SXSW 2010 Interview: Actors Lee Tergesen and Paul Fitzgerald (HELENA FROM THE WEDDING)
It's no secret that I immensely enjoyed HELENA FROM THE WEDDING (you can read my review of the film here) at this year's SXSW festival. So you can imagine it was a real treat for me to be able to sit down with two of the male leads from the film, Lee Tergesen (HBO'S Oz) and Paul Fitzgerald (FORGIVEN).
What started off as a normal interview quickly turned into one where my personal views on the film came into question and how Lee just wanted to be sure I liked him. It was so nice to sit down with these two gents, and the entire fifteen minutes I had with them really felt like a conversation among friends. And based on Lee and Paul they feed off of one another and are able to poke fun in real life, it becomes really evident that the chemistry between them on screen is genuine.
You can check out my interview with Lee and Paul after the jump!
I was talking to Joseph [Infantolino, director/writer] and the film is solely driven on its characters, there's no [outside] action to get the movie going. What difficulties did you have portraying [your character]?
Lee: First of all, I want to say this about what Joe said: what do you call the chase sequence? That's not action?! [laughs] What about what happens in the bedroom the first night? That's not action?! [laughs again] No...I think the only difficulties was like...you know your time is so limited...the film was shot in 12 days. So you knew that you have to get it done and you hope that you're filling it and being true to Joe's vision and you know, he'd have us try [different] stuff.
Paul: You know, from strictly an acting standpoint, it's just the opposite. The reality is for an actor, if you're just a set piece in someone else's action movie, that's hard, that's no fun. I find anyways. Some people get off on that. It can be fun but you know, my idea of a great actor is sitting on a couch, being charming [laughs]. I mean, what you want to do is have that space to act. Being in an action movie is acting but it doesn't really involve acting.
Yeah, it's only focused on its characters. The film is about these eight people and their lives, and their reactions to the events that happen. I couldn't help but get engrossed in the characters, like I'm sorry Lee I hated your character [Alex]! [they start laughing] Not you or your performance! And you did a great job. It sounds bad but it's a praise to your performance, I swear.
Lee: Wow, that is really interesting.
I think that's the sign of a truly great performance when...
Lee: It's reopening old wounds for you, huh? [laughs] I'm sorry, you were enough in that relationship [laughing]!
Paul: It was his fault! [laughing] But it's funny, we have been getting this reaction towards Lee from a female audience.
Lee: Wow, you are blowing my mind right now.
Paul: This is worth my trip to Austin right here! [they both start laughing]
I promise it's praise! It just sounds bad.
Lee: No, I'm not hearing that at all! I'm just so surprised because...I don't see [Alex] that way at all. But I understand what you're saying! It's just like, you know when you're looking in a three-dimensional box and all of a sudden you're seeing it the other way? I'm now seeing it the other way and I'm blown away. And I think you and I need to spend time together, because I want you to make you like me! [they both start laughing]
I don't know how we got on this track, I didn't mean to tell you this in my interview! This is about you guys, so let's get onto some more questions, so how did you get involved in the film?
Lee: I was in LA and I heard that they were making this movie. And Alexa Fogel who produced [the film] and I've known her for a long time, she was the casting director for Oz. And I asked to see the script and I read the script and I was like "If I could play this part, that would be incredible." So I met with Joe who I had known for a long time, but certainly not to the degree we know each other now. So I went and met with him and it was a really interesting interview and I waited a couple days and they said "I was doing it!" Paul?
Paul: Well, I heard Lee Tergesen was involved as you can imagine.
Lee: I'm a draw. I'm likable!
Paul: [laughing] The chance to play in a buddy film with him sounded great. But yeah, similar to Lee. I got the script and loved it. I originally went in for a different role and one thing led to another and I got cast. I truly fell in love with Nick [his character] I'm assuming you're more sympathetic to Nick [starts laughing]. I'd like to discuss that for a little while...[they start laughing].
I was, I'm sorry Lee.
[they both start laughing]
Yeah I just thought that the characters were so interesting, and there's no honesty between them. It's like, the most argumentative couple in the film are at least the most honest. There's that scene where Eve [Dagmara Dominczyk] says she thinks her husband is cheating, but she's not going to do anything about it.
Lee: Well, the film is also about things that happen and then what you make it mean. Right like, you know, Eve sees [her situation] and she just automatically thinks it's an affair and she doesn't want to investigate it. I dated a girl who was in a relationship for five years and she thought she and the guy she was with were going to get married, and I asked "Well, why do you think that?" and she said "Well, he always used to say 'If I was going to marry a girl it would be [her].'" And she never asked him! She never said, "Hey so does that mean you and I are going to get married?" She just let it be what she believed. And I think people do that a lot in relationships, like, you know you make things mean something and it spins you off in a certain direction, whether it's negative or positive.
Paul: Yeah totally, and that's all what's happening in every frame [of the film]. It doesn't just happen out of thin air. Some of it's true, some of it's not, but it becomes this active thing that you're working out with different people, with yourself...
Lee: Yeah, the Helena character means so much to [our characters]. Even though she's just this innocent character.
Yeah, I understand. And then when she refuses [Paul's character] Nick's advances...
Paul: Which is hard to believe. Let me just say, that wouldn't happen in real life. That's one of the implausible things of the film. You know, it would never happen that way... but for the sake of the movie... [they both start laughing]
Lee: So, I have to ask, did you turn and start to like me at the end...at least? [laughs]
I did! Like I said, you had a great performance [laughing] Well that turned into an interview for me! [they start laughing] Well thank you guys, enjoy the rest of the festival. Good luck with everything on the film! I'll do everything I can to get it out there.
Lee and Paul: Thank you!