I had a nice conversation with North Little Rock native Joey Lauren Adams this morning. She is the director of the upcoming film "Come Early Morning" starring Ashley Judd. The movie was filmed in Arkansas and premieres at Market Street Cinema on Thursday night. It opens wide on Friday.
BSR: I wanted to start by talking about the writing process you went through with this film. You have commented several times that you were not happy with your career in Hollywood and that unhappiness motivated you, at least in part, to write this movie.
JLA: I'm not sure that I had a lot of other options at that point in my career. I was being offered the same roles and it's no secret that there just aren't that many good roles for women in Hollywood. I wanted to feel entitled to sit on my couch and gripe. I wasn't extremely satisfied with acting. It wasn't making me happy. You have to be lucky and the odds of getting good roles are very slim. In retrospect, being involved with this film from start to finish, I enjoyed the entire process: editing, pre-production, casting. It's different than acting. I was able to create something on my own.
BSR: Do you see yourself writing and directing from hereon or would you like to get back into acting?
JLA: I would like to do both. I just couldn't take LA anymore. I've move to Oxford, Mississippi and I plan on spending a majority of my time here. Part of being an actor means being around [LA]. If being in Mississippi means I pay a price then I pay a price.
BSR: Why Oxford?
JLA: Since I shot "Dazed and Confused" I wanted to come back to the South. I fell in love with Austin but Austin has grown so much. I just ended up coming down here with a friend of mine who went to school here. Oxford is an artistic place and it's also full of artists. It's really great not to have to fight traffic to get anywhere. If there's something going on, I can hop on my bike and go.
BSR: I want to turn back to the film for a moment. Ashley Judd plays the lead. How important was she to this process?
JLA: I don't think I could have made this film with a different actress. I worked on this project for five years. We had $1 million when we went to her. I learned after having actors attached to the script and then drop out before we had financing that I needed the money first. And the fact that she agreed to do it allowed us to get a little more money. Initially, I pictured myself in this role. But I backed away from that. When Ashley showed up, she went right to work and made the role her own.
BSR: If you would, talk a bit more about stepping back from this script. You spent a considerable amount of time writing it. Was it hard to back away and just direct the actors?
JLA: It's such a different process. Making a movie is such a huge project. I wanted the movie to feel honest. It's not a traditional Hollywood movie in that it doesn't have a traditional Hollywood ending. "Tender Mercies" and "Urban Cowboy" were templates for me.
BSR: I read that John Travolta offered you some advice about actors letting go of their roles.
JLA: He told me that actors needed to act the role. They didn't need to comment about the characters the play. Actors often try and make the role fresh or new, but my direction focused on the opposite of that.
BSR: You made this movie in Arkansas. First, thanks. Second, I know it was a challenge because Arkansas doesn't have the kind of incentives that other states like Louisiana and Tennessee do, which allows films to be made there. What does Arkansas need to do?
JLA: They need to pass a tax incentive package. I'm not sure I could shoot another movie in Arkansas. Tennesse and Louisiana have packages in place who would have effectively allowed for extra week of shooting. It would be helpful to look at what these states have done. I believe that if you build it, they will come.
BSR: What's next for you?
JLA: I've been hired to write a screenplay based on a Texas Monthly article for Courtney Cox's production company. I also have another love project , so I'll be putting my attention on that as well.
BSR: You're living in Oxford, a place where several great writers have lived. As a southerner talking to another southerner, do you sense a mythical connection to your writing?
JLA: I'm not sure that's the case. I'm just happier in general. I love life a little more. It's more of a competition thing. There are so many people in Oxford who are doing interesting things that it compels me to get off my ass and work.
BSR: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Congratulations on the film.
JLA: Thank you.