Bachelorette's Leslye Headland Takes A Direct Approach to Life
The playwright and director frankly discusses her new hit film, her admiration for Mike Nichols, and her newest projects.
Leslye Headland's breakout stage comedy, Bachelorette, has been turned into a breakout first feature film – also directed by Headland – which is now in theaters (as well as being available on VOD), and which is attracting large audiences and rave reviews.
The brutally comic plot revolves around three attractive, but unstable best friends (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan), who are bridesmaids for Becky (Rebel Wilson), their overweight, sort-of-friend whom they dubbed ‘pig face' back in college. Upset that the less attractive bride-to-be is getting married first, the girls rack up a pre-wedding evening of booze, sex, and cocaine that would make the guys in The Hangover jealous.
Headland recently sat down with TheaterMania to discuss the film, her biggest influences -- including Mike Nichols -- and her future projects.
THEATERMANIA: Did you study playwriting?
LESLYE HEADLAND: No, I studied directing at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and I thought that was my "gift." But I was always falling in love with the film guys because they could talk about the films that I loved that no one else my age even knew about. You know there's something wrong with you when Oscar trivia turns you on. So I started to write as a means to direct.
TM: How did Bachelorette get from the stage to the screen?
LH.: It really came about thanks to my wonderful [stage] director, Trip Cullman, who's a friend of [producer] Adam McKay. Trip got Adam to come see the play and Adam liked it. He then took an enormous chance asking me to direct the film, but he said he thought I knew the characters better than anyone and that we could get everyone else we needed to make the film -- and we did.
TM: Both Bachelorette and Assistance, which was seen last season at Playwrights Horizons, are plays from your "Seven Deadly Sins" cycle. Have you written all seven?
LH: Six are written, and The Iama Theater in Los Angeles has done all six of them, including Surfer Girl, Reverb, The Accidental Blonde, and Cinephilia. But I'm having trouble with "pride." I'm working on it now.
TM: What did you mean when you said recently that you were raised without the usual steady diet of American youth culture?
LH: My parents were this odd combo of religious Christians and incredibly cultured film people but there was no pop culture per se in my house; no MTV, no TV at all really, and no popular movies. I was 26 before I saw Goonies. But they would show us stuff like MGM musicals and Ernst Lubitsch and Woody Allen comedies. I was this 10-year-old kid saying, "What is this, I love it," but having no one else to talk to about any of it. So, I grew up with this weird dichotomy of morality and the Marx Brothers. It definitely makes me constantly question where we are as a culture on both an artistic and a human level.
TM: Besides all the old movies, who or what are your biggest influences?
LH: All the playwright/filmmakers, especially David Mamet, Adam Rapp, Neil LaBute, Kenneth Lonergan and Tim Sanford [the artistic director of Playwrights Horizons where Headland attended the Theater School.] And Mike Nichols. All I ever wanted to do was to be like Mike Nichols and go back and forth between theater and film. But I thought they probably wouldn't let me do it because I have a vagina.
TM: Did you actually study filmmaking?
LH: I didn't want to spend the money to go to film school. That's why I loved Playwrights Horizons Theater School so much, because they taught you how to go from pitch to product. And while I was interning at Miramax, I saw how you get a movie made. It's not by knowing what F-stop to use or how many films by Tarkovsky are out on DVD, you get a movie made by being able to pitch and to court people.
TM: What's next for you?
LH: Well, I've already turned in my script [an African-American remake] of About Last Night, which was actually based on David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. But I'm not directing it. And I am having another play done at a small storefront theater in Chicago. Other than that, I'm available. So Mike Nichols, call me.