TIFF 2011 Interview: 'Take This Waltz' Stars Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman and Luke Kirby
On monogamy, monotony and comedy
After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival to near-universal acclaim, the stars of "Take This Waltz" met the press -- not Michelle Williams, but Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby (who respectively play Williams' husband and could-be lover as she's tempted by chance and desire) as well as Sarah Silverman, who takes on a role as Rogen's recovering alcoholic sister. MSN Movies took part in a roundtable interview where we and other journalists spoke with the three about monogamy, working with Williams, comedy versus drama and why sex scenes require a member of the crew to hand out high-fives.
Seth, this movie shows a more serious part than we knew you before. How was it for you to play such a role? Was it freeing? It was freeing for us to see you in such a role.
Rogen: Why is it freeing? No, honestly, I approached it the exact same as I approach anything else. The process, honestly, was exactly like every movie I've ever done, really. Watching it's a little different, because the end product is decidedly more dramatic than the other movies I've been in, but while we were making it, it didn't feel any different than any other thing that I had done. We tried to be real and natural and serve the story as best as I can. I did the same thing. That's what I always do.
Sarah Polley said today that she really cast you as one of the first people because the goodness came through. Doesn't that give you a reputation as a --
Rogen: A@#hole? I think that's part of the reason I can get away with saying all the horrible things I do say: You can tell I'm really not that bad a guy underneath this. Apparently.
I believe that the male audience will be rooting for your character. Do you believe that you're more somebody that the average male viewer will identify with?
Rogen: Yeah, maybe. I think people tend to identify more with the person who's in the unfortunate situation than the one who's in the fortunate situation, generally speaking. That being said, I don't think my character is really a victim in the movie. I think that he is part of the marriage that's evolving, and he doesn't really want to evolve. He's accepted this is how it's going to be forever, and his wife has not accepted that. They're not communicating about that. To me, I think as far as mechanics of the movie go, you tend to sympathize with the person who's in the disfortunate situation. My character probably could have prevented this whole thing if he was more willing to evolve with the relationship.
There's a question of Mr. Kirby's character, if he's a sincere person or a horrible manipulator. Mr. Rogen, there's a question if you're more sinned against or sinning. Was that ambivalence being in the script a great amount of the appeal of doing the film?
Kirby: I don't think that Daniel's intentions are all sinister, that he's pathological in any way. It must have sprung up from his own loneliness that he's probably feeling prior to meeting Margot. I don't imagine that he's a very happy person before that. I think that the dawn breaks when he sees her and sees that she's present with him. His intentions aren't bad; he just feels something unleashes and he can't carry on. It's giddy; it sheds light on his world. How can you resist?
I only ask because I had a 20-minute long fight with a gentleman who had seen the film about whether or not you were the biggest dick in the world or if you were sincere in your aim.
Silverman: But that's so great that the movie did that.
Rogen: I always hope my movies lead to physical violence.
You're in a chapter in your career now where you have a lot of artistic control because producers add an addition to the acting a well. In Sarah's filming, she has clear, distinct artistic vision for this film. You didn't have the producer's hat losing that creative control and having to follow the direction of this creative, artistic director. How did that change the way of going about your recent films? Did you like the lack of responsibility? Did you find yourself acting as a producer even though it wasn't written on the contracts?
Rogen: No, I'm always happy to do less work than more work. Having one job on a movie is much easier than having three jobs on a movie. I'm more than happy to relinquish control, especially if it's someone else's thing. I expect the actors to have a similar attitude when they're doing our thing. She's very open. It's not like she was controlling of every moment of the movie. She's very collaborative, had a lot of conversations about the scenes and the lines. It never felt like we were just serving her vision. It felt very exploratory at times and that we were trying to find a vision together. I'm more than happy to not do a bunch of shit and do less shit.
Did you create a back story for your character? We don't see your character as much, but she seems like a rich character.
Silverman: We had rehearsal, and Sarah was very careful to talk to each of us in depth about our characters. I'm sure I have a lot of notions about who she is that may not have transcended film.
Rogen: She skydives, right?
Silverman: She's really into skydiving.
Rogen: I've picked that up.
Silverman: I actually made one choice, because I know people in AA fixate on simple things to obsess about, to go to. Chapstick was going to be that for me, but that's all I got.
Did you embrace Toronto while you were shooting it?
Rogen: Yeah, it was great. It was a lot of fun shooting here.
Did you feel that Toronto comes through as an actual character in this film? I know Sarah was passionate about the city, and she tried to capture that.
Silverman: I love how vibrant it is, how colorful, and the places she decided to shoot and how she shot it. It was really beautiful. For people who haven't been to Toronto, if they see this movie they're going to want to go to Toronto. I love that street where the house was.
Rogen: Me too. It was a great street.
Silverman: The feel of it makes you want to live there. The neighbors sit out on the porch in the summer.
Rogen: And argue with each other really loud.
Can the guys talk about working with Michelle Williams in romantic scenes? She's a very high performer, it seems. Is she like that when you work with her?
Kirby: She has a massive stillness to her that's really engaging to be around, inside of the work. It is kind of cliché to say it makes it easier, but --
Rogen: It does.
Kirby: It does. Knowing someone's available to you, it's as good as having a really good partner in life. It's the same thing inside of the scene. You know that that person's there with you; it casts aside 50 percent of what you had to worry about. You don't have to call upon any tricks or anything. You're just inside of it.
She's never done this kind of sex and nudity ever before. What was it like doing those erotic scenes with her? Was she nervous?
Kirby: Those scenes are always uncomfortable, because there's at least 10 men in the room.
Rogen: That's always how I do it. What's weird about that?
Kirby: It's exposing and very vulnerable. You try your best to maintain a sense of humor, I think, is the best thing.
Silverman: People don't realize there's a sound guy and there's a camera guy and there's the boom guy and this and that and then there's the guy for high fives. There's a lot set up.
Each one of your characters is in this stage of protracted adolescence: Mr. Rogen with the baby talk, Ms. Silverman with the grotesque selfishness of alcoholism, Mr. Kirby with hie 'career' driving a rickshaw …
Silverman: Somebody has alcoholism in his family. Someone's been to Al Anon.
It paints the entire generation as this generation of permanent adolescence. Do you feel like that's a fair charge against the generation you're representing in this film?
Kirby: I don't know. I know a lot of people in their 80s who get hammered and talk about Korea.
Silverman: I wouldn't say alcoholism is a part of the kidult phase. It's been around since alcohol.
Kirby: There is a quality that people who don't have a privileged life, not to have a lot of uncertainty. There's nothing else dictating. They can choose.
Rogen: I think movies in the '60s and '50s portrayed people as adults only, which was bullshit. I think now our movies are just more realistic. In the movies, they're all wearing suits and hats and they talk very appropriately, and you know between takes they're all doing drugs and fucking the shit out of each other. I think we just show that side more as opposed to the other, buttoned-down side, which was pretty much fabricated for movies anyway. I'm sure Rock Hudson had very similar before and after hours. He's a good reference for that, right? That's a very good reference for that, safe reference for that.
Silverman: I think that is a generation that exists right now, but I think that other generations that were more adult, I think we're mistaking adult with not ever asking yourself, 'What do I like? What do I want?' Getting married and having kids and things that may not actually be your cup of tea. People forget to ask themselves that.
(Part Two of this roundtable will run tomorrow.)