Movies don’t get much more personal than “Beginners” from writer/director Mike Mills. The story you see take place onscreen between Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) first happened between Mills and his own dad, who told Mills he was gay at the age of 75. The film, told from Oliver’s (and Mills’) perspective, begins shortly after Hal’s death of cancer five years after he came out of the closet, and flashes back and forth between the recent past and the present, where Oliver finds the chance for new love with a French actress (Mélanie Laurent) he meets at a party and copes with his inheritance: an adorable but neurotic Jack Russell terrier named Arthur. I’ve seen the movie twice now, and liked it a lot both times. It’s beautiful and funny and sad, and if you never read a word about the film before seeing it, it would still be pretty obvious that it is based on the director’s life. It feels like it was ripped right out of his heart.
We’re going to have more coverage of “Beginners” later in the week, with video reports from the film’s recent junket in New York City featuring interviews with all three stars (we’ve also got the premiere of the film’s soundtrack). In the meantime, I wanted to repost this great interview with Mills from South by Southwest 2011. It was a fun conversation: Mills’ tells us why he wanted to share this incredibly personal story and what it’s like to cast an actor to play yourself and your father. Plus we both vented about our nervous pets, while Mills described something I’ve never heard of before: a doggie casting couch.