CHASING JOEY LAUREN ADAMS
I Still best known to viewers as the delightful central character of Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy, Joey Lauren Adams has expanded her horizons with Come Early Morning, her impressive writing and directing debut. On the surface, it may sound like just another indie drama destined to play the festival circuit before going to video—it tells of a young woman in a small Southern town who is inspired to break free from a cycle of too many drunken one-night stands when she meets a guy who is interested in more than just that—but there’s a definite stalwart presence that only a struggled fiver-year-in-the-making process can yield.
How did Come Early Morning start for you?
You know, it was a lot of things. It probably started with Dazed and Confused and just being there and working with Rick [Linklater], who was the writer/director, and he was so great with everyone. I fell in love with Austin and was determined to get out of LA. So, I was going to go back and make my fortune and become a big movie star. And then, after Chasing Amy, I thought there would be more opportunity with better roles. But the reward for getting nominated for a Golden Globe seemed to be Big Daddy. That is great fun and people love it, but you know what I mean—the character wasn’t a complex, great female role. And then, just the downtime as an actress, I found myself getting self-destructive and drinking a lot and depressed and miserable in LA. And, I realized I’m not going to change because of the roles I get as an actress. I didn’t want to become one of those bitter women. I knew I was going to age, you know, and a lot of other things. So, I started writing, just to feel proactive and not just sit around, waiting for Hollywood to come to me. And then, they say, “Write what you know.” So, that’s where I started.
While the film may not be literally autobiographical, did you know a Lucy in your life or a couple of women like her in Little Rock?
I’d say that it’s emotionally autobiographical, ‘cause I guess it’s me, if anyone, that Lucy’s based on. And then, some of the characters are loosely based on my family members, because it was easier to write, like, what would Granny say in this situation or Momma Doll? Obviously, I took a lot of dramatic license with the characters. Nothing in the movie actually ever happened. I had a dog that died, but that’s about it.
Do you think that’s easy, telling stories that come from your experiences?
I think it’s probably different for different people. I know a lot of my favorite writers don’t write about their personal life until much later in life, if they ever do that. But, I think I was just so insecure with my writing that I got Syd Field’s book and tried all of that, like, “Reach plot point one by page 11,” and I had to throw it out, because I cansome great writers that do write that way. It just wasn’t my thing.
Why did you decide not to act in it?
Originally, I was just going to act [and not direct], and then I realized that we were not going to get, like, Bob Rafelson to come out of retirement and direct it, you know, or Michael Apted or Bruce Beresford, and the directors they were talking about were sort of video directors who were wanting to move into film. It did end up becoming such a personal thing, and I was just terrified that some director would come in and turn these characters into caricatures. And, I really wanted the movie to be my experience of the South. We don’t all live in trailer parks. So, then I was going to write and direct. And then we had a meeting with the line producer, and she started talking about six-day work weeks, and 24 days, and equipment, and stuff I didn’t know, and words I didn’t know, and I just realized I don’t know enough and direct]. And, it was more important for me to direct at that point.
You’ve been on sets before, obviously, but this time you’d worked with the story for years on paper where if you did something wrong you could just toss out the paper or hit “delete.” Could you go into how this experience was therefore different from your previous work?
Well, the interesting thing was that once they said, “Okay, we have the money,” they don’t actually bring it out in a suitcase and show it to you, you know, so there’s a large part of me that didn’t believe we actually had the money. So, I was just like, okay, I’m going to go along with you. Oh, you want me to hire a DP, okay, sure. And did all of that. Then, we got to Arkansas, and we were in preproduction, and it just never really felt real. It just kind of felt like this game, and then you’re dealing with so much, and there were a lot of things going on in preproduction. At one point, my cinematographer said to me, “Joey, just so you know, we’re making a Movie of the Week”—like that’s how bad this prep is going. It was three days before shooting, and we didn’t have all the actors. We had two actors cast, who we couldn’t even shoot a scene with because we needed a third actor for the scene with those two actors. And, I called Jon Favreau, and said, “What should I do?’ He said, “Just keep going. It’ll come together.”
Does having worked as an actor help in terms of directing other actors?
jYes, absolutely. We had no rehearsal time. We didn’t have one day of rehearsal. As an actor walking onto a set, if you know the director’s an actor, there’s an immediate trust. So, I didn’t have to earn the actors’ trust. I didn’t
have to spend the time doing that. And, I think the script sort of attracted actors. Every character—and we ended up having to cut a lot of it—but every character in the script had a whole story. The Tim Blake Nelson character
had a relationship with the woman next door that sort of came full circle. The character that Pat Corley plays…we had to cut, but there is a scene where you see why he is such an asshole, and he was so amazing in that scene. So, I think the actors felt good coming in to play the parts to start with. And, they’ve all done these kinds of films.
Are you going to keep acting?
No. The five years that we were trying to get the money, I kept thinking at any moment we were going to get the money, and I was passing on jobs, and then, it got to where I needed money, so I had to do films that I wasn’t necessarily right for the role. And, it sort of put a bad taste in my mouth with acting. So, I’m going to let that go away. But, if Kevin Smith called and said, “Hey, Joey…”, I would in a heartbeat. Like for The Break-Up when Vince [Vaughn] called—that’s really fun for me. But I only want to do it, even if it’s a small role, if it’s really a director I want to work with or something that I feel I’ll grow as an actor. Because, like I said, there are so few directors that really direct. I would love to work with a great director that really works with his actors and that sort of thing.