About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
July 2005
Happy Endings: An Interview with Tom Arnold and Maggie Gyllenhaal

Happy Endings : An Interview with Tom Arnold and Maggie Gyllenhaal

By Tonisha Johnson

Tom Arnold has always been known for being a comedian. Most of his film roles usually have him playing the sidekick to another actor, but lately he's been trying to reinvent himself in another light. In "Happy Endings", Arnold plays the unsuspecting father of a gay son and has an affair gold-digger played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. It's a small role, but very dramatic and lighthearted for Arnold. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, continues to impress with the many roles she's taken lately and with this film, she's very loose and appealing. In speaking to blackfilm.com, both Arnold and Gyllenhaal talk about their characters and experiences on the film.

Tom, how did you get the chance to work in this film?

Tom Arnold: Don Roos has been a friend of mine for a bunch of years. One day he was in my house. And he said I have a gift for you and he said read Frank. There was a script and I read it. And I said wow, this is interesting. Here's a guy-who's 40. he dates younger women. And I do stuff. I'm like wow, I don't know where he ever got that from. My wife was like, the first day, I was 27 you took me to Gucci. Lol

And Maggie, how did you get involved with the film?

MG: I read it and I had lunch with Don. I wanted to make sure he really wanted to elaborate and communicate with me in terms of working with me. And the other thing for some reason with all the singing in the movie, I said the only way I would do that is if it were all live. Because for me I like to sing and everything but I'm not, you know, a singer. For me it's more about acting so if you do it live then lets say if you sing something aliitle flat or you forget the words or something goes wrong then it's a real performance. You have to respond to that like you would be doing anything else in your life. I think it's sort of silly singing in a movie, even if it's their voice, they prerecorded it, their lip syncing it. All of a sudden it's a dead moment. And that whole part of everything is dead so, I think that was sort of important. Once he made it clear that he wanted to collaborate with me and he immediately did, he said great.

When you were preparing for the role and the character were you rehearsing the songs?

Maggie: We had a day in a half. At the end of which I could barely speak. Cause I'm, you know, not a singer. I could learn to support my breath better and that kind of thing. Actually my mom gave me for my birthday, singing lessens. But I did sing in the choir in school.

So you have some training?

Maggie: Yeah. It wasn't important to either Don or I that she be a phenomenal singer. I just think she had to have some soul, you know? And I think she does.

There is a nice intimacy in the love scenes. How difficult were they?

Tom: For me it was difficult in a way that would only be difficult for my character. Who's older and bigger than Jude. In that sense where you more insecure. Even if you act like your not. Even if you're a guy, there'd have to be a tiny bit of insecurity and ..but she A) technically had done this before. And B) her character was in charge so it was that very -it was really great. It made it a lot easier. Although what God wanted in real life with intimacy which is to be the sex thing, that people could have sex you know. The intimacy of people looking into each others eyes, you know, that's frightening. Cause you know they're looking at you. And that's harder than pretending to do anything.

Maggie: It's important to me, when doing a love scene, that it be about communicating something. Whether it be about that the people can't communicate. Whether it's not that they can't communicate that way or this way-I don't understand why there would be a reason to have a love scene in the movie when there is another way to communicate the same thing you want to communicate. So, that's what's most important to me and I think ideally I think if your having healthy good sex then your communicating. I don't think you have to put healthy good sex in movies either. I think it's good to see people having terrible sex. The only thing I'm not interested in seeing is the fantasy version of sex. And putting that into a movie. That I think is kind of disgusting.

You character slept with the son and the father. Was it difficult to grasp the role as Jude in the manipulative sense?

Maggie: I think what was hard about her or you could read her in the script or you can look kind of objectively at the things that she does and make a lot of moral judgements about it. And so for me my challenge was not to do that. For me my challenge was to say ok, she's really far over the spectrum of things that are hard to justify. But if I were in a similar situation, how can I respect her? Things like-my boyfriend said that 'you really made it great to just burn out.' But I think that's because she has so much invested in justifying the things that she's doing. And you kind of show the audience that actually what I think I am doing is bad then you'll lose everything. If you let any glimmer of that in, everything falls apart. She's like so fully invested in going, ok great, I'm going to have sex with you and show you something. I'm going to be generous and sex is great. Sex is free and there's a lot underneath that. I wasn't concerned with showing that to everybody I was concerned with making Jude survive.

When are you going to be naked Tom?

Tom Arnold: Well the great thing in hearing this-well, first of all, Don's kind of a prude.

Maggie: Yeah he is. He is kind of a prude.

Tom Arnold: But, the less you see of Maggie-the less you see of me. So, I'm all for it. I remember the day and I don't feel like anybody was trying to hide anything. I remember you felt totally-I kind comfortable which is completely impossible.

What's the next project for you both?

Tom Arnold: I have a movie that comes out before Thanksgiving called 'The Kid & I', that I wrote. It's about a kid who has Cerebral Palsy who wants to be an action star in the movies. It's based on a true story.

It seems like there's another state of writers going 'holly shit, Tom Arnold can act!'. Is it real frustrating that people haven't gotten the point yet?

Tom Arnold: umm. Well, it's nice to hear anybody say that. I remember the first day and seeing Maggie there and Don and everybody-Lisa. Particularly Maggie going 'oh wow, this is for real'. Cause I know Lisa is a friend. But I heard Maggie go 'oh boy. I'd better not screw this up'. Because I knew the quality level.

You guys didn't have a lot of time to prepare for this shoot had you?

Tom Arnold: No, I didn't.

Maggie: I made like five movies in a row. I just finished this movie like 2 days ago called 'Stranger than fiction' that Mark Forester directed. Will Farrel, Queen Latifah-and I made a movie 'Trust a Man' with Julian Moore. I made a cartoon. I did in 3 days. Bur it's not going to look like me. It's going to move like me and have my voice.


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy