Catherine Hardwicke Talks Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, ‘Miss You Already’
Catherine Hardwicke‘s new film, Miss You Already, follows Jess (Drew Barrymore) and Milly (Toni Collette), two childhood friends whose relationship becomes unexpectedly difficult when Milly is diagnosed with cancer. When Jess receives news that she and her husband (Paddy Considine) are pregnant, she can’t bring herself to tell Milly, who’s fallen back into bad habits and is struggling with chemo side effects. If you’re in the mood for a tearjerker at the movies this weekend, look no further than this poignant, beautifully acted platonic love story.
During her visit to San Francisco last month I spoke to Hardwicke about the film, which is out in select cities now.
Your movie surprised me.
How did it surprise you?
It was a lot more emotionally raw than I was expecting. I know it’s heavy subject matter, but Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore take it to another level. Really great performances.
We wanted to do this movie because everybody’s been touched by cancer in one way or another, whether it’s through a friend, a relative or whatever. There are some raw moments you go through. There are some intense moments, personal, intimate moments, highs and lows. It’s that experience of real life but with larger-than-life characters, in a way. They’re cool and they’re funny. Milly is a crazy, hot mess. That friend where you know if you go anywhere with them you’re going to get in trouble somehow, but it makes it kind of fun to be friends with them. Drew Barrymore is the balancing act—she’s a little more grounded and doesn’t take any shit from Milly. I love the idea of watching these two friends go through the fun stuff and the tough stuff in life. That was the essence of this: How do you keep laughing, keep living, keep surviving no matter what hits you.
I’ve had a life-threating experience before and I know it puts you in a different place, mentally. It’s confusing, it’s disorienting.
Anger, frustration, humiliation. Your image of yourself changes. It’s a difficult subject to tackle and it was kind of scary for me as a director, a big challenge. But I like challenges. I just dove in. My dad had cancer and he was cracking crazy jokes all the time. We’d go to hang out with him and he’d make us laugh! I love that Morwena kept the zingers coming and kept that lightness. Both Drew and Toni are funny in person and they’re very creative. Crazy stuff pops out of their mouths all the time. Some of the most fun stuff in the movie was improvised. They’d be finishing each others’ sentences, almost like a comedy routine. Even when they’d be experiencing a heavy moment, they’d find a way to make it funny.
The film has a sort of storybook tone to it, especially in the beginning.
Yeah, I think you’re right. Who wouldn’t want Drew Barrymore to be their best friend? She’s so solid and funny and creative and warm. I think we’d all love to have a best friend like that.
I love seeing friendship love stories. They’re too few and far between these days. I also like that the movie never turns into a bitter rivalry between Jess and Milly. Their adversary is the disease. It’s external.
There aren’t that many friendship movies. Drew said to me, “My favorite movies are about platonic love.” It’s so cool. It’s a lasting love that, no matter what happens, if you find your platonic soul mate, you can get through anything. I thought that was great. As we know, there have been a lot of funny buddy movies, but [they mostly center on] guys. They’re infantile and they never grow up and sleep in bunk beds. They’re funny, and they’re talking about that essence of friendship and bonding, but in a very broad-comedy way. True friendship movies are few and far between, you’re absolutely right.
Bridesmaids was about a platonic friendship between women, but I found that movie to be pretty mean-spirited. I feel like your isn’t, though Toni’s character is pretty mean-spirited herself.
She’s got a few issues. [laughs] She admits it. She goes, “I’m selfish. I’m narcissistic.” Bridesmaids is also going for broad laughs, and I loved it, but it wasn’t as grounded. It was fun to try to find that chemistry between the two actors, which they found during rehearsal week and became like best friends. I personally like the guys in the movie. They’re pretty cool. You see a lot of movies where the men, if their daughter gets kidnapped, they get to kill. We get it—men love to shoot guns. Or you have the childish, silly guys who never grow up. But these guys are like real guys you could know and be like and they’re stand-up guys too.
How did you like working with the male actors?
Dominic Cooper—I saw him in movies like The History Boys and The Devil’s Double. That guy can just play anything. He was just very creative and fun to work with. It’s very different from his other roles because he’s really a supportive guy in the movie and he’s a dad. He’s super decent. You think he might go off the rails and be a bad boy, but he’s a good, solid person in this movie. Paddy Considine is an actor, director, writer, musician—he’s multi-talented.
He’s a charmer, too.
He’s adorable! He and Drew were a fun match. Our other guy, Tyson Ritter, who has the affair [with Milly]—he’s so hot! He wrote the song that’s in one of his scenes.
I recognized that.
He had writer’s block for two years. He came out and filmed the movie, and after the first day he went home and wrote that song. The movie [relieved] his writer’s block. He gives me the song and goes, “I think this should be in that sex scene we did.” I played it and it felt really good in that scene! He has great instinct. So, he’s singing in his own sex scene. That’s a rock star’s dream, right? Toni’s husband wrote a song, and the other sex scene that Toni and Tyson have together, she’s singing her own song in her sex scene! That’s pretty hot!
Doesn’t get better than that! What else could you want? [laughs] Could you ever see yourself living on a boat?
After that experience, I’d like to.
Didn’t it look fun?
I went to my wife and said, “Would you ever consider living on a boat?” I would do it.
What did your wife say?
That’s not very open-minded!
I’ve got to take her to the movie.
She’s gonna get charmed into it.
We have to talk about Toni’s acting. She has so many emotions going on within her all at once in almost every scene.
I’ve seen her in many beautiful projects, and when she said she really wanted to play Milly I was kind of envisioning, “Okay, she has to go through everything in this movie.” It starts out sexy and hot, and we don’t often get to see Toni like that. I thought it’d be fun to see her super hot and on top of the world and how her journey continues. How does she handle each step of this major journey she’s on? Toni never did the on-the-nose idea. In the wig scene, she plays it in a way you don’t expect. She’s tough, funny, vulnerable. She’s cocky, she’s lovable, but you want to kill her sometimes! [laughs] We didn’t want to show that someone who gets sick suddenly becomes a saint or a hero. Toni can do anything as an actress, I think. She was brave—she had her head shaved right there on camera.
I love that Jess accuses her of being a cancer bully. Not only is she not a saint, but she’s exploiting this card she’s been dealt. I like that it goes there.
I’ve notice that a few people have really picked up on the cancer bully thing. You don’t expect that, and she just gives it to her! [laughs]
You said that Toni approaches scenes in unexpected ways, and I think she brings that out in Drew as well.
I think this is the best I’ve seen Drew. She’s so real, but she’s very funny too. You just feel her heart. We’ve all loved Drew since E.T.. She’s America’s sweetheart! All of the crazy experiences she’s had over the years kind of come together and you feel her soulfulness, her love, and her spirit. Every minute of Drew on screen—it’s like she’s giving you a hug.
I think some of her best moments are when she’s not saying anything.
You feel her love and her presence and wisdom, too. She’s an amazing person. She manages to do everything with grace and love and dignity.