Capone looks to THE FUTURE with writer-director-star Miranda July!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I make no bones about the fact that I have a talent crush on Miranda July, meaning that I find her endlessly appealing because I see the tremendous gifts she has as an artist across many fields, including performance art, writing, and of course film. She's also a cute pixie angel. Her first film, 2005's ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (the poster of which hangs on my wall), basically floored me with its open and honest ideas on human connections in a digital age. I would also recommend the short film she wrote ARE YOU THE FAVORITE PERSON OF ANYBODY?, directed by Miguel Arteta and starring John C. Reilly, Mike White, and July.
But her latest feature, THE FUTURE, goes into darker but no less compelling corners of relationships than ME AND YOU. The film also features anxiety in the name of creative expression, narration by a cat, and the actual stoppage of time. Nothing weird or anything, but all of which flow rather effortlessly through July's smart, thought-provoking screenplay.
When I was given the chance to interview her about THE FUTURE, I got genuinely nervous. July's brain works at an advanced level (by my standards), and I guessed that another round of idiot questions about the talking cat wasn't going to cut it. So I decided to get personal, dig deep, and come up with a list of questions that hopefully she hasn't heard a hundred times since the film debuted at Sundance. I think the resulting responses from this gifted artist are pretty great. I'll let you be the judge. Enjoy Miranda July…
Miranda July: Hey.
Capone: Hello, how are you?
MJ: Hi, I’m good.
Capone: Good. So this has been a whirlwind thing for you from the beginning of the year, just constantly talking about this movie.
MJ: [Laughs] Kind of, yeah. But you’re not supposed to think about that.
Capone: I know, but I do.
MJ: You’re the only one.
Capone: I try to ask slightly different questions, but I don’t know how successful I’ll be. Anyway, I will say this though and I bet you no one else has said this to you, since the day I saw ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, they were giving out posters at the end, and I grabbed one, framed it, and I put it on my wall where it still sits, because I love that movie and I loved the poster. It was the poster with the symbols on it.
MJ: Oh yeah, great. Cool.
Capone: I dig that poster and people always ask me about it and I don’t explain it to them.
MJ: That’s great. I don’t even have a copy of that.
Capone: The things that make couples and people connect seem to be a source of constant curiosity to you. Where does that come from?
MJ: I guess… [Pauses] Well, these are different questions. [Laughs] I’m like “Whoa.”
Capone: I didn’t man to stump you right out of the gate.
MJ: I guess I don’t just take it for granted. I’m enough of a alone type person at heart, but it always seems weird to me when people come together. I mean, it’s great and them staying together, I don’t assume it. And the reasons why people don’t stay connected are sort of just as interesting to me.
Capone: I guess that’s what I meant--what makes people connect and then conversely what keeps them from connecting. In fact, in the beginning of this movie Sophie and Jason literally unplug like from the world, and that seems like a really radical statement from you.
MJ: Yeah, to me too and I couldn’t do that for more than a day probably like in the woods or something, but I imagine that if I did I would think I was going to have all of this freedom and what would happen first is like some kind of crisis, because of course it’s like distraction that kind of fills in all of the cracks and keeps the doubts at bay and kind of protects you from your demons. Whether or not that’s a good thing, it does do that.
Capone: It’s like going through withdrawal when you are away from it for too long.
MJ: Right, yeah.
Capone: In THE FUTURE, I found it very difficult to watch this couple derail. Do you kind of relish in making an audience feel that mental anguish of characters in these very uncomfortable circumstances?
MJ: Yeah, I think especially with my own character, who arguably is like the one derailing the worst, it seemed at this point with the second one I knew how hard this was and it seemed like I should really go for it and go into my worst fear, even going so far as to choose a fear that was sort of embarrassing. Not a dramatic movie-worthy fear, but the fear of kind of getting stuck and then giving up on yourself and then doing the exact wrong thing again and again. It’s the kind of thing I would think about in a pause in the day like, “What if I did this?” But you just move on. You don’t actually do that, but I guess I have those pauses enough that I thought, “Well, maybe I should look into that. Is there a way that you can mess up so badly that you don’t actually have to continue being you?” And the conclusion I came to was, “No, you still have to go on being you.” At some point, you kind of haunt yourself too badly. You come back and you have to do the dance; you have to do the thing you set out to do.
Capone: What’s fascinating about your character in this film is that not only does she make this horrible decision, but she’s committed to seeing it through even when she knows it’s a bad decision. Yet that’s how we are. People do that all of the time. That’s not an extraordinary behavior, that’s unfortunately how a lot of people live their lives, because it’s maybe harder to get off a bad path.
MJ: Exactly. And once you start, it’s like too bad now to go back. You have no choice, because it seems like you have already ruined everything.
Capone: When this couple realizes that they have this month that they didn’t know they were going to have to themselves, they kind of lose their sense of self. Do people do that? Is that based on something that you are familiar with, where you just go, “Wow, I have this extra time.” And then they just lose their minds. (Laughs)
MJ: Yeah, I guess it’s the combination of feeling like their life is over all of a sudden, like not having thought through. It’s like maybe you think you’re going to have a baby and maybe you're only picturing the cute baby part, but you are not thinking, “No, this is forever.” So there’s that realization, albeit totally metaphorically, but then it’s like, “Oh no, but wait there’s this month.” So it’s like a totally loaded crazy-making month.
I guess what it reminds me of a little bit is that I think we are all thinking more about these big decisions than say my parents were. I know I’ve been thinking about having kids and talking about it like 10million times more than my mom thought about having me, you know? You could say that we're sort of like a wishy-washy generation, or we have just too much time on our hands or something, but I also think some of that is a good thing that there are these choices, and that it’s not just automatic that you're going to get married and have kids. We've changed for a reason how we go about this, and so it looks kind of muddy, but I think it’s actually pretty important stuff.
Capone: You were mentioning earlier that you that you wanted to kind of go for it in terms of how far off the rails your character goes. Were there any particular scenes that just as an actor that were especially tough to play?
MJ: Yeah, it’s sort of like my whole process as an actor is like, “Well, there’s not really any time to think about this, because I’m so busy directing,” and luckily that’s probably a good thing, because it all comes from me. If I’m thinking about it, I’m probably doing an extra step I shouldn’t be doing. That said, I remember that scene where I have to tell him at 3:14 [essentially the big break-up scene]. I remember just feeling like any other actor… I had literally not gone to my trailer once, because it was a 21-day shoot, and why would I be hanging out in my trailer? But before that scene, I just kind of walked off the set and went and opened the door to this place I had never been and just laid down, and I remember thinking and trying to remember like anything I had ever heard about acting. [Laughs]
Capone: You were looking for the tools?
MJ: Yeah, I was just like, “What’s method again? The Meisner technique. What's that?” [Laughs] Maybe it’s good I managed to get myself in enough of a panic just through doing that, so I could apply it.
Capone: I will ask at least one question that I’m sure everyone else has asked, but there’s something almost inherently sweeter and sadder about the scenes that are seen from the cat’s perspective.
Capone: At what point did including that perspective even enter your thinking in terms of making this movie?
MJ: Yeah, the cat was there from really early on, because I sort of developed this through a performance, and the cat was in the performance done in the same way. It was on video and it was just showing the paws.
Capone: Is that your voice?
MJ: It is, yeah. I think it started out as like, I didn’t even initially know what the cat’s connection was; it was always a very separate, almost like a separate movie. I guess I wanted a break from this couple. It’s important that they be totally self-involved for the movie to work, because it’s practically like an internal landscape half of the time. But I didn’t want that to be the only reality in this world, because they are so flawed, and I’m one of them. I just wanted there to be some very honest thing-saying-exactly-what-he-felt character.
So yeah, there were a lot of changes in terms of exactly what he said, but it was always like that, always kind of like I’ve used children in the past. Although it’s sort of inherently funny, I guess. It’s sort of a weird line to walk, because it’s like a talking cat is like inherently ridiculous, so that’s a heavy load to put on it.
Capone: But it’s different. It’s more like we are hearing its thoughts rather than seeing it talk. I think that makes a difference and makes it less ridiculous.
MJ: Right, because you're doing a lot of the work.
Capone: Two things that are sort of related in this film about the role of YouTube in your art. The way I've seen a lot of your short films and certain performance pieces that you have done over the years has been on YouTube, so that’s certainly played a role in getting the word out there about things you're doing outside of your features. But THE FUTURE, Sophie's dance-a-day project seems so important to her, but even that falls apart pretty early on. Can you just talk a little bit about how you view that?
MJ: Yeah, I think I wanted her to be a dancer, but it was hard to figure out “Well what kind of dancer is she? I don’t want her to be a ballet dancer and yet she can’t because it’s me. So she has to be able to do her own weird kind of dance.” I’m not really trained. And I guess I was interested in the fact that there are a million girls dancing out there in a very sort of populist, homemade way making these videos, and I guess I just chose that to connect to rather than any other dance world, partly because the spine of that whole thing is this idea of being watched. That’s almost more important than the dances. Half the time they are barely dancing; they're just there, you know?
MJ: And wanting to be watched and wanting comments, that seemed so interesting to me, because that’s exactly the sort of thing as an artist that you're not supposed to do. Or not admit to or just bury that desire. So given that I knew she was going to derail, it seemed like a good place for her to get fixated on just the paralyzing desire to be watched, which I can related to. Of course, it’s my job to circumvent that and just be more curious about the world I guess than that.
Capone: That performance, that dance that you do in the T-shirt is remarkable stuff. Did that come out of a performance piece?
MJ: It was part of the performance that I did that the movie grew out of, although that performance is very scripted and there's nothing loose or improvisational about it. That character was a dancer in that, and it was one of the first images in my mind. I remember like getting in a shirt and videoing myself doing that and being like, “That looks kind of great. How could this mean something?”
Capone: Can you talk a little bit about the role of inspiration in your work? Are you being constantly inspired, or is it more work for you to find ideas to turn into art?
MJ: It’s both, of course. I feel like having watched how a lot of people work, I can sort of see that I’m of the school that kind of labors and thinks about it and thinks it's not really happening, which is sort of excruciating like, “I’m not getting anywhere,” and then all of a sudden the whole idea will come out pretty fully formed, which is great. It means my first drafts are pretty much there, but it’s not any quicker than anyone else, because I have this long period of apparent inactivity where I’m just like not sure what’s happening, but I guess I’m eeding my unconscious.
Capone: Like a gestation period?
MJ: Yeah, I guess so.
Capone: With film only being a part of what you do, do you get a lot of offers to either act or direct for hire? Would you ever do that under any circumstance?
MJ: Yeah, I do get offers. Although at this point, my agent knows not to send me scripts, so that’s stopped. I’m more a theoretically curious about acting. I have no ambitions, but I think it would be probably pretty useful to acting in my own movies you know if I could just do that like once,. But it’s a hard thing for me to commit to with someone else’s movie. I guess that’s normal for actors, but maybe the right part hasn’t come along, and I don’t know that I’m at the top of anyone’s list, because who wants another director on their set, really? That’s a whole other world, kind of a game that I’m not playing at all.
Capone: You think you'd be resistant to having someone try to direct you?
MJ: It sounds kind of great to me like when I think about it, it’s like, “Wow all you have to do is just try to fulfill their vision, and then it’s their problem after that.” [Laughs] To not have to do all of the post-production would be great, but then those actors who are great at it have a whole different willingness to trust that I have yet to discover how deep that goes in me.
Capone: I read an interview with you where you said you didn’t really think anybody would want to hire you, but you said it was because of your age and your body type.
MJ: Really? That seems wrong. [laughs] Sometimes I come up with ideas for movies and I’ll suddenly realize that there’s no role for me, because there’s literally no one who is my age or my body type.
Capone: Expand on that thought. If you're coming up with the idea for the movie, then can’t you just kind of put yourself in wherever you would like to?
MJ: Right, well I think it’s because I come up with ideas for fiction or short stories all of the time and in that, of course, there doesn’t have to be someone that I could play, because it’s just words. What I think what will happen is I will be thinking of something as a fiction, and then at a certain point I will start thinking of it as a movie without even really noticing it and get really excited and then I'll realize “Oh wait, if she’s a middle-aged, hefty woman is that going to work? Can I play that?” You know? (Laughs) I will really want to, but then I’ll think “Well maybe there’s someone else who could do that better,” and then I think, “Maybe it should just be a short story.”
Capone: All right, but you could take the Todd Solondz route and just cast any age, any race, any sex, in whatever roles you want.
MJ: I know, yeah. Well trust me, I’ve gone down that road with this particular idea a few times.
Capone: Other than the main couple in THE FUTURE, all of the other characters in this film are more conventional. You two seem more like the outsiders in your own story.
Capone: And a lot of the characters also seem to be slanting on the older side of the leads. Is that all kind of intentional, or is that just how it turned out?
MJ: There’s the receptionist who, yeah, I wanted to make her very normal…
Capone: That’s true.
MJ: I guess they had to be these sort of hipstery people, mostly because I kind of wrote knowing that that affair had to be with someone who was like unthinkably different form her, and I had that image of that man and that he would walk in on her doing the dance in the shirt. So there was sort of no way around that, and maybe it's also or the best some times to kind of do what you know.
That said, I didn’t want to make this hip world that they live in, and I all of the other people, it’s not like they care that Sophie and Jason… It’s not like they get them or care, or the way they are doesn’t mean anything to those people, and those people are really important players. They're the people who shift things. That sort of feels real to me also. I mean when I go out, when I leave my house in L.A., it’s the real world out there. For the most part, no one cares what I’m doing; I just have to be a person.
Capone: How did you find Hamish [Linklater]? You two are a perfect together and even kind of look a little bit alike in some ways.
MJ: Well, he was one of the very first people that Jeanne McCarthy, the casting director, suggested. She was like, “This is your guy,” and kind of like when you're looking for a house to buy, and the first one is great, you think, “Wow, there must just be tons of great ones if the first one was.” So I then met pretty much every other actor in that age range for like the next year, and then I called him up and was like, “Guess what, you’re perfect. I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me.” I felt of course very confident about that by that point, and the physical stuff was really important to me. It’s a visual medium and I didn’t want to fight that. I wanted it to just be like we were meant to be together. We look right together, we seem like each other, and that the other guy should just seem wrong. (Laughs)
Capone: Mission accomplished. So are we waiting another five years for whatever film you do next, or are you hoping to make it a slightly more regular part of your routine?
MJ: This feels regular to me, because I have to rotate with the mediums or else I’m like not a fiction writer if I don’t write a book you know. If I don’t write another book, then it’s the same problem as with the film world; I felt so much pressure like, “Shit, I’ve got to make another movie. I’m not really a director.” But I had just done a lot of other stuff in between, so I don’t think it will be soon. I’ve got a whole novel to write, so just forget about me for a little while. [laughs]
Capone: Okay, I’ll try. Well I have to say what it is you are doing and the way you are doing it is a constant source of fascination for me, so however much time it takes, take it. I would hate to see you turn into something conventional.
MJ: That’s great to hear.
Capone: Miranda, thank you so much for spending so much time talking.
MJ: Alright, thank you. Take care.
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Aug. 6, 2011, 12:31 p.m. CST
by golden tribw
it may be sincere but in plain letters it reads like awkward brown-nosing
Aug. 6, 2011, 12:56 p.m. CST
It's a difficult subject to explore and make a central part of your art. It's a quality so many people are familiar with in their daily lives and respond to it when rendered on screen by people like Miranda July, but it is also something many other people will institutionally reject unless it's presented in very specific, acceptable ways. Like an emotional gag-reflex, I think. Among a north American movie market with such deeply prescriptive diet of superhero films, action movies, gross out comedies and Oscar-baiting indie melodramas it's outliers like July swimming singularly up-stream making their own things, their own way, that part of loving films is fundamentally about. At least for me. For my innanet funbucks, I think she's super talented. Finding that really difficult creative sweet-spot between exploring honest things but in heightened, stylized ways. Looking forward to The Future. And more short stories, if she's got 'em. Thanks for the innaviews, Capone.
Aug. 6, 2011, 1:16 p.m. CST
by stelios kantos
Google it and you'll hate her too.
Aug. 6, 2011, 4:11 p.m. CST
Richard Grossinger, very talented writer of really densely written new age books with a strongly scientific bent. I recommend "2013: Raising the Earth to the Next Vibration" and "Embryos, Galaxies and Sentient Beings: How the Universe Makes Life." The latter attempts to connect ontology and embryology (the development of the fetus in the womb) with wider issues of cosmological evolution. He runs a publishing company, North Atlantic Books, which despite its name is paradoxically based in Berkeley, California.
Aug. 6, 2011, 4:32 p.m. CST
I never like quirky indie romantic flicks, but this just drew me in. The characters were believable
Aug. 6, 2011, 4:45 p.m. CST
I fucking hate the Indie, forced faux-awkwardness, apathetic, lethargic bullshit of this whole scene.
by the Green Gargantua
Aug. 6, 2011, 5:12 p.m. CST
To counterbalance Capone's brown-nosing, let me just say: One Christmas I gave my wife the DVD of YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW as a gag gift. We saw it in the theatre and both found it wretched. We had some fun slagging it afterwards over Indian food, though, so it wasn't a total loss. So, Not A Fan. But I don't have to feel badly about running her down in Capone's gushing thread, because I a) saw her movie in the theatre and b) bought the DVD.
Aug. 6, 2011, 5:26 p.m. CST
That IFC theater on 6th Ave (previously the Waverly) I found it to be the quintessential IFC film to open the IFC theater. And I don't really mean that in a good way. Meanwhile, IFC the channel now has commercials, lots and lots of them. Thus rendering the channel basically un-watchable, as a two hour long movie now takes three.
Aug. 6, 2011, 8:40 p.m. CST
So, this creepy couple can't even commit to a pet. The cute, artsy girl fucks some weird old guy and breaks her boyfriends heart. Yeah, I want to see that.
Aug. 6, 2011, 9:54 p.m. CST
...sorry to ruin it for those of you excited to see this, but, I think I'm in the right considering this is shaping up to be the movie year of "Its always okay for a woman to cheat": HALL PASS; CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE; THE FUTURE... all movies involving women cheating on men who are never held accountable for THEIR actions. Its all dismissed with the excuse of "Well, they're women, so, you know, they're all emotional and stuff..." and/or "Well, the guys are not tall, dark, and handsome real men, who don't have independent thoughts and feelings, so, you know, they kinda brought it on themselves..." Nordling's review for CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE summed up the reason why this happens more so than anything else I've read this year about these types of movies when he stated that Moore's character, who cheats on Carell's character, is merely having a "personal crisis", then goes on to bash Carrell's character for hooking up with women during the separation. And, of course, right here Capone dismisses the actions of July's character's by the classic "She made a bad decision". Its time for men to grow a backbone again: Not holding women accountable for something like cheating is NOT being politically correct or enlightened ...its being lazy and weak. Have men really become so beaten and patronized that they can't even defend the IDEA of themselves projected in mainstream and independent movies? Have we become so desperate for positive female attention that we won't question anything, even in the privacy of our homes?
Aug. 6, 2011, 11:56 p.m. CST
by mr teaspoon
Haven't seen any of her movies. I have a book of her short stories, were kind of so-so. But listen to her album The Binet Simon Test in a dark room alone. Just absolutely brilliant, the kind of album I deliberately don't listen to very much so as to maintain the impact it has on me.
Aug. 7, 2011, 12:14 a.m. CST
... that I no longer watch the channel. I don't even look to see what's on it when scrolling through the movie channels. There are plenty of other ways to watch movies, even the movies they show, without watching commercials in the process. And it just feels fuckin' weird. Rolling along through twenty minutes of quirky indie film, swear words and all, and then there's a fucking car commercial all of a sudden. Nope. I'm done with that channel.
Aug. 7, 2011, 2:01 a.m. CST
... and there's a picture of Miranda July.
Aug. 7, 2011, 11:32 a.m. CST
American men are as gutless as American women are narcissistic and angry from hell. It's a grim time. 'You've come a long way baby'. Yeah, but you're heading in wrong direction.
Aug. 7, 2011, 3:01 p.m. CST
Agreed on IFC commercials. Zodiac was 3+ hours long.
Aug. 7, 2011, 7:10 p.m. CST
by Norman Colson
ive never heard of her...
Aug. 8, 2011, 12:23 p.m. CST
...loved her film, and loved her book of short stories even more. On nearly every page there was something that made me laugh out loud.
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