last christmas

Paul Feig was not happy that the internet guessed the twist in Last Christmas. But sometimes, in the words of the great George Michael, you gotta have faith. Of course, there was a chance that someone would guess the premise of Last Christmas, which takes its inspiration from the Wham! song of the same name, but that Feig was “not pleased” that audiences wouldn’t get the chance to be blown away as he was when he read Emma Thompson’s script.

“I was just really emotional when I read it. It really came as a surprise,” Feig told /Film in an interview in conjunction with the Last Christmas Blu-ray and Digital releases. “I couldn’t even read the last five pages, I was so thrown and blown away by what happened.”

/Film spoke with Feig about Last Christmas for the film’s Blu-ray and Digital release, and the relative ease that he moves between genre, from the raunchy female-led comedy of Bridesmaids, to a spy comedy, to the soapy brilliance of A Simple Favor. “Sky’s the limit, I just love genres,” Feig said. We spoke with Feig about dabbling with genre, the legacy of George Michael, and how everything the director does all goes back to Freaks and Geeks.

Last Christmas trailer

What was it that drew you to Emma Thompson’s Last Christmas script?

Well, Emma and I were supposed to do the movie Late Night together and we became really good friends from the time we got together, when you got to work on the character and talk things over. We really hit it off. And then when I had to drop out of that movie for scheduling issues, we always kind of stayed in contact and said we gotta do something together, and were hell bent on figuring something out. Then one day, she just dropped the script in my inbox completely out of the blue and said to me, “Hey give this a read. I just finished [Late Night] and I think we would have a lot of fun doing this.” So I read it completely cold. I didn’t know what it was about. I saw Last Christmas in the title and thought, “Oh, it’s a Christmas movie.”

And it was this amazing script. By the time I got to the end, with the surprise at the end, I was like, “Oh my god, I’m so in.” I was just really emotional when I read it. It really came as a surprise. I couldn’t even read the last five pages, I was so thrown and blown away by what happened. I immediately gave the thing to my wife and I said, “Read this, am I crazy?” And she comes out in tears an hour later and said, “You have to do this.” So it was never a question.

Did you have any interest in doing a holiday movie before you read the script?

No, I actually didn’t ever want to do a holiday movie again. Because I made one back in 2006 called Unaccompanied Minors, it’s a Christmas movie. It didn’t do well, and I was just like, I’m never doing a Christmas movie again. So when I opened the script [for Last Christmas], part of me went just, “Oh no. A Christmas movie.” So all the strikes were against it before I had read it. And the fact that it pushed through that… But I also like the fact that it’s not really a Christmas movie. I mean the original draft was actually written to take place over the summer because part of the gag was just this woman working at this year-round Christmas store and how weird that is. But because of our timeline and everything, and nothing is more beautiful than London at Christmas. And I’ve always wanted to shoot a movie in London, and we sort of went, “Well this has to be a Christmas movie.” We compressed the timeline so that it can take place in November/December so that we could have that beautiful, beautiful decorated London in there. So that’s why I jumped at it.

When the trailer for Last Christmas hit and a lot of people on the internet had figured out the twist, did that worry you at all, or was that something that didn’t concern you?

Well, I was not pleased. I didn’t mind so much that people were guessing it, that’s fine, that’s up to them. What I didn’t appreciate was that the media was then reprinting it all as if they suddenly had carte blanche to give something away. That really bothered me just because I never, seen that done to a movie before to be quite honest. With my previous film A Simple Favor, the whole ad campaign was “What happened to Emily?” There were not any articles written speculating what the twist might be. So I never quite figure out why the media just wholeheartedly kind of dove in and tried to spoil the movie. In the aftermath, online, some people were like, “I want to see the movie but I heard what the twist was.” You know, the fact that it was treated like, “Well, everybody knows.” Not everybody knows, it’s just people who study trailers and movies and all that, they figure it out. But you know, the vast majority of people I talked to were just like, “Oh my god, I didn’t see that coming, I was so surprised, I was so moved.”

So there is a bit of a snarkiness that goes into some of the movie coverage and press that I find kind of sad because the last thing I want to do is ruin something for somebody else. But that’s the world we live in now.

Do you think that in today’s world of constant internet chatter and speculation, it was at all possible for this movie to come out without revealing the twist?

It’s so funny. There are those of us who are in the business and those of us who are like obsessed with movies. You know, we can’t help but kind of do that kind of thing. But then there’s an assumption that that’s how everybody else in the world consumes stuff. And what I’ve learned over the course of my career is the vast majority of people, they just go like, “Oh, that looks fun,” or, “Oh, that looks like a nice night out,” or “That looks like something I can relax and watch and not think about my other problems.” And so for a vast majority of people, entertainment is sort of like a casual friend that pops in and is like, “Let’s watch a movie.”

So the internet really concentrates those of us who are obsessed about the same thing, and that it makes it seem like the entire world is obsessed witht hat. I love the internet, but I think that’s one of the downsides of the internet is that it concentrates so many people you know who are not a majority in all. But the media is in this 24-hour news cycle and thinks, “Everybody’s talking about this” — well not everybody is. I mean, a few thousand people are talking about this, that’s nothing. I’ve experienced this throughout my career, that it’s very hard for people to compute numbers. Like, “Oh people are talking about this because my feed got bombarded by hundreds of people obsessed about one thing.” No, it’s those few hundred people and nobody else knows. It’s all about putting things in perspective.

It’s not just the twist that makes Last Christmas so appealing. You spoke before about how this movie really moved you. So what was the element specifically that moved you to want to sign on to Last Christmas?

A female lead character who — when we meet her — is not behaving the way we would want her to. She’s lashing out, she’s really not doing things that your standard female lead character would do. She can be frustrating in the first act of the movie. I love that because I always want to I want to portray complicated women on the screen, I don’t want “strong” female characters. I want them to be three dimensional and strong, and weak, and neurotic, and cool, and everything that all of us are in the world. So I love that it was a story ultimately about a woman feeling herself. Emma and I just love the fact that the last shot of the movie is a woman by herself looking very content. She’s not dependent on anybody. She’s ready to go out into the world much more realized that she was and better able to do anything. I think that’s the most emotional thing you can do and that’s the best message you could put out for an audience, especially for a female audience. And for a male audience too! To go: look, the other side and whatever preconceptions you have about them, are just as strong and able to do everything you’re able to do. Sometimes that message gets lost in movies these days, especially in movies geared toward women.

Emilia Clarke’s own battle with illness became public knowledge a little before the movie’s release – did her personal experiences have anything to do with her choosing this film or you casting her?

It had nothing to do with my casting her, because I had no idea that she had been through that until I had already decided I wanted to cast her. We had lunch together, and I met her about three or four years prior, I just loved her so much — she was so funny and unexpected. You see Khaleesi [on Game of Thrones] and you think she’ll be very dour and serious, but she was just a breath of fresh air when she came in and made me laugh. I was just looking for a role for her. But then she told me, “I went through something similar,” and she told me [about her brain aneurisms]. I went, “Oh my gosh,” and was just so affected by that. So I can’t speak for her, if that’s one of the things that drew her to the role, but I know that it was part of what she drew on for that character. It was difficult for her to have to do those hospital scenes because it was very fresh in her mind. But she’s such a trooper and got through it.

Speaking of issues that this movie draws on, with the timing of this movie and its story about immigrants and Kate struggling with that homeland vs. current home dynamic — did the topic of Brexit ever broach your mind while you were making Last Christmas?

This movie, if you look at it, one of the many things it is, is an immigrant story. That’s really appealed to me in reading it, and obviously when Emma was writing it, it was a very big inspiration for her. She’d been working on the script for seven years before I came on board. So, you know, if you’re going to do a story about immigrants and immigrant families in modern day Britain, to not mention Brexit as a part of what is affecting them would be so disingenuous and not real, that we couldn’t not touch on it. You know, the goal was to not hit it so hard that it’d be divisive and to not be political about it. But like it or not, this is how this is affecting some people who are insecure in their [living] situation. It hangs over them in a way that people…who don’t have that history don’t understand. I love that it’s in there, and it’s done pretty lightly, but the minute you see it at all, it suddenly becomes a big deal. I’m very proud that that’s in there.

Continue Reading Paul Feig on ‘Last Christmas,’ Playing With Genre

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