An Interview with Jay Russell and Alexis Bledel
- Monday, October 21, 2002
Every once in a while a family film comes along that I know will be an instant hit with audiences because of the morals, values, and characters that touch people's hearts and lives. My Dog Skip is one of those films. From the minute the credits began to roll I knew it would be popular with audiences, young and old alike. And I was right. Everyone seems to love My Dog Skip!
So when I heard that director Jay Russell had made another film based on a well know children's book, I had a feeling it would be fantastic and probably end up being another family favorite as well. I think it will be because I love this movie.
Tuck Everlasting is a beautiful fantasy/drama that combines a classic tale (based on Natalie Babbit's book) with a seasoned cast and an expert director who's a sucker for a good story and a genius when it comes to making a family friendly movie.
I think it's interesting to get insight on the people who make and star in the movies you see. I hope you and your family enjoy the movie Tuck Everlasting, but for an extra holiday treat for the family to watch, rent My Dog Skip.
I recently had the pleasure of briefly interviewing director Jay Russell and the star of Tuck Everlasting, Alexis Bledel, about their new movie and I thought you might like to hear what they had to say.
Holly McClure: I want you to know that Christian audiences love My Dog Skip. That movie really seems to resonate with all ages, because it's a family film but it especially seems to touch adults.
Jay Russell: Well, both with Tuck and Skip, I go back to the books that they're based on and the reason it worked with the family audience is because it worked with me and my family. I'll never forget the fist time I read My Dog Skip; I was just a blubbering idiot at the end of the thing. I was just balling my eyes out, and I had a very similar experience with Tuck. I mean I was there, my thoughts were provoked, I found it moving. And when a piece of material or literature works on you like that, then you feel like if you can just somehow convey that on screen--then you've got a movie.
H: As far as making Tuck Everlasting, did you stay true to the book or did you take some liberties?
J: Well, there were liberties taken. One of my early discussions with the author (and it's been a great thrill to get to know Natalie Babbit) was that I said I'm not going to literally translate your book. First of all I don't think you can do that. And secondly I think it's a mistake because then you're competing with the readers' imagination because everyone who reads the book is making their own movie--and I can't compete with that. So I said, "My film is going to be based on your book and I'm going to try and capture those themes and ideas that are so important to your book and I'm going to try to get that into the movie. But no, I'm not going to translate your book."
H: I liked the way that you put a religious aspect in by the confrontation between the villain (or evil) and good. Was that religious scene in the book?
J: Well no, that scene wasn't in the book. When I met with Ben Kingsley and we sat down to discuss his character and how to play it (because his character doesn't even have a name) we realized that he's basically playing a metaphor. And when Ben and I asked, "Who is this guy?" What we basically agreed upon is that he is evil. He's all the different evil qualities of humanity, and they embody this one man. But it's all under the surface. So we created this scene between a priest in a cemetery and the man in the yellow suit--the priest representing the goodness of the world and the man in the yellow suit representing evil in the world. And we have them have a face-to face-confrontation and debate about everlasting life. That was a very exciting scene--in fact it's one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
H: I took my 16 year-old son and his girlfriend to see this movie and afterwards I asked them if they would drink the water and they both said they'd drink the water in a heartbeat. With the 'youth oriented' culture that we have today, do you think this movie sends a good message for young kids about enjoying life and living it to its fullest?
J: Yes! And that's been the really exciting and fun part for me is to follow kids out into the lobby and hear kids debate this very issue. One of our first previews I remember, two girls got into a shouting match in the lobby and they were arguing and one girl said "No that's the whole point! It's not good to live forever on this earth." Debates like that are very exciting, and I think young kids will want to discuss it.
H: I think the movie works because it allows the parents to tell the kids, "Here's what life can offer you", like William Hurt does with Winnie.
J: William makes an amazing case for the cycle of life as it is and as it should be in the scene in a rowboat with he and Winnie. It's a very powerful case that he makes. He says that their family are like rocks stuck in a stream and the stream is flowing past and they can never move and that's a very tragic thought. And he urgently is trying to convince her to live your life now and do positive things now and don't worry about death worry about your life as it is right now and live that to its fullest! And you know, I think there's a misconception that kids aren't interested in movies that are thought-provoking and have themes that are rich. I think that's wrong because I've sat with kids in previews and you have those worries that kids are never going to sit through a movie that doesn't have explosions or car chase scenes, but they do. They'll sit and enjoy this kind of movie. I mean you could have heard a pin drop in the screenings I sat in. And then again, the debate afterwards--that's exciting. That means that kids hunger for thought-provoking movies, and I like that.
H: Well thank you so much for making these kind of thought-provoking movies for the whole family. I love the way you make a movie.
J: Well you're welcome and thank you!
My next interview was with the star of Tuck Everlasting who also happens to co-star on the WB television show, "The Gilmore Girls", in the role of Rorie. Alexis Bledel is a sweet and beautiful 22 year-old young woman who has the mannerisms and looks of the 17 year-old she plays in the movie and on TV. Although she's not a 'seasoned' interview and as chatty as others I've interviewed ,I found her to be charming, cordial and in a way, unaffected by the celebrity status that she is gaining with her first feature film.
Holly McClure: What did you enjoy most about playing this character?
Alexis Bledel: Ummm, I liked playing someone who was rebellious, because I've never gotten to do that before because it was something kind of different.
H: What did Winnie teach you about yourself?
A: Hmmmm…I don't know what she taught me. I think the things she would have taught me I've already learned at her age, so I think I taught her a few things. ( She smiles with that plucky smile she's famous for on "The Gilmore Girls".)
H: Did you like playing a period piece and someone who lived in a different time when life was definitely slower?
A: Yeah, I liked it a lot. It made me think, What are we doing? What's the rush? We should realize that more shouldn't we?
H: This is kind of a Romeo and Juliet romance with an ending that may be disappointing to young teens. I took my son and afterwards we talked about the film and I explained how there are things kids and teenagers just don't know yet. Do you think this movie will send a message to young people to enjoy life more?
A: I don't know. I hope so! I think Winnie is a typical teenager who hasn't had any life experiences so to speak of, then she goes off and gets some experiences and figures it all out. She's probably more mature than most kids.
H: Hollywood is known for having a fascination with youth and being a very youth-oriented culture. Do you think this movie will send a strong message to youth that there's more to life than looking young and being young?
A: I hope so! Because I've always wanted to be like 30.
A: Yeah, I think that would be a really comfortable age to be, you know yourself really well and you're comfortable in your skin. And there's no more awkwardness--well I don't think…well hopefully not…I don't know. (She chuckles at her perplexity over the questions.) Yeah, I don't get the fascination with youth, because I think it's fun to be young but it's a lot of work to figure things out. There's so much that you have to learn and change--it's too much. (She laughs lightly again at her own philosophical statement.) I think people at 30 have it together.
H: So would you drink the water at 30 then?
A: No, I still don't think I'd drink the water--well maybe at 30.
H: So there's still a maybe there?
A: No, I wouldn't drink the water. (She chuckles.)
H: Well being in the business, you've lived a lot of life already haven't you?
A: I have! I feel like I've lived a couple of lives already!
H: How were the romance scenes between you and Jonathan…fun?
A: Yeah, Jonathan was a lot of fun to work with. He's been doing this a long time, so he's experienced and he's really sweet. It was fun to do. Nothing serious, just fun.
H: So what do you have going on with your next project as far as a film goes because you're taking a break from taping "Gilmore Girls" right now right?
A: I don't have anything firmed up yet, but I'm looking at a couple of projects. But I'm going to do something different next tine for sure. I want to play a totally different character from Winnie and Rorie.
H: Are you tired of playing younger girls?
A: I might be (she laughs then thinks for a second). Yeah, I'm going to do something different next time, an older role.
H: Well I wish you well in your career, and I thank you.
A: You're welcome. Thank you.
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