When writer/director Drake Doremus (Spooner and Douchebag) walked into the hotel banquet room for our interview, he was nothing but smiles—as he should be. Doremus has been receiving huge accolades since his third film, Like Crazy, won the grand jury prize for U.S. Dramatic Competition and a special jury prize for lead actress Felicity Jones at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. Already in the room waiting for Doremus, actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Terminator Salvation) was doodling on a white paper canvas drawing a funny face and was adding comments to his artwork. He asked me if he should add anything to his drawing. I had nothing to add to Yelchin’s drawing.
The two joked with each other, before we all sat down at a large banquet table and discussed their small film, which has been turning heads everywhere its screened since Sundance. The two were in the Twin Cities promoting the film at the 2nd annual Twin Cities Film Festival a few weeks ago, where it won another award: for Best Feature at TCFF. Like Crazy opens this Friday at the Edina Cinema.
Like Crazy is a dramatic romance about a long-distance relationship between American student Jacob (Yelchin) and British student Anna (Jones), who meet in the U.S. and fall head over heels for one another shortly after. Knowing she has to head back home, Anna overstays her time in the States and her visa expires. When she tries to return back to the States to visit Jacob, she has violated her visa status and cannot visit him, which makes their new romance harder than either of them ever expected. Both Jones’s and Yelchin’s performances are terrific.
When asked if this long-distance romance was fictional or whether Doremus had gone through one himself, he replied, “The film did originate from a personal long distance relationship and having some emotions I really wanted to convey. So this was a very personal exploration into examining those feelings for me.”
He continued answering the question and explaining how Anton got involved with the film. “Anton was a clear-cut choice from the beginning and when we met and spent about two hours together, he felt right for the part. He brought so much to the character that wasn’t on the page, and he was the first brought aboard.” Doremus turned to look at Yelchin, who had a bit of a smirk on his face but added on to Doremus’ answer.
“The film was a very completely different experience,” he said. “It was very liberating and enlightening, it’s an experience unlike any I’ve had before. It’s really exciting and magical.”
One of the strengths of Like Crazy is the chemistry that Jones and Yelchin bring to the film in creating a believable and engrossing relationship of the sort that most audience members have probably gone through once in their life. Yelchin points out that all lot of those scenes work due to an intense week of ten hours days rehearsing with all three bringing different ideas to the story. Yelchin added, “In that the process, we came to trust one another and develop the characters and a connection, especially with Felicity and I, obviously for the characters and after that, once we started this process, we knew that there was no turning back and we completely disappear into this world and we didn’t re-emerge for about a month.”
There is a bit of mystery to the film’s title and once it is revealed why the film is called Like Crazy, audiences may understand more about Anna and Jacob. Doremus liked the title once he and co-writer Ben York-Jones starting writing. “It was always in the script and Jacob said a lot, ‘I love you, like crazy,’ it was in the fabric and it became a subtle device. I’m really proud of how it’s only used once in the film, but it is a poignant moment and it really defines in so many facets in so many ways what the film is about. There is no other way to describe this relationship, so that was always in the film and it was exciting. My new movie has no title and I long for the days of the permanent title.”
Yelchin jumps in. “Just leave it as Drake Doremus.”
Doremus quickly points out, “It’s actually called UDDP. Untitled Drake Doremus Production.”
“That’s a pretty good title, UDDP,” Yelchin says.
“When we were traveling around there were signs that said UDDP. It was really strange,” Doremus said, laughing.
When the interview comes to the end, both Doremus and Yelchin are laughing and in good spirits. Every person I’ve ever interviewed always has a different response to my final question: “What do you hope audiences take away from the film?”
Doremus pauses for a moment and answers in somewhat of a serious tone, “We hope that they feel in love for the evening. We hope that they feel optimistic and excited about love and are touched no matter how old or young, or where they’ve been or what they’ve done in their lives, that they feel it is an authentic exploration of a first love and that it means something to them. For us to share this film with audiences from place to place it’s been a really rewarding experience.”
I looked over at Yelchin for his response and with a smile and said, “It’s very well said, and I can’t say it better than that.”
Photo (l-r): Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Drake Doremus