Film Scouts Interviews

"Georgia" Press Conference
at the 1995 New York Film Festival

by Henri Béhar

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- Why call it "Georgia" since it's mostly about Sadie?

BARBARA TURNER: It took a long time to come up with the title, actually: to me, it seemed to be mostly about "Georgia", since Georgia is everything Sadie wanted to be.

- The film is generous to all supporting characters and players.

ULU GROSBARD: It was easy, both for the cast and myself: it was there in the writing.

BARBARA TURNER: I went to seattle, did a lot of research. The people there were extremeley generous, so they sort of fell into the page.

ULU GROSBARD: People in the cast knew each other before and were actually friends in real life: Mare had been Jennifer's camp counselor. That does create a context for the relationship that they act, it creates an easiness, a trust--and it made my life as a director much easier! Unlike films, generally, when they come in in the middle of the shoot, step unto the set and next thing you know, they're supposed to greet their wife of 20 years. To bring that off on demand is almost inhuman.

MARE WINNINGHAM: Also because of the way the script was strucured, what is revealed of your character when you're not on the page, what you discover about oneself through someone else is invigorating. During rehearsals, none of us ever left the table.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: The band, the people around made me very happy. John Doe has always been a hero of mine, but he made me feel completely at home. Even made me feel my voice was right for that band. Max Perlich, I knew from "Rush", which was great. I knew John C. Riley, we worked together on "Dolores Claiborne", I didn't even know he was a musician.

- (To John C. Riley) How did you react when she asked you whether you could play the drums?

JOHN C. RILEY: (he simply comes up with a beat on the table).

ULU GROSBARD: The music was recorded live, there was no pre-recording. I was rather leery at the beginning, I knew all the mistakes that could be made, everything that could go wrong... Wouldn't recommend it as a remedy, but we were lucky, incredibly lucky.

JOHN C. RILEY: The master was shot live. When we did coverage and I tried to focus on character, that I found more difficult.

ULU GROSBARD: What are you talking about? I followed Robert Altman's advice: "Whatever you do, make sure you start with close ups." (Camerapeople always want to shoot the wide shot first, it's easier for them to light). We shot with different cameras, master and coverage.

JOHN C. RILEY (makes an apologetic face): I was stoned when this happened.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: I loved every minute of it. There's something exhilarating about soundchecks and all that. Acting is for me the most free, unself-conscious thing to be. Singing is one step beyond that. And the songs were all songs that I loved, so I could lose myself even more. For you to own that is ineffable. Before performing in the big arena, I was scared out of my mind, but once on stage, I didn't want to get off. I felt so free, so alive.

- Sadie didn't sing so bad. I liked it.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: Sadie's voice is, at best, mediocre, though it's my voice and I sang as best I could. (Pause) I'm sorry you like it. (Laughs) The Van Morrison song, I listened to 500 times. Every pause is his. Which made sense, at least to me, 'cause Sadie has no sense of herself. But the more she does that, the more Sadie she becomes.

MARE WINNINGHAM: At some very early screening, a friend of mine said, ""Poor Georgia, she'll have to deal with Sadie on the cover of 'Rolling Stone' next year!"

- Were the songs already specified in the script?

BARBARA TURNER: They had to be part of the dialogue; so, yes, they happened as part of the writing. Mare did her own writing.

- The budget?

ULU GROSBARD: The budget was too small (laughs) You always want more, and need more. But the upside of it is that you take risks, like the live recording. Studio-made, GEORGIA would have cost $ 30M. With that kind of money at stake, you have to play safe. Here, we could afford not to.

- Genesis of the project?

BARBARA TURNER: Jennifer and I always wanted to work together. We tried several times, didn't make it. During "Rush", we talked about it. She'd always wanted to play a failed singer. Mare is like a sister to Jen. So... that's how it was born: we talked about the people who should be int it, spent time with Mare, went to Seattle...

- (to Jennifer Jason Leigh) You co-produced GEORGIA,. Is it just an dearth of good roles for women? Do you plan to continue producing, and maybe direct?

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: No, I don't plan to direct, and producing doesn't come naturally to me. I'm not good at pitching, I'm not particularly extrovert. But I loved it. And I would do it again if there was something I felt as strongly about and I would want to see it done. As for good roles for women, I'm lucky insofaar as my tastes are so odd that probably not too many people make the same choices.

- Comparing the Sadie character to Jennifer Jason Leigh's Dorothy Parker in Alan Rudolph's "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle"

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: I don't see them at all alike. Dorothy Parker was a truly brilliant woman, who enjoyed tremendous success. It took her forever to write, and what she wrote was exquisite. Sadie is the other way around. Sadie's funny--so was Dorothy Parker, but in a sharp,witty, intellectual way. The only similarity, for me, is that they both drink.

- (to Leigh) You've done more than your share of neurotics, drunks, and drug addicts. Is that becoming your speciality? Wouldn't you like to do a comedy?

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: You have one? I've long been looking for a comedy where I get to kiss a man. It's hard to find great comedies. The ones I've been sent were not that great. I love Woody Allen's movies.

- He'd use you in a minute.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: He would? Can you tell him?

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