Passion Play Duo Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch on Their 20-Year Road to Toronto
So the winged woman-meets-jazz trumpeter romantic fable Passion Play premiered Friday night here in Toronto, and say what you will about the headscrather of a story, the vision of Mickey Rourke in a love scene with Megan Fox -- with wings -- or Bill Murray's hairpiece-aided deadpan gangster cutthroat. But nearly two decades after screenwriter Mitch Glazer began developing his directing debut (inspired in part by his wife, actress Kelly Lynch), it's ultimate realization -- with this cast on this stage all at once -- prompts one to ask what's worth waiting 20 years for? I mean, even Avatar only took 12 or so. Glazer and Lynch met Movieline this weekend to discuss.
So you spend 20 years writing, rewriting, casting, recasting and generally shepherding this thing through the development process, and then all of the sudden it's premiered? What were your impressions seeing it on the screen at last?
MG: For me, it's almost like living a dream. The movie is that in any case, but there are moments... I said to Kelly the other night that I remember sitting in a house we were renting 20 years ago, writing the script. The whole experience is really just an out-of-body experience, but when 20 years starts to crash down on you, you realize, "It's actually real. These people are saying these words and living this life onscreen." There were many moments during the last month or so when I realized this is finally, really happening. I was doing all this other stuff; I had a lovely career, and your work is your work. This movie was always in the back of my head
KL: Everyone wants Mitch to direct. He's secretly directed a couple of times.
MG: Watch yourself.
KL: Usually it's some horror movie that's your first film -- some genre picture. But he was never interested in directing for directing's sake. It was always really this movie. It was the most ambitious thing you could actually do.
MG: And actually, now that it's gone -- now that it's out of my head -- I miss it. I mean, you have the dreaming and hoping and trying all those years.
After so many stops and starts and so much anticipation, did you ever think maybe it was for the best it didn't get made?
MG: Yeah. Well, not for "the best." This was going to be one of those tings that was going to be a legacy but never reality. The crazy thing about it is that the way Hollywood works -- when it does reach escape velocity and all the things start to coalesce and the movie begins to come together on its own weight, almost -- it's so fast. So it's like 19 years, and then a year of just everything happening at once.
Kelly, beyond being the inspiration for the role of Lily, what kind of role did you play in the development process all this time?
KL: I read tons of scripts, I've done 50 movies, and this continues to be my favorite thing I've ever read. And 20 years ago, Mitch wrote the part of Lily for me, and I loved it. And I was so moved that I inspired him to write this beautiful piece of work. But I always related to Harriet [the Dream Lounge bartender]. It was somewhere between the two of them, but I just related to the character Harriet. So when it came down to making it now, I was thrilled I got to be her. Mickey Rourke wanted me to do The Wrestler with him, but that didn't work out. Harriet was just a character at the bar, but Mickey's the one who made Mitch turn her into a burlesque dancer.
MG: Every time we had dinner for seven years, he said, "Kelly's gonna be the stripper." I said, "No, no -- Kelly's not the stripper. Kelly's a bartender." He said, "Well, can't she be a stripper bartender?" I said, "I guess?" He was dying to get her into a G-string and pasties. And to torture me at the same time is kind of a dream.
Mitch, you said something interesting at the premiere Q&A about your first meeting with Megan Fox, and how she inhabited the role of a sideshow attraction opposite all these paparazzi etc. Can you elaborate on how that informed her role?
MG: It was kind of shocking. I'd gone and seen these four scenes from Jennifer's Body in the editing room -- it was around that time. And even though it had nothing to do with Lily, Diablo Cody's dialogue is really kind of complicated and specific. So I really just wanted to see her act, because I haven't seen Transformers. But we met at a restaurant near our home; it was this really quiet, cozy spot. And she showed up, and as I was talking to her about the part -- and I mean, she knew it cold, she had read it several times. I was looking at her, and obviously her beauty was dazzling, exactly what I was looking for in that she was timeless. She had a Gene Tierney in Laura kind of timelessness, placelessness. And as we're sitting there talking about how Lily gets paid money to sit in a glass box for people to stare at her, I mean, literally: I look out the window and there is this wall of guys who have followed her from Warner Bros., taking pictures of through the glass, exactly like Lily. I intuited -- or I prayed -- that it would inform another layer of the character. She's living the life of a freak.
KL: Also, I have to say: Every actress in Hollywood wanted to do this movie. Once the script got out, Mickey Rourke was attached and everyone had a lot of confidence in Mitch as a director... We would go out to get coffee somewhere, and you name it -- all of them wanted the part. It was an amazing part. And he had his choice.
MG: What I said [Friday night] was true. Mickey dragged me out into the desert in the middle of the night as we were setting up for the next shot to just say he was so excited from that one [scene] at the trailer. I was relieved as well that I'd chosen correctly, because casting as a first-time director is everything. You really have to go with these guys and assume they'll carry the day.
What's so weird is that despite the cultural ascendancy of Mickey and Megan and Bill in the last five or six years, you knew two of these three all along throughout this process.
MG: I know! Billy read a draft of the movie years ago and actually gave me notes on it, which were great because he's thoughtful and film-savvy and literary. I actually have a script somewhere with Bill Murray's notes all over it. At the time I was asking him to play Sam, the carnival boss [ultimately played by Rhys Ifans]. I just saw Billy in a soiled three-piece suit outside of a carnival. It wasn't until he suggested, "What about me for Happy?" On the red carpet, everybody was talking about this cast, but Megan's the wild card. I mean, when I had the two of them sitting in this banquette across from me? That was an out-of-body day. I've known Mickey since I was 15 and Billy since '78. To see these two guys together makes no sense on some level. It was really amazing.
And Kelly, you brought Drugstore Cowboy here for its premiere 21 years ago on the exact same stage at the Ryerson Theater. What are some of your recollections of that?
KL: It was one of those times when the indie-film world had just started up again with sex lies & videotape and Drugstore Cowboy. We made this this little movie, and it kind of felt like a student film. I remember I read the script, and I fought for it. I saw the title on my agent's bookcase: "Oh, that's a great title. I want to read it." My agent started laughing: "They want Patti Smith, not you." I thought, "OK, great, now I really want to read it." So I read it, and I thought, "This is amazing." And I went after it. The experience on Drugstore Cowboy was like this one: You have the right cast with the right director and the right material doing the right thing. Every day on Mitch's set was effortless and fun. Same thing on Drugstore Cowboy.
But we had no idea how crazy it would get. We knew we liked it, but Roger Ebert was running at me full speed ahead. And he stopped to grab my shoulders and say, "This is the greatest movie!" It was Roger Ebert! Talk about out-of-body. And then he said, "I knew people like that! I had friends who were these people!" I didn't know what was weirder: That Roger Ebert loved the movie so much or that he had weird Drugstore Cowboy friends. The whole thing was surreal. But it was getting on the train of something that no one had ever seen before -- another kind of film dialogue, another kind of storytelling.
MG: It felt like a good-luck room. [...] She came back from Toronto after that, and our first official date was the premiere in L.A. It's all of a Canadian piece at this point.
[Top photo of Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Mitch Glazer, Kelly Lynch and Bill Murray by Jeff Vespa/WireImage]