THE GREATEST HITS Interview: Ned Benson, Lucy Boynton, Justin H. Min on Los Angeles and Everchanging Relationships with Music

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
THE GREATEST HITS Interview: Ned Benson, Lucy Boynton, Justin H. Min on Los Angeles and Everchanging Relationships with Music

In my review of The Greatest Hits, the new sci-fi romance from The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby writer/director Ned Benson, I mention that it opens with a montage of two young lovers “generally doing things that young, hip couples do in LA.” So, as someone from Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but pick the brains of Benson and stars Lucy Boynton and Justin H. Min about my hometown when I recently had the chance to sit down with them … in Chicago, where I now live.

Because The Greatest Hits is a movie about the power of music to literally transport protagonist Harriet (Boynton) back in time, we also talked about music. But less specific artists (though some come up), and more the ways that music impacts our lives and how our lives impact the way we listen to music. [The interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Screen Anarchy: So I’m from LA, and [THE GREATEST HITS is] a very LA movie and that was very exciting to me, so that’s where I’m gonna start. For you [Ned] when you were casting, was it important that you cast people who knew LA? And for you [Lucy and Justin] as people who have lived in LA, was that something that attracted you to the movie?

Ned Benson: Obviously the movie is a love letter to Los Angeles. But I think for me it was just about the best actor, best person for the role. So really I was just looking for people who I felt fit that criteria. And when we met we had a connection with each other. Justin obviously has a California background. But I think he was one of the only ones aside from myself. I’m a bit schizophrenic 'cause I was born in New York, raised partially in New York and my mom moved out to LA when I was like twelve so I’ve got a little bit of both. But I think definitely the movie is a love letter to the city [of Los Angeles].

Justin H. Min: As someone who’s from LA, I felt like it was a local’s guide to LA. You see so many depictions of LA in movies and TV shows and it’s kinda always the same cookie-cutter touristy traps. And to explore, especially East Los Angeles, which is where I hang out all the time, I mean Civil Coffee is where I go all the time. So it was just like “wow, I’m so glad this is a reintroduction to LA for a lot of people.”

Lucy Boynton: Which it was for me, I think. I’ve lived there on and off quite a bit but, yeah, to get a different insight into LA and have different access to it... It can be quite a lonely, impenetrable place, so this felt like a new understanding of it ,which was, I think, better. Starting from scratch, in a way, so not having my own points of reference, but having just Harriet’s clean slate, was kinda a great eduction.

Speaking of points of reference, my second question for you all about LA is: as one of these movies about more off the beaten path places in LA, did you all have any movies that were reference points for you all that you appreciated as other, not just Hollywood, LA movies?

Ned Benson: There’s an amazing documentary called Los Angeles Plays Itself, so that was one that I looked at just in terms of the history of Los Angeles in film. That was a lot of fun. But other than that, I was more looking at movies that had music that I loved. Looking at Cameron Crowe movies, looking at Richard Linklater movies, even Reality Bites by Ben Stiller, those were really touchstones for me — John Hughes, Chicago native — sort of looking at those generational movies with incredible soundtracks to find inspiration.

Lucy Boynton: I’ve always loved the film Like Crazy, Drake Doremus’s movie ,which happens to also be partially set in LA. And I think that also doesn’t really feature LA very much, it’s kinda in the background but you do get that slightly more authentic side of it. I’ve always loved films like that, which is also why I loved this script cause it’s that sense of silence and longing, and so little exposition. You just get time to sit with these characters, so that’s what moved me about both of them.

Justin H. Min: It’s hard, nothing’s really coming to top of mind because as someone in the industry now, you kinda get a peek behind the curtain and I know so many places are now cheated as LA, especially in Canada, where a lot of things are filming.


So, I don’t know. I can’t really think of the last time I saw LA featured in a really prominent way that I thought was really interesting.

Lucy Boynton: Until The Greatest Hits!

Justin H. Min: Until The Greatest Hits!


I will say, when there’s a Silver Lake mention, I now can’t hear “Silver Lake” without thinking of UNDER THE SILVER LAKE so that was fun for me.

[General “mm-hmm”s and “yeah”s.]

Then my last LA question here is: because the movie is so tied to music, the Lana [Del Rey] song [in THE GREATEST HITS] really stuck out to me because Lana is so tied to LA at the moment. I was wondering if there were any other place and music connections that you had while making the movie?

Ned Benson: Lots, at least for me. Where we shot the Jamie XX, kinda Outside Lands reference scene, is a place downtown called Plaza de Cultura y Artes and I’ve seen DJ Harvey play a lot of gigs there. So it’s very special, I’ve had some kinda euphoric musical experiences there. And then where we shot the Bears in Space disco, where these two dance so wonderfully and beautifully, that’s Gin Ling Way in Chinatown. It’s an amazing venue where I’ve had some really fun nights listening to music. So those were two spots I really wanted to be able to shoot at in terms of re-creation.

Lucy Boynton: This whole soundtrack for me is now my transport to LA, to various places. I was glued to that soundtrack, glued to the playlist. But I think the very first day of filming was driving through the streets of LA listening to “Me and My Shadow.”

Ned Benson: Or not driving…

Lucy Boynton: Faux driving


Lucy Boynton: But that was so cool. To shoot in LA, especially as a Brit going there, it’s such a huge part of this industry. So to have that engulfed in music was very filmic in itself. [Pause] You [Justin] guy?

Justin H. Min: Couldn’t have said it better myself.


Beautifully said. Speaking as a Brit, was it difficult for you to sing with an American accent and hold that?

Lucy Boynton: It’s difficult to sing anyway.


Lucy Boynton: I’m glad I could hide behind the accent.

Justin H. Min: Can you imagine if she just started singing in a British accent?

Lucy Boynton: Just a weird Harriet affectation.


Lucy Boynton: I do really love doing accents for films cause it just puts that distance between yourself and your character, especially when you have to do something as humbling as carrying a key.

Well, you both did wonderfully.

Lucy Boynton: Thanks for lying.

There’s some audiophile talk. There’s that one scene where Harriet runs into Morris’s [Austin Crute’s character] place and says “Your EQ’s all off!” and I was like “this is going right over my head.” Are either of you audiophiles? Was that something you had to research? Is that stuff you know and care about when you’re listening to music?

Lucy Boynton: You [Ned] know everything.

Ned Benson: I’m kinda an audiophile. I just love Hi-Fi. We were referencing Alan Parsons and David Mancuso and there’s a lot of like carrying those old Klipschorn speakers, which are some really famous speakers.

All that stuff I really wanted in the details, so that was really fun and it’s kinda one of those things of if you know you know and if you don’t it doesn’t matter. But when they’re talking about Donald Fagen or Alan Parsons, these are the greats in engineering and mastering and production. So Harriet being a sound engineer I wanted to reference that musical history, and her background and Morris’s background, since they share music as a bond.

Lucy Boynton: For me, it was a whole education 'cause it was learning a new language. But great, I mean, I love that side of this job. Try to research as much as possible but a lot of that is just straight acting.

Justin H. Min: Lucy’s turning into a music producer now.


Lucy Boynton: Absolutely! Having to do that scene with Nelly [Furtado] where I’m telling her I think changes could be made.

Ned Benson: Well, we did go see Bob Clearmountain at the beginning, which was kinda fun.

Lucy Boynton: Which was incredible. Yeah it was magical watching that.

Ned Benson: Who had engineered Roxy Music’s original Avalon, so she got to see his board and see us actually do a live mix, which was fun.

I assume Roxy Music is huge for you [Ned, because they feature in the film], but were you two fans going into the movie or was that something new to you?

Lucy Boynton: Slightly newer for me. I’d heard their music but you listen to it differently when you’re really diving in and there’s an emotional center to it. And it’s important to someone, you listen to it with a different context. I have a new appreciation.

Justin H. Min: I think their name was ubiquitous and their music was kinda on the periphery, but I fell in love through this project. That’s one of the exciting things about what we get to do, we get to explore and learn new things, and be introduced to music in a different way.

More broadly, was there any other stuff that any of you discovered while working on the movie that you’ve really fallen in love with? Musically, I mean.

Lucy Boynton: I mean the whole playlist you [Ned] made me was full of, I don't know, just a different sound. I gravitate towards, I’m like Justin, I listen to the same stuff over and over that I love, so I have really trodden the ground of The Beatles too much. So it was just more contemporary stuff that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to, which I now love. I listen to this playlist to death.

Justin H. Min: Yeah, Beach House I’ve always loved. Leon Bridges, Jamie XX. Again it’s interesting to listen through the lens of this movie, so it’s like kinda unlocking a different facet of the song or that band. Which is super exciting. I mean, as we just said five times [laughs], when I listen to a song five thousand times I can get sick of it but it’s interesting that when you unlock something different about it, it’s new again.

Ned Benson: And I think that’s the beauty of music. It’s like you meet a person and they have a lens. You know they have their playlist or their experience.

I remember meeting my wife and all of a sudden I’m listening to what she’s listening to and that opens up this whole new door. And I think we as people, part of sharing ourselves is sharing the music in our lives, which then completely opens up a new avenue.

So through them [Justin and Lucy], they shared playlists with me in the preproduction process and it was really fun to understand like “oh my god this song meant so much to Justin” or “this song meant so much to Lucy” and I started listening to that and it just broadens the spectrum of music in your life. And I think that’s kinda what the movie is about too.

On that note of music as connection, I really love that Harriet’s ability to time travel is just as much, if not more so, a threat to her existing in the world, as it is a superpower. I wonder if you [Ned] could talk about that. I know isolation plays a role in terms of connectivity but I was curious.

Ned Benson: Yeah for sure, there’s a line in the movie where she says “I’m haunted by music” and I feel the same way. Like there are songs that I’m so emotionally connected to that it’s almost too much for me to listen to them. You think of a breakup or a hard moment in your life, and that song kinda brings you there and it can really hit a nerve.

So I think that’s really what her isolation is about, is to kind of buttress herself away from these things that can hurt her or take her back or these uncontrolled spaces. She’s kinda curated this space that’s rose-colored in terms of her experience with [her ex-boyfriend] Max.

I think the dangerous thing is stepping outside into the uncontrolled world. Which is like any relationship, we move into new territory, we move out into life, we meet somebody new and it’s a terrifying experience.

And I think that’s sort of what the movie is about too, is her being able to step outside of this safe space and go to a more dangerous space so she can move on and be open to living again and meeting somebody new.

The Greatest Hits is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S. and Disney Plus in Canada. 

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