Friday marks the theatrical debut of the James Gandolfini/Melissa Leo/Kristen Stewart drama Welcome to the Rileys, which premiered last January at Sundance and whose high-octane cast joined director Jake Scott to meet the press today in New York. We’ll have more on the film — about a couple grappling with the death of their teenage daughter, and the runaway stripper/prostitute (played by Stewart) who enters their lives — later in the week, but for now, in grand Movieline tradition, here’s a comprehensive rundown of this afternoon’s momentous disclosures:
1. James Gandolfini can be a man of few words. Like, very few words.
When asked if he thought there was a part of his character who blamed his wife for their daughter’s death, Gandolfini replied simply, “Yeah, sure. [Pause] How’s that?”
2. Not all of Stewart’s bruises were make-up.
Once filming began, the bruises and marks on Stewart’s limbs were added cosmetically. But only because she had some real-life experience to draw from: “I got the bruises initially in rehearsal. I learned how to pole dance, even though you don’t really see it in the movie. You do for a second; it’s like in silhouette in the background. I’m just laying that down. But it really hurts, and you don’t realize that of course it’s gonna show. […] There were so many that I wasn’t sure, like, ‘Do you keep all of them? Or is that just too much? Is it going to look hokey?’”
“I didn’t think it was rocky at all, really,” Gandolfini said.
3. Actors are easier to deal with than rock stars.
“Actors have reputations for being difficult,” said Scott, a veteran music-video director delivering only his second feature overall and his first in 11 years. “I deal with rock-and-roll bands — they’re difficult. I worked with the Rolling Stones. That’sdifficult. These guys, it was a dream. I used to look forward to coming to work every day. Jim and I, it was a little rocky in the beginning in rehearsal. But I’m from London, and we don’t back down.”
“He really does his homework, this guy,” Scott continued. “He’s very script-orientated. He said something to me in the rehearsal period that I’m glad I listened to, and I’m glad I listened to it: That I should trust them. Not just him, but all three of them, all the cast. And know they’re there to do the work. And I did that, and I learned a lot doing that. It changed me as a director; it made me realize I was not as good a director as I thought I was. [..} I actually learned about directing working with these three.”
4. Melissa Leo went full-agoraphobe for her role.
Though she would later return to the city to work on Treme, Leo’s first experience on a shoot in New Orleans to some extent reflected that of her character Lois, for whom getting out of the house — let alone all the way from Indiana to Louisiana — was a minor miracle. “When I was there with Jake, Lois has never been there before,” Leo said. “She doesn’t particularly like being there when she’s there. So they housed me with the Windsor Court, and if you’re at all familiar with New Orleans, it’s got a gated drive, right? So it’s walled. […] You never actually have to be really in public. They had a lovely young man they’d hired to drive me, and Sam would pull up in front of the Windsor Court and pick me up. A handful of time he took me to the grocery store. Otherwise I just isolated myself in my glorious room of chintz and didn’t get to know New Orleans at all. And that aided my performance.”
5. Stewart’s transitioning between Twilight and roles like Joan Jett or a teenage prostitute is seriously no big thing.
“The few things that I’ve done between the Twilight movies have just coincidentally been very different,” Stewart said. But I haven’t been like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna shock everybody right now and do something totally different. It’s always been totally informed by, you know, something speaks to you, and you need to do it. That’s what it is. Also I’m really lucky to have my cast on the series because as soon as we get back on set together… You always think it’s going to be hard to get back there, but it’s not, because we’ve all wanted to tell the story for so long. And it’s finally going to come to fruition.”
6. Gandolfini wasn’t too thrilled with his accent, either.
The first journalist quizzed Gandolfini about his accent — kind of Louisiana by way of somewhere… when it was there at all — while noting charitably that it was a “surprise” to him. “Yeah, me too,” Gandolfini said with thinly veiled disgust. “That’s the first question? Jesus Christ.” He later elaborated: “I mean, sometimes you make choices, and you look back and you wonder. […] I really don’t know what else to say about that.”
Leo interceded in her co-star’s defense: “When I, as his wife, heard him talking to me, I made up the story in my head that he moved to Indiana and tried to make an Indianan out of himself. But he was from some other place to begin with.”
Gandolfini continued: “Southern Indiana has — and I had a dialect coach — a very specific accent. It is. So we took a shot at it.”
7. No, really, people: The Sopranos is over.
Asked if the character of Tony Soprano held any lingering influence over the father he plays in Welcome to the Rileys, Gandolfini shook his head. “No, he’s done,” he replied “That went away pretty quickly for me.”
8. Also, really, people: Stewart doesn’t know what she’s doing afterBreaking Dawn.
She said she doesn’t know anything about Martyrs, a proposed remake of the French horror film to which her name has been loosely tagged. (But she’d do a horror film, for what it’s worth.) And as for Wanted 2? “People were talking about that forever… a while ago, but nope. I have no idea what I’m doing next. No idea.”
9. Gandolfini’s dream role rules.
“Curly in The Three Stooges.” Make it happen, Farellys.