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Tony Goldwyn on the Many Trials of “Conviction”

Tony Goldwyn on the Many Trials of “Conviction” (photo)

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Even though Tony Goldwyn’s surname has long conjured up the heady days of Hollywood’s Golden Era and of his grandfather Samuel, he has long carved out his own path as an actor, most famously in “Ghost,” and as a director of films such as “The Last Kiss” and “A Walk on the Moon” that has always put a modern spin on the old fashioned. (This could be demonstrated by his decision to star in the recent remake of “The Last House on the Left” and then on Broadway in a revival of “Promises, Promises,” either of which taken alone might be considered reinvention, but when done back to back, becomes something radical.) The irony of his latest film as a director is that it might be the first that could’ve been made at his grandfather’s old studio Paramount.

Ultimately, “Conviction” had to be produced independently, the product of an era where the social issue drama has all but vanished into the realm of television, even though, when done well, it can hold a power over an audience in a theater unlike few other genres. As Goldwyn explains below, it took nearly a decade to bring “Conviction” to the screen, a grueling wait only exceeded by the one in the story he tells of Betty Anne Waters, a Massachusetts woman spends 18 years attending law school and filing briefs with the sole purpose of overturning the murder case against her brother Kenny.

Being an actor himself, it should come as no surprise that Goldwyn’s film is lifted by its performances from a cast including Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, and particularly Sam Rockwell (made more impressive by having little time to prepare, as he told Matt Singer recently), but also by the unusual shape Goldwyn and “Walk on the Moon” screenwriter Pamela Gray give to the classic underdog tale. Shortly after the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Goldwyn spoke about the film’s long road to the big screen, invoking real-life names like Martha Coakley and how filmmaking’s become a full-time career.

How did you get involved initially?

Nine years ago, my wife saw a piece on the news, I think it was “60 Minutes” about Betty Anne and Kenny right after his exoneration and I missed the segment. She told me about it and I asked myself, God this woman spent 18 years, what was that bond between those two people that she had such faith in him? He could’ve been guilty. She could’ve been wrong. She could’ve failed and yet she knew – that fascinated me.

10142010_Conviction3.jpgSince all three of your other three films have been romances, did you ever see yourself using that template for this film where it’s obviously a platonic love, but one that endures similar kinds of obstacles?

I always saw this as a love story between a brother and a sister. I never apply any template. Every story I tend to approach, you’re exploring a theme — that connection, that love between this brother and sister — that was my guiding thing. In “A Walk on the Moon,” it was about a woman who found herself in a life not of her choosing really and in a marriage, she suddenly woke up and found herself in her 30s, going I didn’t choose this life and through her romance with this man, this affair that she has, she explores a part of herself she didn’t know. That was the theme I was exploring and something I had been going through at that time about being in my 30s, so that’s more my approach. I wouldn’t say it’s a template.

Yet it fits in so nicely into Hollywood tradition. Are you surprised you had to make this independently?

No, I’m not. [slight laugh] I was surprised along the road. But I’m not. Here’s the thing about a movie like this. First of all, dramas are very difficult to sell. Studios are very nervous about them, especially female-driven dramas and a true-life story like this could easily be done as a TV movie version; it might be good, but it’s not terribly interesting or innovative, so a marketing department goes we don’t know how to sell this if it has a generic quality to it. I knew that wasn’t the movie I wanted to make.

Although [the studios] saw the sort of “Erin Brockovich” potential in it, they were hesitant, so we developed it at a studio and it was at one point greenlit. Then it all fell apart for various reasons. Even when we had Hilary attached, they were like “Oh we want to do it,” but they wouldn’t greenlight it. They were waiting for some insurance policy. I begged the studio to give it back to me in turnaround, I said, “Please just admit to me you don’t want to make this and let me take it out and set it up independently.” Even that was incredibly difficult to finance because it’s all a numbers game. But we persevered and we got very lucky and then of course, once it’s made, even then it took a studio like Fox Searchlight to see it and they got it. They said, “We know how to sell this movie.” With others, they said “We love it, it’s great, but it makes us nervous.” So it’s just a very tough marketplace out there.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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