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  • Lee Toland Krieger On Directing Rashida Jones And Andy Samberg

    Celeste And Jesse Forever

    Lee Toland Krieger wasn't planning to read the script for "Celeste and Jesse Forever" in one night. It just sort of happened that way.

    "I thought, 'I'll read it first thing in the morning,'" Krieger told HuffPost Entertainment. "I opened the first page, though, and was immediately hooked. I read the whole thing right there."

    Following the late-night reading frenzy, Krieger had a meeting with producer Jennifer Todd and co-writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack to make his case as director.

    "Luckily enough I was able to get the gig."

    Luck probably had little to do with it: Not even 30 years old, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is Krieger's third feature directing credit, but judging from the critical and financial response to the film, it will hardly be his last. Co-starring Jones and Andy Samberg as a couple who try to remain friends after their divorce, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" joins "Ruby Sparks" and "Safety Not Guaranteed" as 2012 indie romances that don't feel like typical indie romances. Credit for that goes to Krieger, who makes the film -- and Los Angeles -- look exceedingly original and unconventional.

    With "Celeste and Jesse Forever" out in New York and Los Angeles now (a wider rollout will follow soon), Krieger chatted with HuffPost Entertainment about his inspirations for the film, how he got such a great performance out of Samberg, and whether he was satisfied with the script's bittersweet ending.

    You met with Rashida, Will and Jen after reading the script. How'd you sell yourself to them?
    What I tried to present were that my touchstones for this movie were going to be "Broadcast News," "Husbands & Wives" and "When Harry Met Sally," and not so much a contemporary, fluffier rom-com, for lack of a better description. Will, Rashida and Jen were determined to make the film as authentic as possible in terms of putting on the screen what it's like to really have a broken heart and go through the six stages of grief we go through. I don't think they wanted to pull any punches either. That's what they responded to primarily.

    The movie certainly owes a large debt to "Husbands & Wives" and "When Harry Met Sally," but why "Broadcast News"?
    At times Celeste can have this very vitriolic component to her character and be fairly unlikeable. We wanted to make sure that was never marginalized. We wanted to make sure we didn't do what a lot of rom-coms do, which is take the lead actress and pound her into the ground in the first act -- she loses her job, her boyfriend breaks up with her -- and then we root for her to rise again. We wanted to make sure Rashida was this tough, type-A personality, and we didn't hold back from that. I know in the cutting process we played around with things: How far can we go with this before she becomes unlikeable? Fortunately for us, Rashida is such an incredibly likeable person to begin with, we found we could take it pretty far. She's got a lot of goodwill out there because she's sweet and likeable and there's an undercurrent of vulnerability that exists in her performance. That was why "Broadcast News" came up. Elements of that film are tough -- they don't pull punches.

    You previously got an unexpectedly dramatic turn from Adam Scott in "The Vicious Kind"; now you do something similar here with Andy Samberg. What's your secret to getting actors to perform out of their comfort zone?
    In the case with Adam, I knew his work a little bit. Before "Party Down" and long before "Parks and Recreation," I had seen him on the HBO show "Tell Me You Love" where he played a dark, quiet, brooding character. Then I saw him do broad comedy and thought, "This guy can do both." For me, it's more about making sure you're finding someone who really fits the material perfectly. In the case of Andy,who better to play a 30-year-old man-boy who doesn't want to grow up? The real Andy is very sophisticated and grown up and a savvy businessman, but generally speaking, he's tapped into this "I'm going to feel like I'm in college forever!" vibe. It's not like we're asking him to play Hamlet. I'm not saying he's not capable of playing that too, but for this you want to make sure it's a stretch to an extent -- you want to make sure he feels pushed and challenged -- but that it's not so far out of his wheelhouse that people are going to have a knee-jerk response to the role or performance. Again, they wrote a great part for him. It fit him well and I tried to stay out of the way and make sure that Andy knew he was going to be safe with me and we can make it as small as we want. We're not doing sketch comedy where you're sharing the stage with 12 people. I'm going to be on a long lens, really tight, and if you think it, it's going to be there.
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