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Interview with writer/director Joey Lauren Adams and star, Ashley Judd, of Come Early Morning

Review of Come Early Morning

Joey Lauren Adams writes and directs Come Early Morning, about Lucy (Judd), a woman struggles to maintain a stable relationship with her new boyfriend, Cal (Donovan), while battling alcoholism. Joey Lauren Adams has starred in The Break-Upl, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Big Daddy, Harvard Man, and, most famously, in Chasing Amy, which gave her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. This is her directorial debut. Ashley Judd has been in such films as De-Lovely, which gave her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress, Frida, Double Jeopardy, Kiss the Girls, and Ruby in Paradise. Her next starring role will be in Bug. had the privilege to interview the Joey Lauren Adams and Ashley Judd together.

Roadside Attractions will release Come Early Morning on November 10th, 2006.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Joey, how do you feel about writing/directing and why did you move away from acting?

JLA: Iíve just crossed over into writing and directing. Iím still optimistic that I can have the career I want. As an actress, I felt very reactive and I donít do well in that environment. I wanted to feel like I was in charge of my future instead of waiting for the next role to come to me. Iíve done that and moved out of Hollywood. I live in Mississippi now. My dream is that I can just write and take writing jobs and direct when Iím ready and live a different life. Iíve spent 19 years in California and I donít want to be involved in the business in the way I was these past 20 years. Itís such an extremely tough business. I donít know how my career as an actress will fare without me being in L.A. calling my agent every day and putting that energy into it. You have to do that. Iím not looking to be an A-list actress. Iím looking to do smaller roles if they come my way. I donít see a lot of films that I can relate to, even if theyíre stupid. Like, the movies that I grew up with [are not foreign films]. They donít show those in Arkansas. I grew up with Footloose and Flashdance and Urban Cowboy and Terms of Endearment. I related to those movies and those are the kind of movies I want to make. My mom gave me [advice] at the end of this which is to never, never, never give up.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you share your ideas with others throughout the creative process?

JLA: I donít like to talk shop. I find it indulgent. Itís sort of, ďShut up and put out.Ē I donít want to sit around in the coffee house and talk about my great ideas. I donít have the energyóIím too lazy. If I take about them in the coffee shop, I wonít feel the need to go home and write them. I canít tell anybody my stories Iím working on because once I put it out there, I donít feel that need to physically write it down. I feel the need to connect with myself and [who I am]. I sort of had an existential breakdown after Sundance when they showed the film, I was like ďOh, shit. Who am I now?Ē I was, for so long, Joey, trying to get her film made and thatís such a, like, dignified struggle and now Iím Joey the director. Now I sort of have to step into that role which I donít think I have fully. I still have some wounds to lick from the experience.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Who helped you with the script?

JLA: Vince [Vaughn] helped with the script and Jon Favreau read [it] and said, ďDonít change a thing. Shoot everything.Ē He [and] Vince were the producers for a little while. Seeing someone like Kevin [Smith] and [Richard Linklater] direct, it made it so easy that that instilled a confidence in me that I wasnít even aware of.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes a good southern film work?

JLA: I noticed that most of my favorite southern films have been directed by foreign directors, which I found interesting. Iíve done a lot of hunting about before I went to direct this because it was really important to me to do an authentic feel on this portrayal. Itís like doing a documentaryóyou have to go in unbiased. I actually talked to John Travolta because I think that Urban Cowboy is a great movie in that way. He said that they were never commenting on the characters and I think thatís what we tried to do. I think I was biased about being a southern actress. I always feel a little strange. You see something like Cold Mountain and they donít shoot in America and the actors are foreign. Not that theyíre not amazing, [itís just that] we didnít have a lot of rehearsal. I didnít have a lot of time to sit down and explain to an Australian actor what the south is like and [to] work with the dialect coach. I couldnít afford all of that. There was something nice about having actors who just ďgot itĒ. The film was kind of like an accident. I saw George Washington when it first came out. I wasnít even aware that they were southern. I was just blown away by how that film was shot for so little money. From that moment [on], thatís where I wanted to shoot the film.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What about you, Ashley?

AJ: I definitely remember the mountain woman from Cold Mountain and how, in fact, that was played by, albeit a very great [actor], a British actor. I know that from my experience, the sense of place was very clear, the tone was very present on the first page, and the writing, while very simple, expressed a profound understanding of the place. And so, I was on board at that point. Not only was there an understanding of what the south historically has been, but what it is now. That, to me, is very good writing, where, in so few words, so much can be expressedówhich is really not quite how I talk, which is why I find it so humiliating. [laughs] NYC MOVIE GURU: Joey, how did you cast the supporting actors? JLA: Iíd like to take complete credit for it, but I canít. Billy Bob [Thornton] was originally [supposed to play Uncle Tim]. [He] and Tim [Blake Nelson] have a running joke that Tim gets all of Billy Bobís leftovers. [Billy Bob] was attached for [many] years to play that role and then, once when we were finally shooting, he was in L.A. shooting something and couldnít do it. Most of the roles were bigger roles. All of the characters, sort of, had a story, like even [Lucyís dad] had a story where you learn why heís such an asshole and, unfortunately, it had to [be cut]. I want to put it on the DVD [deleted scenes].

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you cast Ashley Judd as Lucy in Come Early Morning?

JLA: There were so many ways I was trying to make this work with this piece and this piece and this piece. At one point, I was going to act, I was going to direct, we had this actor attached, that actor attachedóthere was a very famous actor attached. I went to this seminar on how to get independent film [to} make it. The first thing the first producer said was to get an actor attached. He mentioned the name of the actor that we had attached. I tried so hard to make these pieces fit that didnít fit, [but] once I let go and said ďIím just going to direct,Ē it [progressed] quickly. I heard that Ashley [Judd] liked the script. We were going to meet for lunch and I was really nervous. But once I got there, I donít think we even discussed it. I donít think that we discussed the script that much. There was this sort of a knowing that this was going to happen. There was an immediate ease and trust. From day one, I kind of felt like I knew she knew the character [and] she knew [that] I knew she knew the character. There was no gluttonous need to sit and dissect it.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Ashley, what made you trust Joey Lauren Adams as a first time director?

AJ: It was very clear and very simple. If [Joey Lauren Adams] hadnít written the script, I wouldíve wanted a little bit more information and our lunch would have included some conversation about why this is important to [her], how [she] wants to shoot and things like that. But you read the script and you meet the woman and itís just very clear. Thereís such a non-story behind the story for our relationship and how we made the movie.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What kind of research did you do before being filmed?

AJ: Iíve been reading a lot of contemporary mountain writers, like Silas House. Thereís a woman from West Virginia called Denise Gardinia I really like. She wrote a book called Storming Heaven which is about a very famous coal-mining strike in the early part of the 20th Century. Of course, [thereís] Bobby Ann Mason, whoís really cool and sheís been writing some excellent pieces for the New York Times lately about the environmental disaster in eastern Kentucky, so I have a lot of respect for her. Flannery OíConner I started reading in high school. She is so bewitching and charming and smart. Her observations can be very pithy, but they are so ripe and full of wisdom.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How difficult was it to take on the role of Lucy?

AJ: It feels really good to have done this movie. Something that I have learned lately is when something is easy, thatís better. [laughs] When I was young, I thought that when I grew up, what I wanted to be was intense. I valued intensity above all else. I was a bit of a slave to that for a while, to my own detriment. And now, what I am enjoying is effortlessness and that stuff can be so easy. Thatís when I know for me that I am in the will of the god of my understanding. Making Bug was [also] really easy. Giving the lecture at [the University of Kansas] was very easy. I wasnít even winded. I felt like I was sitting on a quilt with a cup of tea reading a good book by a lake all day. Thatís a wonderful feeling. Actually, I was reflecting on that earlier. I had that feeling about De-Lovely, too. When I feel really comfortable with people and we maybe donít really talk that much about the script, I go home and I call my husband and say, ďEverybodyís so nice.Ē

NYC MOVIE GURU: Ashley, how did you connect the character of Lucy?

AJ: The way that I describe Lucy is that Iím doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Sheís] increasingly baffled and enraged, but the results arenít different. So, [her] attitude is ďWell, Iíll just do it more and harder and that will induce the long-sought-after different result.Ē Iíve done that plenty [of times] in my life with a lot of different things. In my acting, I learned this about myself: Years ago, if I was trying to do something a certain way with a certain intention, I would try that again and again and again without realizing I could actually back up and go in a whole different direction. Thatís where directors have been really helpful to me in my career. Theyíll bring me back out into the intersection and say, ďYou have all these different roads you can try,Ē because Iíll just try to bang my way through that dead end brick wall. I related so much to that in Lucy. Itís like [I] identify, but donít compare. I havenít done the same things, but I identify with that significantly and maybe thatís why it was so easy. Joey [Lauren Adams] would say in the scene, ďMaybe youíre not taking enough responsibility for yourself.Ē I very much understood what that meant. Another actor might have killed her.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Joey, are you in any way a feminist?

JLA: I donít think that Iím [part] of the feminist generation. That word is a little off on me. And plus, I donít choose to look at the world that way; I choose to create my own world. After Sundance, I kind of got really pissed off because all I was hearing [about Come Early Morning] was that [it was] a chick flick and that we should screen this at womenís groups. And I was like, ďFuck you!Ē My next project is that Iím going to take this script and shoot it word-for-word in a small town in the Midwest except Lucy is going to be Lester. And after I made this male flick, do we need to show it to menís groups? I think that Lucyís struggle is universal. Itís not a male/female thing. Weíre not perfect human beings. Lucy wakes up one morning in the hotel and she wants to change, but she doesnít have the skills because thatís how life works. You donít say, ďI want to change and this is how I want to do it. Iíve got these skills.Ē You have to learn the skills and itís a struggle. Itís a universal struggle to live in truth and to accept people for who they are truthfully. That, to me, is where God lives. In that moment when Lucy looks at her dad and thereís no hate, thereís no judgment, thereís just the realization [that] this is who he is and this is who God made. All the therapy in the world is not going to help you. You just have to, at a certain point, let it go and move [on]. I donít think that [the fact that she works] is a feminist [thing]. Iím just happy to see a film where the characters have a job. As human beings, we have to work in order to pay the rent and we have sex and we drink, [too].

NYC MOVIE GURU: What challenges did you encounter while writing/directing Come Early Morning?

JLA: The challenge in it was to make it dramatic enough and to make it worthy of cinema, [which is debatable]. There are some people who feel that thereís not enough going on and there are other people who really ďgetĒ why I did what I wanted to do. But I really wanted to make a movie [with] a female character who is not a heroin addict, who is not molested by her father, who is not being beaten by her boyfriend.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you base Lucy on your own personal experiences?

I donít know people like that. Thatís not my experience. I excel in areas of my life and do very well and get nominated for awards and Iím on time and not drunk on set. Thereís that and then thereís areas of my life like that [Lucy] is seeing when sheís at her worst, so I wanted to see that on film. Iíve never had a huge thing that changed my life forever. I have these voids and you canít, sort of, do the work and stop. The void will become a void again. Itís a never-ending process. For me, my growth has been so incremental.

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