Jake Scott: "I cast Kristen because she was so genuine and authentic."

HeyUGuys: It’s obviously a very character-driven film and at times I felt that it was remarkably natural, as if any sense of a set script had been stripped away. Were Gandolfini and Stewart actually given free reign in regards to improvisation?

Jake Scott: First of all, thank you for saying that. It’s a massive compliment, actually. It’s so interesting to me how the British have responded to this film compared to the American critics. It’s weird. It’s like they just seem to get it more. I found with American critics there almost wasn’t enough emotional guidance or something, you know? It’s interesting. Yeah, with actors like that you find because they’re already really committed to the work that it makes the director’s life fairly easy. I really learnt on this film that you get your casting right, you don’t have to work that hard. You have the room to explore and investigate various ways and different dimensions of the character and the relationship. I mean, James is a method actor and Kristen’s not really formally trained, but the relationship they had in the film is very much the relationship they had off set. He really was her caretaker and he really guided her and when we’d come in in the morning onto set, you know, it was such a small film and there was nothing really to set up other than the scene with the actors. We would do like forty-five minutes of rehearsal on set to see how we could make it better and as a result there was a lot of improvisation. The first scene was the most improvised – Kristen improvises everything. She can be quite frustrating for a writer because she kind of just makes her own words up. She takes what’s written on the page and then just makes her own sense of it. She wouldn’t warn you she was doing that, she would just change the words. She’s very comfortable with improvisation, but the scene when he first goes to her place, the house, was almost completely improvised. When she rolls the joint, it was guided by the script, but I just let them go, it was great.

As you mentioned Gandolfini being method, I’ve heard that Stewart went slightly method, depriving herself of sleep and mainly eating junk food in preparation. Do you find it hard to come across young actors who are willing to throw themselves in that way?

Well, I haven’t really done enough to have had that problem. I guess in the actors I’ve met, young actors I’ve met, there are many who I feel don’t seem to – and this seems unfair because I haven’t worked with them. But I cast Kristen because she was so genuine and authentic. She’s been criticised for being very twitchy and there’s some negative things said about her in regards to her acting affectations, but they’re not affectations, they’re who she is and that’s how she is. And she’s very open and honest and authentic in herself and it really comes down to authenticity. And anyone who’s worth their salt and is driven by the want to do great work is always going to want to plunge themselves into something like that. The ones that are in it for, you know, the ‘other’ glories – there are many who are like that, who are driven by desire to be adored – are probably not going to go there and do that work. I cast her right and it’s really my first experience of working with somebody that young who was so determined to do justice to the girl she was playing. And she did a lot of work in New Orleans where I put her in contact with a stripper, even though you don’t really see her stripping in the film – I didn’t want to show that. I felt that the audience didn’t need to be looking at strippers, it would have felt like a cheap shot to me and there’s too many films with strippers in where the filmmaker exploits that and I felt that actually this film was about the exact opposite of exploitation. But nonetheless she felt that it was very necessary to put herself in that position and actually go to a club and strip and learn how to work a man in the VIP room, you know, all that stuff. And she did, she ate badly, chain smoked, didn’t sleep, stayed out of the sun and made herself generally really ill.

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