About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
July 2005
Happy Endings: An Interview with Director Don Roos, Jesse Bradford and Jason Ritter

Happy Endings: An Interview with Director Don Roos, Jesse Bradford and Jason Ritter

By Tonisha Johnson

Coming out on July 22nd is the latest film from Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex). The film is called "Happy Endings" and stars Jesse Bradford (Swimfan) as a wannabe director who blackmail a woman into helping get into USC. The film also stars Jason Ritter as the gay son to a rich man who pretends to be going out with a hot and gold digging woman. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Roos, Bradford, and Ritter talked about working on the film.

What is Don Roos to Nicky and Nicky to Don Roos?

Don: Well, I think as a filmmaker, Nicky and I are related in that we're very instinctive and we just kind of hope that we'll get it together and that it will kind of all work out. That is something that we do share in common. We fly by the seat of our pants. I'm sure I have as many cliché and trivial ideas as Nicky the filmmaker does. So yeah uh, probably too much in common actually.

Jesse Bradford: Whatever Nicky owes to Don Roos is definitely whatever shred of likeability he maintains I think, needs to be credited to Don entirely. I would like to make him even more of a scum bag and Don reeled me in and said 'hold on. There are things that are good about this person.'

Don: The good news is that I always fall in love with the subjects of my films so-that is something that we have in common. And you know, when I'm working with an actor-they're so open and so vulnerable and they show you everything they have. I usually have a "talent crush" on people that I'm working with and then it's over. Lol

Obviously, you've worked on this piece for awhile. There's so many layers to the story. It bears repeated viewing quite easily. Please talk a bit how you developed the style of the story and how you layered the characters.

Don: It was so long ago that I wrote the script. I wrote the script three years ago. When you're writing a script, at least I do your very much inside and making a lot of decisions about the script and burying things. There's a whole bunch of connections between the characters that aren't, I think, apparent when you see the film. Like Nicky and Jude are very very related. Even the Lisa Kudrow character and Steve Coogan have one baby one way without any thought at all compared to the lesbians who have a child very deliberately and very rationally. A whole bunch of connection by the writer, that's myself, buried into the script. Every story is a story about a new generation. There's a child in each of those stories. There is also a theme that each story is about characters covering up stuff. All of which the writer does. And honestly I forget about that when I am shooting. It's been a while since I was that writer. So, I kind of approached it very freshly. I didn't reread the script before we started shooting. I relied on the actors telling me where the characters were and we just dealt with each at each scene. I was hoping the writer had done his work for now, 2 years ago. And it turned out that he did. We basically didn't do a lot of analysis when shooting this picture. We kind of went what does this character want? What does this character think? What is this character lying about? Was always a kind of question for me in each scene to identify the lies because that tells you who each character is? And that identifies for the actor what their subtext is. But we basically did what was in front of us and trusted the writer.

Do you see Jesse and Jason' characters connected as well?

Don: I saw them more as connected then different. They both have a secret love. Jesse' character falls in love with Lisa' character; Jason' character falls in love with Steve Coogans character. And I found them both, although Jesse' character is a little umm-able to do things that are morally suspect. Both of them aren't completely honest with the people around them. There's innocence about them. They don't know a lot about the world. They find being themselves a lot of trouble. That it's a hard job to be each of them. I found them very similar in a way. But most of them, you can say that about the people in the film.

Jesse: Well, it's not something I ever thought about before, but now that you mention it, I think that there are some parallels between them. And I think there are all sorts of opposites between them. I never thought about that before.

Don: But there both cute. That was the thing. My whole thing was-I don't care who they are but they got to be cute. Got to be cute.

Jason: Well, it's really amazing to hear them talk about it because he didn't talk to us about his sort of ulterior motives. Not his ulterior motives but he didn't talk to us a lot about some of the things he did. We didn't pay attention to as actors. We focused on making our own character come to life and there kind of self-centered in that way. It's really amazing to hear how intricate the structure really is and I've seen the move a bunch of times. And I do get something new from it, every time.

Jason, what was your thinking for the role? How did you prepare for that?

Jason: Well, I was just kind of thinking what his life had been like. That his mother had died when he was very young and there had just been him and his father. There's this disconnect there. He doesn't feel like he can connect with his father on many different levels although his relationship is so very important to him. And I just was trying to think about how I would have ended up if I was in that situation. And I think you just have to -I just sought of allowed myself to feel out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin as I really have.

Jesse, when you see yourself in the 2 movies, it's a great testament to you as an actor. Did you see a relationship or a contrast in those 2 characters as well?

Jesse: I didn't know that I was going to have the good fortune of having both of these movies come out at the same time within a month of each other. With that being the case I'm really glad because I know what I want to do in this business and in this art form is try to shake it up and do as many different things as I can. As many different things as I'm capable of. I am quite proud of both the projects. And overall happy that they came out that people like you can hold against each other and say that's the same guy. I'm quite proud of the differences of one character is subtle and trained and the other is this total train wreck. He's throwing everything out there and I just love it. Someone can theoretically can go and see these 2 movies any day now and kind of go what-who the hell is that guy? So, that makes me happy.

Why did it matter to you to open the film the way that you did? Was it just a slap in the face to the audience?

Don: I wanted to tell the audience what we were going to have. We were going to have a movie that was painful at times and also funny. Start strictly as a comedy but obviously get deeper. I wanted to say that this is gonna be like life. Your gonna be happy and surprised and you won't know quite where you are at every step of the game. But there's a storyteller here who can actually deliver the story to you. So in the first 4 minutes of the movie, it kind of educates the audience into a world. A world that they will be spending time in. and I don't want them to be fighting that world. There's a lot of stuff that they have to accept. Principally characters who aren't instantly adorable. And I wanted them to at least understand the world that we were in. But it was a deliberate kind of attempt to set the story up. I do like stories that are delivered to us by the story teller. I do like us to be aware that we're being told a story. And I think umm-that's what the opening does.

Was it a challenge for you to deliver such an ensemble of a cast?

Don: It's fun because first of all you get to work with a lot of people. There's not one story line that has to deliver everything. We have moments in this story that are very very small. But because you have several stories, the audience can be freshened up. They can feel different things as they go from story to story. It was a pleasure to have an ensemble and multiple story lines. It was really fun to do.

Jason and Jesse, you both have a history of doing ensemble films. Is there something that attracts you to them?

Jason: Yeah. I mean, the three things that I think are most important are: the character you're going to play, the script and the director. Those are the things that I look at the most. If I trust those three things, I'll take a bunch of unknowns. I'll take a bunch of big stars. I'll take a mix of the two but it certainly makes it even more appealing.

Jesse: Yeah it was intimidating but satisfying at the same time.

It seems like a trend right now. Like with the film 'Crash'.

Don: Yeah. It's funny that there's a trend. And I don't think there's a lot of them. I think there's a few of them. It's very hard to do it in a mainstream Hollywood movie. They believe in having one big star or two to organize things for the audience. But in the independent world, it's very attractive that we can tell smaller stories and smaller parts of stories and deliver a lot of emotional impact.

Is this why the film came in on every story and sought of explained it? Like a setup?

Don: Well, there were so many characters. Yeah. And I wanted to help the audience. You care differently about the characters if you know something about them secretly. If there's a story teller telling you that Tom Arnold is not just a 45 year old rich man who preys on girls. He was not that at all in fact. He was very loyal to his wife. His wife died. Telling you about Tom helps Jason' character. It gives you subtext for the scenes that happen next. To dramatize all that information it would be a five hour movie. I wanted you to feel as if you really had a connection to these people and understood who they were and what they came from. You feel more. The whole point of the film is that you feel something about these characters.

The narration almost seems apart of the film?

Don: The character of the narration-the new thing for me in this film was there is a character quality in the narration that we don't see in the film. In the 'Opposite Sex' narration was easily identified of course as the Christina Ricci character. This guy who's talking in these subtitles is some sought of gossipy god. It's a different character. And I kind of like that.

What's next for you all?

Jesse: I'm doing Clint Eastwood's new movie 'Flags of Our Fathers'. Very excited.

Jason: I'm doing a new play at the Mitzy New house theatre at Lincoln center. It's Wendy Wasserstein's new play. It's called 'Third' in October.

Jesse: it's the most awesome play. I'm so happy for him that he's doing it.

Don: I'm doing a load of darks and whites on Monday. (Lol) And I'm going to redo my pantry. So, I'm excited.


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy