AMG.COM: My background research before talking with you today led me to watching one of your old appearances on the David Letterman show.
POLLY DRAPER: Oh that's funny, which one? I was on four or five times.
AMG.COM: You told a sex joke that didn't go over too well and Letterman made you spit out your gum.
POLLY DRAPER: I was an old friend of his former girlfriend, so anytime a guest dropped out I would step in. I would run out of stories, I had been on so much. In the pre-interview I had said I had been on a trip to Cuba with my dad and met Fidel Castro...well that was entirely untrue. My dad had met Castro, had talked about who would be taking over Nicaragua, and did all of these interesting things. So, David asked me, “what was Castro like? Did he get food in his beard? And what did you eat?” And my response was delayed, “ya know...Mexican food.” In the end my eyes were spinning out of my head and my mom and dad were watching. My dad thought, “She should be getting punished for this” and my mom replied “oh I think she's getting punished right now.”
AMG.COM: Oh my goodness that is so funny.
AMG.COM: I want to talk about your acting career. When I look at your resume on IMDB, the success you've had-Thirtysomething, parts in films such as Side Effects, or Obvious Child, but do you think your career has been on your terms or the industries terms?
POLLY DRAPER: Which? That I act? Or that I act on my terms? When it's on the industries terms, it's when I don't act. I think it's difficult for a woman as she gets older. Over 40, the roles are more scarce, so the work started feeling less interesting to me. I started writing and realized that was a fun, creative outlet. Then I got my first movie made, The Tic Code, which killed two birds with one stone. I wrote it and co-starred with Gregory Hines. That won film festival awards, it's a film I'm very proud of. And then I just do jobs that have interested me. Once I had kids it was hard to keep going away. My kids happened to be inspiring to me. I know every mother feels this way, but mine were super talented. Nat and Alex were amazing music prodigies. I did a fake documentary of them playing in a band and I started interviewing them as if they were huge rock stars. The only rock mockumentary I knew was Spinal Tap, so I wanted to do a Spinal Tap meets The Little Rascals. Someone at Nickelodeon saw it and begged me to write it, I got my kids in it, and The Naked Brother's Band was formed. It was one of the biggest hits they've ever had. And we could've kept going, but I didn't want to do that to my kids. So, everything that I have done in my career has been about the universe opening up over some creative direction I could take.
AMG.COM: Let's talk about Stella's Last Weekend, this is a complete family affair, both of your son's starring, you wrote/directed, your husband did the music, do you still put pressure on everyone to take the work seriously? Or did you keep everyone relaxed on set?
POLLY DRAPER: That's a really good question, because I thought I would have to do that, but both of them, within the time that I worked with them, which was 10-years ago, they have become such professionals that I didn't have to say anything. They dealt with the script professionally, asked questions the way any actor would, the added bonus was an already positive brother chemistry with each other. They didn't have to develop a language with one another. They didn't have to create an intimacy fast to make a scene work, they already had that. It was so easy to create this loving bond between all of us, because we've had that all our lives.
AMG.COM: Alex and Nat have had spectacular careers already and they seem to truly be the best of friends, but has there been any competition between the two of them? Does Nat look at Hereditary and say, “damn, I wish I had been in that movie”.
POLLY DRAPER: Yes, oh yes. There's a ton of competition. I think that Alex has been watching Nat all of his life that way. And this year is the first time Nat had to watch Alex. Honestly, I don't know how they do it, but they are both incredibly supportive of each other. I think when Nat saw Hereditary, he said the scene with Alex in the car after his sister's head has been lopped off, is one of the most brilliant acting moments he's ever seen. I think both boys appreciate good acting so much, that part of what excites them is watching one another act. Yes, they've been competitive the way any two actors or brothers would be, but they have a genuine support for each other. They've said the only women they've competed for was me...ha ha!
AMG.COM: What I loved about Stella's Last Weekend was how honest and genuine the characters feel. Were you conscious of things like cliches or inauthentic moments to avoid because a film of this nature could easily have that problem?
POLLY DRAPER: Absolutely, and that's why I wanted to make sure it was completely original. There have been love triangles before, but I wanted this to be unique to these specific characters in this time. Honestly I didn't want it to be about the love triangle, as much as a love story between brothers. You're not wondering if they get the girl, your just wondering if there will be damage to their relationship. I think its a relief that neither one truly does, because I didn't want to tie it up with a bow in the end. I wanted one more scene where Alex's character watches her in the ballet and reveal that life is always very complicated.
AMG.COM: And what about your character?
POLLY DRAPER: Well, I think my character is in a way the moral center of the movie. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She knows the important thing is that this girl can't break up the bond between her two sons. My older son cannot break up this relationship that my younger son has with her. She puts her foot down only twice. They both say outrageous things that any mother would have scolded them for, but she knows that's their language. There's a father that is out of the picture and I think that creates the eccentricity of the family.
AMG.COM: I love the scene where you talk to Violet at the dinner table. It's a fine line. If you are forceful or mean you come off as a protective mamma bear or play it the other way...
POLLY DRAPER: Then I come off as if I don't care about my kid. The fact that she's torn and sees life is so complicated, it's there in when she say's, “I'll kill you if you come between my sons” and then she's around the table comforting Violet saying “life is complicated, especially for women, because men are sometimes a little dense.” She's the kind of person who sees all sides to things. That's why I loved this character. I think she's vital to the movie. She's not dissimilar to the character I played in Obvious Child, where the daughter says, “mom, I'm pregnant and I'm getting an abortion.” And she responds, “oh thank god, I thought you were going to move to L.A.” Her priorities are straight, abortions, yes, they are politically charged, but I care more about my daughters life and in the context of her life it was the right move. I think that's the same thing at play. Priorities are the bottom line which as a teenager they don't always see.
AMG.COM: I watched some of your interviews for this film and talk about how your son's career's helped with getting this movie funded, but do you find yourself wanting to write and direct more, considering you've clearly proved yourself with how good this movie is?
POLLY DRAPER: For sure. I've written a couple that I am trying to get made. I had Cate Blanchett signed on for one, but she had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. I've thought doing something like this, would help raise my profile. And what you say about women and directors, now woman are supposedly "in" as directors. It's like the Kavanaugh hearings. They'll listen to every word you said, or say, "oh we want a woman, but, oh too bad, we had to give the job to a man." It's been like that all my career. When I was first joining the directors guild, they called me to say, as if they were giving me a gift of joining the union, a man called me to say, “We all wanted to make sure you know the difference between acting and directing” I said, “do you ask all your male actors that turn directors this question?” They also wanted to send me a book on directing. I had already directed and no man I know in the directors guild has ever been asked that question. Even now, if you're a man and you direct a movie, the next thing your doing is the biggest superhero movie in the history of cinema. If you're a woman, you might get to direct a TV show. I don't mean to sound bitter. The actress issue was a different kind of battle and battling #MeToo problems. The director issue is another kind of chauvinism, I'd experienced the lecherous old man situation, but I hadn't experienced the, "oh, you're just a little girl and don't know about the big directing job." Once you direct, you realize it's not that hard. It's a wonderful thing that woman are fantastic at. We know how to listen, ask questions, where men are more rigid about their ideas.
AMG.COM: It's time to put it into action, right? Not to speak about it anymore, but make it happen and get more woman behind the camera to make movies.
POLLY DRAPER: Yes, exactly.
AMG.COM: Well, congratulations on this film- Stella's Last Weekend. I really enjoyed the film and our talk.
POLLY DRAPER: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah I think this is the perfect time for a film like this because it's about family and love, which we do need more of these days.
I am in awe of the extremely talented Polly Draper. She is an actor, a writer, a director, and so much more. She made her big break with her role on the smash-hit ABC television series Thirthysomething, earning an Emmy nomination; She had a supporting role in the hit indie film Obvious Child, and now has made a new movie that highlights her rising star sons Nat and Alex Wolff in Stella's Last Weekend. All of those things don't even seem to scratch the surface of Draper's illustrious body of work. I had the chance to talk to Polly about her son's competitive spirit, her history in the Hollywood industry, and making the delightful Stella's Last Weekend. It's one of my favorite interviews on AMovieGuy.com this year: Read my interview below: