CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
About The Production
The romantic travails of smart, funny, attractive young people are always
fodder for light-hearted comedy-except when the light hearts are countered by
heartache. CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER transforms the conventional romantic comedy
with a bracingly honest real-life vibe, exploring both the comedy and complexity
of love and friendship.
"Will and I grew up with romantic comedies, but the ones we love are all about
heartbreak," says the luminous Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay with
actor Will McCormack and also stars as Celeste. "We wanted to invert what
everybody expects from this kind of story. Of course we're all completely
familiar with the archetypes and structures and story points of romantic
comedy-so we wanted to flip it. To keep the humor and the audience's emotional
connection to it but get something new."
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack are laughingly frank about the real-life
parallel between their own personal history and their collaborative screenplay.
"As a couple we were short-lived and ancient history, but we knew we could be
friends," says Will, who nails the sidekick role of Skillz the pot dealer with
comic skeeziness. "We wrote this whole movie side-by-side on one computer. We
wrote every word together. Because we have been so close for so long, there was
a real shorthand during the writing process. And as new writers, we were very
encouraging of each other." CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is a first-time
screenwriting effort for both actor-writers.
As Will elaborates, "Celeste and Jesse are definitely more amplified versions
of us. Celeste's journey is interesting because she is someone who thinks she
can outsmart heartache. That's something that happens to other people. She does
everything she can to avoid it."
An alpha woman with shadows
Indeed, Celeste offers a twist on an archetype that movies love to scorn: the
alpha woman. "Yup, Celeste is the high-powered career driver and Jesse is the
passive guy who won't grow up-all the makings of a clichÃ©," says Rashida. "But
the balance between them keeps shifting out of Celeste's control, which kills
her as a controller. When the reality of losing Jesse hits, she's just
blindsided." Celeste's ambitious striver is given more compassionate
dimensionality than the alpha woman stereotype is usually afforded.
"Personally, I can relate to a line like 'The father of my child will own a
car'" says producer Jennifer Todd, herself a professional dynamo with both
studio blockbusters and independent dramas to her name. "Celeste is a very, very
recognizable present-day woman. But by the rules of studio comedy, she would
have to lose her job, have a comeuppance. And she would also have to fall down
in high heels a lot. Embarrassing things would happen to her. An ambitious woman
has to become a loser to be likeable. Rashida didn't write her or play her that
Director Lee Toland Krieger remarks that "Even in 2012 you rarely see an
ambitious Type A woman onscreen who's more than a caricature. Rashida's
character can be tough and very serious about her career and also have a
sweetness and sadness." Krieger's first feature, THE VICIOUS KIND, attracted
Todd and the writers for its sinewy drama; "Just reading the script I understood
that they didn't want a fluff piece. They wanted a story about what heartbreak
is really like. I was thinking HUSBANDS AND WIVES and I could see how a lot of
other filmmakers might be thinking of something broader. It's maybe harder to
take at times and a bit more gut-wrenching, but I think people will respond to
"It was a really tricky tone to find," Rashida points out. "There are so many
turns in the movie that are so hard and so quick, and it goes from being funny
and broad to really sad and hopefully truthful-it needed somebody who got that
range to find what the thread is."
But don't worry, it's still a comedy
Emotional truth notwithstanding, the goal is entertainment-hard to miss with
the likes of SNL alum ANDY SAMBERG as Jesse, and an ensemble featuring Emma
Roberts, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood and the rest of the supporting cast. As bad
girl pop star Riley, Emma Roberts's sulky stoner is the antithesis of Celeste's
uber-functional know-it-all. "Riley lives in a totally different world than
Celeste," says Emma, "So it's hilarious to see when their worlds meet and they
are forced to interact. Riley is oblivious but she isn't stupid. I think she
just doesn't know how to behave appropriately in certain situations. I think
they both are kind of fascinated by each other because they are such opposites.
I love how their relationship goes from annoyance to a kind of love for each
other. Or at
least an understanding."
Friendship from the inside out
Echoing the film's themes of love and friendship, a network of longtime
relationships enlivens the CELESTE AND JESSE cast and crew. Andy Samberg's
friendship with Rashida dates back to his stand-up comic days around LA, and
they are old friends with instant chemistry onscreen. Producer Todd's
acquaintance with Rashida goes back to high school (where Rashida looked up
admiringly to the slightly older and reportedly cooler Jennifer), and Jen gave
Will McCormack one of his first film roles, in THE BOILER ROOM. Jen's sister and
Team Todd partner SUZANNE TODD shares producer credit (as well as with LEE
NELSON). Chris Messina, who plays Celeste's surprisingly astute suitor Paul, is
Jennifer's husband. On the tech side, director Lee Toland Krieger brought on a
crack team of frequent collaborators, including Director of Photography DAVID
LANZENBERG and his crew.
To pull it all together, producer Lee Nelson's Envision Media Arts stepped up
with the lifeblood of financing. "Jennifer and Rashida were trying to get
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER done on the financing side, and felt that they weren't
able to make the film they wanted to make when they reached out to us. We read
the material, and loving it and loving the people involved, we felt like these
are the kind of artists that we want to be aligned with-so we took a flier and
financed 100% of the film." By all reports, the all-union, modestly-budgeted
production was remarkably fun for the cast and crew as they dashed around
numerous LA locations and onward to San Francisco and Rhode Island (where the
wedding scene was shot). "It was an absolute joy making this film," says Nelson.
"It was a very collaborative set with a very positive vibe."
The joy must be especially rich for Rashida Jones, as the co-writer and title
character, seeing her first screenwriting outing come to fruition. "Acting in a
film that you wrote is a real privilege and a creative advantage," she says. "As
the writer, you know the genesis of the joke, the scene and the relationship.
The process of making the film was extremely grass roots, which gave the movie
an organic, lived-in feel."
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