Embracing the tangled emotions of the most common human feeling in the world is no easy task. In recent years, no filmmaker has truly captured the complexities of love without offering audiences the all-too-familiar scenarios and cliches that completely miss the real intensity that comes with the uncertainty of first love.
However, Like Crazy, which won the Grand Jury Prize and Special Jury Prize for Best Actress at this year's Sundance Film Festival, has been getting quite the buzz among filmgoers. Filmmaker Drake Doremus, known for such films as 2009's Spooner and 2010's Douchebag directs the movie, which stars Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Felicity Jones (The Tempest), Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class) and Charlie Bewley (the Twilight saga).
The movie depicts the story of Jacob (Yelchin) and Anna (Jones), who meet in college and begin a whirlwind romance. Conflict starts when Anna, a British exchange student, stays after her visa expires and is forced to move back to Britain, causing the couple to pursue their relationship on long-distance terms. The Gauntlet had a chance to talk with Yelchin, Jones and Doremus about the ups and downs of the project, as well as the unusual methods that Doremus uses to direct the cast.
With over 90 hours shot within 24 days and across two continents, the Like Crazy cast and crew hold nothing back when it comes to talking about being cast and working without a script. The film, with a run time of 86 minutes, was a labour of love for all involved -- however, it did start out with a huge setback. Yelchin had been selected early on for the role of Jacob. Doremus jokes that he "threw a bunch of actors' faces on a dartboard" and ended up pegging Yelchin's photo with a dart. However, the actress who would play the love interest had not yet been found. Jones came into the picture within the last few weeks of pre-production and was hired without even meeting her co-star.
"Felicity sent in a tape from London, and I sort of was taken with the tape and had brought her in without even meeting Anton," says Doremus.
Of course, the next question is why he took a chance on her without testing her chemistry with Yelchin. Doremus chuckles and responds, "I was willing to take the chance because I believed in both of them."
Of his stars, Doremus says that "Anytime you set out to make a movie, you know your name's going to be on it and you're really nervous. But if you weren't scared and you didn't fight to try to make it good or right, I think there would be something wrong with you."
Doremus's unconventional director/screenwriter style is a whole other matter. Doremus did not pen a traditional screenplay, but began with an in-depth, extended outline that dealt with subtext, the characters' back-stories and scene directions.
Both Yelchin and Jones agree that the extensive outline made filming out to be "a little bit nerve-wracking." However, Jones went further by saying that "that was kind of what was exciting because it felt like it was challenging."
Another question concerns how much of themselves was put into the performance and the story in general. Of this, Doremus says, "my co-writer Ben York Jones and I put in a lot of feelings that we had about relationships and how difficult it is to maintain a first love and what that's like to go through. I think a lot of people can relate to that because I think a lot of people have gone through it."
Of course the actors had to make the counter-argument -- Jones believes that she and Yelchin inserted their own personalities into their roles the least they could in order to make it a more organic performance. Both agree that the characters were as far from them as possible.
Jones points out that Anna "is constantly trying to save the relationship, whereas that's really very different for me." Yelchin also differs from his character, saying that the character of Jacob is "very introverted and passive," in stark contrast to Yelchin's own personality.
"I think the film is really about exploring love and seeing what love can be like in its most honest terms, so people can leave the theatre looking at their own lives and that they have been very fortunate," says Yelchin.
Ultimately, Doremus wants audiences to realize that "love is worth it, love is important and going for it is special."