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14 Apr 2016

Tribeca Interview: Jason Sudeikis and Jessica Biel

By: Mekado Murphy

Source: The New York Times


In “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” having its world premiere Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival, Jason Sudeikis plays a buttoned-down architect. When his extroverted and expectant wife, played by Jessica Biel, is killed in an accident, he finds it a struggle to cope. In his grief, he meets a homeless teenager (Maisie Williams), who has also experienced loss. The two build an unconventional bond and work through their trauma by building a raft meant to sail across the Atlantic.

The film was directed by Bill Purple, and Ms. Biel also served as one of its producers. In a phone interview ahead of the festival, Ms. Biel and Mr. Sudeikis spoke about working on the film together, the project’s history and more. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.

 

Jessica, as a producer on the film, what first drew you to the project?

JESSICA BIEL: Initially, this story about this unlikely friendship that happens because they’re each experiencing their own kind of grief felt like a very relatable story. It just punched me in the gut 10 years ago when we read it, and it continued to every year until we finally made the damn thing.

Why do you think it took so long to get it made?

BIEL: The age-old question of why it takes so long. I don’t know. Why do people not believe in dramas anymore? Why does it still take a long time to convince financiers or studios that people care about dramas? But I think some of the best stuff takes the longest time to come to fruition. Technically speaking, we had a cast, we lost a cast. We had financiers, we lost financiers. It’s not a movie you can guarantee you’re going to make a gazillion dollars on it. I think the appetite’s out there, but there’s a bit of fear when it comes to things that aren’t sure bets.

Had you always planned to play the role of the wife, Penny?

BIEL: Yes, I always was planning to play this role, until it started taking so long. And then we got nervous that 30 years would go by and I would actually have to play Penny’s mother.

Jason, how did you get involved in the movie?

JASON SUDEIKIS: I read it in June 2009. I was on board immediately. But I think my only question was, why me? I was very moved for the production team to view me in this way and trust me with this part.

What was it like working with Jessica on her scenes?

SUDEIKIS: It was inherently fun when we were together, because it was always the happy times. For me, it was six weeks of being sad in a way that was challenging. But whenever we did our scenes, it was all laughing. And on top of that, it was easy-breezy chemistry.

While you’ve done other dramatic roles, you came from a comedy background. How did you approach this darker role of someone handling grief?

SUDEIKIS: The script first and foremost was a really good road map. After that, I don’t know how to explain it. I just pictured the love of my life being dead. And then I just stood in the right place and faced the light.

Jessica, your character is pregnant in the movie. Were you pregnant when shooting those scenes?

BIEL: Yes, that was very real. Penny was not pregnant initially in the script. And then a couple of years ago, before I was pregnant, Bill [Purple] suggested that maybe she should be, to up the stakes. At one point she wasn’t, then she was, then she wasn’t again. And then I was, so then she was. There was no working around that. We even thought that maybe I shouldn’t play Penny because I was so pregnant.

SUDEIKIS: I remember when that was talked about and I was genuinely bummed. I thought, Jess and I get along great, and what if, when I’ve always thought of the role as being played by Jess, they tell me, oh we got you a new wife? So I’m so glad it worked out the way it did.

Jason, you’ve had a history with the Tribeca Film Festival, once serving as a juror and also having had other movies of yours play in it. Would you talk about your experience?

SUDEIKIS: What better way to get introduced to a festival than being asked to be a juror? And not because you get to pontificate about movies, but because you get to see like 12 movies for free during the day. I got to cancel things I didn’t want to do because I have to go be a juror.

Since then, living in New York, when the festival comes around, it’s just a fantastic energy that enters the city. When you’re here in New York, it feels like it’s about the work. It feels classy and cool, like the city itself.