If there is one thing Don Draper has been lacking over his solitary, six-season-long struggle with identity on Mad Men, it's been a friend. (For those keeping track at home, Don sabotaged his single shot at this-a budding bro-ship with a neighboring cardiac surgeon, Dr. Rosen-the only way Don knew how . . . by carrying on a season-long affair with Rosen's wife.) Knowing this, we are particularly interested in seeing Matthew Weiner's take on friendship, in a contemporary comedy no less, via his feature directorial debut, You Are Here, which premieres at the Toronto Film Festival on Saturday. Written 10 years ago by Weiner and filmed with most of Mad Men's production team, the comedy stars Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis as childhood best friends who return home after one inherits a large sum of money from his recently deceased father. Amy Poehler co-stars as Galifianakis's on-screen sister.
In anticipation of the premiere, Weiner called us last week to discuss his impetus for writing You Are Here, his fascination with identity, and how he plans to wrap up his beloved AMC drama.
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Julie Miller: From what I've read, You Are Here sounds very much like it revolves around adult friendship. Where were you in life when you decided that you wanted to explore that idea with a movie?
Matthew Weiner: I had a realization in the midst of my happy marriage that I had kind of lost most of my friends-my male friends, in particular. And I started wondering if my wife, who was certainly my best friend, supplanted those relationships. Had I changed? I wondered what if that hadn't happened-what state would my friendships be in? And how would they be held together . . . especially as you get older.
The first line I had in the movie was really this observation on friendship, which is that friendship is a lot rarer than love because there's nothing in it for anybody.
You've said that you wanted Owen Wilson to star in the film since you wrote the script 10 years ago. What qualities drew you to him and continued to draw you to him even after a decade had passed?
It's funny-I have always found him to be an under-appreciated actor because he makes things look easy. He has a pathos and wit and intelligence that he, at times, is hiding. The ability to present that person, that's who I thought [his character] was. And I love his voice-the voice that he uses to perform in. He is a super-smart guy, and there is always a sort of unexpected wit. So when I was writing, I thought he was an untapped resource, and in the period that followed, he just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I had to fight really hard to get to him.
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Was there an adjustment period involved as you shifted from working with the dramatic actors on Mad Men to directing comedic actors?
Honestly, the biggest difference [from Mad Men] was that I didn't know the [You Are Here] actors, and they didn't know me. With the show, we're at the point where there is such a shorthand and trust. It sounds like it is a negative thing, but you're working with new people and everyone is assessing everyone else. For me, that was the challenge.
As for the comic versus the dramatic. . . I don't even know how to answer that because, believe it or not, a lot of the people on the show are really comic actors. If you want to reach any kind of poignancy or meaning a lot of times, coming from comedy is the best way to get there. These people can say, "I love you," and it doesn't embarrass you because it is so unexpected at a certain point.
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