People tend to react in one of two ways to 'Like Crazy,' the Sundance-approved long-distance-relationship saga that Paramount is billing as something like the second coming of 'Love Story.' ("Love means never having to renew your visa"?) Some viewers experience a Kleenex-obliterating sense memory of what it felt like to be young, naïve, hopelessly in love, and separated from one's object of desire by circumstances beyond one's control; others check out emotionally as soon as they decide that these two idiot kids brought all their troubles on themselves. I fall decidedly into the former camp, so I jumped at the chance to interview the film's 28-year-old director, Drake Doremus, who shot the movie with no script and $250,000. He shared a few gory details about the long-distance relationship(s) that inspired the film, and even offered some advice for those foolish enough to attempt one in real life.
I saw the movie two or three weeks ago and, like anyone who's ever had a long-distance relationship, I was just a shattered mess after watching it.
I'm glad to hear that and I'm sorry to hear that.
How did you make it so real?
The truth is, they made it real, you know? Anton, Felicity, right when we started working together, I asked them to make this a boundary-less process. I said, 'That's what I want to do. I really want to push things so that we're really in it and it's really happening.' They said, 'OK, we'll do it.' Once we started rehearsing, once they were in character, they were in character for a month.
That was the mandate. The camera was constantly moving around. You never know when it's going to be rolling -- they needed to be Jacob and Ana and in a relationship. So they crossed into that territory and let themselves be vulnerable and trusted me. It was incredible because I was able to steal some really true and authentic moments, because they were willing to go there. For that entire month, we were just in it.
Were either of them in relationships at the time?
Yeah, they were both in relationships. It was still a professional thing; they were friends. And then when it was done, it was done. They were just genuinely reacting and responding to the imaginary circumstances which I put in front of them, so that it could feel as authentic as possible. You never saw the strings; it was always real. I think it was hard for them, but I also think that they're such bold and exciting actors, they're willing to go places that most actors aren't.
What's the difference between Felicity Jones and her character? How different are they?
Well, they're very different. I think Felicity would say that Ana's a lot more naive and hopeful and pushy than she is.
And how did you come to cast Felicity in that role?
I cast Felicity based off a tape. I had seen a bunch of different actresses in Los Angeles in chemistry reads with Anton, but nothing was really clicking. I had spoken to Felicity on the phone for about an hour and we talked about 'Breaking the Waves' and performances that we loved over the years. We really bonded, and I was excited to see her tape, because I was thinking to myself, 'Oh my God, she really gets what I'm looking for.' And then she sent me her tape. She had gotten in her shower and she did the last scene in the movie and she framed it close upon her face. She sent me that scene and a couple of other scenes, and I was just floored by her and took the chance of casting her without seeing her with Anton at all. Or without meeting her in person. Flew her to L.A. and we were shooting five days after she arrived.
So you had rehearsals for five days and then jumped right in?
You got it. We did 12 hours a day. We started at 3 p.m. and went to like 3 a.m., which was awesome because it felt like we were being mischievous. We were up all night just doing our thing.
And how did you end up casting Anton?
I met Anton through my producer, Jonathan Schwartz. Just researching actors in their young 20s, in their early 20s, really he was on the top of my list. He's such a great character actor and a chameleon. He's not just a good-looking kid; he can really act.
The film is based on your personal experiences, is that right?
Yeah, somewhat, for sure.
So you had a long-distance relationship? At what point in your life? From 19 to 25, pretty much. I'm 28 now. She had to leave the country for visa reasons, so all that stuff is really personal to me. I really wanted to maintain and sort of explore the emotions I was going through and had gone through in the relationship, but at the same time my co-writer Ben York Jones had been through a long-distance relationship and put a lot of his emotions and detail into it. And then Felicity and Anton put the final touches on a lot of that stuff and brought a lot of themselves too. In a way, it's a collaboration based off of an amalgamation of a relationship that I did have.
Did any of you guys get married in an attempt to get a visa sorted out?
Yes, I did.
And I'm assuming that it didn't work out in the end?
I am a divorcé, Michael. I am a divorcé.
I'm sorry to probe.
No worries, man! Nah, I don't mind talking about it. You know, it's funny, I knew what I was getting myself into doing this movie, and now, having to talk about it. So I'm comfortable with my past and my life and it is the way it is.
Your previous movie, 'Douchebag,' also dealt with marriage in a really unorthodox way. Marriage is obviously one of the great subjects of literature and film, but does it mean something special to you as a writer?
It is. It's so funny, my new movie that I just shot this past summer is about fidelity in a marriage. I'm definitely fascinated by the subject. I'm more fascinated than anything by the idea of being with one person and monogamy and what that means, what that says about your life choices. It's something that I think about every day -- it's sort of at the center of my work.
It's challenging at times to keep rooting for Jacob when you see him, not quite two-timing because it's a long-distance thing, but kind of two-timing.
Yeah, I think that both are two-timing and that's the greatness. Once they have a conversation about seeing other people when they're not together, it's fair game. It's that greatness: well, we're married, but we're not. It's a very delicate thing, and it's hard, you know, the long distance thing is hard 'cause you're not really in each other's lives. You are but you're not.
Did you actively try to avoid romantic clichés while making this movie?
I really did consciously try to avoid them, because that was what kind of inspired me to make my love story. Because there are a bunch of movies that I have seen over the years that didn't really convey the truth about it. This was sort of a response to that. Obviously there are certain things that are inherent in relationships. Some of the scaffolding and structure, I think, could be perceived as that way, but I really tried to do something fresh and different and tried to do my take.
You did have a montage with a music overlay on it.
Yeah, there are a bunch of those. I love montages. If you've seen 'Douchebag,' I've got a lot of montages in that one too.
Hard to get around that when you have people falling in love.
What I found interesting was that most of the story takes place after the point where most romantic movies end. Your characters fall in love at the very beginning of the movie and then it's a kind of a "now what?" issue.
Yeah, exactly. I wanted to shake it up and sort of spin it.
Here's an insane question: Do you have any advice for people who are actually in long-distance relationships?
Yes. I have a very specific piece of advice: Have an endpoint in sight. It's a lot easier if you're going through the long-distance relationship when there's a drop-dead date of, 'Well, OK, in three months we're going to give it a shot in one of the cities.' If it's open-ended and it's just, 'OK, we're in a relationship but who knows if we'll ever actually be in the same city?," that's when it erodes and can fall apart. But I think if there's an end goal in mind that you guys set together, if you really want to give it a shot, then there's a little bit more of a hope and a chance.
Do you know anyone who had a long-distance relationship that actually worked out?
Yeah, it's funny! So many journalists, to be honest, that I've talked to, have told me their stories. I was in San Diego and this guy told me a really great story about how he met up with his high-school friend after not seeing her for 10 years and they started a long distance relationship, and now they have kids. It's really inspiring and exciting to hear that it works out for some people.
It can be done.
I think so. I mean, you can't choose who you love and you gotta be with who you love. Sometimes you have to make compromises and hard decisions in your life. You'll make the right decisions if it's the right person. I think it can be done. I think my version of it was that I was just so young and hadn't experienced enough of life to really understand and get through it and make it work. So when I look back on the movie now, and my personal experiences, I just wasn't prepared or in a place in my life where I could handle that sort of situation.
[ALERT: THIS NEXT QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SERIES CONTAINS A SPOILER OF SORTS]
But the movie is kind of open-ended, right? I kind of assume that they're gonna make it in that final scene.
Well, great! I hope that they do, and I don't want the audience to walk away thinking they didn't. I think there's a lot of exhaustion -- the relationship has taken a toll on them and they have to rest and regroup. Whether that regrouping leads to a healthy, normal, functional relationship now? I mean, that's really up to the audience, for them to bring their life and their personal experiences to it.
I read something that there was like a crowd of folks who were 70 and up who really flipped for the movie. What's been your reflections on watching people watch the movie?
It's crazy. Yesterday, we were at the Hamptons Film Festival to screen the movie for about 850 people. I'd say 90 percent of the crowd was 40 and older. It's incredible the response it's getting from an older audience. I was not expecting it, but it's really exciting because I think that there's a real nostalgic connection to what this feels like for an older audience. I think they're discovering it and they're making it their own.
That's funny because it feels very contemporary and true to the way people date now. But it's probably the way people dated back then too.
Yeah, I think that's the case. I think that love doesn't change, only technology does.
[Photo: Getty Images]
For more on Drake Doremus, head over to Huffington Post.
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