The latest from director Bart Freundlich, “After the Wedding,” is a remake of the Oscar-nominated 2006 Danish film of the same name. Freundlich’s English-language version, however, takes New York City as its setting instead of Copenhagen and flips the character’s genders, switching the dynamics from two men/one woman to two women/one man.
The new version follows Isabel (Michelle Williams), a manager of an orphanage in India who flies to New York to meet a potential benefactor (Julianne Moore). The benefactor insists Isabel attend the wedding of her daughter (Abby Quinn), and at the event, Isabel realizes she has a past with the woman’s husband, played by Billy Crudup.
Freundlich spoke to Casting Networks about putting together the film, and his go-to repertoire of actors, which includes his own wife—Moore.
This is your fourth film starring your wife. Did you plan on having her in this film from the get-go?
Julie is all about the script. She’s not ever going to say yes to something before there’s a script, no matter if it’s me or someone else. I always intended for her to be in this, and I always assumed I would find a way to write it well enough that she would embrace it. But I wasn’t sure until we were on a family trip, and I gave it to her to read on a plane. When I woke up from a nap and saw that she was crying over by the window seat, that’s when I knew she was going do it. And by the way, there were still a lot of changes after that. Julie had a lot of feedback. It wasn’t like she was saying this is perfect. She was just saying, “I know this person. I want to play her.”
Why do you think she wanted to play the benefactor, the multi-millionaire who was the puppet master of this entire situation?
She’s played so many roles in her life, so you can see a lot of the same elements in them. But this role had a very unusual arc to it. Being able to play a character with such a clear intention, as Julianne’s character does, but to not ever give it away until it all explodes in the third act was a freeing idea for her. As a writer, I relate. Billy Crudup once said, “When I start drifting off during a script and imagining this character walking around in the world, outside of the script, that’s when I know it has me.” So, there was something in that role that immediately had an “in” for her.
Speaking of Billy, this is your third film with him. Do you have a personal repertoire of actors you always turn to?
Absolutely. I start thinking, “Who could this actor that I’ve worked with before play in my new film?” For example, I’ve worked with Michael Shannon, so I’ll think, “Who could Michael Shannon play? How can I work with him again?” There are also people I want to work with, like Amy Ryan, so it’s like, “How can I get Amy Ryan in a movie?” I’ve always wanted to have a kind of troupe of actors. It’s wonderful to go to set and already know the way someone works, that you’re all in it together to tell the story, and you don’t have to deal with the social awkwardness of getting to know someone. Julie and Billy are two actors I always think about, and now I hope that Michelle and Abby can become those people too.
You’d never worked with Michelle before. Did you know her socially or from the awards circuit?
I actually didn’t know Michelle at all, and Julie, being one of the producers of this film, emailed Michelle. Michelle is on my list of people who are a lot like my wife—electric, alive, unpredictable, emotional and transformational. I’ve always recognized Michelle’s spirit on screen, but the decorative part of it—the role—always changes. She’s one of the very few actors like Julianne, and Billy who change from the inside out.
Did Michelle require much convincing to come aboard the project?
Something that helped, other than the fact that Michelle related to that character, was that it was the lead role. Julie was attracted to a role that was technically a supporting role, even though it was a very big supporting role. But Julie’s character wasn’t the one who began and ended the movie. Julie’s wasn’t the one who had the biggest transformation. Michelle had the most opportunity for internal and external change, as well as circumstantial change. That was a lot to offer to someone, and luckily Michelle was available and immediately took to it.
How do you cast the role of Julianne and Billy’s daughter? The character is at such a precarious age, and has her own growth in the film as mysteries are revealed.
This was a very delicate role. It needed to be someone that looked the right way, but also someone who was at this age where, at 23 years old, she could legally get married, but maybe was also a little too young to get married. This is where [casting directors] Doug [Aibel] and Henry [Russell Bergstein] came in. Doug and Henry cast Abby in “Landline,” which was a movie with Edie Falco, Jenny Slate and John Turturro. In that film, Abby was unbelievably free and natural—a problematic teenager who would smoke and drink. She was a totally different character than in my film, but Doug said to me very early on, before we auditioned 100 people for the role, “I think you’re going want Abby.” She’s like an old soul. She’s available. As an actor, she’s doesn’t feel the need to communicate a result. She is just available. Billy said that to me on day one with her, “Oh my God, she’s just there!”