MUSIC AND LYRICS: An Interview with Director/ Screenwriter Marc Lawrence
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MUSIC AND LYRICS
February 12, 2007
Outside of a few directors, there aren’t that many people who are given the option of directing their own screenplay, unless it’s an independent film with less hands-on producers. Marc Lawrence is one of the lucky ones, as he’s written and directed films starring two of today’s biggest stars, Sandra Bullock (Two Weeks Notice) and Hugh Grant, with Grant being the recipient of his latest project, the romantic comedy “Music and Lyrics”. In “Music and Lyrics”, a washed up singer (Grant) is given a couple days to compose a chart-topping hit for an admiring teen sensation. Though he's never written lyrics in his life, he sparks with an offbeat younger woman (Barrymore) with a flair for words. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Lawrence talks about the music in the film and getting Hugh Grant to do his own singing.
What do you think about the poster because it is so odd to have a poster where their eyes are not looking at the viewer?
Marc Lawrence: I take full responsibility for the poster. This poster this picture is actually based on a shot on Lennon and McCartney while they were working on the album Abbey Road and it was a shot of almost exactly this it was McCartney with a pad on his lap and lyrics down there and Lennon next to him and I think they were switched McCartney on this side and Lennon on that side. Lennon sort of laughing at what McCartney was doing their eyes not meeting and when we did the photo shoot I gave the photographer that picture and I said I definitely want at least one of these.
What was it called?
ML: It was while they were working on Abbey Road it was the Beatles in 69’. What I really like about it was two songwriters at work and there was nothing at least to me Schmaltzy or set up about the shot. I happened to do one of those and then we went through several permutations of what the poster would be and this was one that I really...
Did you get any resistance from the studio were they worried at all? Did they want them both smiling laughing looking at the people?
ML: I would say that there was that discussion. Yeah I think there was that discussion but I felt really strongly about this and I think you know people are smart. They are really clear on Hugh (Grant) and Dew (Barrymore) and I don’t think there is any chance they would look at this poster and think they will be seeing a horror film. You know what is the poster to Annie Hall?
Is that really Hugh Grant singing?
How did that work out? Who knew? He didn’t!
ML: He didn’t! I mean the only time I heard Hugh sing was when everyone heard him sing I guess About a Boy. He told me I don’t sing, I don’t play piano and I’m not musical. I don’t believe him when he says he can’t do things. That’s really what it is. I think it was terrifying for him on some level but I think he could probably speak for himself that he enjoyed aspects of this more than he would doing just a strait forward Romantic Comedy because it was such a challenge. When he decided to do it the training was intense he was really really determined to do it right. And his version of doing it right was that other musicians would watch him play and watch him sing and watch him perform and say I buy that. Because there were a lot of musicians involved in the making of this movie the songwriters and the vocal coaches and the piano people it was very important to him that they said yeah that’s the way it looks. He just worked, preproduction he was here way before taking dancing lessons, singing lessons and piano lessons and preproduction we would shoot Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday he would go record and work on Piano. I think it was torture for him and I think he really enjoyed it.
He holds the microphone correctly, which is really hard to do.
ML: He does hold the microphone correctly and you’re absolutely right it’s unbelievable how much training it takes. Because your natural instinct if you’re not a performer is to sing and do this and have the microphone out here, we have a couple things for that.
The opening scene with the Pop video is hilarious and then you have the much more deep songs in the end? Were you involved in the writing of that or did you get song writers? How did you SPACE what kind of message wanted to…..
ML: It was a really interesting process. I mean I wrote a little bit there is this song that Hugh plays in the piano store to Drew is something that I wrote. The rest of it, it was a long process.
The one about the Autopsy?
ML: Yeah, Love Autopsy was a song I wrote in college but I changed the words for this movie. I am a bad musician. I was aspiring musician and come from a family of musicians and if I was better at that I would be doing that. When I finished the script it was very clear to me that there was a Sealling on how enjoyable the movie could be if the songs weren’t going to work. And it was a big challenge to sort be making a musical to say you are going to have six original songs. I listened to hundreds of songs that the studio was nice enough to forward to me and they were from many professional songwriters some of them you heard of. And then I said thanks now that I heard those I want to go with the person I originally wanted to go with which is Adam Shlessinger. They weren’t against that they just said would you listen and I said sure. Adam is the songwriter or a co-songwriter for a band called Fountains Wanes my favorite band. Then I went to Adam and one other guy named Andrew Whyith who wrote Pop Goes My Heart, Buddha’s Delight, and all the Cora songs in the movie. He and Adam did the brunt of the songwriting and the only other songwriter did the song Dance With Me Tonight which Hugh sings at the amusement park and that was written….
During the Encore?
ML: Yes that was by my son, who is 13years old.
Now Adam [Shlessinger] wrote that thing you do?
ML: Adam wrote that thing you do.
How did your thirteen-year-old son get involved in this film?
ML: Well he’s a freak, he is a musical freak he actually wrote the theme song for Miss Congeniality when he was 7 years old. He is also doing there is a montage piece were Hugh and Drew are separated towards the end of the movie, that’s him playing the piano there. No one would believe this but I wouldn’t have done this if he wasn’t really good and I was looking for songs for that spot and he written them so.
And your thirteen-year-old son’s name is?
ML: Clyde Lawrence.
Has he had any resentment over being named Clyde?
ML: No why? No he’s named Clyde after why do you think he is named Clyde after Clyde Barrel?
I always think of Clyde for some reason as a cow.
ML:A cow no! Clyde was if you are a New York basketball fan there was a very very basketball player, Walt Frazier and he was always my favorite player and so Clyde was famous name.
And there was Bonnie and Clyde?
ML:Yes there was Bonnie and Clyde
And Clyde the Glyde?
ML: Clyde the Glyde and the river Clyde in Scotland which I didn’t know.
I want to ask you about Haley Bennett that’s the girl who plays Cora right? I think she was great! She was very funny and could have come of looking really stupid but I got the whole Britney Spears THING going? About casting Heirs I’m sure you must have gotten thousands of them?
ML: The most surprising aspect of the whole casting process for me was Haley because you would have thought or I would have thought going in Okay I wrote it for Hugh and the first person we sent it to was Drew and that’s great then Kristen and Brad and all those people who are terrific and make sense. I thought the easiest thing to cast is going to be this Britney Spears type girl because there must be thousands certainly in regards to L.A, thousands of girls who look like that and could sing a little bit and it was the hardest part in the movie cast. Basically, the problem was I saw a lot of talented young women around that age but they have been schooled so that you had these nineteen or twenty year old divas and they were incredibly professional they could dance they could sing they looked great. But it felt like when you see child actors and you realize someone has gotten to them and it’s over, it’s gone. I knew that wondering in the Cora character was you know that nineteen or twenty year old diva who’s very bossy and full of her self and I thought A, the more cliché way to go and B, I don’t think the movie would work as well because at the end you have to like Cora on some level. You can think she was Daffy or out of it but you have to have some empathy for her and you would have to believe that she would care enough about Hugh and Drew’s Characters to let him sing that song. And Haley walked in and I don’t know if she has done anything. I’m sure she’s done something before this but I don’t know what other roles.
The Bio says nothing.
ML: Nothing okay. So she walked in and it was the first time that the whole zen thing actually made me laugh and I just believed it and it was totally pure. We called her to come to New York and I think she was completely freaked out by the thing. We went down to the last round of casting and I’m sure she won’t get upset if I told you I brought her to the room and Hugh and Drew and she never met Hugh and Drew and she just walked in took a look at them kind of lost it and turned around and walked right back out. And she thought that she had last the part because of that and I said exactly the upset it was the first time anything real happening and she was great. You know there were other bigger names that have been forwarded to me but I said look I think she looks the way…
Did you consider Britney Spears for this film?
ML: No, no you know it had been brought up. I think if it was her or any of those women if they have done it I think it would have taken you out of the film which was my sense of it.
Rather than make it more real that this is really the Pop Diva.
I had Pop as a collision Wham and Tears for Fears. Tell me what you had in mind?
ML: Yeah it was Wham mostly.
Was Andrew Ridgley ever making a cameo in this movie?
ML: It amazes me how many people know Andrew Ridgley. The script should be about himself the Andrew Ridgley Story. I never spoke to them I never contacted them.
Because of legal reasons?
ML: No. There was the party that happened at Cora’s place towards the end of the movie we filtered with the idea of bringing pop stars, Hugh knows Elton John and we tried to do all those things and it just was one of those things that never worked out.
How did you come up with the Hugh Grant video in the beginning of the film?
ML: I have no idea. Certainly I looked at the Wake Me Up Before You Go Go video a couple times as you can tell. That was the one I used as a model. I looked at a bunch of 80’s videos and they run that whole strange gamut from things that look like they were shot in somebody’s garage to the Talking Heads videos, which was just fantastic. It’s interesting Because it’s right on the edge both things were happening simultaneously no production value and no thought and then little perfect kind of mini movies happening.
What’s your view on show business do you think you are saying as they a pathetic slide to near oblivion if you doing Great Adventure and Nutsberry Farm and this is your career to recycle for the next forty years what you did before twenty?
ML: You know I don’t think it is. It’s interesting; Hugh and I had a lot of discussions about character and about exactly that question. And it was interesting because when I sent the script out there were a couple of song writers who, ones that I really like and admire they said their favorite thing in the script was the line in the record store scene where Hugh said you know I was away for a long time but then I came back and the audience was a little older and so was I but we were very happy to see each other and that resonated with its interesting a lot of song writers said they loved that line. I loved the Monkeys I have gone to see Monkey shows and people say oh god he is ridiculous trotting out you know I am a believer again. On the other hand there’s a lot worse things to be doing in the world. You know your playing those songs and people love them and there happy what Drew says in Adventure Land at that moment to him is something I actually believe because not everybody is going to be Lennon and McCartney.
But doesn’t he sort of repudiate that at the end saying I wasn’t happy just doing this with my life I should have been trying?
Yeah the thing is this is exactly the discussion Hugh and I had and go back and forth and I don’t think we ever completely agreed. Because I said my feeling was that if Drew’s character had never came into his life if he could of kept going to Great Adventure he would have been fine and there is nothing wrong with that life. Then of course there is the other side of it that there was apart of him that when he was twenty or twenty five aspired to be Lennon or McCartney or aspired to be whoever you hold up in that pantheon and that when you stop reaching for that you lost an essential part of yourself. If you know every time you sit down to write a movie whatever movie you love if I think god I watched Broadcast News and I think god its perfect and beautiful and I f each time you sit down and write your not trying to do that not tell that story I think you stop being the writer should. You may never get there but the pursuit is worthwhile so I think that what does happen to him. But personally for me people doing those shows I think it’s great and wonderful.
What are you working on now?
ML: I’m going to spend a couple of weeks in Mt. Sinai hospital after this is finished recuperating. We are actually still mixing the picture after we are done here we go back I know what you guys saw did not have and I am sorry you didn’t see it we repeat the pop video. You remember Pop-up-video we basically did that and I wrote a bunch of stuff sort of a tracking of what happened to the characters and I am sorry you couldn’t see it we just technically couldn’t finish it in time for a screening for you guys. There are three or four things that I have floating around in my head and that I find at this point in post-production the only thing that is keeping me sane. Thinking of the next thing you are going to write.
Anything with Sandra Bullok again?
ML: I would love to work with Sandra. I have a couple of things and I told her about one and I just love her and she is great and I miss her.
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