Backstage Interview | 84th Academy Awards

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)


BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW
CATEGORY: Adapted Screenplay
INTERVIEW WITH: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
FILM: "The Descendants"

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Q. Hello guys. Congratulations. You guys are the first to start a huge trend which is called Jolie'ing with the leg.
A. Yes.

Q. Tell me about kind of making fun of her to her face right there and like how did that come about, and how hot is she?
A. (NAT FAXON) She's supremely hot. And Jim did the leg first and he didn't tell us, tell me, so I had to like quickly adapt, but, yeah, so I'll let him know the inspiration.
A. (JIM RASH) I just saw her pose and I thought, you know what, we have exactly the same legs and I wanted to show everyone what it meant. It was a loving tribute. It was more like, oh, she's standing, great, I'm going to stand like that, too.

Q. Hi, Alexander. I wanted to say hi. And also when we talked to you a few months ago when the movie was about to come out, and people were saying this could very well be an Oscar contender, and you seemed to have some doubts about that, at least at our roundtable. And I'm just wondering when did it finally sink in for you that this was going to be an award worthy film, that you were going to start getting awards and so forth for this?
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) When did we meet?

Q. It was when we did the roundtables.
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) Oh, oh, oh. Well, I guess when the awards started rolling in you can never be sure until that point, you know. It's a funny question to answer. I don't really remember.

Q. Hi, Alexander.
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) Hi, Anthony.

Q. Hi, how are you? I was wondering, from their first draft, what did you keep, what did you like, because I'm under the impression that you just rewrote everything and shot with your version of the script. And I'm just wondering what you kept from what Jim and Nat did.
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) They paved a path for me because they had been through the book quite a few times, they had done a number of drafts. I think the main things you know, I've got to say in all honesty it was helpful for me to read their drafts both for what I kept and what I didn't keep. I was able to sort of they gave me the luxury to be able to pick and choose what I personally responded to. What I didn't keep, for example, was more screen time with the younger daughter rather than with the older daughter. For example, I was much more interested in the relationship with the older daughter. Two items in particular which I did keep, neither of them, sadly, made it in the final film, the girl singing "that shit is bananas." Anyway, in one scene, you have to read the script, it's not interesting to talk about.

And at the very end something also maintained, carried over from the novel, which was kind of a joke at the end of the what became in the film we hope a poignant spreading of the ashes, there was a joke which punctuated that. We shot that, that didn't make it into the final film. But the [unintelligible], it's just a matter of taste what one picks and chooses from a novel.

Q. Essentially a question for Jim. How could NBC ever cancel COMMUNITY when now the Oscar winning Dean Pelton is on that?
A. (JIM RASH) I guess I should take these into their offices tomorrow and see what I can do. You know, the good news is we're back on March 15th so maybe hopefully maybe this will help with Season 4, I don't know.

Q. Overall looking forward to it. Congrats.
A. (NAT FAXON) Thank you.

Q. A quick COMMUNITY question. Are you going to bring the Oscar with you when you do go back, and how do you think the rest of the cast is going to react?
A. (JIM RASH) It's smart to take it because most people know where they stand with you. It's a great accoutrement for any outfit they might put me in. It just seems sensible.

Q. Hi, congratulations. Alexander, I wondered if you would translate what you said in Hawaiian in that nice tribute to your mom, but also in doing that, talk about how you adapted the Hawaiian culture, especially using the music in telling the story.
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) I'm so happy to correct you. It wasn't Hawaiian, it was Greek.

Q. [Inaudible]
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) Yeah, thanks. Essentially that's I love you very much in Greek. As for, as you say, adapting Hawaiian culture and folding it into the film and using the music, thanks for the question. In retrospect I have to say, yeah, I am proud of the fact that I was able to spend a number of months in Hawaii before shooting, using Kaui Hart Hemmings, the novelist, as a guy opening the initial doors for me to get it right because they could be quite specific and judgmental out there in Hawaii in kind of nailing what they do. And the use of music, I've said this before, forgive me for repeating myself, but I thought it would be inelegant not to try to score the film with 100 percent Hawaiian music, given the plethora of music out there which never extends beyond the isles.

Q. I recently saw you were at the Spirit Awards. And you talked a lot about taking original work and making it your own, so I was just curious about what you took from the book and how you put your own original spin on it.
A. (JIM RASH) Well, I think, you know, after our first draft, actually I'm meeting with Alexander and our producer, Jim Burke, and getting some notes, that was sort of a thing that Alexander said to us to put the book aside for a second and get ourselves into understanding this character better. So I think it was more to sort of be able to put that away for a second and expand on it and let the scenes and the emotions there carry us through it, you know, and brighten that story.

Q. Mr. Payne, like the novelist William Kennedy's ties to Albany, you have very profound and deep ties to Nebraska. And now that this Hawaiian story is over, what is the next part of your Nebraska identity, Nebraska roots, cultural ties and moves, and where does Nebraska fit into your future, sir?
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) It's been ten years thanks for the question. It's been ten years since I've shot there and I haven't shot there since '01 since ABOUT SCHMIDT and I'm anxious to go back. If I can cast it right, the next screenplay I'm involved in directing is a father son road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln that gets waylaid in a small town in central Nebraska. I'm from Omaha, so in a way my trying to interpret small town Nebraska is as exotic an endeavor as going to Hawaii. But I'm anxious to do so. I'm having trouble casting it, quite frankly, but I hope it works out.

Q. Why?
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) Because the characters I didn't write the script, by the way, I rewrote it, but I didn't originate it. They're very specific. I'm having trouble finding specifically people to fill those roles.

Q. Congratulations, Alexander.
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) Thank you.

Q. Why MARCH OF THE PENGUINS? And did you guys have a back story for the final thing that they watched? Was it on? Did someone pick it?
A. (ALEXANDER PAYNE) He's asking about MARCH OF THE PENGUINS which is over the final shot of the family watching television. I have to tell you something. It's a funny thing, it fell off the truck. I came into the cutting room after shooting, and one of the assistant editors had just dropped it in there, and we, we meaning the editor and I, tried to replace it during the months and months of editing, and we never found anything better so there it stayed. It's one of those things. Fell off the truck.

Q. Thank you very much and congratulations.

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