Lea Thompson Interviews Madelyn and Zoey Deutch About Being Directed By Their Mom and Streaking (Exclusive)
By John Boone
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"Tell the truth! But not all of it..."
Such is the sage advice actress Zoey Deutch gives her mother, Lea Thompson, when ET has the women -- with Thompson's other daughter, Madelyn -- interview each other about The Year of Spectacular Men, a dramedy in which Madelyn plays Izzy, newly single and suffering from so-called millennial-itis, with Zoey co-starring as her sister and Lea as their mom. The rom-com, out this Friday, came about because of the same spectacular women: Madelyn also wrote the script and Lea directed, marking her feature debut.
"Thank you for giving me this opportunity," Lea tells her daughters. "After -- whatever -- 40 years in the arts, to get the first chance to create something from scratch is really a profound experience. It really changes my whole perspective of myself. I feel like I haven't taken myself as seriously as I should have for my career. I'm proud of you guys and the way you take yourself so seriously. You know, we joke a lot but you guys have really taught me a lot."
"Madelyn," Thompson began at another point in the interview. "You wrote a role for me as your mother and you wrote a role for M-- Zoey."
"My name is Zoey! I came out of you! You held me for so long in your stomach. You know my name," Zoey exclaimed. "And honestly if you call me Mabel one more time-- Like, it's so messed up. I'm not my dog!"
Read on for an expanded version of the Q&A as the women talk Jaws 3D, dating Dennis Quad (before Thompson went on to marry director Howard Deutch), lying on resumes and streaking -- and find out what made Zoey scream, "Cut! Cut! Nobody needs to know!"
Lea Thompson: What was it like having your mom direct you? You've both worked in a lot of different things -- Maddie, you've done a lot of movies, you've done a series. Zoey, you've done so many beautiful movies and worked with so many great directors. So, how did I fit in?
Zoey: As a human being, I don't think people like when their mother is right all the time. You want to be able to say to your mother, "You don't understand what I'm going through! You don't understand me!" And it was difficult, because you were always right and you did understand me. Because you do understand what it's like to be a young actor and you do understand what it's like to be in the position we were in. So, I think it mostly was just challenging because I wanted to scream at you, but I couldn't. Once I got over that, we were chill.
Madelyn: But also you understood the material so well. Who else was going to understand the script as well as you did? So, if you challenged me -- which you did. I mean, I did more rewrites on this than I think is legal in the Writers Guild -- but when you challenged me on stuff, I knew it wasn't, like, an ego thing. It wasn't a power thing. It was because you genuinely understood the story.
Zoey: Nothing mom does is out of ego or power.
Madelyn: There's a lot of dialogue in the movie that is about female friendships and sticking together. Like, "bitches need bitches," that line. Do you feel stuff like that comes up for us in everyday life? Do you feel like we try to like be each other's hype men?
Lea: Absolutely. That's what I love about this movie. I love that we all lifted each other up, we gave each other jobs no one else would give us, and one thing I really learned about female empowerment is that it's harder for women to take partners, it's harder for women to accept help sometimes, and so what we did was we took each other as partners and you guys really inspired me. I never had the confidence to make my own film, you know. And-- I'm getting verklempt. But you guys gave me the confidence.
Zoey: [Imitating Lea's pose.] What is this?
Madelyn: Be nice! She's crying.
Zoey: I know. I'm so sorry. I got scared, but I think it's beautiful.
Madelyn: Cover your face. Go away.
Lea: I think that, yes, that bitches need bitches, for sure. And you guys were awesome. I'm really proud of the fact that we stood together and we went through some really hard times. It was a lot of physical labor and a lot of mental gymnastics that we had to go through to make this movie and get it all done.
Madelyn: Mental Gymnastics is the title of my autobiography. A hundred percent.
Lea: And you guys were really there for me, so thank you.
Madelyn: We like you a lot. You're a mom. You've been our mom. You continue to be our mom.
Zoey: Lea, now that I have you here, I have a question for you. What is the worst luck that you've ever had with a guy before dad?
Lea: Wow. I don't know.
Zoey: Yes, you do! Tell us the truth.
Lea: I think the guy just before Howie, mister Dennis Quaid, was a little more difficult of a dude than your dad.
Madelyn: Naming names!
Lea: That made me really appreciate your father in a lot of ways.
Zoey: Savage. I feel like an investigative journalist who got real dirt and I don't know how to handle it! I'm just used to actors saying safe answers and I'm so grateful that you finally opened up to me and I'm honored that you feel safe in this vulnerable setting. So, thank you, Lea. It's safe with me. No one will ever know!
Lea: I just said he was difficult! He was an actor. We were young. Your dad was just a much more stable dude.
Zoey: I love it!
Lea: It's my turn to ask a question!
Zoey: Yes, ask us a question. I'm ready. I want to tell you something I shouldn't.
Lea: So, you wrote a role for me as your mother and you wrote a role for Zoey. Why is your dad, Howie, dead in the movie? Why is the dad dead?
Zoey: Jesus. But answer the question! It's a funny answer, I think.
Madelyn: First off, the movie isn't directly autobiographical. I, on purpose, wrote a part for you and Zoey that were parts you weren't getting offered at the time. Zoey was not getting offered more comedic roles and I was like, She's the funniest person on the planet of Earth, how come? So, that's why I wrote a more comedic part for her. And for you, I feel like you've been in this business so long, people see you a specific way, which is lovely. They see you as more all-American -- I know that phrase is so trite -- they see you as a great mom and an amazing person and you are all those things too, but you're also a brilliant actress and so I thought, Can we do something else?
For some reason, when it came to the dad, I always thought of our real dad and he's such a character, I didn't feel like I'd know how to write him. I really feel like my magnum opus will be the day I figure out how to write my dad. I want to ask you this because you don't tell us anything in real life, but it is on the card and I want to know: You've got a scene where you dance on the bar. I do a lot of crazy stuff in the movie. Zoey does some fun stuff in the movie. What's your most vivid memory of being wild during your younger days?
Zoey: Be careful.
Lea: Now that you know I'll say anything?
Zoey: Yeah. Tell the truth, but not all of it
Madelyn: I set her up to really give us the juice
Lea: Well, there was a whole streaking time, you know, in the '70s.
Zoey: Mommm! What? Cut! Cut! That is it. Nobody needs to know that! Thank you so much for being here with us at ET. We had a wonderful time. It's done. Over!
Madelyn: I want to know about the streaking!
Lea: I streaked across the entire Mississippi River once.
Zoey: Mama! Wait, across the river? You can walk on water?
Lea: No, there is a bridge!
Zoey: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I am learning a lot about you.
Lea: You were not even a gleam in your father's eye. It was very freeing.
Madelyn: Do you want to ask mom a question?
Zoey: I think I am good. I am good here. But you?
Lea: What is the first film or TV thing you remember of mine or your dad's?
Zoey: I think I was quite slow in terms of my brain growing, because I remember so vividly, like, telling someone to turn off the TV during the morning news because it was stressing me out and I was like, "They need a break! They have been talking in there for so long, so let them have a snack or something." I thought they little humans lived in my TV and were performing for me whenever I wanted. So, I clearly didn't understand what you did until-- Actually, you were working on this lot right?
Lea: Caroline in the City. Five years. Yeah, you were born right before I started Caroline in the City.
Zoey: And you would breastfeed in between live tapings or something.
Lea: Yeah, during network notes. It was very controversial at the time.
Madelyn: OG feminist! I remember vividly dad doing Grumpier Old Men, because we were in Minnesota and we were in this, like, cookie-cutter gingerbread house. I remember they put us up in the house and dad's assistant got us Barbie dolls and I was like, I'll be hanging out on the Grumpier Old Men set for a while. But I remember that, I remember Caroline in the City. I remember you always treating us with a lot of accountability and dignity as children. Like, you would put us in video village and give us cans and be like shhh when they started rolling. I think that is really good for kids, because it gives them a sense that they can handle themselves in an adult environment or in a professional environment, which I appreciated.
Zoey: I have one more question. I just wanted to ask you who is your favorite child?
Zoey: Come one, there's an answer.
Lea: There really isn't an answer. You're both so different and you're both so amazing and at different times, I have to say. I love one of you more for maybe a week and then the other one for a week. It trades off but maybe it adds up.