[Our thanks to James Wallace for this interview.]
After winning over audiences with its blend of saucy comedy and sweet emotion at this year's Sundance Film Festival, FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL... hits theaters this weekend in select cities with a wider release in September. While you might think that a tale about two girls with a love/hate relationship who decide to own and operate a phone sex line is something that came from someone's hilarious head, you might be surprised to find out that it's a case of art imitating life.
I sat down with writer/star Lauren Miller and co-star Ari Graynor (whose character is modeled after co-writer Katie Anne Naylon) to discuss their real life research, making a grounded relatable romcom about platonic female friendship, the "no big deal" nature of having giant dildos on set at all times, and the best source for alternate male anatomy terms being the man that raised you. Basically, there's nowhere this interview didn't go!
ScreenAnarchy: So, what kind of research did you two have to do for character's that operate their own phone sex line?
Ari Graynor (AG): Haha! Yeah, we only went to a bunch of sex shops and only spoke to each other in dirty talk during filming...
Lauren Miller (LM): We hired some hookers and they really gave us some good pointers.
AG: Yeah, that's true. That was a fun night.
LM: Remember that one that did that thing with her...?
AG: Crazy. She was crazy. No, we're just kidding. We didn't do any of that kind of stuff, to be honest. As you can tell by the movie, this isn't a documentary on phone sex or like a biopic of that lifestyle. This is a fun, feel good, friendship story and so the point of the phone sex is really to keep it entertaining, light, and funny and not overly titillating. So, aside from maybe a little personal experience here and there it was not much research.
LM: Well, the oldest trick in the book is writing what you know. Katie Anne Naylon cowrote this film with me and the first thing her and I knew about was female friendship. And Katie and I are very different people, like Lauren and Katie in the movie. I'm definitely much more straight and narrow, and with her, you never know what you're going to get. That was sort of the initial kernel that we wanted to tell. And then we asked ourselves, what world should that be set in? And Katie ran a phone sex line out of her dorm room her Freshman year of college, which was the year before we lived together, I should add!
AG: Her number was 1-866-FSU-TITS
LM: Yes, that's true. And they did really well. They made like $8,000 in a semester.
AG: They really did incorporate. They became an LLC.
LM: She mailed panties to people...
Oh, so she was legit?
LM: Oh, yeah. She was for real legit!
Speaking of legit, I think we're in a renaissance of raunchy romcoms with heart. Very much like the films of the 80s about young friendships and relationships that were mainstream but had substance with characters that were relatable. Lauren, your husband* has been responsible for a few of those films, especially on the male side with man-date films like SUPERBAD or something like I LOVE YOU, MAN. Now we're starting to see that with female driven films as well like BRIDESMAIDS. Did you guys set out to make a film that carried this torch, so to speak?
LM: In a way, yes. We set out to make a film that we wanted to see. For a first time filmmaker, I think it's important to do something you feel comfortable with and really have a story you want to tell. And it's nice that, timing wise, that worked out that our film is coming out in this kind of resurgence. But honestly, from a totally selfish standpoint, we just made a movie we wanted to see.
AG: And there were times where this was a totally different type of movie. Before it ended up at Focus Features, it was bouncing around the studios and the script was much broader. Like there was a character who was cut that worked at a sex shop and drove a dick car*. There was a sequence where we ended up on the Today Show at the end of the film because our characters wrote a book about everything. There were all sorts of different incarnations of it and I think once the four of us* became a unit, the major message that we kept coming back to was how to we make this as real and genuine as possible? How do we ground this as much as possible? And I think that's what made it the movie it is. We wanted to make it because it felt real and I think audiences are at the point now where they want to watch movies in this genre that feel real to them.
LM: Yeah! Don't get me wrong, I love a great Action movie about aliens! It's great. It's fun. I love to take a break from my life with something like that. But at the same time, I like to see people who are like me on screen also.
How much, if any, did Seth mentor you, considering this is your first screenplay and he knows a thing or two about this genre?
LM: Well, he's super supportive obviously just because he's such an amazing person. But he's also really tough! I would give him drafts of the script to read and he would literally on a whole page just draw a giant X and write the word "Nope!" So, eventually on some stuff we just had to stop listening to him. Haha! But I feel so lucky that I get to have someone who's so smart and talented right there where I can bring him to a screening and get his thoughts. And we have a number of amazing, talented friends in LA who are also writers and actors and directors and they would come to screenings and tell us what they thought was working and what wasn't. That was something I learned early on, is when you're making a Comedy you have to show it to people because what's funny to you may not be funny to everyone else. You have to put yourself out there to realize where it's working.
Speaking of Seth and those friends, were the film's cameos always in the script and did you know who you wanted them to be?
LM: No, the calls we're one of those weird things where one day we thought "Hey, let's show these callers! And lets get the funniest people we know to be the callers!" It just seemed like the perfect little spot for something like that. Kevin Smith happened to be a friend of mine and I asked him "Hey, will you come do this?" and he's always so supportive of independent films and comedies that I don't even think he read the script. He just immediately agreed to do it. And Seth, I didn't even ask him originally, I'm ashamed to say! I didn't even think about it! And one night, we we're getting ready for bed and both brushing our teeth and I looked over at him and thought "Hey, you're funny! Will you be in our movie?" And he was like "Ok..."
With the cameo scenes, and some other moments, the film doesn't really hold back in the raunchy department, though it does maintain this great balance of sultry and sweet. Was there anything that was just too much that you thought you could never do and get away with?
AG: The irony is that the more outrageous dialogue and moments were not what made us or anyone else feel uncomfortable. The stuff that made us blush or feel butterflies when we're doing the table read and shooting was the stuff with me and Mark Webber. The lovey dovey stuff. It's just so funny because the dirtiest, raunchiest, craziest stuff could come out of our mouths and no one would bat a lash but then when it felt real and got intimate, that's when everyone including us got a little uncomfortable.
Giant dildos on the table, no problem!
AG: Noooo problem! We would be on set, and someone would yell "Hey, you want the dildos in or out on this one?" and someone would respond nonchalantly "Dildos in." We had a dildo washing station for the days where we had to put them in our mouths and we all became so desensitized. But, man, when there's a little emotional intimacy and a little bit of tongue kissing, everyone freaks out!
Well, that leads me perfectly to my next question, have your parents seen the movie yet?
LM: They have. My dad is a huge movie buff so I thought it'd be fun to send him the script early on just to get his thoughts and much to my surprise, his biggest note was that we needed to be more creative with our terms for penis. He was suggesting them left and right, saying "What about shvanz?" and so on and so forth. And I was like "Dad, please don't say those words to me ever again!" And so he wasn't embarrassed at all but I was!
*Lauren is married to Seth Rogen, who coincidentally has a cameo in For a Good Time, Call as a airline pilot engaged in a phone three way (phree way) with the two ladies whilst in an airport bathroom stall.
*Which I like to imagine looking exactly like the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile, except with a real wiener.
*Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, Katie Anne Naylon, and director Jamie Travis.
James Wallace has been a film writer for five years, beginning as the Managing Editor for Gordon and the Whale. He is now running IHeartCinema.net as well as contributing to The Dallas Observer and FirstShowing.net. Follow James on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Focus Features.
For a Good Time, Call... opens today in limited release in the U.S. and Canada.