A Convo About Pickles and Sex With Lea Thompson and Madelyn Deutch (Exclusive)
By Valentina Valentini
It's a cliché to start an interview by describing what the subject is eating, but for this story, it feels necessary.
Writer-actor Madelyn Deutch has been coming to Art’s Delicatessen in Studio City for all 26 years of her life. She ate her first pickle here and made a face that her mother, actor Lea Thompson, who’s been in Hollywood classics like Back to the Future, Some Kind of Wonderful and All the Right Moves, describes by squishing her whole face inward. Thompson started frequenting Art’s 35 years ago, when she first arrived in Los Angeles from suburban Minnesota.
“Can I have some old pickles?” Deutch asks a server she seems to know from her many visits to the restaurant. “They’re saltier,” she says to explain the request. “I'm a real weirdo because I come here to get the old pickles and a chocolate egg cream, which is chocolate milk and seltzer mixed together. But I eat them together, the bite of pickle and the sip of egg cream. It's, like, delicious.”
It’s quirks like these that pepper Deutch’s character, Izzy, in The Year of Spectacular Men, which premieres at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Friday. It’s loosely based on the year Deutch spent after graduating from The New School in New York City, wherein she dated with abandon and couldn’t find her footing professionally. “I wanted to make something for millennial women,” she says.
The film, written by Deutch, also marks her mother’s directorial debut; her father, Howard Deutch, who met Thompson when he was directing Some Kind of Wonderful and also helmed Pretty in Pink, produced it and her sister, Zoey Deutch, co-stars. It was truly a pinnacle moment for the showbiz family.
And while one might assume a family like this could be relegated to some quotes about Hollywood royalty, they’re more like the family next door, which Deutch credits to being raised in the San Fernando Valley. “I know L.A. kids who come from families in the business who grew up on the other side of the hill, and I know L.A. kids who come from families in the business who grew up in the Valley, and they're much less annoying.”
Between pickle orders, ET spoke with Deutch and Thompson -- sister Zoey had a last-minute meeting with a director “who shall remain nameless” -- about their experience working together on the film and awkward sex scenes.
ET: Let’s talk about working with family. What were some of your best and worst moments about that?
Madelyn Deutch: My least favorite is how confrontive it can be.
Deutch: Confrontive; like you are forced to confront things in yourself that you may not want to confront, behaviors that other people might not see when you’re on a job that your family does see, little micro behaviors. I think it forces you to do better, even better than you would normally do, because things feel personal. That's the hardest part. But the movie was 90 percent total joy and bliss and only 10 percent hard.
Lea Thompson: It is hard because you know each other so well, which works both ways. For me, there's never a moment where I can be like, "Just shut up and do it!" I had to always temper my being a mom. But actually, I found that all my mom experiences definitely helped me as a director.
Lea, you’ve been in this industry for so long, and now getting to be a director must be such an exciting opportunity. But let’s be honest: This is a hard industry, and it’s even harder for women. Was there ever a moment when you wanted to discourage your daughters from getting into this business?
Thompson:Yes, but only in my mind, in my heart. I knew they were going to have to go through all these difficult moments that I'd gone through. I've lived through this myself -- with my first boyfriend, with my husband, with my girlfriends that are actresses; the pain of all the things that happen [in this industry]. I didn't know if I could live through it again with them. And while it is difficult sometimes when they have disappointments, I'm honored that they would want to pursue the life that their mother and father had. You know, there's not a feeling of competition, which I think is easy to have in a family relationship with your mother and father. I remember not wanting to sing because my mother was such a great singer. I didn't want to compete with her.
Speaking of walking in your mother’s footsteps; Madelyn, when do you remember seeing your mother's films for the first time?
Deutch: You know what's ironic? We were not a movie house. People always ask us if we watched our parent's films, but it was never like, “Gather 'round, children! We're going to watch our films now!" So we didn't watch a lot of their movies growing up at all. There are still movies of yours that I haven't seen.
Thompson: A lot.
Deutch: Well, because also you guys were very present parents. You were very involved in our lives and our creativity and activities.
Thompson: Plus, you and Zoey were so traumatized by me kissing another man when I was doing Caroline in the City. I wouldn't even think twice -- it was just my job -- but if they happened to see me kissing another guy they both burst into tears.
Deutch: Oh, I forgot about that, that's so cute!
Thompson: It didn't mean anything! Almost all the movies I did I was making out with some guy, so it probably just became a thing that I didn't show to them. I didn't want them to start crying!
Deutch: I remember watching Jaws and getting really upset when the shark attacked my mom. I'm sorry, Jaws 3D. Sorry, I don't meant to mention all the bad ones, but it's funny, like when I tried watching Howard the Duck and had to turn it off in the middle because my mom was having a bestial relationship with a duck in the film.
Thompson: Oh yes, I remember that! It was specifically when I kissed the duck that you guys had to turn it off.
Deutch: You know what I do love and have a major soft spot for? Some Kind of Wonderful. For one thing -- and I don't know if it's through osmosis or something -- but John Hughes' films have always been the ones I connected with the most. If I could ever choose to emulate or connect to what one writer could have with an audience, it would be John. And my parents did a lot of movies with him. Some Kind of Wonderful is the movie that my parents met on, so I always have a soft spot in my heart for it for that reason in particular. And also, I feel like my parents did a great job of making movies that made people feel less alone and celebrated the underdog.
Let's get back to those awkward love scenes. Was this your first sex scene that you had to perform, Madelyn? And how was that with your mother as the director?
Deutch: Good question. Yes, it was my first sex scene. I’ve got say, it was really, really important to me to try to show [those scenes] in a way that felt authentic. Mom, I think you were super generous in allowing me to have my own opinions about that. There are three pseudo-sex scenes in the movie, and I wanted them to all take a life on of their own, as it can so often happen in real life. We tried really hard to honor how complicated that can be and to make it more about the scene and less about the actual sex. But yeah, it's weird to be directed in a sex scene by your mother, if that's what you're asking.
I was asking about that, yes. But there was another part of it that you touched on -- the portrayal of what hookups are actually like. They’re not usually sexy or perfect or made for movies.
Deutch: We had a big emphasis on consent, which was really important to us. Making sure it was very clear that these were consensual sexual experiences, but that they were still complicated and perhaps subversive…and strange and specific. We tried to be responsible. I think Lena Dunham reinvented the sex scene. I don't think anyone's ever done it as well as her, personally, and so I was really inspired by that template.
Thompson: I learned that early on. I did a love scene with Tom Cruise in All the Right Moves and we were really careful about making it a scene about something. Not just two pretty people making out and having sex.