Interview: Scott Coffey from "Adult World"
Actor/Director Scott Coffey spent the first years of his career in front of a camera in films like “Mulholland Dr.”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and “Lost Highway”. These days Scott is spending his time behind the camera and has just released his new film “Adult World” starring John Cusack and Emma Roberts. Scott sat down with us here at Movie Room Reviews and told us all about making this film, and working with these wonderful actors.
Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: Hey, well, I just got done watching your movie, "Adult World" and you're the director of it. It stars Emma Roberts and Evan Peters, and co-stars, one of my favorites, Cloris Leachman and John Cusack. I've seen a lot of films with John Cusack over the last couple weeks he did "Grand Piano" and "The Bag Man" and now this. It came out on Valentine’s Day, right?
Scott Coffey: Yeah, on VOD and yeah, and in New York and LA, but otherwise it'll be available to everybody on Video On Demand, like iTunes and Amazon and In Demand and On Demand and all that stuff; regular cable channels.
MRR: Well, for our audience out there do you think you could explain a little bit about the film. Because when I watched it, it brought back a lot of nostalgia for me when I left college. So, could you kind of tell our audience about it?
Scott Coffey: Yeah sure. It's about a moment between sort of becoming an adult and leaving your childhood behind to become an adult. And it's that moment where you still have that incredible amount of confidence, and you think you can do anything in the world and that you figure you're sort of powerful and special and amazing. And everybody sort of has the moment when they realize that maybe they're not, as sort of incredible as they think they are. And I think that part of the American Dream has been you could sort of do anything you want to, anything with your life no matter what that it is that you choose. And to a certain extent that's true, but that kind of big giant idea what the American Dream is tarnished a little bit.
I think people still sort of tell their kids that they're special, and incredible, and perfect, and they can do anything they want to. And sometimes, that's great, but sometimes it can meddle with people. It's a story of a young woman who is over-educated and comes out into a world that’s not ready. That doesn't have any jobs for her and she thinks she can make a living being a poet and that's not the most realistic way, to sort of get about in life. Poetry is a great wonderful thing, but it’s unfortunate that we don't live in a society that recognizes how important poetry is. I think, she sort of comes up against that. But that's thematically kind of what, the movie's about. It's a story of a young woman finding love for the first time and a sense of herself, and becoming an adult. And, all that kind of great stuff.
MRR: There's a few scenes in the film that I really enjoyed. And the one that just hits you so hard, now that I'm older, is when the dad's talking to her about how she has $90,000 in student loans, and she's trying to be a poet. And I think, that's such a hard reality for so many college kids.
Scott Coffey: Right. I think, that realizing that suddenly you know, what you've done, it affects other people. It's a really hard thing. I think it's a really difficult thing, especially now, when the economy's hard and bad, and kids are trying and parents are trying to put their kids through school, and they've mounted insurmountable amounts of debt, and suddenly they have to like, pay that off, and get a job, and there aren't the kind of jobs that they've been trained to do, and that they're prepared for. It's a cold reality they have to face. And I'm really empathetic about that and sympathetic to that character.
MRR: Now, let's talk a minute here about John Cusack's character, who, through the movie, I, actually, had thought that maybe he was just a part of her conscience. Like, a part of her that was like the devil on the shoulder, you know what I'm saying? Kind of saying no, no, no.
Scott Coffey: Right. Yeah.
MRR: Can you explain his character a little bit?
Scott Coffey: Sure. He was very successful at a time, when that success was probably very earned. And he probably had to work very, very, very hard at it. And he was genuinely talented and an outsider. And somebody that probably didn't fit in society the way that most people do. And I think that to get his work seen, it was very difficult. To sell books and to get people to notice him. I think like, suddenly, this new generation of people that can find anything on the Internet, and think they can do sort of anything and people, desperately, wanting to be famous. That really rubs him the wrong way and he has a really hard time with that. I think he likes this girl but she's a symptom of a really different culture and different time. But I think that's hard for him to reconcile the realities that this new era that he's living in.
And, I think that, he's sad that he's not writing work that people are connecting with. That the world that he grew up in, and the world that he did his work in, isn't around anymore, it's hard. Book stores are closing and record stores are closing and all those things that were very important in his life, they don't exist anymore. They're relics of a different era. And I think that's been hard for him. He's a very sensitive guy and it's been tough for him. And I think that this kind of annoying young girl that's in his face is bringing a lot out in him that's upsetting that he has to sort of try to deal with. But then, he starts to realize that he likes her, and that maybe she's pretty interesting. And kind of takes her under his wing a little bit and has some knowledge to impart on her. He might do it in the wrong way, and he does do it in a very abrupt cruel way. But, I think he does care about her.
MRR: Throughout the film you had me wondering if he was doing the right thing or the wrong thing the whole time.
Scott Coffey: Yeah, I don't know. It's hard for me to judge. I just know that's what that character is.
That's a good question. I wonder that too. I think John wonders that.
MRR: Now you added a very big part of the film in terms of comic relief with Cloris Leachman owning an adult book store. Tell me about her 'cause I've interviewed her before and she's hilarious. Tell me about her being around a bunch of adult videos and toys. I bet that'd be hilarious.
Scott Coffey: So funny, so hilarious! I mean she wanted to experiment with everything. She is just so much fun; so hilarious. It's a very big part, and she really brought so much to it. And she was just really a wonderful actress and I loved working with her. She was just fantastic.
MRR: Throughout your career you've been an actor and now you've started doing directing a little bit, why have you started doing directing?
Scott Coffey: I got bored of being an actor. I wasn't getting the kind of roles that I really wanted to do. I didn't really wanna be on a TV show that I didn't love, and I just got burned out. I always wanted to make movies and I'm much happier being a writer and director; it's much more fun for me. I wasn't the most comfortable actor ever and I respect acting and I love actors so much and I know what it takes to be a great great actor but I didn't feel willing to give 100% of myself to that, but I am to directing.
MRR: Now is it easier to relate to the actors then while you're directing? Are they more willing to follow your direction?
Scott Coffey: I think so, yeah I do. I think I have an empathy for how an actor feels on a set and what's a good way to talk to them and a good language to speak to them in. I think all that stuff really helps.
MRR: Now making a movie like this, what I would like to know is that it's on a smaller budget, so what are some of the positives about making a movie like "Adult World", and what are some of the hard compromises you have to make?
Scott Coffey: Well, the positive things are it could be a little bit of an edgier movie. It could be something that maybe isn't as big of a mainstream kind. I didn't have to adhere to the lowest common denominator. I got to sort of make the movie I want to make in a lot of ways because of how small the budget was. So, the content of it could be a little bit stranger and a little bit more a sort of unusual and makes it a little more personal but I think that the challenges of it is just that it was hard. We didn't have very much time, and we didn't have very much money, and it was hard to shoot under those conditions where you didn't have a lot of the approval that I wish I had and the amount of lights and the amount of time and all that kind of stuff.
MRR: To have like a smaller budget and to have such huge stars involved with it, is that something that would have been able to be done 20 or 30 years ago?
Scott Coffey: Well, here's what's going on. 20 or 30 years ago, Hollywood was making very different kinds of movies than they are now. Most of the movies that come out from studios for eight months of the year are giant, big, huge ten-fold movies that are either sequels or based on fantasy things or comic books. And movies like "Erin Brockovich" and a lot of the movies that studios made 20 or 30 years ago aren't being made by studios now. They've become independent movies. They've migrated, there are some exceptions, but for the most part all the kinds of movies that all those that we saw sort of 20 or 30 years ago have become independent movies.
So when actors wanna work... And John Cusack doesn't wanna put on tights and be in a stupid superhero movie. He wants to play a character that's interesting and rich and complicated, and I think this was a really great, great thing for him to do. And we worked in a way that was really fun. And you don't get to work that way on a big, giant, studio movie. We played, we rewrote the script while we were shooting, we improved things and we tried different ways. When you're making a big studio movie you kind of come in and take your mark and say your lines, and that's it. And that's what studio movies are, and I think that that's not very appealing and fun for an actor. It certainly isn't very challenging. So, actors want to do the work and do interesting things, and this is a really fun way to do it. And I think TV is a really great, place for things to go now too. A lot of independent things that TV is doing now, maybe those things would've been independent films or studio movies 20 or 30 years ago.
MRR: Well, my last question to you is how the audience has been responding to the film so far and who do you think is really gonna enjoy this film?
Scott Coffey: We've gotten really good responses so far. People are really loving it. It's been really, really great, I'm really excited. And our response has been great so far. People seem to really love it. It's been on On Demand for a while, and that's been really successful, and now it's on VOD and iTunes and Amazon and all those places. So yeah, it's been really fun. I couldn't be happier with it.
MRR: Sweet. Well thank you so much Scott for talking with me. I really appreciate it.
Scott Coffey: Thank you.