THE GUILT TRIP
As the journey of THE GUILT TRIP is set into motion, Andy and Joyce Brewster find themselves meeting friends, strangers and blasts from the past who will change the course of their trip. This roster of colorful characters gave the filmmakers a chance to bring together a talented supporting cast who add their own touches to Rogen and Streisand's journey. Sums up Anne Fletcher: "This is really Seth and Barbra's film, but for the smaller parts, we were very lucky to get really amazing actors who each came in and added something special to their moments."
These include Kathy Najimy, who came to the fore in hit comedy SISTER ACT and has since been seen in a wide variety and film and television roles. In THE GUILT TRIP, she plays Gail, leader of Joyce's "weight loss club" and of a trio of chatty friends that includes English actress Miriam Margolyes (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS) and Rose Abdoo, who was also seen in The 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. "They were very funny and wonderful improvisers," says Streisand of Joyce's New Jersey crew.
Also taking key roles are Yvonne Strahovski and Colin Hanks, both recently seen in DEXTER, who play Andy's long lost high school love, Jessica, and the all-too-ideal husband, she now has at her side Nick. When the Brewster's car breaks down in Nashville, Tennessee, the couple turns out to be Andy and Joyce's only chance at rescue - and give both an eye-opening insight into the myths surrounding Andy's unresolved romantic history.
"They are only in a couple of scenes, but the casting works so nicely," says Dan Fogelman. "As Nick, Colin would be a completely non-threatening person but under the circumstances he's wildly threatening and overwhelming to Andy in a strange way. And as Jessica, Yvonne is so lovely and sweet that you get why he's been so hung up on her."
Colin Hanks was thrilled to have the chance to work opposite Rogen and Streisand, even in such an awkward scenario. "We decided to play Jessica and Nick as so kind of perfect that they're annoying," he explains. "But you also see that they're genuinely happy together. I think it creates a really touching moment between Seth and Barbra, because Joyce finally sees the reality of her son's situation with Jessica, and she finds a great deal of empathy for him."
Adds Strahovski: "I think Joyce hasn't quite let go of the memory of Jessica and Andy being together. So the scene becomes a kind of pivotal moment between them. For me, it was so much fun to watch Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand playing mother-and-son. Their dynamic was so real."
Seth Rogen agrees that their scene is a turning point for Andy and Joyce. "Joyce has been kind of nagging him about this relationships and I think she sees that it all went down differently than she thought and that her son is a lot more wounded by it than she realized," he observes. "I think it's a moment when she appreciates that her pushing him on the subject has real emotional repercussions for him. I think a lot of people have that kind of moment with their mother."
Another transformative role is that of Ben Graw, the dashing cowboy who roots for Joyce in her steak-eating quest, then charms her almost to the point of breaking her ironclad resistance. Taking the part is Brett Cullen, most recently seen in in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, who won Fletcher over after a concerted search for just the right kind of rugged allure. "It was a tricky role to cast, because he had to be someone not only charming and manly but able to sweep even Joyce off her feet. As soon as I saw Brett, I thought 'He's the guy.' Then I had him meet Barbra and when I saw the two of them together, I knew we were done. They were a perfect pair together."
Adds Seth Rogen: "The ironic thing is that the role could have been played by James Brolin [Streisand's real-life husband], but that would have been too weird, so Brett Cullen came in and he was really, really good and amazingly authentic. I think he actually comes from an oil tycoon family. He was really natural and he didn't come across at all as a kind of Yosemite Sam character, which was my fear."
Rounding out the main cast are Adam Scott of PARKS AND RECREATION and Ari Graynor (THE SITTER, FRINGE) as the son and daughter of Joyce's long lost love Andrew Margolis, who complete Andy and Joyce's journey with an unexpected twist.
With the cast set, shooting began in Los Angeles - and despite THE GUILT TRIP's 3,000-mile journey, the main production never left Southern California. Instead, Anne Fletcher and a team that included veteran cinematographer Oliver Stapleton and production designer Nelson Coates largely recreated the wide-open American road in one city.
"It was challenging, but we had such a great team," says Fletcher. "Nelson Coates found amazing locations in Los Angeles that could look and feel just like other parts of the country. Then our great director of photography, Oliver Stapleton, and the first A.D., Joe Camp, headed out a real road trip to get additional footage. I like real locations but movie magic can also be very, very fun."
Since a good portion of the film takes place in the car, a lot of work was done on a process stage, where the focus was entirely on Rogen and Streisand, with the knowledge that backdrops of the USA, from Alabama to the Grand Canyon, would be added later.
This worked so well in part because Fletcher was interested less in highlighting what Joyce and Andy see out the window and more in what they see in each other after all the mashugana situations they find themselves in. All the elements of the film, from the design to the costumes to the music, centered on that.
Lorne Michaels notes that the film's road trip - while as funny and full of surprise curves as road trips traditionally are- also becomes a kind of rite of passage. "The great thing about road trip movies is that as an audience, you really feel you are getting somewhere. You're in the car with these characters, and we all know what that is like: it's about the music, it's about conversation, it's about looking out the window. But it also always about moving forward and so that metaphor hangs over the story of Andy and Joyce in a powerful way."
Executive producer Mary McLaglen, who also worked with Fletcher on THE PROPOSAL, says: "Anne's filmmaking is all about performance and getting inside the character's minds. She's great with actors and she creates a very fun set for everyone."
John Goldwyn adds: "Anne created an environment that was natural and relaxed and was great for Barbra and Seth to really build their relationship. We had such a great team, and I also think Lorne's understanding of talent and ability to quickly zero in on solutions was very valuable throughout this movie."
The set of THE GUILT TRIP was not only fun, it also inspired more than a few calls home as cast and crew couldn't help but keep in mind their own mothers. Producer Evan Goldberg even headed out on his own 5-day trip with his mom at the end of production.
Barbra Streisand hopes that audiences will experience a similar impact. Concludes Streisand: "I think it would be good if sons and mothers go to see THE GUILT TRIP together, you know? And maybe they will feel closer at the end."
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