Zimbio Exclusive Interview: Daryl Wein of 'Lola Versus'

(Getty Images, Fox Searchlight)

Daryl Wein (Getty Images). We had the chance to talk with writer/director Daryl Wein about his newest and highest profile film. Due out June 8th, Lola Versus is a frank look at a young woman dealing with the perfect storm of post-breakup depression and her impending 30th birthday. Greta Gerwig stars as Lola and gives a typically likable and nuanced performance. The film was inspired by Wein's real-life open relationship with co-writer and actress Zoe Lister Jones as he explains below...

Zimbio: I saw in an interview that Lola Versus was born out of a real life situation when you and (co-writer) Zoe Lister Jones were dating...
Daryl Wein: Well, I would say it was inspired by a year when we were in an open relationship. Zoe had a very different time than I did, as a man, being single. So after we finished Breaking Upward, we were talking about our different experiences and discussing some of the differences and we realized Zoe had a much more interesting and traumatic time as a single woman - trying to meet guys and hook up with guys. It was a common thing for a lot of our single girl friends and Zoe's girl friends. A lot of women were struggling to be in relationships and they had all these funny odd experiences and we thought it was the right time to try and write that story. We felt like we weren't seeing - and this was two years ago - unapologetic strong female characters at the forefront of film that were also funny, real, and relatable, and authentic that we thought we could identify with. So that's how it was inspired by those discussions and the need to see a portrait of a single woman, kind of the anti-Sex and the City version, which we felt like we weren't seeing. A lot of female-driven material tends to be broad and glamorized and we wanted to portray a little bit more of the gritty underbelly side of what it's like to be in a post-breakup spiral as a women and do it in a funny way.

Z: The setting, New York City, really plays as another
character in the story, and I just wondered if you thought the story would've come across as well in another city?
DW: That's an interesting question. I've never thought about that before. Yeah, probably not. It definitely would've come across differently... whether it would've been for the better I don't know. I mean, I love New York City. The film is another love letter to the city in its own way and we tried to show it off in a fresh way and shoot in a couple new neighborhoods like Vinegar Hill, which is near the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, and we were one of the first films to shoot on The High Line. We shot in Tribeca in the East Village and we shot in Russ and Daughters, which is the famous smoked fish shop which hasn't been shot in in 100 years. So it was really fun to show off the city and not all cities have all these amazing neighborhoods and different personalities. I, obviously, am biased and think it's the best city in the world, but it defintiely would've been different shooting it elsewhere.

Z: So you've got your movie in New York. You've got your neurotic protagonist. Are you a big Woody Allen fan? Do you look to him as an inspiration?
DW: I do. I'm inspired by a lot of his earlier films, not so much his films now. Obviously, I love Annie Hall and Manhattan, Husbands & Wives. He has a really witty sense of humor and he's playful as a filmmaker so I defintiely feel connected to him, like kindred spirits in a way, and I know Zoe, my writing partner, does too. She grew up in New York. So yeah, he's definitely an inspiration

Z: What other directors do you like? Who else inspires you?
DW: I've been inspired by so many different films. I'm honestly still learning from so many different filmmakers. I just saw this amazing foreign film called A Separation which is an Iranian film and is such a powerful, moving story and human drama. That was an amazing film. I admire the structure of films by Hitchcock and how suspenseful and expertly-crafted they are. I grew up on big blockbusters by Steven Spielberg so I have a knack for big fun adventure-type stories. I love independent filmmakers like Hal Ashby who I think has such a compelling way of capturing stories. Being There, that Peter Sellers movie, is such an inspiration. I love Moonstruck by Norman Jewison which is such an off-beat realtionship movie. I also am a fan of Stanley Kubrick, you know... I love Dr. Strangelove, such an amazing satire. I'm influenced by Mike Leigh. He has a brutal realism to his films and I like the American realism of Cassavetes. And a lot of new independent filmmakers that are out there now. So I really take my inspiration from a lot of people.

Z: If you could've directed one film of the last 10 years what would it be?
DW: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Z: Great answer.
DW: Yeah, pretty perfect film.

Z: So back to Lola Versus, Greta Gerwig really reminds me of Alicia Silverstone, just in general...
DW: That's so funny, they're so different to me. Alicia Silverstone is really peppy and chipper and she plays more ditzy blonde characters to perfection. I think she's a very intelligent comedienne. But I think Greta plays a little bit more messy, and I'm trying to think of the adjective... she's almost more naturalistic and kind of unexpected in her delivery.

Greta Gerwig (Getty Images). Z: It's actually the messiness that reminds me of Alicia. Like in Clueless, when Cher is all depressed and whining, Greta really reminded me of her in that specific instance.
DW: Well, you know when you're in a breakup, I feel like everyone gets depressed and whiny at times. It's kind of an authentic aspect that everyone at some point passes through that phase before they get back on their feet.

Z: So was Greta your first choice for the role? Can you talk about her casting and performance?
DW: We didnt know we were going to be able to get such an amazing studio like Fox Searchlight or producers onboard because our last movie was made for $15,000. We thought we were going to go shoot this for a small bit of money and Zoe would play Lola, but then, all of a sudden, we got an agent who sent the script out to all these producers and we got a great response and a lot of interest and Greta seemed like the perfect fit becuase she's of our world and lives in New York. She's very understated and seemed like she'd fit right into the world we created.

Z: I wanted to ask about all the sex scenes in the movie. There's no less than five and I wondered how one directs a sex scene?
DW: Well, you have to be delicate when directing them because they're very intimate. We often closed the set down for those scenes so the actors would feel comfortable and not exposed. I think you'll notice that we don't show any nudity. It was not meant to be shocking in any way as a lot of filmmakers use sex in this day and age. It wasnt about the nudity. It wasn't about the act of pleasing the audience through people having sex. It was really specific to what this girl is going though with these characters and why she's having sex with them. She's having kind of routine sex at the beginning of the movie. She's been with this guy for eight years and is so co-dependent that maybe their sex isn't as exciting as it should be. Then, when they have sex later in the movie, after they've broken up, it's this exhilirating experience but they realize there's something lost between them. So for me, the sex scenes were meant to illustrate and elucidate what would happen emotionally in the story for Lola on this trajectory and was never meant to be gratuitous in any way.

Z: Dick and fart jokes have always been popular in male humor in Hollywood and now we're seeing a rise in "vagina humor" with Tiny Furniture, Bridesmaids, and your film. What took so long?
DW: There's been a bias towards women for a long time in this industry. It's hard for women to get leading roles and there's a disparity between men and women. Men get a lot more to say and do and chew on and I think we've been a very closed-minded country sexually for a long time, since women as housewives in the 1950s and you look at the way we view sex in relation to Europe. They're much more open sexually over there. We're just now, as a young country, trying to move in the right direction and be more open sexually about our bodies and sex, in general, in culture. Kids are hooking up more now than ever obviously. I think there's just a much bigger change in society from the kind of Puritanical Christian country we were founded as. I think that translates into film. It's taken a while for women to have their comeuppance and there still isn't quite equality in the film industry with women but there are more and more female-driven films and it kind of started with Tina Fey at 30 Rock 7-8 years ago. Finally, a strong female writer/director was getting her voice heard in a major way, and that's not to say that just started a few years ago. Smart and funny women have always been around. They just haven't been utilized in the right way because we've always had this perception of seeing women a certian way in our culture: that they should be more subservient when they shouldn't be. They should feel free to speak freely so that's what we wanted to capitalize on. When we were writing this two and half years ago, it was before Bridesmaids, and Girls on HBO had come out, but I'm happy to be a part of that movement in time right now because I do feel it's really necessary for women to have roles where they can be unapologetic and speak about relationships and sex in the same way men do.

Z: Absolutely, well, thanks so much for joining us Daryl. Good luck with the movie and everything else.
DW: Absolutely, thanks very much.

See more photos of Daryl Wein:
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Daryl Wein in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
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