Writer/Director Leslye Headland talks about her latest film “Sleeping With Other People”

Writer/director Leslye Headland is best known for her work on the television series “Terriers” and her directorial debut, the film “Bachelorette.” She also adapted this past spring’s film, “About Last Night” from the original Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue script. Her latest film, “Sleeping with Other People,” has earned nothing but great reviews since it played at the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festival. With the film getting ready to open nationally, Ms. Headland took the time to speak with me about it and what she has planned for the future.

Mike Smith: Where did you come up with the story for “Sleeping with Other People?” Is it based on somebody you knew?
Leslye Headland: Usually when I write I’m writing about a combination of things that are going on in my life. Usually it starts with a question I ask myself. My first film, “Bachelorette,” asked if women are still trying to get married. Is that still a goal we worry about? And is it a worthy goal? Is that something that we actually want or is it just something we’ve been pursuing for so long and so often that we’ve been told it’s something we deserve. But to take it to the ridiculous. On this film the question I was asking myself was, “Is it really possible to fall in love? To REALLY fall in love?” The way we long for. John Cassavetes said that we need love like we need food, water and air. We just don’t know how to get it. That’s really where it sprang from. Can we make a romance that’s very real and funny and touching and scary and stupid? All of the things that romantic relationships are.

MS: For lack of a better word, I found the film to be very “adult,” in the vein of “Bridesmaids” and “Trainwreck.” Yet, like those two films, though it’s “adult” it’s also very realistic. Is that something you strove to show? The “honesty” in how some relationships are?
LH: I guess so. What I really wanted to do was make sex less of a reward or a bodily function. It’s usually shown as one or the other. I wanted to portray sex accurately. It’s very weird. There’s always something going on between you and the person you’re having sex with. I wanted sex to actually be another character in the movie, not just a thing they were doing. I wanted to showcase the sex almost as set pieces. We choreographed and story-boarded those scenes almost as if they were dance numbers. There was a lot of thought put into how to represent sex within the movie. I think that was really the goal.

MS: You’ve put together a great cast. I’m just outside Kansas City and we see Jason Sudeikis’ mom at screenings often. I was really impressed with Adam Scott. This is really a change-of-pace role for him. Did you have him in mind when you were writing? Do you write your characters with certain actors in mind?
LH: I don’t write the part FOR the actors, but I do have ideas on who and how I’d like the role played. I wrote the part of Jake for Jason. I do write them with the hope that a specific actor will do them. I ask them if they would be interested. I mentioned the film to Jason before I started writing and he said that it sounded interesting. We hung out some and talked about romance. We talked about our own personal feelings. He’s obviously found love. He fell in love with Olivia and they have a child now. (NOTE: Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde are the proud parents of a little boy named Otis). I’ve settled down now with my partner. So we pretty much just sat down and talked about our dating years. Getting back to your first question, it never even occurred to me to cast Adam Scott. I mean I love him and he’s one of my favorite actors but it just never occurred to me. I mean, the character is just so evil, and Adam is just so nice. But I also think it takes an actor that good to BE that bad. He and Allie (Alison Brie) had worked together on something and he saw the script. He asked me if I had cast the role and I told him I hadn’t. “Would you like to play it? I’d love you to play it.” He said he really wanted to play a bad guy. And that’s why we had him grow the mustache. We really wanted him to be unrecognizable.

MS: The film has already won raves and awards, including from both the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals. Does that help you in preparing for your next film?
LH: Oh yeah! It’s funny, I’m just finishing up my next script now and we’re going to be going out with it soon. I hope it does. My next script is in a totally different genre’. It’s a thriller. I appreciate the accolades but I wonder if it will make the next film hard to sell just because it’s NOT a comedy (laughs). It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope it goes smoothly. I’ll keep you updated!


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Film Review “Sleeping With Other People”

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie and Adam Scott
Directed by: Leslye Headland
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 41 mins
IFC Films

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s what everybody wants. True love. To find someone and stay with them forever. That’s what Jake (Sudeikis) wants. Or so he says. However, he has a problem. Whenever he finds what he says he’s looking for he gets a little antsy. In the pantsy. Jake is a serial cheater. Enter Lainey (Brie). Or should I say re-enter Lainey. It’s been over a decade since she and Jake met cute at a party and lost their virginity to each other. Like Jake, she’s been looking for love. She thought she found it with her gynecologist (Scott, in rare dramatic form). But he’s getting married. What is a girl (and guy) to do?

Like “Bridesmaids” and “Trainwreck” before it, “Sleeping with Other People” is a sometimes raunchy comedy that occasionally tries too hard to shock. When it’s not trying to top itself it’s a modern-day “When Harry Met Sally,” once again trying to see if men and women can truly be friends with no benefits.

The cast does it’s best to keep the film moving. Sudeikis is his likable self, with just a touch of sarcasm. He’s like Ryan Reynolds, if Ryan Reynolds was your next door neighbor. Brie is the bravest of the cast, having to take off the blinders and charge headlong into a role that, if played any differently, would not be likable at all. I mention that Adam Scott is in “rare” dramatic form but I should mention that I saw this film over a month ago. Since then he’s turned in another fine performance in “Black Mass,” proving himself to be quite a skilled actor.

The screenplay, by director Headland, has some fine moments when it gets past the sexual politics and situations. I will say that I will never look at a Snapple bottle the same way again! However, the finer moments outweigh the cringe-worthy ones so I recommend you give it a try.


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Blu-ray Review “Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition”

Actors: Mary Costa, Eleanor Audley, Barbara Jo Allen, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy
Directors: Clyde Geronimi
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Run Time: 75 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

Timed slightly ahead of the Blu-ray release of Disney’s live-action smash hit “Maleficent”, which is set to be released on November 4th, Disney’s 16th animated classic returns to Blu-ray in an all new Diamond Edition. Personally, I would have waited until November to release this to get parents to pick up both films in one shot. Listen, this is a definitely a cash-in release, especially since this was just released on Blu-ray in 2008 but there are some new extras included as well as a digital copy. So it isn’t just a new box and nothing new. Having a two year old at home, even though some parts a little scary, I am excited to be able to share this film with her because she absolutely loves the character Aurora already.

Official Premise: Fall under the glorious spell of Disney’s Ultimate Princess Fairy Tale! The magic is real as you experience all the pageantry and power on Blu-ray — and for the first time ever on Digital HD — with incredible high-definition picture and thrilling, soaring sound! Beauty, wonder and adventure spin together in a grand legend that transcends time as Maleficent, one of animation’s most spectacular villains, sends the kingdom’s beloved Princess Aurora into an enchanted sleep. In a majestic story that awakens all your senses, Good Fairies arm brave Prince Phillip to defeat a fearsome fire-breathing dragon and rescue Aurora. But success in battle may not be enough, for the only way to awaken the Princess is with True Love’s kiss!

This Diamond Edition of “Sleeping Beauty” includes a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Digital Copy. This is the first time that film has been released digitally, so that is a nice bonus. The 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track are literally perfect for an animated film that is 55 years old. The colors are just so vibrant and literally jump off the screen. I am not sure if the transfer has been upgraded since the 2008 release but it is still outstanding. The songs are perfectly balanced as well and sound amazing in their 7.1 surround track. If you love the original track, also included is the original Dolby Digital 4.0 stereophonic track for those Disney purists.

There are tons of great special features included. The new extras include “Once Upon A Parade, Starring Sarah Hyland ” which takes us behind-the-scenes with Sarah Hyland from ABC’s Modern Family at Magic Kingdom. “Art of Evil: Generations Of Disney Villains” focuses on Disney’s favorite villain animator, Marc Davis and his influences. “DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion, Extended Edition” features Walt Disney Animation Visual Development artist Brittney Lee as she develops a three dimensional sculpture of Maleficent, completely out of paper. “Beauty-Oke: Once Upon A Dream” is a Sing-along tfor Aurora’s signature song. There are three brand new, never before seen deleted scenes.

Other Classic DVD Bonus Features include “The Sound Of Beauty: Restoring A Classic”, which looks into restoring the film and focuses on its 7.1 mix. “Picture Perfect: The Making Of Sleeping Beauty” shows us the behind-the-scenes magic that took place to place this film with Legendary Animators, actors and film historians. “Eyvind Earle: A Man And His Art ” focuses on the career of background painter and renowned American Artist. There is also an audio commentary track with John Lasseter, Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin and believe it or not there is still much more included.

Book Review “Disney Princess Sleeping Beauty Read-Along Storybook and CD”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Read-Along Storybook and CD
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: July 29, 2014

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Sleeping Beauty” is such a great story and one of my favorite. It also houses on of Disney best villains to date, “Maleficent”. This latest Read-Along Storybook and CD relives the classic animated film. You follow along as Aurora grows up with the good fairies, meets the prince of her dreams, and overcomes Maleficent’s evil curse. If you are looking to introduce your kids to “Sleeping Beauty”, this would be a good way to ease them in before watching the film or to enjoy after the film.

The CD itself is quite impressive since it feature real character voices and sound effects, which both add so much to the story. This actually feels like a big production and allow you to enjoy the book with a more visual aspect. My daughter has this Disney Princess CD player/jewelry chest above in her room and we have taken advantage of this storybook-and-CD set many times in the last weeks and I am sure it is only the beginning.


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Book Reviews “Disney Princess Read-and-Sing: “Sleeping Beauty & Tangled”

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Series: Read-and-Sing
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: July 29, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

With the success of the live-action “Maleficent”, “Sleeping Beauty” has stepped back in the spotlight again, along with Disney re-releasing the animated classic on Blu-ray also. The first of the two new Disney Princess Read-and-Sing is of course “Sleeping Beauty. The storybook contains six Sleeping Beauty tales. These are great a lot of fun. My two year old knows the character Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty but she has never seen the film, so this book was a great introduction.

The second new “Disney Princess Read-and-Sing is “Tangled”, which features contains six Rapunzel tales. Now on the other side, this is one of my two year old’s all-time favorite films. So these tales have already become a must read each night before bedtime. So we discuss the read but not the sing. Each of these books also come with three downloadable songs from the movies. “For Sleeping Beauty”, there is “Hail to the Princess Aurora,” “Do You Hear That?” and “An Unusual Prince/Once Upon a Dream” and from “Tangled” there is When Will My Life Begin?” “I’ve Got a Dream,” and “I See the Light.”

I love the blend of the music within theses books. We know these stories so well and their songs that accompany them. They are timeless and continue to inspire and lives thanks due to parents introducing them to their children. These are great books and I can’t wait to see which classics Disney plans to adapt next. May I suggest “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid”, if anyone is listening 😉


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Book Review “Once Upon a Dream: From Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty to Disney’s Maleficent”

Author: Charles Solomon
Series: Disney Editions Deluxe (Film)
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions
Release Date: June 17, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

One of my sister and I’s favorite Disney films growing up was “Sleeping Beauty”. We used to watch it over and over. So we were both really excited for the new Disney film “Maleficent”. Right after seeing the new film, I immediately went online to see if there was an art of book released for the film. What I found was this book. I have to admit, I am a little disappointed personally. I would have thought that Disney would have released a nice hardcover solo art of/making of book for “Maleficent”. This does still contain a great wealth of information covering all aspects of the story of “Sleeping Beauty”. This book still is worth checking out if you love “Sleeping Beauty” but in no way should it be considered an acceptable replacement for an art of book for “Maleficent”.

Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” remains one of the most beloved of all fairy tales. The story itself was originally published by Charles Perrault in 1697. For more than 300 years, this story has been adapted by many different artists and authors. The best part of this book (if you can look past the lacking cover art) is that is is jam-packed with great illustration that folow the history of that fascination of this story of “Sleeping Beauty” from literature, fine art, poetry, music, and film. Author Charles Solomon is an internationally respected critic and historian of animation. He has written numerous amazing books for Disney including “The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey”; “Tale As Old As Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast” and many more. He is a guy that knows Disney and he is definitely the write before for this job. I was am just hung up on the fact that Maleficent didn’t get more focus.

Briar Rose/Aurora was and still is one of the most beautiful and beautifully animated of the Disney princesses. The film also featured one of Disney’s best villains still to date, Maleficent. Perrault’s created such an amazing character here that she has still leaves fear in the heart of its viewers/readers. As well as covering the literature and animated film of the story of “Sleeping Beauty”, this book also touches (I use that lightly, since “Maleficent” could have fill a book on its own) on the new film “Maleficent” with interviews with Angelina Jolie, Imelda Staunton, Linda Woolverton, Sean Bailey, Joe Roth, Don Hahn, and director Robert Stromberg (Oscar-winning art director of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland). There is some behind-the-scenes details and photography; costumes, props, and makeup included as well.


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