Filming ‘Last Weekend’ Felt Like Summer Camp For the Film’s Young Cast
A handful of siblings and their significant others gather at their wealthy parents’ home in Lake Tahoe for a weekend of awkward arguments, divulged dark secrets, and a couple of near-death experiences in Last Weekend, the debut feature by co-directors Tom Dolby and Tom Williams. The film stars Patricia Clarkson and Chris Mulkey as the parents, with the rest of the ensemble filled out by young stars on the rise: Zachary Booth (Damages), Joseph Cross (Lincoln), Alexia Rasmussen (Proxy), Devon Graye (Dexter) and Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods).
In a roundtable interview with other journalists, we spoke to Cross, Rasmussen, Graye, and Kranz about what drew them to the project, the restraint of the material, shooting in a beautiful place like Lake Tahoe, their “intimate” rehearsal process, learning from their more experienced co-stars, getting permission to jump over couches, and more.
What about the screenplay hooked your interest? What made you say, “This is a movie I want to do.”
Devon: I thought it was just so funny. I was doing another movie at the time, and I was laughing out loud in my trailer. I never laugh out loud. It’s taking real things, and it’s hard to do to make those things funny. It’s grounded so much in reality and almost doesn’t know it’s funny.
Alexia: It’s that acerbic wit that Patricia’s character has. And one has the feeling that every mother is a little bit like that, you know? [laughs] It was nice to see that portrait and to see all these different people’s feelings about her. Throughout the script you can tell that each person’s perspective on the house is very clear.
Fran: Definitely Patricia’s character was pretty fantastic. It’s weird, because someone gets electrocuted and there’s a helicopter and she jumps in a lake, but at the same time, I liked how it was very un-dramatic. It seems strange, because I say that a lot. “It’s really wonderful how it’s realism, and yet it’s not so overblown.” And yet, there are these really momentous occurrences that would be very extraordinary in a typical weekend. I just thought there was a lot of restraint in the script, which I think is different and unique. I was happy to be a part of it, and the cast is really excellent.
Joseph: I think it was Patty that made us all want to do the project. When the script came Patricia was already attached, so when you see in your email box a movie that has her in it, you just go all-out and try to do it. Usually with a movie, somebody who’s already in it has to be somebody you want to work with. Whether it’s the writer, the director or the actors.
Talk a bit more about the restraint in the script. Jayma’s character could have been a cartoon, but isn’t, for example.
Joseph: She did such an amazing job of rooting that role. She’s fantastic in that part, and across the board with all the actors, nobody was hamming it up or playing into anything silly. With family dramas, I feel as if any moment it could tip into melodrama, and I think you want to explore all the exciting drama you can without making it seem over-the-top. It’s always this funny balance.
What was it like living in such a beautiful place during shooting? Were you living near the house?
Joseph: Lake of the Sky Motel. It was beautiful. We were right across the street from the lake, and we would go swimming every morning. Lake Tahoe was too much fun.
Fran: We might as well have been living with each other. When we were working on set, we were in a house, so that’s where we all hung out. It was like summer camp. It was an incredible experience. It was also September, so it wasn’t the tourist rush of Tahoe. It was [really hot] out when we started, and we could jump in this cool lake or go on a boat.
Alexia: It was dream location time.
You all have intimate relationships in the film. How did you work on bringing that chemistry to set?
Joseph: We all made out all the time.
Alexia: A big orgy.
Joseph: It was a big orgy, all the time. [laughs] We all spent a lot of time together.
Devon: We had a rehearsal period before [shooting]. We had three days of rehearsals in L.A. We’d sit at the table and script-read through the scenes, and we kept finding [scenes] where we were like, “We’re going to ruin this. We’ve got to save it.” We had to rehearse a little bit, especially with my character and Zach’s being a new relationship.
Joseph: It’s a really funny thing about making movies, whether or not to rehearse.
Alexia: [Me and Joseph] would read lines a lot together. I hung out with him and his real girlfriend.
Joseph: I was like, “I’m really sorry, but my real-life girlfriend is going to be home.” [laughs]
Alexia: It was nice to get to know each other before we went up with the group. You’re so nervous. Am I going to hate these people?
Joseph: It was a good group of people.
Chris was very complimentary of you younger actors. You had these two veteran actors around in he and Patricia; did you try to pick their brains, or did you learn from them by simply being around them?
Devon: I worked with Patty before on another film where she played my mom, and I found that I was doing little Patty things a year later. On this film, with this being a very different character, she does things so well that you just have to find where you fit into that equation.
Joseph: You’re attracted to working with older actors like Chris and Patty because you can just let them set the tone and follow and learn from them as you go.
There were two directors, so how was it working with them on set?
Alexia: It was interesting, because Tom Dolby is the writer, so there was that authority on that end, and Tom Williams had a more practical authority on filmmaking. [It was] like a right-hand-left-hand thing where they needed each other, so I thought it balanced out really well.
Fran: Personally, I think all the input you can get is great. It didn’t necessarily bother me. You had two people you could talk to in a position of authority.
Joseph: It was almost like with parents: If you knew one was going to tell you no, you would go to the other one. [laughs] You knew who to go to for what you wanted to do. One time, I wanted to jump over the couch and Tom Dolby was like, “No! You can’t jump over these couches! These are very expensive couches!” And Tom Williams was like, “Maybe Roger would jump over the couch.” I was like, “Thank you, Tom. I’m jumping over the couch!”