Wonderland.

MADELYN DEUTCH

On her screenwriting debut, The Year of Spectacular Men.

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“Did you put your penis in her vagina?” demands Madelyn Deutch’s mum of Madelyn’s sister’s boyfriend (the respective vagina belonging to her own girlfriend, or “soul walker”, as the pair prefer). Attempting to explain away some of the squabble, minutes later the argument steers in a new direction, as mother, sister, boyfriend and soul walker all turn on Madelyn.

The scene is one of the standouts from a trailer announcing new film, The Year of Spectacular Men (for those less well versed in this particular Hollywood story, Lea Thompson, Deutch’s mother, remains happily married to her father, the director Howard Deutch). Premiered on Friday at the LA Film Festival, the feature is Madelyn’s first in the writer’s chair, while Thompson makes her debut as director and Zoey, the aforementioned sibling, has a producer’s credit alongside Howard (Madelyn also plays the protagonist, Izzy Klein, as Zoey takes Sabrina Klein and Lea, Deb Klein).

Properly a family affair, with the type of dialogue few might ask their parents to execute, Spectacular Men is Deutch’s latest and perhaps most challenging artistic vehicle yet; alongside other acting roles and a music career as one half of future pop outfit Bleitch, the twentysomething’s Instagram page reads as an eloquent portfolio for a part time photographic career – think 35mm hashtags and BTS snaps from a European road trip –while the film, which riffs on territory familiar to fans of Tiny Furniture and Frances Ha (the term “hangry” gets a shoutout, likewise neurotic behaviour), was four years in the making. Below Madelyn tells us why.

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The Year of Spectacular Men is your first feature film, what compelled you to write it?

What compelled me to write this movie is that there is a massive, gaping hole in the content that is made for young women. There is a very deep, dark, perpetuated myth in Hollywood that young women don’t like comedy, or don’t pay money or buy tickets to go and watch women in film, or women characters. And that, a, is just not true and b, is something that needs to be combatted ferociously, and that is why I wrote it.

In terms of getting the film made, you’ve previously stated: “I can’t explain how many rooms we went in where they told us a ‘female-fronted-comedy’ is as risky an investment as they come.” Why do you think this remains the perceived case, in 2017?

I think it’s been a good couple of years for women in comedy, specifically, I mean, Bridesmaids kind of kicked it off, then Trainwreck, but you know, I don’t think studios thought they could be giant, huge, massive popcorn hits, but they were. Slowly but surely I think the studios at least are getting proven wrong. I think that it’s very obvious to audiences and artists, that women like comedy. I don’t think there are any illusions about that, I think it’s more coming from the bank and the studio heads and the people that are responsible for green-lighting films, they’re all very afraid to take a chance. Like I said, it’s a myth that is entrenched in the customs of Hollywood, and so getting people to look past it and realise that it’s not true really comes down to the money, and I think it’s exciting that these movies are such big hits, because hopefully things will start to change. Women need content and women love comedy, and women are like the funniest people in the entire world because we have to deal with all kinds of crazy psycho setbacks every day.

What was unique about trying to make this film was that nobody said, “Oh well, we don’t think we can give you the money for this movie because nobody knows who you are, you’re not a movie star,” that didn’t seem to bother anyone. What they were bothered by was that it was a comedy with a female lead; everyone seemed to walk away from that, like it was the grim reaper! They were like, “Ooh! I can’t go near that!”

So the film is loosely based around your first year out of college, how much of it is autobiographical?

The film was inspired by my first year out of college, but I’ve been working on this project now for almost four years so… A lot of people say that you have one movie in the script, one movie while you’re shooting, and one movie in the edit, and I think that that is really true. A few drafts in it was starting to look a lot less autobiographical and a lot more inspired by.

Your mum and your sister (Lea Thompson and Zoey Deutch) both star in the film, while your mum also directs, and your sister and your dad (Howard Deutch) both have producer credits. What was the most surprising thing that you learnt through working with your family?

You know, the most surprising thing that I learnt on the project didn’t necessarily have to do with my family but with my process as an artist. I wrote the script and so I just, stupidly looking back now, thought that I would just understand the character I was playing through and through because I wrote her. I thought, “Well I don’t have to prep for her in any special way because I wrote the script, so who knows better than me?” I was completely wrong, and two weeks before we started shooting the movie we went into rehearsals, nothing formal, just in my apartment trying to run through all the stuff. It was one of the scariest moments of my entire life because I realised that I actually didn’t know the character, and that the part of my brain that is a writer is really different to the part of my brain that plays characters, so I had to double back in the eleventh hour and prep the script as if a stranger had written it, which was totally bonkers.

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Can you talk us through some of your inspirations for the film; Annie Hall’s been mentioned elsewhere.

My mum, who is the director of the movie (and my hero), Annie Hall was kind of her touchstone for the movie, especially visually. I mean, I’m Jewish and neurotic so it goes without saying that I could maybe live in the same sphere as Woody Allen but, really visually my mum was inspired by Annie Hall. As far as the writing is concerned, on my end, I’m super – I don’t know if it’s by osmosis – both of my parents did a lot of work with John Hughes back in the 80s – but I’ve always felt this spiritual connection to his work. I think that he honours the underdog in ways that no other writer ever has, so for me, if I could ever hit on any of those scenes the way that John Hughes did, that would be, like I would be honoured forever.

And in terms of your peers, is there anyone specifically who influences you?

It’s probably super obvious but I feel personally like I owe Lena Dunham a huge shed of gratitude, like if she ever needed a femur bone or a kidney, she could have mine. We tried to get financing for this film before Girls came out and we couldn’t. And we kept trying and eventually got financing for it, after Girls had come out. I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation, but to me it felt there is, I felt a huge change. The change was that after that show came out someone was willing to take a chance on us. I mean any other young women who are brave enough to put themselves out there in the way that she has, you know, Greta Gerwig, Brit Marling, Amy Schumer… I would never put myself in the same category, I think I’m a wimp compared to them, but they’re my heroes.

The film is hugely millennial focused. What is your most millennial habit?

You know what, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s the opposite of what everyone always says about millennials, that we’re a very idle generation. Posed as a factor, but honestly, I find that myself and all the people around me, other millennials, are obsessed with being different. I feel we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves; I mean just for me personally, in my world, I think one of the most millennial habits I’ve seen is this incessant need to do better, go bigger and think smarter.

So finally, what do you hope people will take away from the film?

My biggest hope with the movie is that girls and women feel more seen and more represented. I know that the movie is a really tiny pinpointed snapshot of a very specific kind of person and a specific kind of life, but I think what we tried to do was honour the weird stuff about being a girl, and the off stuff about growing up; and the hard things and the joyous, beautiful things about being a woman. I hope that for a girl or a woman, that even if you don’t feel like your life is like Izzy’s, you can go “oh, there is an aspect of her that I see in myself and that makes me feel more represented.”

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Photography
Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Fashion
Henna Koskinen
Words
Zoe Whitfield
Hair
Traci Barrett at Art Department using Oribe
Makeup
Simon Rihana at Art Department using Hourglass Cosmetics
MADELYN DEUTCH

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