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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

July 7, 2005

In the ensemble comedy/drama Happy Endings, an ill-conceived moment of passion between teen stepsiblings Mamie and Charley leads to an unwanted pregnancy and sets the stage for a web of dysfunctional relationships. Years later, an adult Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) is approached by film student Nicky (Jesse Bradford), who offers her a proposal: he will reunite her with the child she gave up for adoption if he can film it as a documentary. None too keen on the idea, Mamie instead offers to let him shoot the story of her immigrant boyfriend Javier (Bobby Cannavale), a masseur who offers his clients "happy endings"--massages capped with a sexual twist.

Meanwhile, Charley (Steve Coogan) is trying to convince his partner Gil (David Sutcliffe) that Gil is the biological father of a lesbian couple's child; and elsewhere, a manipulative girl named Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is sleeping with wealthy widower Frank (Tom Arnold) and his gay son Otis (Jason Ritter), who secretly fantasizes about Charley.

Happy Endings is written and directed by Don Roos (Bounce, and the critically acclaimed The Opposite of Sex). In this interview, Lisa Kudrow and Jesse Bradford talk about working on this project.

The Interview

MEDIA: What was your experience of working with director Don Roos like?

LISA: He's a phenomenon, because there's no earthly explanation for how layered and complicated his stories and his characters are, and how effortlessly it seems he directs the film. It was just pure fun and was a 30 day shoot...[to Jesse] I'm not going to ever let you talk!

JESSE: [to Lisa] I was just going to quote you anyway. I was going to quote you and say what you said in a prior interview, which is that it was "like heaven on a stick."

Did the two of you improvise much in your scenes together?

LISA: No, it was all scripted--and well scripted--and we didn't really need to. I think [Don] let us loose [in] that really intense scene after [Bobby Cannavale] storms out.

JESSE: Yeah, that kind of went all over the place a couple times. I think probably most of what didn't seem scripted was. And that's Don Roos, you know. But there were a couple times when he wanted us to keep going at the end of a scene or he had to shoot these little things that he called bumpers, that were little scenarios. Like when we're playing the video game together, that was a bumper. He said, "All right, you guys play this video game together. That's what I want. Make something out of that." And that was just us goofing around. So there were times when we did and times when we didn't.

[to Jesse] Your character Nicky is an aspiring filmmaker whose video footage is incorporated into this movie. Was it fun playing someone who got to be behind the camera?

JESSE: It was great. I asked Don if he'd let me do that early on. I said I would love to be able to shoot that stuff myself. I went to film school, and I believed that my best efforts would probably come off sophomoric enough to be believable as Nicky's best efforts. So he let me do it, and it was fun because Clark Mathis, the DP and the camera operator, and I got to develop this funny thing where whenever he was setting up a shot and lighting, I'd come in and go, "You know, Clark, that's not how I would have done it, buddy." It became this little game we played.

Would you like to continue working behind the camera?

JESSE: Yeah. I definitely want to direct. I just am not in a huge rush to actualize that. Someday, it'll feel right to actually start putting more effort into it.

[to Lisa] Did the theme of secrets attract you to the story?

LISA: Yeah, because it seems really true that it's those secrets that you try to keep secret that lead to the most damage. So I liked that aspect of it.

Do you have any secrets?

LISA: [wryly] Yeah, let me tell you a couple...It's just between us, right?

Was the role of Mamie written specifically for you?

LISA: Don had me in mind when he was writing Mamie, yeah.

How much of yourself do you see in this role?

LISA: I never had to...Well, this is intimate, but I've never had to do the things that Mamie did or went through. [jokes] I mean, I did give birth to a son, but I kept him. But nothing in my life has anything to do with anything about Mamie.

Happy Endings is an ensemble piece with multiple storylines, each with their own cast of characters. What is it like working on a project where you may have little or no scenes with many of your co-stars?

LISA: Well, there's that one scene at the end...that party at Frank's house, and we were all together for that. And that was really fun because that was very early on for us. I think Tom Arnold and Jason Ritter and Maggie had pretty much finished their whole story, so it was sort of like the end for them and the beginning for us. And we were all there and got to meet everybody, and that was great.

JESSE: And I don't really remember that day very well because it was five days after I got hit by a car. So I was hopped up on Vidocin in that shot.

[to Jesse] What happened?

JESSE: I got hit by a car on my bicycle, and I ended up underneath the car, dragged by it for about six feet. And it was pretty ugly. It was really ugly.

LISA: Oh, he was really torn up...Ripped up!

So you shot the movie's fight scene immediately after this accident, right?

JESSE: [laughs] Yeah, it worked.

Related Material

Interview with Jason Ritter and Tom Arnold
Interview with writer/director Don Roos
Movie Coverage: Happy Endings


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