An Interview with Thomas Haden Church,
Sarah Jessica Parker, and Dennis Quaid
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April 7, 2008
Coming out soon is ‘Smart People’ a film that deals with academia and how it affects the lives of those living in it. Starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, and Ellen Page.
Professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) might be imperiously brilliant, monumentally self-possessed and an intellectual giant – but when it comes to solving the conundrums of love and family, he's as downright flummoxed as the next guy. His teenaged daughter (Ellen Page) is an acid-tongued overachiever who follows all too closely in dad's misery-loving footsteps, and his adopted, preposterously ne'er-do-well brother (Thomas Haden Church) has perfected the art of freeloading. A widower who can't seem to find passion in anything anymore, not even the Victorian Literature in which he's an expert, it seems Lawrence is sleepwalking through a very stunted middle age. When his brother shows up unexpectedly for an extended stay at just about the same time as he accidentally encounters his former student Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker), the circumstances cause him to stir from his deep, deep freeze, with often comical, sometimes heartbreaking, consequences for himself and everyone around him.
In speaking with blackfilm.com, Quaid, Parker, and Church talked about who just might this film be meant for?
Who do you think this film is meant for?
Sarah Jessica Parker: I think it’s for grown-up, but not for the rarefied smarties. It should be for smarties across the land.
Do you think it’s an honest picture of academia?
Dennis Quaid: Mark Poirier, the screenwriter, comes from this world and I think he knows it pretty well and we just injected ourselves into it.
SJP: Being stuck isn’t unique to be academia. You can find yourself in what is seemingly the most exciting profession and I’m assuming feels like you’ve been threading water. You don’t have any real momentum and I think that has to do with what you want from life. When you have reached a certain age, you start feeling that you want something else; or I want more or I want less. I think that’s why this movie is so beautifully written. It’s really about a wide variety of people and location is so not critical as to who these people are. It’s what they do. It’s beautifully observed.
DQ: There’s no reason to do the film if it weren’t for the fact that these people happen to be in this world and at the same time what is happening to them is relatable to all of us, some time or another I think.
Dennis, what was it like to gain 20 pounds for the film?
DQ: I put on a fat suit every morning. The quick and easy way to do it. I didn’t have time to gain the weight. I wanted to have a certain look.
Sarah, have you played a doctor before?
SJP: I may have a role close to it but certain not with this kind of authority in the emergency room. I know nothing more of the medical jargon that exists in that world.
Can you talk about the dynamic that existed between the two of you as brothers, although one of you is adopted?
DQ: For me, I just insert him in the life of my own little brother at one point of our relationship. With a big brother and little brother, at times you irk each other; and you know which buttons to push.
Did being from Texas help the both of you out?
Thomas Haden Church: Absolutely. (smiling) I was aware that Dennis was a Texan and I feel proprietary about people from my state. It pre-informed some of my eagerness to work with him and getting to know him; and found that not only did we have people in places we knew, but we share musical taste.
Seems like home life is where the kids learn a lot from. What are some of the positive things you do with you kids to be a role model?
SJP: They dictate a lot of the entertainment and what we are going to talk about and do. I love to do everything with my son, James. As long as he will have me around because I know it’s a matter of time before he doesn’t want me around. It happens. It’s a developmental stage. Right now, he’s pretty taken with both myself and my husband. Honestly, we’ll play blocks with him and he’s really into legos right now. He’s into Star Wars and very into Barack Obama. Honestly, he’s into this election. He’s come into this conclusion based specifically on Barack’s gender. It’s that deep. We do for everything for him.
THC: He does know that Barack and Billy Dee Williams are not the same person.
SJP: He does.
Dennis, do you give your son, Jack advice on girls?
DQ: No. I don’t and I won’t give up any of his secrets. He’s at that age where he just got his learner’s permit for driving. We drove him from DMV with him driving. I have photos of it and it was quite an experience. He’s going to be a good driver but it’s frightening to see him grow up and actually drive.
Sarah, did you give yourself some background to your character to explain why she’s with the professor after so many years?
SJP: Just a little bit. I don’t it’s a great leap to have been stricken at that age. When you’re a student in college, you’re really not a child anymore. The things you discover as a grown up is what you find attractive about somebody is not the fling, but you really liked about somebody doesn’t change. What I liked about boys at 18 and 22 isn’t radically different. I always like the smart funny boy and you can translate that to man and I think her feelings for him didn’t change. She found him to be a really attractive character. I can completely understand what she sees in him. He may not be funny, but he’s very bright and curious and interesting and completely unavailable emotionally.
DQ: Her character was also terrified of commitment.
Can you talk about working with Ellen Page?
DQ: She was fantastic. She did this movie before ‘Juno’ and she’s like Marlon Brando. She has the ability to do anything and make it compelling. If you have seen ‘Hard Candy’, that film was very different as well. That was an incredible performance.
‘SMART PEOPLE’ opens on April 11, 2008
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