Danny Finds A Family
Fogelman is in an enviable position for a first-
time director, leading a cast
includes two Oscar
winners, a two-
time Oscar nominee, a Golden Globe
s a heavyweight cast,"
he says. "
Al Pacino and Annette
and Christopher Plummer. Jennifer Garner. Bobby Cannavale. It'
s a lot. And
some of the nicest people I'
ve ever met. I lucked out casting five people who
happen to be
at the top of their acting game and who I enjoy hanging out with."
Early on in the production, Fogelman was delighted to see the cast come
around a common interest. "
They are all theater geeks,"
he says. "
We went out to
together and they sat around the table talking theater. Al and Chris and Annette
work onstage all the time. Jen started out in New York theater. You want to know
really happens at crazy Hollywood dinners? They are all geeking out over
Fogelman and the actors spent weekend afternoons during the shoot in Pacino'
backyard working on the scenes for the upcoming weeks. "
It was really an amazing
experience sitting at his little picnic table in 90 degree heat, reading pages
with each other.
We would tweak the lines and I would get more ideas on staging it."
Initially intimidated by the prospect of directing the legendary Pacino,
soon got to know another side of the actor. "
s an iconic figure, but he'
also a really kind,
gentle soul. The character is larger than life and Al fits into it so nicely. He
is in his fancy suit
as he strides into this small town hotel and everybody'
s taking pictures. Even
s big and famous, he'
s very understated. This isn'
t a Scarface Al.
This is a much
The film introduces Danny as a 21-
old newcomer, stumbling through his
major interview. "
t have the kind of confidence to get through the
says Pacino. "
He is a natural songwriter and when he does very well, it shocks
known people like that who were catapulted into great stardom and were terrified
s survival instincts propel him forward professionally, says Pacino, but
protect him for so long. "
Then he slowly goes into decline. More than 40 years
the old songs over and over has killed his creative spirit. We find him at the
end of line, but
even with all the drugs and the drinking, he still fills a house."
When he receives the letter from Lennon, Danny decides the advice it contains
still worth following. "
In fact, it does what it was meant to do when it was
John Lennon understood. He said, come see Yoko and me. We will take you
talk about everything. You can be famous and still be yourself. That really
would have meant
a lot to him at the time since John Lennon was his hero. But at this point, it'
a lifesaver. It
just stops him in his tracks. He sees that he is living without hope, riding on
of drugs and alcohol and much younger women. The letter sparks him to change all
Danny checks into the under-
radar Woodcliff Lake Hilton in New Jersey to
compose new songs while he tries to reconnect with his past, but it would be
him to be anonymous-
even if he wanted to be. "
s like a walking neon sign,"
Everybody knows who he is. He brings in his tour bus, this huge bus
with his name
on it. He does inappropriate things without realizing it and that'
s where much
of the humor
comes from. He just sort of takes over this little Hilton."
Annette Bening plays hotel manager Mary Sinclair. Mary is navigating a messy
divorce and trying to raise her daughter alone. "
Annette gives a performance
that just sort of
says Pacino. "
s a great actress-
s a given. She'
inventive. She just keeps going and you go along for the ride. It was delightful
Mary may be the only person at the hotel who is not impressed to see Danny
walk in the door. "
That makes her very attractive to him,"
says Fogelman. "
is at a
crossroads and Danny is a force of nature who comes into her life. Their
relationship is a
beautiful love story, but not conventionally romantic. You'
re watching something
and meaningful develop between these two people. Al and Annette had such natural
chemistry. It was exciting to witness."
Bening had a ball developing her character in those backyard rehearsals.
such a good script to start with,"
she says. "
And then, we all worked on it a
s the real joy of making a movie. There'
s a kind of alchemy
s the fun of it. But it only happens when you have somebody like Al
Pacino to work
with. We found a lot of surprising things between us.
When you work with an actor like Al, he really does all the work,"
All I had to do was watch and listen and look into his eyes. He loves what he
does and that
permeates the whole atmosphere of the set. It'
s great entertainment seeing Al
sink his teeth
into the role of this flashy musician."
She was grateful that Fogelman allowed them to embellish on his script so
Sometimes a writer-
director wants exactly the words that he spent so much time
and love putting on, but Dan was very enthusiastic about our input."
Asked to describe Danny Collins, Bening says, "
s surprisingly hard to do
that in a
s a charming eccentric who has lived his life according to what he
wanted to do.
s realizing that in the larger picture, that doesn'
t really make you happy.
s ready for
something else in his life and that'
s really what the story'
s about. The letter
reminds him and
us that the future is always fresh."
To play Danny'
s longtime manager and best friend, Frank Grubman, Fogelman
s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor, Christopher Plummer.
Chris and Al
are quite beautiful together in the film,"
says the filmmaker. "
He provides the
yin to Al'
yang. They are wonderful together in real life as well. They were both so
towards one another. And Chris is so funny. He provides a great deal of the soul
movie, but also a lot of comedy. He'
s such an elegant man, but in this film he'
gruffer than you'
ve seen him."
The respect between the two actors is apparent even in casual conversation.
does Chris Plummer create these kinds of characters?"
asks Pacino. "
he go to
get the nuance of this character, the subtlety? I don'
t know. It'
s genius. You
see it so rarely
and you have to enjoy it."
This is the second film the pair has made together. "
We both worked on The
which I felt was a wonderful and important movie,"
says Plummer. "
ve known Al
screen over the years and he'
s been terrific to me. He'
s seen a lot of plays
that I did on
Broadway and he'
s always been terribly loyal. I'
ve done nothing for him except
tremendously. I call him a great actor because he'
s earned it, both in the
theater and on
longtime friendship shines through on screen. "
s a great
between the characters,"
says Plummer. "
They have saved each other'
s lives for
got me sobered up early on in life and I try to do the same for him. It'
relationship, but never cute or sentimental."
Plummer sees Danny Collins as a classic film with wide appeal. "
this can come home joyful and thoroughly entertained. The characters are
and the script is very well written by Dan Fogelman. He is really an
s hard to find scripts that are this human and funny and
Danny Collins goes to New Jersey to seek out his almost 40-
old son, Tom
Donnelly, whom he has never met even though he has known about him since before
was born. "
t given access to the child and his very big, very famous
life got in the
says Fogelman. "
s trying to make amends, but it starts very
Bobby Cannavale brings an authentic sadness and grit to the role of Tom.
a salt of the earth kind of guy,"
says Fogelman. "
s something just so real
and his performance in the film. It helped that Al and Bobby have a tremendous
relationship. Al plays cards with Bobby, which is one of the reasons I cast him.
You can feel
it when you look at them on camera together. There'
s a lot of love there, as
well as a push
and pull between the two of them."
Cannavale and Pacino had just completed a Broadway run of David Mamet'
and Tony Award
winning play, "
Glengarry Glen Ross,"
when they began
Danny Collins. "
I am thrilled to say that I played the role that Al played in
actor says. "
Any actor in my age group looks up to Al Pacino. He'
s my favorite
actor and it
was huge that I got to do a play with him. We got to be pretty close during the
play and now,
I get to work with him in a movie.
s just a master of subtlety and depth on film,"
all the iconic roles he'
s played. Here we are playing father and son. It'
how life turns
Working with his friend Cannavale made the difficult and emotional scenes
Danny and his son easier for Pacino. "
You look into Bobby'
s eyes and there'
something going on,"
he says. "
t know that we could have done what we did
if we had just met on the picture."
Tom has been working construction and struggling to get by all of his adult
explains Cannavale. "
ve got a pregnant wife and a little girl and a secret of
my own that
eventually brings my dad and me closer together,"
he says. "
Tom represents a
opportunity. He is the family that Danny never had. Tom doesn'
t want anything to
him, but Danny sort of gives him no choice. He just keeps bombarding his way in.
is going to make a connection with him, regardless of what Tom wants."
Cannavale credits Fogelman with creating a great script for the actors to
He has an uncanny sense of the truthfulness that came through, not just in the
in the directing. It never felt like this was his first movie. I was very lucky
to work with
someone who brought so much passion to the project."
s radiant wife, Samantha, Jennifer Garner provides the film'
to Fogelman. "
Jennifer is so nice that you think, '
t possibly be this
director says. "
s the real article. Both as an actress and as the
character, Jen is so
grounded. Sam is the first one to open herself up to Danny coming into their
lives, but she
also tells him that this is her husband'
s story and while she wishes him the
best of luck, she
t have high expectations for how this is going to go."
Garner, a mother of three, says she loves stories that explore what it means
to be a
I was so happy to be able to be a part of this film. This gets to the
heart of what
makes us all love one another and why it is so complicated to love someone else.
Tommy are a really solid couple. She always has her husband'
s back. For all of
s known about Danny Collins. Every time that song is played, it'
When she first meets Danny, she'
s worried about her husband, but Danny so
to make things right. He just keeps showing up."
Garner admits that having a front row seat for Al Pacino'
s performance as
was a big draw. "
He seemed to be having the time of his life,"
Garner says. "
for anything, ready to dance, ready to sing at a moment'
s notice. He was having
a blast. His
whole personality was just really light and easy and fun.
This movie will make the audience feel good, too,"
she concludes. "
going to be singing his signature song. The crew sang it all day."
Fogelman says the secret to bringing the story and characters to life was all
Just get Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer
Bobby Cannavale to do your movie. It would be hard to screw that up. To be
who are sensitive and amusing and supportive as well as open to me was
t walk across a wire without the faith and confidence in the people that are
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