AMG.COM: You had a collection of scripts that hit walls with production, so did Untogether turn into your passion project and give you confidence in the directors chair?
EMMA FORREST: I didn't understand until quite recently how unusual it is to have a film collapse in pre-production and it happened to me twice in a row. It's the reason I felt things were so fucked up. Especially with Your Voice in My Head, which was about me, it felt like, you write the story to close the book on it and it was all smashed on the floor. It was so strange. I didn't feel safe really. With Untogether, I had written something that was people talking in rooms, it's low-budget, it didn't have action sequences, or anything too daring for a first time director. I just knew how to do it. You can look at the script and you can see I was directing it while I was writing it. I had never written a script that way, even though it was a script that people loved. It did not have that sense that I would direct it as it was coming out, but It definitely became something, it said something, and I finally got to do it.
AMG.COM: What I enjoyed about Untogether is the honesty of the characters. I get the sense that there is a bit of you in every character. Is that just your human nature in order to make these characters as real as possible?
EMMA FORREST: Yeah there is. I think, well what's the point of writing a book, or making a film, or painting a painting if you aren’t processing something? You can end up in quite interesting corners if you give your experiences to another character that's different from you. Some of the things that had happened to me in real life, I had happen to Ben's (Mendelsohn) character or to Jamie's (Dornan) character and you have that gender fluidity. You take your experiences and wonder how that character would feel, where would it go? That was exact. There's way's that Jemima's (Kirke) character Andrea, from the surface, is the most like me. Jemima's world was like a version of me, we sort of look alike, I had her dress like me, so we understood one another. In choosing her costumes, wondering why I would dress that way, because I never really understood before, which is all angora and mohair that she wears, its like her way of feeling shut down, saying “can someone please touch me, can someone pet me like I'm a cat?” The cat her character owns, that's her spirit animal, in a way that cats have always been for me, and keeping something alive when sometimes you don't want to be alive. Her and the cat have a great connection, they are each other in the movie.
AMG.COM: Instead of making this about the Andrea (Jemima Kirke) character alone, you make it a story about two sisters. Correct me if I am wrong, but I was picking up themes of duality. Was that something you wanted to evoke in the narrative? The two-sided nature of relationships?
EMMA FORREST: Yeah, it was, it's the virgin and the whore, the rabbi and the rockstar. It's interesting to me that the rockstar has the same moral compass as the rabbi. I think Jemima's so tremendous in the movie, but my favorite thing in the whole film- I hope I'm not giving away to people who haven't seen it- after Ben kisses her and whispers something in her ear, you can't hear it, but whatever it is makes her push him away. And the look on her face...Jemima's silent acting is so beautiful, there's so many parts where I was so happy to watch her be silent. The look on her face is realizing, “oh I am just the whore, that's how he sees me.” She's so crushed. In the next scene where she tells Lola what happened, Lola starts crying, says, “of course he wants me to be you.” So yes, that was a theme and I'm really glad that's how you see it.
AMG.COM:Let's talk about your stars Jemima Kirke and Lola Kirke. Did you think of another pair of actors in these roles and what surprised you most about the two of them?
EMMA FORREST: I knew I wanted the Kirke sisters because it's so rare on screen. I sat down and tried to figure out if there had even been any sisters, Francois Dorleac and Catherine Deneuve, the Hemingway sisters did a movie together, they did Lipstick...I just knew I wanted them and they look so different in the most opposite way. They're sisters even if they don't want to be. Once I got to know them, Jemima is overtly vampish and sexy. Lola, the way younger sisters are, is a reaction to the older sister. She grew up thinking because her sister was so vampish, she needed to be the tomboy, since the vamp had been taken. Once you get to know Lola there's something about her that's quite wanted and I found it to be a perfect compliment because they were the opposite of each other.
AMG.COM: You had a majority of woman in your crew working on this film, cutting to the chase, can you explain to our audience why something like that is so important in making a movie today?
EMMA FORREST:I genuinely hired the right people for the job. If that means I made a female fantasy movie, maybe I did. Maybe I hired them because they saw that fantasy that I saw, it wasn't on purpose. There was the funny moment of, shit even the stunt coordinator is a woman. I really have realized that It was bad ass.
AMG.COM: Jamie Dornan, Ben Mendelsohn, and Billy Crystal make this trio of extremely cool men, did you see a bit of progression or connections between the three of them when casting their characters?
EMMA FORREST: Ohhh, I like that. I hadn't thought of that, but I'll go with that. When I casted Billy's role I wanted someone that the audience feels like they know well, feels comfortable with. I think of a rabbi as a psychiatrist. A good rabbi or psychiatrist makes you feel safe. People feel safe with Billy. Just like how people feel safe with George Clooney, he makes people feel safe, and that's how you get a movie star. It's how you become a movie star as big as him. You not only charm people, but you comfort them. He's perfect. With Ben, since I was married to him, I wanted to put on screen this very boyish, sweet side of him, and also show an older relationship that isn't creepy. He actually just loves and that isn't usually what you see when you see a young woman with an older man on screen.
AMG.COM: I wanted to talk about the scene with Lola and Jamie's characters having sex to the most awkward song ever and you pick R.E.M.'s “Shiny Happy People”. How did you land on this song?
EMMA FORREST: That was so much fun to make the list of “the worst song to have sex to” and I have to give full credit to Ben Mendelsohn. It was Ben that pitched that song, because I had settled on “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. And I couldn't get the rights to it, which I was amazed by, because I thought Mark Knopfler was going to read the script and think “that's hilarious”, but we got a letter that said under no circumstances, you cannot use the song, we'll sue you, we'll fight you. So, Ben pitched "Shiny Happy People" because he said it's funny, but it's also the core of what we so desperately want to be. And Michael Stipe really liked the script, everyone involved, and gave us the rights for practically nothing, god bless his soul. You feel that from Michael Stipe, it's so nice to know that it's true, that he is just lovely.
AMG.COM: You also have a very cool shot in the end of Lola and Jamie walking down this back road of Los Angeles. It's all one shot. I fell even more in love with this film here because you get a sense of a film like ending of The Graduate, where we don't know if these two will make it, but were optimistic, but that's also not being realistic either. Is that what you're going for?
EMMA FORREST: It definitely was. It was also a literal symbol of something that I strongly believe, which is that we don't have one soulmate. If your lucky you will get to walk with a different soulmate for a period of time. I'm very happy if there are people who watch the film and know for sure that they stay together, get married, have children, and live happily ever after. And there are those that will know they are going to have a beautiful romance for 2-years, it's going to get real, people will change or move away from each other. Life is really sad and hard. To find someone to briefly share it with and be comforted for a couple of years is great.
AMG.COM: I wanted to mention that you are a capricorn, born 4 days before me, and what I connected with you is how open you are on your past. I found a lot of happiness for myself when I found sobriety- 6 years- and therapy. So I wanted to know if you find your openness about past struggles with family or depression to be a part that has helped you become the successful artist that you are?
EMMA FORREST: Ohhh, I love astrology...well, first of all that's huge, congratulations. I know we're taping, are you in the 12-step program?
AMG.COM: I did the 12-steps for the first four years and then I faded away from it when I got more solace out of therapy than going to meetings.
EMMA FORREST: To answer your question, I would say our greatest qualities are also our worst qualities. I'm someone with few boundaries, that's something I'm working on in my life. The reason my work connects with the people it does connect with is because I do have a strong voice. And it's not for everyone. The people it doesn’t work for are going to not like me. It's about learning to make peace with that, because even if it's only a few hundred, or a few thousand, if I'm only going to be a cult voice, I'm a voice to someone, somewhere. That comes with it, being someone who historically had things that went wrong for me, which hasn't happened in a really long time. When I was 21, I always had a hard time understanding what was happening to me and happening to other people. I really have to stay on top of that and when I'm under a huge amount of stress I struggle with that still. I know that reading the newspaper, if there's a headline that I can be triggered by, I have to turn the page. My sister or my mum will call me and say, “we saw this great film, you can't see”, and I just have to listen to them. It's a Lodge Kerrigan film starring Damian Lewis called Keane, which they say I could never see and I listen to them. It's a constant process.
AMG.COM: Now that you have gotten your toes wet, which took way too long, but is being the writer/director, is that going to be your future? Because I want to see more films directed by you.
EMMA FORREST: I know the things that I can direct, write, and the things I should be directing. I wrote a script recently that I absolutely love, partly because I knew how to direct it, and I knew it might not be something I would have wrote by myself. It was broader than I typically know how to do. I have passion projects that have been in the drawer for a while now that I want to see get made. I'll have a new book out this year and that's something that I would love to adapt myself. I hope so.
AMG.COM: Well, congratulations on Untogether and I think you are a fantastic new voice for cinema.
EMMA FORREST: Oh, I so appreciate that. Thank you so much.
It's criminal that it's taken this long for an Emma Forrest script to be turned into a movie. This is an extremely talented person. She's a journalist- writing for publications such as Vanity Fair or Vogue magazine; She wrote a breakthrough memoir- Your Voice In My Head (2011) and is the author of three novels- Namedropper (1998), Thin Skin (2002), and Cherries in the Snow (2005). After not one, but two of her scripts were bought by a studio, started for production, and then collapsed, Forrest has decided to take things into her own hands, writing and directing her new film- Untogether. Watch just one of her interviews on YouTube and you're instantly drawn to Forrest's charisma. On top of all that praise, I think Emma Forrest is a brilliant voice about love, life, and relationships. It all shows in her honest responses, that are channeled through her characters by a spectacular cast- Jemima Kirke, Lola Kirke, Jamie Dornan, and Billy Crystal- in this authentic romantic drama. I had the pleasure of interviewing Forrest for AMovieGuy.com, where we shared our joy of being capricorns, her open mind, and working with an all-star cast. Read it here: