By Antony Teofilo, Movie Poop Shoot, March 31, 2004
Gone are the days of classic romance.
Non-traditional relationships have become more 'normal' than the nuclear family in day-to-day American life. As a result, movies, which may be the most prominent indicator of a culture's value system, have begun to adjust accordingly. JERSEY GIRL is no exception.
As modern cinema evolves, the most classic elements of story are taking some interesting twists. Happy endings, simple resolutions, and squeaky-clean protagonists just don't play believably anymore because, well, life isn't like that. Resultantly, Kevin Smith fills JERSEY GIRL's universe with characters that live in a modern world.
There's not a single traditional family structure in sight. Bart Trinke (George Carlin) is an aging widower/barfly whose closest family members, at least until the movie's events unfold, are his buddies from the sanitation department. Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a bachelor father too, trying to raise a daughter by himself, having sacrificed a high-powered career for the life of a family man. Liv Tyler is a single college student working in a video store because she's doing her graduate thesis on pornography and its effect on the single man.
It's with Tyler's character, Maya, that Smith takes some very interesting gambles. Maya is an independent female lead not defined by her need to support a man. She's proactive in matters of romance, but she's not a harlot, either. It's a refreshing change, especially (and without giving too much away) since her story arc ends in a very unexpected place. With Maya, Kevin Smith lends his pen to the creation of a new cinematic creature...
Excerpts from a roundtable interview with Liv Tyler
By Antony Teofilo
What was the appeal of working on JERSEY GIRL with Kevin Smith?
Liv Tyler: I knew about Kevin, but I didn't know that much about him. I'd definitely seen CHASING AMY and DOGMA. Kevin actually offered me this part, so that was how I got to read the script. I was intrigued by him. So many people that I know of all different ages and sexes think he's a genius, so I wanted to experience that.
Maya offers Ollie a 'mercy jump'. Now, it could be just my personal experience speaking here, but I've never heard a woman say something like that. Did you have any trouble with that aspect of your character?
I say hump all the time, like, did you hump him [Laughs], which is so gross and horrible. 'Mercy jump' was definitely a Kevin line. I have a foul mouth, too, though. Part of me was like, 'Really? [she would do that?] But that's who this woman is. And that's my job as an actress. Everybody's completely different. People make all sorts of different kinds of decisions. I did relate to the fact that she just really felt bad for him, and couldn't believe that he hadn't had sex for seven years. It was almost like going to see a doctor. She was like, 'Honey, you need help.' [Laughs]. He also happens to be handsome and incredibly charming and intelligent.
How do you feel about how the film turned out, as opposed to the critical expectations surrounding it?
I went to see the film with my husband and a couple of our friends, male and female, and I was really excited to see their response to it, because there has been so much press and media about the film. My friends were so surprised because they loved the movie, and it wasn't at all what they expected it to be from how it's been portrayed in the press.
When last we'd talked, you were still sort of smarting from the backlash that had occurred before you had started filming THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Kevin's got a pretty rabid fanbase, and I can't imagine there would be any negative reaction to your performance in this film. Have you had any response from Kevin's fans yet?
Not really, no. I try not to look at all that stuff too much. It's great that it's everybody's opinion, but it's not for me to really see. Those discussion boards and stuff, it's good that they do their thing. LOtr was very different, though. That was not only the internet. That was the whole world of fans of LOtr upset about the initial direction they were taking with the character. That didn't really have a lot to do with me, other than I was cast in that part. Of course, those things can hurt your feelings. That would be like if somebody wrote a story about you, and what a horrible shit writer you are, you'd cry.
It's happened ...
[Laughs] You sort of learn that you do have to protect yourself, and be a little defensive. Personally, I don't want to feel defensive, or mad at anybody for having their opinion because they should. There's plenty of movies that I like or don't like.
Can you talk about your emotions at the Oscars this year?
It kind of felt surreal. It was almost like a dream. It's very different to actually be at the Oscars instead of watching them on TV. I would love to sit down and actually watch it on TV because I missed some things because I was presenting. I just couldn't believe it. We were all overwhelmed and excited. I was really happy that Fran and Phillipa won for screenplay, and my friend Nyla won for costume, and the production designers, too. There were days when we thought, 'What's going on here? What are we doing this for?' Nyla would get a call at midnight that she had one day to make a hundred hobbit extra outfits. For all of us, there were times when we thought, 'This is so hard. This is killing me.' To have that reward after we all stuck by and enjoyed [the experience] was just amazing.
Was Kevin Smith flexible when it came to your interpretation of your character?
I can't say I've ever worked with a director who said, 'This is how you do it!' Because he's also the writer, it's very specific and very clear and he's so good at writing the character, you feel like you're really seeing the movie as you're reading it. With my character, I never had a chance to rehearse or work with him or Ben or anything. None of them knew what I was going to do and I didn't even know what I was going to do. All of a sudden this person started to happen, and she was all dorky and weird and laughing at her own jokes. I didn't know where it was coming from, and Kevin liked that, so we just went with it.
Did you like the musical aspect of JERSEY GIRL?
I've always wanted to do a musical, or a film where I could play a singer. That would be an absolute dream come true for me. [The SWEENEY TODD sequence] was actually the first thing we all did together. We rehearsed those scenes. It was very WAITING FOR GUFFMAN. We were in this room with this guy who was [just like] Corky. We had to play it very precisely. I'm playing a boy, which is weird, and a cockney boy. I've never done a cockney accent in my life, so I just made that up. My husband said that it was a little bit too good for a school play...so I said, 'Maybe because she works in a video store she watches movies all the time and she can do all kinds of accents.' [Laughs] I've never seen SWEENEY TODD, so we were just kind of winging it. We recorded it in a studio. I was sitting there in headphones, and Kevin was sitting there on the floor in front of me, and we just couldn't stop laughing.
We talked about the fact that you were nervy when you got up in front of the crowd in Paulsboro to do the SWEENEY TODD sections of the movie. Has your fear of crowds lessened at all?
I have the worst stage fright in the whole world. It took me two months to psych myself up for that. I'm getting better though. I used to get a lot worse, to the point that I wouldn't do things because of that aspect. I get asked to present at things all the time, and I have to say no, but the Oscars you can't say no to. It's still very difficult, but I'm getting a little bit better as the years go by, and as I do this job more and more. I was doing one of the morning shows on TV, and the guy that was interviewing me was so calm, and I said, 'I don't know how you do this, I'm really nervous.' He told me this whole story about how back in the '70's, in his first week on the job, he was told by his producers that there was an actress coming in who had such bad fright of speaking in front of a live audience that they were going to make an exception and pre-tape an interview which they'd never done before. This woman appeared, and he had no idea who it was, and she was pacing and freaking out, and then the woman came and sat down, and he realized it was Audrey Hepburn. I thought that was amazing because you would never imagine in a million years that she had a fear of public speaking.
As you can probably tell, I'm sort of here representing Kevin's legion of fans...
Do you write for ViewAskew, or Moviepoopshoot?
I know about that one...Poopshoot me! [Laughs] What does Moviepoopshoot mean? Are you shooting poop at bad movies?
No, we shoot the poop about movies in general...
So it's not only a negative thing...
I'll have to come and shoot some poop.
Yes, you will. We'd love to have you. But seriously, what would you say to Kevin's fans about the fact that this movie's themes are a little more mature...this time, it's not about weed, or foul language, or Jay, or, since we're on the subject, poop...
There are some poop jokes...and I talk about masturbation, I mean...that's pretty, 'Kevin Smith'. [Laughs]
What would you like to say that section of his fanbase that might be a little put off by this movie?
I don't know, because I don't really know that much about what they tend to think. But I hope they like the movie.
Will you work with Kevin again?
You'd have to ask Kevin, but I'd love to. I really enjoyed working with him. It was great fun for me. I feel like it's such amazing timing that this is coming out two weeks after the whole Oscar/LOtr thing. It's nice for me because it's such a different character, and people just sort of feel like I'm Arwen. I've been looking at trailers for HIDALGO and seeing that it says, 'Viggo Mortenson is still the king' I'm thinking, 'Poor, Viggo!' [Laughs] I'm just really happy that I get to keep working. I really liked working with Kevin, and I'd be more than happy to do it again.
Do you think this character as a stride for women characters? She's very comfortable with her sexuality. That is what she studies, of course, but it's very rare that you get to see a woman on the big screen who has that sort of confidence.
I'm excited that people are responding so well to it. I never know what's going to happen when something comes out. I'm just excited to know that women are enjoying it and liking how strong [Maya] is. I like that she's a little bit of everything. A couple of people have asked me if she's more of a fantasy girl, or if she's realistic, and I think about myself, and I have a lot of those things in me. I'm very feminine, but I can also hang with the boys, and I have the most foul mouth in the world, and I'm smart. We all have different sides, and we present them at different times, and I was really happy to be able to portray a character like that.
Your character in JERSEY GIRL isn't really a classic female character. Maya's story arc has a sort of ambiguous ending. How did you feel about that?
I love that ending because I think it's very realistic. He's not committing to her, either. He's not asking her to marry him or anything. He's saying, 'Stick around, it might get a little more romantic.', and she's saying 'Maybe'. I like that because he is a father, and he is going through so many changes. If it was this fairy tale ending, it wouldn't really work because that's not what the story's about.