.
I then gave it to a couple friends who I was sure were going to crucify me, but they really enjoyed it. Then we set on the path to make the film come to fruition.
SY: Like you mentioned, the film deals with the serious subject matter of people becoming more focused on their family lives, at expense of their friendships. The movie also showcases how the murder of Ward’s wife, Stacy, affects all the characters’ relationship. So why did you feel it was important to incorporate dark comedy into the story’s serious subject matter, and how did you balance the two?
SF: That was very important to me, to be honest-I’m glad you noticed it. I tried to balance each horrific, hard-to-watch moment with a moment of levity. While writing the script, I made sure all those elements were compatible. It was a difficult balance sometimes, because what’s funny about killing a woman? Well, there’s not a whole lot that is funny, which is why he licks the cake off his hand after he does it. So there was a comedic moment right there.
I wanted to make sure, as ridiculous as it sounds, that no one was taking this seriously, as it is a comedy. Even though it has heavy subject matter, and everything society is dealing with today, in regards to domestic abuse and violence, it is a comedic film. There is this man in the movie who’s being emotionally and verbally abused by his wife, and that’s a serious subject. The way the subject is dealt with in the story is done in a serious matter. But if I could add moments of levity, it might make it easier to watch and understand.
SY: Besides writing and directing the comedy, you also star as Tom, one of Ward’s friends. Why did you want to also appear in the film as Tom? How did writing, directing and starring in the movie all influence each other while you were filming?
SF: Well, my initial intention, believe it or not, was to not be in the film at all. I only wanted to direct and work on the behind-the-scenes making of the film, so I could focus more on those aspects. But as we got into the casting process, there was a lot we were looking for, not just who could play the part correctly. There’s also an end game scenario, in needing someone who could help market the film, and means something to audiences and a distributor.
The name that my producers kept coming back to me with was my own, so at a certain point, I had to say, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I’m glad I did, because it was a ton of fun.It also allowed me to take some of the weight off of my shoulders as a director. I was able to step away from directing for a moment, and be in the scene and the character. That allowed me to really be a part of the group.
Being the writer and director and one one of the main actors was hugely influential on each other. I was mainly working with close friends and family. I’m blessed to have a really talented group of people surrounding me in my life. I also know that having them know me as well as they do would help me artistically and logistically on the set. They knew the difficulties of making the film in 12 days without a lot of money.
It was a challenge to move from one role to the next. I always had to keep an eye on the script as the writer, while also paying attention to the character development as the actor, and making sure everything lined up as the director. I was exhausted, and lost about 15 pounds while shooting this film.
SY: Since this is a family and friend-driven story, how important was it for you to feature your friends and family in the film? What was the casting process like for the rest of the actors?
SF: Well, when I first started giving the script to my friends, I first gave it to James Carpinello, who plays Ronnie, and Patrick Wilson, who’s my brother-in-law. Obviously, Patrick and I send a lot of time together, being family. The two of them have known each other for years. They both really liked the script, and wanted to be a part of it.
When we were talking about making the film, and finding the right people to be a part of it, there were a couple of things that came into play. First, we needed the right people to play the roles. So we thought about who we knew in our combined years in the industry, and who we thought would be the right fit. Secondly, we also had to find people who would be amenable to being in a film like this. There are a lot of successful actors who wouldn’t necessarily sign up for a film with a budget like this, without a trailer or good catering. (laughs) So that came into play, so we had to find the right actors who were willing and able to do it.
It was difficult at times to make the film with family and friends. There’s a shorthand you develop together in your everyday lives. Also, no one’s opinion is more or less important than anyone else’s. So on the set, there has to be one person who has a clear vision of how things are going to go. Making that transition with your wife (Dominczyk’s sister, Marika, who played Amanda in the film) and your closest friends can be challenging. But I found it to be very rewarding, and everyone was very respectful of this process and of me and the words I had written. They also respected the ideas and tone I had for the film. So I was glad that we did it that way.
SY: Also speaking of James, his character, Ronnie, appears to be the only friend in the group who harbors any remorse or guilt over their involvement in their cover-up of Stacy’s murder. Why did you feel it was important to have at least one character have doubts about their actions? Do you think that since Ronnie’s the only friend in the group who doesn’t have a family, he isn’t thinking about the ramifications to his friends’ families if they confess their crime?
SF: That aspect was very important to me. I think that most of the comedy comes from how mostly everyone is on board with covering up the murder, and how their lives become better because of it. There’s something to be said about how a tragedy can ultimately lead to something good for a lot of people.
But there needed to be that voice of reason in the film, and that’s what James’ character is. I think for the people who think, how can that happen, and what are they doing, Ronnie’s the character they’re going to relate to. I wanted to make sure that the people who felt that way had an outlet, and felt justified in a certain way.
Honestly, what these people are doing is abominable, ridiculous and horrific, even though it might be what ultimately saves a couple marriages and friendships. What they do is a terrible thing, so to not have someone in the film realize that wouldn’t be an honest representation. That’s what I wanted to make sure we had.
SY: You also made your feature film producing debut with ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ and you shot the movie independently. How did filming the comedy independently on a short shooting schedule influence the way you approached your job as a producer, but also as the director, writer and one of the main actors?
SF: Since we were working on such a tight budget and schedule, I did things differently than if I had millions of dollars to shoot the film. One of the hardest things for me was not being able to move the camera. That’s a big deal in films. When you watch almost all television shows and films now, there are sweeping shots, or shots that have a slow pull away, or move in some way. But I wasn’t able to do that. We had a camera and a tripod, but we didn’t have a dolly or any cranes.
So for me, the big challenge was to stage the film in a static frame, in such a way that it was still alive, and smooth enough for viewers to watch. I worked very hard with my DP (Director of Photography) and cameraman, Eduardo Barraza, to make sure that we weren’t stuck in one pattern. We also worked to make sure that the frame was composed in such a way that there was enough movement, and viewers didn’t get bored watching it. I think we achieved that.
Also being a producer on the film was a big help, because it allowed me to go through the process of making sure the script was right, as well as finding the financing and locations, and hiring the make-up, wardrobe and other departments. It helped with the overall look and feel that I wanted to achieve for the film as the director. So I was grateful to be able to do both, even though it was a huge amount of work.
I’ve worked with producers for years, but never truly understood what their job entailed. It is so all-encompassing, and I’m glad I had the chance to experience it.
SY: The film is set to open in select theaters in New York and L.A. (this Friday, January 9), and is currently available on iTunes and VOD. Why do you think the VOD platform is beneficial for independent movies like this one?
SF: Yes, I think getting people to go to theaters these days is tough, especially with DVRs, On Demand platforms and everything else that’s available to viewers to watch films on. That’s why you’re even seeing large studios give up on small and mid-level budget films, because it’s hard to drive an audience to theaters. They’re making big blockbusters, and that’s really about it these days.
So I think to get more viewers for small and independent films, you have to go where people are, and people are at home. For people to have the convenience to sit on the couch and turn on their TVs is a great way to get original, independent films like this one out there. I think also doing a theatrical release is important, to a degree, but more people are going to see the movie On Demand than in theaters. I think that’s how this should be.
SY: You have acted and directed both films and episodes on television. How does performing and helming in both mediums compare and contrast overall? Do you have a preference of working in one medium over the other, or do you enjoy working in both mediums?
SF: I’m so grateful to be doing what I do. I’ve made my living in this industry for quite a while now. I think the era we’re in right now with television is amazing. I think the writing, acting and all of the talent that’s in television is really incredible.
I think television had a bad rap for a long time, but that’s turning around now. For me, it doesn’t matter; it’s all the same thing. As an actor, I’m standing in front of the camera, whether it’s for a television show or a film. I’m honest with the words that I’m given, and overall, acting is an amazing experience.
I also enjoy being a filmmaker, particularly a director, whether I’m doing television or film. So far, my only experience directing a film has been with this one, for which we had a tiny budget and 12 days to shoot. It was made with family and friends, and it was a fun experience.
There’s a lot more pressure when you’re making a television program, where you have huge budgets behind you, as well as a lot of producers, studios and networks. You have line producers who say, “We have to make the day in 10-12 hours,” or however long you have. So this film was somewhat freeing to not have all those people looking over me, saying “Do it this way or that way.
But on the other hand, because there weren’t all those people, I was the one who had to say, “We have to do this like this.” So there was a different kind of pressure as the director, but I would take either one any day. I love what I do and this business, and the fact that people get to see my work, and are impacted by it, is amazing.
SY: Besides ‘Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife,’ do you have any upcoming film or television projects, whether acting, writing, directing and/or producing, lined up that you can discuss?
SF: I have a couple of ideas I’ve been working on, and I’ve had some financiers reach out to me about a few of them. But right now, I’m focusing on my family-my wife recently had our third child. So between that and working on ‘Scandal’ full time, I’m wiped. (laughs) I’m also in the process of writing a TV show (the marriage comedy ‘To Max & Paige’) for ABC with Shonda Rhimes’ production company, ShondaLand.
So I have my hands full right now, but I would love to try my hand at directing another film, especially after everything I was able to learn on this one. I know so much more now, which is the beauty of doing this; every time you do this, you learn something new.
Written by: Karen Benardello