Published in the print and online version of Exit Weekly.
by Christina M. Hinke
Nov. 15, 2006
Fans of Joey Lauren Adams know her as Kevin Smith's muse, starring in his films "Mallrats," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," and playing the female lead in "Chasing Amy," for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. She's also remembered as the charming Layla Maloney in "Big Daddy" and she most recently starred alongside Jennifer Aniston and friend Vince Vaughn in "The Break-Up".
After years of only being sent scripts for the hot, blonde chick role, and beating herself up over it, Adams, 38, decided to take all of her pent up frustration and put it to paper. What transpired was the script for "Come Early Morning," a film about Lucy (Ashley Judd), a woman desperately trying to connect with her dad, and attempting to break free from her fear of commitment. It is set in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where Adams grew up.
After a strenuous five years to get financiers on board, it only took Adams five weeks to shoot the feature, though it received a warm reception at the Sundance Film Festival this past January.
Was it hard to write something so personal to you?
The challenges were to make it dramatic enough and make it worthy of cinema. I really wanted to make a movie and see a female character who is not a heroin addict, who is not molested by her father, and not beaten by her boyfriend. I don't know people like that. It's not my experience. I was happy to see a film where the characters have a job. As human beings we have to work because you have to pay the rent. And we have sex and drink.
What makes a good southern film work?
I've noticed that most of my favorite southern films have been directed by foreign directors, which I have found interesting and spent a lot of time thinking about before I went to direct this. It was really important to me to do an authentic, real honest portrayal of the South. I was biased about using southern actors. You see something like "Cold Mountain" and they don't shoot in America and the actors are foreign. We had no rehearsals. I didn't have time to sit down and explain what the South is like to an Australian actor. So it was nice having actors that just got it.
Of course you lucked out and got Ashley Judd to play the lead. How did that occur?
There are so many different ways I was trying to make this work. At one point I was going to act and direct. I had a very famous actor attached and I went to this seminar on how to get an independent film made and he said to get an actor attached and he mentioned the name I had attached. And I still couldn't get the money.
Did you pay money for this seminar?
I walked out.
What did you do once you realized the formula wasn't working?
I was trying so hard to get these pieces to fit that didn't fit. Once I let go and said, 'I'm just going to direct and I'm just going to make this movie' it just quickly fell in line perfectly. We got the script to Ashley's agent at Sundance the year before last. I was really nervous when I went to meet Ashley for lunch. But once I got there I don't think we even discussed the script that much, there was just a knowing that this was going to happen and there was an immediate ease and trust.
This was your first time writing and being behind the camera. Did your friends Kevin Smith or Vince Vaughn help?
Vince helped with the script. Jon Favreau read the script and said don't change a thing, shoot everything. They were both producers for a little while. Seeing Kevin, he is so laid back and makes it look so easy, that instilled a confidence in me that I wasn't even aware of at the time.
Billy Bob Thornton was supposed to have a part in this. What happened?
Billy Bob was originally attached as Uncle Tim for years and once we were finally shooting, he was in L.A. shooting something and he couldn't do it. So, Tim Blake Nelson signed on. Billy Bob and Tim have a running joke that Tim gets all of Billy Bob's leftovers.
Why are you shifting roles from actor to writer/director?
As an actress I felt very reactive and I don't do well in that environment. I wanted to feel like I was in charge of my future instead of waiting for the next role to come to me. I moved out of Hollywood. I live in Mississippi now. My dream is that I can just write and take writing jobs and direct when I'm ready. And live a different life. I lived 19 years in California and I don't want to be involved in the business in the way I was these past 20 years. I'm optimistic that I can have the career I want.
What type of movies do you see yourself writing?
I don't see a lot of films that I relate to, even if they're stupid films. I haven't seen a lot of foreign films; they don't show those in Arkansas. The movies I grew up watching were "Footloose," "Flashdance," "Urban Cowboy" and "Terms of Endearment." I related to those movies and those are the kind of movies I want to make. My mom made me a little needlepoint at the end of this and it said, "Never, never, never give up."
Will living in Mississippi make it harder to connect with the film community?
I don't like to talk shop. I find it indulgent. It's like shut up and put out. I don't want to sit around at a coffee house and talk about my great ideas. I don't have the energy, I'm too lazy. I can't tell anybody the stories I'm working on because once I put it out there I don't feel the need to physically write it down. I feel the need to connect to myself. I had an existential breakdown after Sundance. Once we showed the film I was like, "Oh shit, who am I now?" Because I was for so long "Joey trying to get her film made" and that is such a dignified struggle. Now I'm "Joey the director." Now I have to step into that role, which I don't think I have fully. I still have some wounds to lick from the experience.
So what are you planning to do now?
I'm going to sit on my porch and drink a beer and pat myself on the back.
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