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Interview with Parker Posey and Zoe Cassavetes of Broken English

Broken English Press Junket
June 18, 2007
Regency Hotel
New York

Written by Wendy R. Williams

(Opposite photo Parker Posey -
Photo Credit: Wendy R. Williams)


Zoe Cassavetes Broken English is a quintessentially New York film (and no it has nothing to do with the debate over immigration). I saw the film and then attended the press junket. Here is my review of the film (scroll down for the interview with Parker Posey and Zoe Cassavetes):

Gena Rowlands and Parker Posey
Broken English

Zoe R. Cassavetes’
Broken English
Opens Friday, June 22, 2007

Starring: Parker Posey; Drea de Matteo; Gena Rowlands; Melvil Poupaud; Justin Theroux; Tim Guinee; and Peter Bogdanovich.

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Zoe R. Cassavetes’ Broken English is Sex and the City for the Lost in Translation set. Set in New York, it tells the smoky story of a New York single woman whose life has been reduced to the long-gone-down-lonesome-blues.

Here is a quote from the press release: “ Parker Posey plays Nora Wilder, a thirty-something Manhattanite who is cynical about love and relationships. Plugging away at her job in a posh downtown hotel, Nora can't help wondering what it is she has to do to find a relationship as ideal as her friend Audrey's (Drea De Matteo) "perfect marriage." It doesn’t help that her overbearing mother (Gena Rowlands) takes every opportunity to remind Nora that she's still unattached. After a series of disastrous first dates, she meets Julien (Melvil Poupaud), a seemingly devil-may-care Frenchman with a passion for living. Expecting another disastrous ending, Nora tries to avoid making the same mistakes and in doing so finds herself in Paris for the first time, with a new outlook on life and love.”

Nora is disaffected and with good reason. Her friend Audrey’s marriage is boredom at best and the only men left for Nora to date are the leftovers from the grand and glorious marriage marriage market that most New Yorkers enter in their mid to late twenties. Once you hit thirty, the only choices left are jerk and jerkier.

And then she meets a hot Frenchman, Julien (played by Melvin Poupaud) and something clicks. But Nora is still burdened with the baggage of her passive aggressive dating style and after all, the guy does live in Paris. So they go to Paris to find him, but Nora also takes along all of her self destructive impulses and…….

This film has a tone and a feel that is quintessentially New York and it tells a deeply psychological story of sadness and loneliness. It is a story of how people create their own lives by their own expectations and nothing can really change unless they change first.

Zoe Cassavetes’ follows in her family’s tradition of creating intense emotional films. Parker Posey does a magnificent job playing a woman whose life may not be that far from her own. Drea DeMatteo (of Adrianna in the Sopranos fame) creates yet another New York character that is filled with both cynicism and longing. And Melvil Poupaud is just plain sexy and if the French have more of him, they should import them to New York.

Parker Posey and Melvil Poupaud in Broken English

The Interview with Parker Posey

Question about what drew her to the script.

Parker Posey: I loved it when I first read it right after 9/11. Bush was in town at the time. And three years later Zoe got financing. There is a lot that is not on the page. I was able to play someone who is close to me and explore the lonely parts and revealing something about how difficult it is to be alive. As a New Yorker, it is nice to see a movie about a woman you can identify with.

At the premiere, men walk up to me and said, “I’m just like Nora [the character that Parker play in the film].” And women said to me, “You wake up, you are so hung over and there is some guy in your room that you don’t know.”

My character has not asked for what she wants and is not living her own life. There is a lot of emphasis on success [in this world], but what interests me is how full is your life.

I like the naturalness of Cassavetes’ films [Zoe’s father was the late great independent film maker, John Cassavetes] where the characters are not as dynamic.

Question about whether you improved a lot in the film.

Parker Posey: I played the character the way it was written and Zoe talks to you a lot.

Question about how her relatives and friends from the South will view this film (Parker grew up in the South).

Parker Posey: I wanted to leave the South when I was eleven years old. And everyone was like, “Who do you think you are?” I spent my childhood in Monroe, Louisiana and then we moved to Laurel, Mississippi. They have an Easter pageant there where someone plays Jesus and they light a fire. [Every time I go back] someone says, “Are you seeing anyone?”

Question about which actresses and films do you admire.

Parker Posey: I like a lot of French films; anything with Isabelle Hubert.

Question about what you are working on now.

Parker Posey: I am working on The Return of Jezebel James by Gilmore Girls writer, Amy Sherman-Palladino.

Zoe Cassavetes
Photo Credit Wendy R. Williams

The Interview with Zoe Cassavetes

Question about how much of the film was scripted and how much was improved.

Zoe Cassavetes: I wanted the script to be honest and sound like a real conversation. The most important thing was for Parker to be comfortable.

Question about the inspiration for the story.

Zoe Cassavetes: The characters are combo people and I worked in a hotel for five years. A girl has to pay the bills.

Question about the casting of Melvil Poupaud as the French lover.

Zoe Cassavetes: Melvil was my first choice. I actually met him after I wrote then script.

Question about why she made the movie.

Zoe Cassavetes: It is very important to me to make movies like this and fight for movies like this. I want to tell a story that means something to me. Most so-called independent films are not actually independent films but are made by studios. The demand that you have stars but then they want the stars to work for nothing. We had to shoot in 20 days.

Question about the HD camera.

Zoe Cassavetes: I liked working in HD and I think it looks great. The camera was a Viper. It is great working with digital because you don’t run out of film and supposedly you can take many shots. But the actors get tired so you can’t take quite as many as you might think.

Question about working with her Mom, Gena Rowlands.

Zoe Cassavetes: I spent my entire life watching my mother prepare to be in a film. My Mom is proud of the film I made and she gave me the respect that she would give any director. My brother (Nick Cassavetes of Notebook fame) told me that I made a great movie and should be very proud.

Question about what you called your Mom on the set.

Zoe Cassavetes: I called her Gena on the set. Oh, by the way, today is her birthday and I have to remember to call her.

Final question about how she felt about the movie.

Zoe Cassavetes: I had a story to tell and a message and I would not change it based on what other people felt.

Many thanks to Parker Posey and Zoe Cassavetes for talking to New York Cool.





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