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March 2007
REIGN OVER ME - Cast Interviews

Reign Over Me: Press Conference with Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler and Director Mike Binder
By Niambi Sims

In Columbia Picture’s new drama Reign Over Me, former college roommates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson(Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family on 9/11, Charlie-once a successful dentist-has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend. At the same time, Alan-who should be enjoying his beautiful wife (Jada Pinkett-Smith), children and career-is overwhelmed by his responsibilities. Their rekindled relationship becomes a lifeline for the two men, who are both in need of a trusted friend at this pivotal moment in their lives. Directed by Mike Binder, who last did “The Upside of Anger”, casting Adam Sandler to play a dramatic role since “Punch Drunk Love” much have been a blessing to see him show a deeper range in acting. At a recent press conference to promote, Director Binder, Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Liv Tyler all spoke about working together on this emotional roller coaster of a film that deals with the aftermath of 9/11.

Can you talk about the idea of am I my brother’s keeper and talk about what you thought the themes of the movie were?

Mike Binder: I’m not really sure about I’m my brother’s keeper. To me the whole movie boils down to a piece about communication and kind of the restoring powers of having someone to talk to and the flip side of the damage that can slowly accumulate of not having someone to talk to.

Don Cheadle: Well it was kind of interesting to me. I personally liked that my character went from and there was a lot of debate between Jada’s character and my character in the movie that it went from a very selfish standpoint to growing and being real concerned about someone who was friend. At first it was just a way to get out of the house and escape and great excuse. No, he’s in pain. Really it was about I want to have some fun and play some video games and play drums. I thought it was a great progression from someone who was completely selfish and was really vampiring off of his needs and to realize no this is something that’s actually important.

And Adam?

Don Cheadle: Adam didn’t read the script.

Adam Sandler: I don’t know. I like what these guys said.

What was the emotional state while you were shooting the film and how did you get into that mode?

Adam Sandler: I prepared for a long time and I tried to stay as focused as I can be. It was painful to do. I know it was very important the part and to feel as much as I could so I tried to just be prepared for everyday. It wasn’t like movies I’ve done in the past where I’m laughing and having a great time on the set. It was definitely heavier.

Can you talk about how you made the issue of post traumatic stress something we could see in the film, but not to the point where it was overboard?

Adam Sandler: Wait a second Mike. You voted a particular way. I just tried to play scene to scene with what Mike had in mind.

Mike Binder: I was talking to my wife about it this morning because the job at hand for what Adam had to do was so layered in the complexity at the same time; he had to make it very simple. What I was so impressed with, right from the beginning in the early days when we started breaking down was his work ethic and his ability to just completely dive into the water and do what it took to get on the other side of this character so that he could just become this character. He would call me late at night and go, ‘Would my guy do this? Does my guy think like this?’ And I’d go, ‘Well when I’m up tomorrow I can probably answer that question.’ But there was a focus and even with all of the research there was just a focus and I think that my sense of Adam as an actor was that he had done so much footwork that by the time he got on set it wasn’t so much about okay today’s scene I have to get in this place. The footwork was there that he had to just be in each scene. It wasn’t so much about ok this is the level of PDST this day. He just put the work into so the guy felt very real to him.

Adam Sandler: I was terrified. Once I agreed to do it, I was the most scared I’d ever been. I remember talking to Don. We would rehearse on our own and at the end of our rehearsals I would say to Don, ‘Do you have any idea who your guy is yet?’ He’d say, ‘No, no.’ I was so afraid.

Mike Binder: You guys were both calling me. ‘I don’t know who my guy is.’

For Liv and Adam do you research therapy at all?

Liv Tyler: I was really excited to be playing a doctor and therapist because I’d never in my career had not been the girlfriend or the ???. So I was very nervous as well. I know it’s a small part, but it was something I took very seriously. The story as a whole touched me so much and I thought that it was so important that it was very real and not the characture of what that would be like. I actually have a shrink in New York who I love. I spent a lot of time with her, hours on end. It was weird because I was actually learning some of her tricks and it suddenly made it very weird for me. Yeah I really enjoyed it. She actually told me once that if I ever wanted to quit my day job I would be an okay shrink. I was like, ‘I think there something wrong with you saying that, but thank you so much.’

Adam did you talk to people who have lost their families?

Adam Sandler: I met a lot of people, yeah. Through therapy sessions and what people were going through. I did that, yep.

They let you come into these therapy sessions?

Adam Sandler: Yeah. Dealing with this issue. Just one on one stuff. It’s actually post traumatic stress disorder or something that these people were going through wanted it to get out into the public more so they it wasn’t easy for them. I would only come inside if they were okay with it and if they needed me to leave, I would leave, but normally they would just let me sit with them and listen. They just wanted to get the word out about what they were going through.

Does it take years to get over?

Adam Sandler: Yeah, yeah. Some people who I met are still going through it five years later. Seven years later.

Did you meet people who lost family in 9/11?

Mike Binder: Adam and I did. We weren’t looking in our research exclusively for that. This is historical fiction and we weren’t looking for a guy who lost three children. We were looking for people who have suffered a loss that they couldn’t get off the couch from several years later. We also really wanted the piece to be about people who lost people in Okalahoma City and Katrina. I wanted it to be kind of more about the movie about how we all put the spotlight on a tragedy and then the next tragedy comes up and the spotlight goes to the next one and these people are still wandering the streets still living in the first one. We talked to several people. I have to say I’m glad we did do diligence of this because I think now that we’re showing it to people that this is really close to home to. They’re seeing it as real and I don’t think if we hadn’t done the research we did then and hadn’t really worked through it, I think it would have been sad right now because I think there’s a chance for this movie to have a real healing effect. I know it’s just a movie, but I really do think there’s a side to this movie that is beyond entertainment.

Don and Jada, can you talk a little about working opposite of each other and what you feel the other brought to the table?

Don Cheadle: I had a great time working with Jada. We had a very collaborative relationship. The whole process with Adam, Liv, Jada and myself, Mike, it was a very collaborative effort. A real team effort and there wasn’t a day when we showed up on set where we just had a scene and we said, ‘Okay that’s the scene. Let’s go shoot it.’ We would always be talking about the nuances of the scene, the ways to get things out of it and kind of talking about our own relationships. ‘Okay, how do

es it down at your house? This is how it goes down at my house. How does it go down at your house so I can try to find the best way to realize this relationship?’ I’m on stage 8 and I came in and said ‘I had this exact argument last night,’ and she said, ‘I did too.’ We just had that same beef at home with our loved ones so it just felt very real and it was real comfortable to work with Jada.

Jada Pinkett Smith: It was so easy.

Which argument in the film was it?

Don Cheadle: Seeing how I have to go home tonight…

Mike Binder: I will say on this level I was lucky that my kids went to kindergarten through fifth grade to the same elementary school that Don’s kids did so I kind of knew Don for a lot of years, not as a guy in show business, I just knew him as a father with kids and a husband. To me the first call was to Jada. I never even met with another actress for the role or wanted another actress. I just love Jada. I think she’s great, but I also know that she’s a wife and a mother and I wanted that real mix. As real as we wanted Adam’s side to be and Liv’s side to be, we wanted these guys there in the morning saying, ‘No, that’s not the way it is. Here’s the way it is.’ They bring a lot as actors to the role, but they also brought a lot I think as parents and people in a marriage.

Jada Pinkett Smith: Working with Don is just like I don’t know. It was so easy. Mike, there’s a bathroom scene where you said, ‘You guys just go in there and do something,’ and we created that scene on the day. It was just so natural and so easy.

Mike Binder: And that’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie too. I love the interplay between you guys in that scene.

Jada would you see your character as being supportive of your husband or of needing support from your husband?

Jada Pinkett Smith: Janeane is very interesting because you’re dealing with a relationship where you have two people who are no longer talking. There is this riff that has been created between the two people and I think she really needed more of his support and was pretending to be supportive. I think that was the biggest problem in their relationship was that they had lost the sense of honesty and they’ve grown apart. They really didn’t know each other anymore which is one of the reasons I was really attracted to the movie. The overall message of the of movie of this friendship and the idea of loss and these two people who have lost something and how through their friendship, they confront their losses and then they can learn to see the other side of the loss. Adam’s character being able to see that there might be life after this tragedy and Adam’s character being able to see okay my relationship is not where I want it to be right now. I’ve lost some elements of happiness and infinity and then being able to go, but I’m going to move on the other side of that and find the life and love again.

Don Cheadle: That was really tricky about the part too. Mike at one point should have just moved into the guest house because he was over at that house so many times with us just trying to figure it out. Mike said, ‘I’m not really sure what’s going on with this guy. I’m not really sure what the problem is, but I don’t know if I really want to define it either because you don’t always know.’ It’s just nebulous sometimes. There’s just something that’s not there. It was frustrating as an actor to try to go into the part. There’s something that’s just not there and it’s designed for there to be something that’s not there, but I don’t know what that not there is. It just took a lot of constant checking in to try to figure out what that was. Ultimately, I think it plays.

Can you talk about the music choice in the film and Adam did the music help you form and create your character?

Mike Binder: The music is a big part of the movie for some many reasons because I feel like he’s hiding in a simpler time in his music. That’s the music I love and we did clear all the music. A lot of these guys know Adam. We went and talked to Eddie Vedder about covering The Who and that was kind of a fun story. We got that and the music I another character in the movie. When I first saw those headsets on Adam with his hair grown out, they feel like such protection. They feel like such a way to hide from the world. We all know these little bugs do it, but these really say go away! It just was the right thing and then having that iPod and all that music on that iPod, it just really felt like I can be in the world and I don’t need the world. I think that helped because he was listening to that music all the time on the set. He always knew the kind of music we were going to use.

Adam Sandler: When I would hang out with Alan Johnson or pre my family so it wasn’t bringing back any memories. It wasn’t any songs that I shared with my family. It was just stuff that I grew up on.

How much fun did you two have in that jam session?

Adam Sandler: That was great. I had no idea how great he was. He is unbelievable on drums, on horns, on base. It was cool.

Don Cheadle: I had a ball.

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