The Picture House in Pelham will host an advance screening of director Marc Webb’s (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man) newest film, The Only Living Boy In New York on Tuesday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m. Marshall Fine, The Picture House’s “critic-in-residence,” will moderate a Q&A with Webb following the film.
Webb was kind enough to let us ask him a few questions of our own ahead of the screening.
You had a very successful career directing music videos prior to 500 Days of Summer, and then even more with Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man duology and directing various episodes of some very high-profile television series. What made you want to come back to smaller-budget, character-driven films like this and your last film, Gifted, which was released in April?
I was just a little tired after doing the Spider-Man movies, and I was really after simplicity after those movies. I wanted to do something where I could be left alone and not have the expectations of the audience or of fanboys … and I wanted to play a different instrument.
The movies came together relatively quickly, and they were really fun movies to make, both of them. That was appealing. Gifted we did in the fall of ’15 and then we made this one just recently – last fall – and all the actors were just wonderful, lovely people. I had a really great, nourishing time working with these great people; Jeff Bridges or Pierce Brosnan are just icons and that was a really rich fulfilling experience for me, creatively.
What drew you to the script for The Only Living Boy In New York?
I loved the relationship between W.F. and Thomas. It’s kind of a mentor relationship or friendship between an older guy and a younger guy. I read that script many many years ago and I thought it was intriguing and I thought, “Well, if I can get Jeff Bridges to play this role then I’m gonna go out and make this movie,” and fortunately he signed on and it was a really great opportunity. And the experience proved to be as fun as I thought it might have been.
TOLBINY is being distributed in part by Amazon Studios, which has been on the rise since Manchester By the Sea and The Salesman took home three Oscars this past Academy Awards. Is there anything different about working with a streaming service as opposed to an old-school distributor?
Well, no, the process of the filmmaking was identical, the only thing is they were really free and they were really gracious and helpful in making the movie. Ted Hope, who runs the creative part of the studios, is an old-school indie producer so he’s very filmmaker-friendly. It was just a very warm place to work; It didn’t feel like a studio. And they have a relationship with Roadside Attractions, the distributor.
It’s a form of film that is getting harder and harder to make, because it’s getting harder to get people to go out and see movies: There’s so many competing opportunities for people to spend their leisure time — whether it’s video games or Netflix — and the fact that Amazon has been really muscular in supporting that space is really refreshing and wonderful.
The film centers on Thomas (Callum Turner, Queen and Country), a recent college grad attempting to start building a life independent of his successful, artistic parents (Pierce Brosnan and Cynthia Nixon), trading their Upper West Side life for the Lower East and an amiable drunk of a writer/neighbor (Jeff Bridges). When he sets out to ruin his father’s affair, Thomas ends up sleeping with his father’s mistress (Kate Beckinsale). Do you see this more as a comedy of errors, or an existential horror movie for young adults?
To me it’s kind of a fun melodrama where these people are at war with the cynical version of themselves, which I think happens in New York. How these people negotiate each other and themselves is the compelling part of the movie. I think it’s kind of a soap opera: There’s a lot of heightened, fun situations, but I like that fatalistic soap opera vibration that is presented in the film. I like to think of it as the New York I imagined New York to be before I ever moved to New York. It’s a little fantastical, a little bit elevated, and there’s kind of a romantic gimlet idea of the city that was really fun to play around with.
500 Days of Summer featured Clark Gregg (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Gifted stars Chris Evans (Avengers, Captain America), Only Living Boy features Jeff Bridges (Iron Man). You even directed a couple episodes of the Limitless series for CBS, including the pilot which had a sizeable cameo by Rocket Raccoon himself, Bradley Cooper.
Have you secretly been sneaking Marvel actors into your projects on purpose for the last several years? Are they your new version of your “Webb’s Lamb” calling card from your video days?
[Laughs] This is the expanded Marvel universe, you didn’t know that, but they’re all part of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I think it’s more of a comment on how deeply Marvel has penetrated the zeitgeist than it is my plan as a filmmaker.
Tickets to the advance screening are $15 for adults, $12 for student, seniors, and TPH members, and are available here.
The Picture House
175 Wolfs Lane, Pelham