Behind The Process: A Few Minutes with the Writer/Directors of ‘Book Club’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Interviews, Movies by - August 28, 2018
Behind The Process: A Few Minutes with the Writer/Directors of ‘Book Club’

It’s always fascinating to get that tiny little hint of insight into the process of moviemaking, especially on films where it’s a little less obvious.

Book Club is the hilarious new comedy now available on all major formats starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen and the indomitable Candice Bergen as four lifelong friends looking to shake up their lives as their normal monthly book club meetings get saucier then anyone of them could have every expected.  In advance of the release of the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital release we got the unique chance to talk with the writing team of Bill Holderman & Erin Simms (Holderman also served as director on the film)

With refreshingly well developed characters and story arcs, this wasn’t a film filled with gags, rather it was a genuine and even humanistic comedy that is more than worth a watch and we got to talk about the process of making a creative endeavor that you’d like to see and having to live on pins and needles if you can actually get your dream cast for it…which they did.

Dave Voigt: Book Club really is one of those films that really does feel like a perfect storm of a movie in getting all the right elements together at the right time.  I’ve got to imagine that casting was just so huge in this process; can you talk a little about that and just the whole development of the project as it ultimately came together?

Erin Simms: Well we wrote the first draft in 2012 and from day one we always had Diane Keaton in mind along with Jane (Fonda) to play those specific characters.  Admittedly at that stage that was the ‘dream’ as it were but we are both such huge fans of theirs that selfishly we just wanted to see them in a movie together.  We wrote it for Diane Keaton so we just had to put it out there to see if we could actually get here and miraculously enough we actually did, which honestly just has to be one of the greatest moments of my life so far (Laughs)…and once we got Diane we figured that maybe we just summon up the guts to try and get Jane to do the movie.  Granted it was a much easier sell to Jane just being able to say that Diane is already on board and would love to work with you.  We just had to say; “We wrote this for you…will you read it?” and thankfully she did but I mean the entire process was super stressful and I’m honestly not 100% sure of how it actually happened but I am so happy that it did.  It was a hardly a planned out thing but through determination and a little hope, prayer and luck we got everybody together.

Bill Holderman: We did really write it with certain actors in mind and tried to capture their voices in a piece that would hopefully appeal to them…

That admittedly is something that has always kind of fascinated in me because you still have that “What If” during pre-production and what kind of plans do you have to have in place if you don’t necessarily get the person that you wrote the part for?  Do you re-write?  Or do really just have to hope for the best.

BH: Yeah you know it’s funny because we’ve actually talked about that because while I’m sure we would have rewritten and tried in another direction but in that actual moment we were actually naive enough and focused on the creative process of making something that we wanted to see…

ES: We really didn’t think beyond that…

BH: It’s so true, and keep in mind that when we were first casting the film we were so focused on trying to get Diane Keaton that our minds were never going to the next actress.  The movie started with Diane in our minds and she was the one that we needed and wanted from day one…and then we got her and it was like a light bulb went off as figured that maybe we should keep trying to pull together this great ensemble.  There was never a moment where we thought we’d get these four brilliant actresses to work on our movie.

And especially with Jane and particularly with Candace who just hadn’t been working at an extensive clip before this film rolled around.

BH: Yeah because I mean Candice is truly one of the great deadpan comedians of all time.  Just as fans we’re so unbelievably happy that Murphy Brown is coming back to TV, she just has so much talent and Jane is truly the same way.  Jane’s TV show (Grace & Frankie) is obviously such a huge success right now but at the same time they are both people who are looking for these types of movies where they get to play a fully arcing character, and not just coming in for the ‘grandmother’ spot role.  It was something that was really appealing to both of them.

ES: Yeah, Jane has been doing a lot of TV lately but still working a decent bit when the material works but Candice yeah had just been getting those ‘mother-in law’ type offers  and when this came around she really jumped at having a chance get some genuine character material to work with.

How do you really reign in such a sharp collection of comedic performers on a movie like this that could have easily devolved into a series of punch lines and gags and undoubtedly still been a lot of fun?

BH: Yeah, it’s interesting because while they all have their own different processes in terms of coming to the material and the work that they have to do, it was refreshing to see how respectful they all were when it came down to delivering the material as it was written and not riffing too much.

I think we did a read through while we were in preproduction and then worked really hard with each of them to make sure that they were as possible with the words written on the page.  Plus we shot the movie in 33 days without a lot of room for wiggle and they all knew that and were surprisingly focused about staying on script.  I mean obviously we gave then the latitude if they wanted to expand on things to try and make it there’s but for the most part everyone was really on point…

ES: Plus it really is a testament to their abilities as actors as well.  As much as the film has moments where it feels very freewheeling and fun, it speaks to the amazing chemistry that they all had together to make the material jump and become their own like it truly did.  Plus, and they’ve all said this individually and together, because you just can’t come into a scene with three other people and start improvising because it just throws everyone else you’re sharing the scene with off kilter.  It’s a very dialogue heavy film and to really sustain that comedic flow they had to be as on book as possible.

And I think that speaks to the quality of the script as well plus it brings me to something that you both share because you’ve both worked with Robert Redford in the past who always did seem to pride himself on doing material that was as varied as possible.  For both of you as writers/filmmakers is that an idea that you both try to sustain throughout your careers?

BH: I don’t think that there’s been a particular mandate for either of us but thing the really drives both of us that we want to work on things that we believe in and that we care about and want to see out in the world and that doesn’t necessarily always fit into one specific box…

ES: We usually pick something that can boiled down to sentence and it’s all about finding the right vessel for that.  We tend to lean towards romantic comedies sometimes but it’s never something that ends up limiting us.  We really think that when you find an important message that you want to share with the world that it’s important to do it with comedy and heart.

Book Club is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, On Demand from all major providers.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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