Victor Levin is a four time Emmy nominee whose work includes writing for such shows as “The Larry Sanders Show” and writing and producing the very popular “Mad About You” and “Mad Men.” This week his latest project, the romantic comedy “5-7,” which he both wrote and directed, opens. He was joined in our conversation with the two stars of the film, Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”) and French actress Berenice Marlohe (“Skyfall”). They made a pretty formidable trio!
Mike Smith: Victor, what was your inspiration, if any, to write the film?
Victor Levin: I love to write about love, Michael. I think it’s the most interesting subject and one of the best things we have going as human beings. I can’t imagine life without it and I think it’s most inspiring wherever it goes. In this particular case, I was traveling in Paris in the late 1980s with my girlfriend at the time. We stayed at the home of some friends of hers who were older and married and they lived…they had…this kind of marriage. We went to a party and I saw the husband, I saw the wife. And I saw the girlfriend and I saw the boyfriend. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to talk to. My girlfriend to just keep my mouth shut and my eyes open and I might learn something new. And she was right. It was all very elegantly done. It was all very elegantly choreographed. Like the film says, there are rules and obligations. No one is ever embarrassed. And it was the way these people chose to solve what was, to them, the problem of monogamy. And I had to accept the fact, as a middle-American suburban kid, that there were other philosophy’s of life in the world. There were many, many ways to look at how we go about arranging our lives. It may not be for me, except for as a story, but it was a fascinating obstacle. It was a fascinating starting-off point for the story. And a real eye opener for me personally.
MS: You have quite a few writing credits but haven’t been behind the camera that much. Was this project something you felt you HAD to direct to preserve your vision?
VL: Yes. The film is, as you know, a little bit of romance and a little bit of comedy mixed together. And that is a very fragile mixture…it’s something that has to be done just so. The movie has to make you laugh but it also has to make you cry. You have to balance it just right. If it makes you laugh TOO much, it will not make you cry. There has to be a balance in very scene, with every joke. I knew what I wanted and I was not going to give it away to anybody else to direct. This was something that was either not going to be made or it was going to be made by me.
MS: Thank you. Anton, first off, a belated happy birthday (the actor turned 26 on March 11).
ANTON YELCHIN: Thank you.
MS: What attracted you to the project?
AY: The screenplay. I read it and thought it was really, really…wonderful. It was funny and also very moving. When you read a script and walk away from it having really enjoyed it and been moved by it…that’s the reason I did the film.
MS: Brian is a very change-of-pace role. Was that something you were trying branch into?
AY: I’m not consciously trying to branch out into any certain role. I just really loved this character a lot. His journey was entirely relatable. I think one of the things that all human beings have to learn is how to deal with things that end. What, if anything, do we try to hold on to? And how that decision constructs meaning in our lives. I found it both very moving and very relatable.
MS: Thank you. Ms. Marlohe, same question.
BERENICE MARLOHE: I loved the script. I loved the dialogue. I loved that the script was about relationships…about real human beings. I love that it was a love story. About relationships. And I loved that it made you question things in general. Here, the plot of “5-7” may seem unconventional but I think it shows relationships in another point of view. It deals with love and, as Victor said, there are many different ways of loving. Love can last. Even if it doesn’t LAST, it can be eternal. It’s an emotion that is pure and beautiful.
MS: Victor mentioned that he had come across this type of relationship while in France. Do you know anyone that has this type of relationship?
BM: (laughing) Everyone thinks this only happens in France. I’m sure it happens all around the world!
MS: What are you each working on next?
VL: I’ve written another romance that I hope will also have some good laughs in it. I’m also working on the STARZ comedy “Survivor’s Remorse,” which is a half-hour comedy on the STARZ network, loosely inspired by the life of Lebron James. He’s an executive producer on the show. It’s the only time that my office will be next to Lebron James’ office (laughs). I plan to enjoy that as much as possible. I’ll do some writing and directing for them, as well as producing.
AY: I have a couple films coming out. “Broken Horses” actually comes out the week after “5-7.” And I’m going to start “Star Trek 3” soon…ish. I also have a couple other films I just finished.
VL: He’s very busy, Michael. He’s actually shooting a film now, during this interview! (laughs)
BM: I just finished a comedy produced by Will Ferrell, starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. And then I have a sci-fi movie coming out called “Revolt.” And I also have the next Terrence Malick film (“Weightless”) with Michael Fassbender and Christian Bale.
MS: Final question. Anton, I’m sure you’ve been sworn to secrecy so Victor, if you or Ms. Marlohe have any clues about what “Star Trek 3” is going to be about I’d love to hear them.
VL: (laughing) All I can tell you, Michael, is that I’ll be the first one in line.
MS: I’ll be standing right next to you!