Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd
Get Unplugged with Juliet, Naked
by Jay S. Jacobs
Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd play a long-time couple coming to the end of the road in the music-oriented romantic comedy Juliet, Naked. However, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that when we recently met up with the two at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York to discuss the film. The two laugh and banter and finish each other’s sentences like long-time best friends.
Juliet, Naked is based on the novel by British author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Funny Girl). Like many of Hornby’s stories, it is a sweet mashup of romantic comedy and pop-culture fandom.
The film revolves around a (fictional) 1990s cult-favorite alternative rocker named Tucker Crowe, who is played by Ethan Hawke. Hawke also provides the vocals for all of Crowe’s music. Crowe is something of a mystery. He released one critically acclaimed CD called Juliet, a breakup album called Juliet. However, just as he was picking up momentum, one day he pitched a fit during a concert, walked offstage and effectively disappeared.
O’Dowd and Byrne’s characters enter the story twenty-some years later. Duncan (O’Dowd) has become Tucker Crowe’s biggest fan, a British university professor who spends all his spare time tracking clues of the long-lost singer and running an internet fan site. Annie (Byrne) is his long-time live-in girlfriend, but the bloom is long off the rose, and Annie is starting to question her relationship and her life.
A bomb is thrown into their staid connection in the form of Juliet, Naked, a newly uncovered disk of early demo performances from Crowe’s only album. Duncan is stunned by the availability of new Crowe material to pore over. Annie, who never particularly liked the original album, feels that the record is a maudlin money-grab. She anonymously posts that opinion on Duncan’s fan site, and receives an email from Tucker Crowe himself, congratulating her on her insight.
This starts an email correspondence and friendship which may lead to more, but Annie feels guilty for keeping her interaction with his hero from Duncan. At the same time, Duncan has his own secret, having started an affair with a new professor at his school.
Juliet, Naked is directed by Jesse Peretz (Our Idiot Brother, the TV series Girls) and produced by comedy production stars Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel. Apatow also executive produced the last film Byrne and O’Dowd worked on together (though they didn’t have any joint scenes), the popular 2012 Kristen Wiig comedy Bridesmaids.
Byrne and O’Dowd have become familiar faces in television and film over the past decade or so. Beyond her star-making role in Bridesmaids, Byrne has juggled comedy and drama in a career that spans such interesting projects as Insidious, 28 Weeks Later, Neighbors, X-Men: First Class, Get Him to the Greek, Spy and several years on the acclaimed TV series Damages.
O’Dowd has also been adventurous in juggling comedy and drama. He first caught international attention in the TV comedy The IT Crowd. Since then, he has appeared in a dizzying group of projects including Pirate Radio, Friends with Kids, Thor: The Dark World, Calvary, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The Cloverfield Paradox, Loving Vincent and Molly’s Game. O’Dowd also has a second season of the TV series Get Shorty with Ray Romano just about to premiere.
Novelist Hornby, who has also become well-known as a screenwriter in recent years with films like An Education, Wild and Brooklyn, did not write the screenplay to Juliet, Naked. Still, he’s been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the film, recently posting on Facebook “We are so excited to see the Juliet, Naked film adaptation starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd!”
If Hornby is excited by the idea of a film of his book, so was Byrne. A fan of the author’s work, Byrne wanted to be on board as soon as she heard that the film was being made.
“I was a huge fan of the novel when it came out in 2009,” Byrne told me, excitedly. “So, immediately when I heard that they were doing it and Judd [Apatow] was producing and Jesse [Peretz] was directing, I was like, ‘I would love to be a part of this. Can I read on it?’ Yeah, I immediately fell in love with the book. It’s my favorite Nick Hornby book.”
“Is it?” O’Dowd asked her, surprised.
“Oh, yeah,” Byrne said. “I loved it.”
“I’ve never read any of his stuff,” O’Dowd admitted. “I’m not a big book person.”
Byrne laughed at that.
O’Dowd continued, “I’m a small book person. I don’t mind a pamphlet and all that stuff.”
“A religious pamphlet…,” Byrne agreed, laughing harder.
However, even if O’Dowd has not read the book, there was something about the script of Juliet, Naked – written by Evgenia Peretz and Jim Taylor & Tamara Jenkins – that intrigued him.
“I thought it was fun,” O’Dowd explained. “I thought it was a character that I was familiar with. I was a big fan of Ethan Hawke’s. And…”
Byrne laughed again, and randomly threw out, “… and Emma Watson.”
O’Dowd laughed. “Yeah, and Emma Watson… Yes, which one…”
Byrne continued laughing, just throwing out names now. “Tom Cruise!”
O’Dowd finally stopped laughing and completed his thought. “And Judd and [co-producer] Barry [Mendel] and Jesse. All good people. Jesse, who directed the film, I had worked with on Girls. I liked everybody attached to it and I thought we’d have fun.”
Plus, there was the chance to film in the lovely British seaport town of Sandcliff.
“England’s not the worst place in the world,” O’Dowd concluded. “So, yeah, it was all that.”
As stated earlier, both actors were in the popular comedy Bridesmaids. Though their characters didn’t cross paths, they were two of the most important people in star Kristen Wiig’s lives, for better or worse. Therefore, though their paths didn’t really cross that much, they knew each other’s skills. So, they must have been excited to work together for real on Juliet, Naked, right?
“I was very unhappy,” Byrne whispered teasingly.
They both laughed.
“I don’t want to work with him,” Byrne continued teasing, a little louder.
“She had heard it was Chris Hemsworth,” O’Dowd shrugged.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Byrne agreed enthusiastically.
“That’s fine, because that [confusion between the two of them] happens a lot,” O’Dowd explained. “Sometimes when a movie comes out, people still don’t know the difference.” Byrne made an incredulous sound, laughing harder.
O’Dowd finally takes the question seriously. “No, we hadn’t really done anything together on Bridesmaids, but we had hung out a little probably during the press part of it,” he explained. “And she had always mentioned what a big fan she was, so…”
Byrne laughed again and interrupted, “Of Chris Hemsworth….”
“… of Chris Hemsworth,” O’Dowd agreed. “So, I knew that we would be a good fit, really. Rose is so quick on her feet and so funny.”
“That’s it,” Byrne agreed, still chuckling.
The characters of Annie and Duncan are somewhat torn apart by Duncan’s devotion to Tucker Crowe. Which brings up an interesting dilemma, are there people who are so obsessed with a musician, or a film, or a work of art, or anything, that it can affect their relationship?
“Ooh,” O’Dowd said, thinking the idea over.
“I mean, I don’t know,” Byrne started, thinking. Then she acknowledged, “Bobby [Cannavale, the actor who is her long-time boyfriend] is pretty obsessed with sports. Sometimes, he’ll just talk to me about a baseball player for like 45 minutes. I don’t know what he’s talking about. He’ll talk about like a documentary and the thing, the baseball player, and where they came from. And I’m just like augh…”
O’Dowd teased her, “You just hate Bobby so much…”
“No, I really like him. I really like him,” Byrne insisted. “But I’m just like… ummmmm…. I’m from Australia. I don’t focus on baseball. He’s slightly obsessive about some [things]. But, it hasn’t ruined the relationship.” She laughed.
“Yeah. I think sports are a big one,” O’Dowd agreed. “Sports can be a killer.” Byrne groaned good-naturedly. “Because they are so time consuming…”
“They’re time consuming and it’s just funny if you’re not that into it,” Byrne continued. Then you’re like, ‘It’s a battle. Oh, he’s battling.’”
“Yeah. My wife is really into body builders,” O’Dowd joked. Byrne giggled harder. “So, she’ll watch a lot of body building, live.”
“Dawn [O’Porter, O’Dowd’s wife and a well-known writer] hates sports,” Byrne said. “You told me she hates…”
“… She really does,” O’Dowd agreed.
“Even I was watching the World Cup,” Byrne recalled. “She was like, ‘Just don’t care. Can’t watch it. Take it.’”
“She doesn’t,” O’Dowd continued. “It’s unbelievable. Like, England will be playing. It’s not even my team, and I go ‘England just scored.’ And she’s like, ‘whatever.’ Not even want to stop to watch the penalty being taken. It’s just mad. I think she actually has contempt for it.”
Juliet, Naked comes out at a time when there is a bit of a scarcity of good romantic comedies coming out. And while there is much more to Juliet, Naked than just being a rom-com, it certainly works well in that category.
“I love the genre,” Byrne said. “We were just talking about it. I’m such a fan of the genre. It’s sort of got a bad name, I think, or something.”
“I think they made a few really bad ones that were just kind of shiny and dumb,” O’Dowd agreed. “It’s besmirched them. Which is a shame, really, because there’s loads of terrible action movies, and nobody goes, ‘Oh, the action movie genre is dead.’”
However, while the genre is a little down, both Byrne and O’Dowd feel positive about the style.
“I think there are some great [ones],” O’Dowd said. “Obviously, Judd is a master at them really. And it’s moved much more into television, of course, the romantic comedy genre. But there are still great ones out there. The Big Sick [with Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan] last year. The year before was a great romantic comedy. That one is supposed to be great, what was it called? The Intern, which is supposed to be really good. [That film starred Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway.]”
“Oh, cool. Cool,” Byrne said.
“So, I like the genre,” O’Dowd continued. “I kind of feel sad when I…” He paused. “Well not that sad…” They started laughing again. “But it’s disappointing a little bit that people feel like it’s somehow passé,” O’Dowd concluded. “People are in relationships, and it’s right to document them in a funny way.”
That pretty much sums up Juliet, Naked.
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 17, 2018.
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