The biggest surprise at the Closing Night for the Sarasota Film Festival came when Elisabeth Moss, lead actress for the Closing Night film The One I Love, showed up unannounced to present director Charlie McDowell with a Breakthrough Award and to participate in an audience Q&A. Later that evening, she granted an exclusive interview with SRQ Media Group about why she decided to take the role in the film, with some discussion edited so not to give too much of the film away.
I was surprised you mentioned that about half the dialogue in this film was ad lib. With such tight continuity, that seems remarkable.
Yeah. That is a large chunk of it, and I give so much credit to our editor Jennifer Tilly, and Charlie (McDowell) who was in the room with her. We left that film going, ‘Well, I hope this works out and it comes together,’ not knowing what certain scenes would look like because you would have to do different versions of them. We didn’t know what it would end up being. They did such an amazing job shooting and she (Tilly) did such an amazing job of making it look like a streamlined film that made sense.
I know in a television series you don’t know as well where a character’s plot line is going, but you know from the beginning the major twists about the character?
I knew from the beginning about that, but there still was stuff to work out, a lot of plot points that weren’t worked out before-logistical things and making things make sense, trying to make it all work. This film was very much made as we went along. It had a great framework and we knew where it would go, but a lot of it was made along the way.
How long did it take you to shoot the film?
21 days. I think everybody wants more time, but we did it and it worked out fine. I think everybody wants to explore the scenes, but in a way maybe it’s good we didn’t have time to belabor the point too much.
Would you jump at the chance to do another movie with these sort of Twilight Zone twists?
Absolutely. I’m a big fan of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, that whole thing, so I was attracted to it for that reason in the beginning because I love those kinds of movies. I love movies that sort of meld real life emotional relationships with a framework that is new and unique and something different and more exciting.
Do you prefer doing a movie like this where you have to tell a story quickly or to develop characters over years the way you do on Mad Men and did on The West Wing? This was different because it was all very collaborative. We were building it all together. It’s not something like Mad Men, that is written for me, and there is team of writers and it is much more organized and more laid out, and they are writing for months before you get there. So it’s a completely different experience.