Pictured at the New York City premiere of “The Romantics,” from left to right: Adam Brody, Rebecca Lawrence, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes, Galt Niederhoffer, Malin Akerman, Jeremy Strong and Josh Duhamel
Katie Holmes knows a thing or two about weddings that cause drama. Her 2006 star-studded wedding to Tom Cruise attracted an avalanche of media attention. In her movie “The Romantics,” a wedding steeped in drama is the central occasion for a group of friends and lovers who got to know each other about 10 years ago in college, and have now reunited for the wedding. Holmes plays Laura Rosen, the maid of honor and former roommate of Lila Hayes (played by Anna Paquin), who comes from a privileged family. Lila is getting married to Tom (played by Josh Duhamel), who has had an on-again, off-again love affair with Laura.
Other people in the circle of friends include married couple Pete (played by Jeremy Strong) and C-list actress Tripler (played by Malin Akerman); engaged couple Jake (played by Adam Brody) and Weesie (played by Rebecca Lawrence); and Lila’s hard-drinking brother, Chip Hayes (played by Elijah Wood), who has an unrequited crush on Laura. The group of friends has the nickname the Romantics because most of them have coupled off with each other at one point or another, yet they are currently struggling with various issues in their love lives.
As the wedding approaches, it becomes clear that Laura and Tom still have unresolved feelings for each other. The big questions loom: Will Tom go through with the wedding to Lila? Will Laura do something to disrupt the wedding? Will any of these people find true happiness? The ensemble cast of “The Romantics” also includes Candice Bergen as Augusta Hayes (the controlling mother of Chip and Lila) and Dianna Agron as Minnow Hayes, Lila’s sometimes-envious younger sister. “The Romantics” was written and directed by Galt Niederhoffer, who adapted the screenplay from her novel “The Romantics.” At the New York City press conference for “The Romantics,” Niederhoffer (also one of the film’s producers) gathered with Holmes (one of the film’s executive producers), Duhamel, Akerman, Strong and Lawrence and Brody to talk about love, friendship and marriage.
Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel in “The Romantics”
Laura seems to know that Laura and Tom are a perfect match. Are they great people or only great people when they’re together?
Niederhoffer: Ever heard of the song “Love Hurts”? Ever heard of the song “Love Stinks”? Sometimes you’re drawn to someone who’s not your ideal match. Sometimes your head goes in one direction, and your heart goes in another. I think these two characters are pulled by these two forces. And, in turn, these two characters are both pulled toward one another.
Duhamel: This is an interesting question, because a lot of times, people end up settling for somebody who’s safe … and I think that’s what my character does in this movie — or is about to do in this movie. He knows that the one who brings out the best in him is Laura’s character — Katie’s character. And I think his coming to terms with that is his biggest decision: whether he can go with the girl who can make him better or the girl who can make things easier.
Holmes: I think the love triangle in this film is one of the things I found wonderful about the movie. And these conflicts are something that many people go through. And it makes for a good film.
Elijah, do you think your Chip Hayes character is an alcoholic?
Wood: I don’t know if Chip’s an alcoholic just yet. He’s on the road. I think he grew up in the context of a very well-to-do, affluent family. And he’s sort of against the nature of his upbringing, and he’s trying to find his way through a variety of means: alcohol, pills … He likes to have a good time.
Katie Holmes at the New York City press conference for “The Romantics”
Katie, can you talk about your role as an executive producer on “The Romantics”? What kinds of things you were able to do in that role that you were happy that you wouldn’t have been able to do if you were only in the cast?
Duhamel: Lots of cupcakes and coffee!
Holmes: That was really the extent of it … I was really flattered when I was able to have this position. I tried to help out when I could and sort of cheer people on. That’s really what I did. I actually used this time to learn even more from everyone, from the producers and the director. So it was really wonderful. I appreciate it.
Is there anything you learned that you’ll take with you on your next film project that you might be in involved with producer or executive produce?
Holmes: That would be “never give up.” You just keep going, because making films can be very challenging and you just have to keep pushing.
[At this point, Ron Stein, one of the producers of “The Romantics,” steps in and makes a statement.]
Stein: She’s being very modest. As one of the producers and distributor, she actually helped out quite a bit. Sitting in meetings when no one else [wanted to], really participating, coming up with a marketing plan.
Holmes: Well, I’m a mother so I think you get used to …
Stein: She was on the phone every week, late nights, helping out with the planning, doing the planning. So I think she’s being very modest. I think it was quite different from most films where the star of the movie is the executive producer and actually they don’t executive produce. She really did executive produce, rolled up her sleeves, and has been involved ever since production stopped, and even planning this week [of promoting the movie]. So I appreciate it.
“The Romantics” stars at the J. Crew photo shoot. Pictured clockwise from bottom center: Jeremy Strong, Rebecca Lawrence Adam Brody, Josh Duhamel, Katie Holmes and Malin Akerman.
The stars of “The Romantics” recently did a photo shoot for J. Crew. Katie, can you talk about the importance of partnering with J. Crew to promote this movie?
Holmes: I think Galt can really speak on this, because it was really part of the design of the movie.
Niederhoffer: Because this is a story about young people — and young people tend to express themselves through their clothing — with the costume designer Danielle Kays and the cinematographer Sam Levy and the production designer Tim Grimes, we did our best to think of the color palette, composition, the ingredients of the film. When we were finished, we were looking toward the distribution of the movie, and looking for ways to be innovative, pro-active, as Katie says beautifully, to keep pushing.
And so we thought, “What would be a company, a partnership that would help us do that, to allow this indie film to reach as many people as possible?” And we thought really of J. Crew, because it’s a company whose clothes are used in the film, and has a spirit and identity and integrity that I admire …
They make good clothes. They’re good people. Anyway, it’s been a very happy partnership, a very interesting marriage of art and commerce. What began as the idea of doing a website together to help promote the film turned into something that allowed us to reach a bigger audience than we would have otherwise.
Josh Duhamel, Katie Holmes and Anna Paquin of “The Romantics”
What was your initial reaction when you read “The Romantics” script?
Duhamel: I didn’t like it at first. I didn’t, because when I first read the script, I was like, “I don’t like any of these characters.” I really didn’t.
Wood: Except for Chip.
Duhamel: Except for Chip. I felt like it was a bunch of selfish people who were making much bigger deals of their problems than they really were. And then I read it again, and I liked it much better, because I felt like it was really a reflection on what people are like anyway, and what friends are like and what groups of friends and family are like, because we’re all dysfunctional. We’re all messed-up in some way. We’re all flawed.
And I think that’s what drew me to it ultimately: the imperfection of all these people — and these people were trying to make it work. I’ve got a group of friends that I’ve had for a long time, and we’re equally as dysfunctional. We’re not making out with each other’s wives, but I think everybody can sort of relate to the imperfections of these characters in some way. And I think that’s ultimately why I thought it was something I wanted to do.
Holmes: I really loved this when I read it. To me, it felt more like “The Big Chill” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” and also a little bit of a John Hughes film. And I always loved those movies growing up. And I met with Galt, and I thought she was really so smart. And the cast started coming together, and that was something that was really exciting. Just the feel of it and the look of it and the people that were in involved with it [were] really exciting. It looks very French in a way, the look of a movie.
Rebecca Lawrence, Dianna Agron, Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, an unidentified actor, Josh Duhamel, Adam Brody and Jeremy Strong in “The Romantics”
How has your view of romance and love changed as your life has changed?
Akerman: Well, I think when you’re younger, appearances are first and foremost. As a teenager, you see the hot guy or the cool guy in school, and you kind of think what it would be like to date him. But I think over time as you grow as a person, you learn what real love is and what infatuation is and the difference between the two.
It’s so funny because I look at the men I find attractive now, and what I did as a teenager, I would’ve cringed when I was younger. But I think it’s a fascination. You see people for who they are. People grow up, and when you are looking for a mate for life, you need more than just the exterior, obviously. You need someone who challenges you and wants to grow and grow together in life.
Duhamel: I just look for a really nice ass! I’m just playing. Come on. I think Malin is right on. You grow up and you realize that it isn’t just about the aesthetics. It’s about whether or not that person makes you better, whether or not that person makes you happy. And you’re lucky if you can find it.
Josh Duhamel and Katie Holmes in “The Romantics”
Josh, have you ever experienced any weddings where something dramatic happened?
Duhamel: I hope no one gets to go to a wedding like this. But yeah, it makes me appreciate my wedding, and it makes me appreciate that I knew going in that I was with the one I wanted to be with. That’s what the scary part is: not knowing for sure. This guy [Tom] doesn’t even know whether or not if he’s going to go be able through with it, and that’s the [worst anxiety] you can have, especially for a groom-to-be. But in the end, that’s what drew me to [the movie]. I think a lot of people have this coming-of-age when they decide to step up and be a man and make a decision or not. And that’s what he was struggling with.
Niederhoffer: I just want to jump in and say one thing about “likable” character. It’s a word that you hear a lot in this business. I produced several movies before I had the privilege of directing. And “likable” has come to mean “heroic” or “impressive” or “blessed with traits of a god.” And what I find likable, personally, and what I find so interesting about the great characters in that movie, and I think in this movie we created together is that the people are real, they’re flawed, they’re kind, they’re mean, they’re petty, they’re generous, they’re incredible — and all in a given day. And I think that’s something that’s true to life about human nature.
Holmes: I think that’s the beauty of friendships, and I think that’s what you see in this film. When you have real friends, you can be all of those things, and people love you for it. And that’s what feels good about watching this movie and what felt good about being in this movie and portraying these people. You could portray people who are real and have their ups and downs and they have this family around them that’s been through it all. If you’re lucky to have people like that in your life, it’s wonderful. So this film also celebrates friendship.
Galt Niederhoffer and Josh Duhamel at the New York City press conference for “The Romantics”
Niederhoffer: And another amazing thing that happens is that we became friends like that. This group of people became family and friends to one another, I think partly because we got to make something together. And it was the old saying, “Have a barn, put on a play,” and we were kind of secluded, away from the city and away from our families for a little while. But something really special happens when you trust each other and you have a common goal.
Akerman: You created that environment for us to become the Romantics. You really did.
Strong: In movies today, there’s a lot of idealization of people … I feel like most people I know are still trying to figure things out. This [movie] gave us a chance to represent … young people … It captures the struggles of that period of life in a very authentic way.
Wood: I’d also say the complexity of these characters made it interesting to us as actors. It gave us something to work with. It’s such a huge ensemble; there are so many characters in the context of a short place that takes place over the course of weekend. These characters are so complex as they’re written by Galt and give us all of us so much to work with.
Duhamel: Adam, how would you define love?
Brody: You can’t. It’s just a feeling. You can’t fight that feeling.
Josh Duhamel and Katie Holmes in “The Romantics”
Jeremy and Katie, you’ve both done theater. Are there any plans for you to do more theater?
Strong: I’m going to do a play for the Lincoln Center. I always want to do theater. But I think one of things about this movie that you can also take to heart is that it’s an ensemble piece … We were rehearsing together. We started shooting there, so it was the same [as rehearsing for theater]. [He says jokingly] “The Romantics on Ice.”
Holmes: That sounds really fun. Cold, but … I love doing Broadway. It was so much fun. I loved the cast, and the community was so wonderful and welcoming. I really appreciate that. I enjoyed every single, so I can’t wait to go back to the theater.
Would your next theater project be a musical?
Holmes: I don’t know, but I’m very excited to go back.
Galt, can you talk about where you found the time to write “The Romantics” book?
Niederhoffer: I finished this book three days before my second child was born. And I tend to write well during my pregnancies. My first book I wrote during my first child’s gestation. And I write on a pretty rigorous schedule. I try to keep a 10 [a.m.] to 2 [p.m.] writing schedule, and then my brain turns to mush.
Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel in “The Romantics”
So much of the narrative in “The Romantics” depends on the characters’ back stories. How much time did you spend talking about and developing those back stories?
Niederhoffer: I think that Adam and Rebecca would be great people to respond to this, because both of them had very different approaches to constructing the characters’ back story and contributing to their front story. So I’d love to turn it over to them.
Brody: There was a lot of care. It’s as simple as that.
Lawrence: We definitely discussed the courtship and general timeline, everyone, of how they all knew each other. Me, personally, it reminded me of college. I had a great group of friends that had strange dynamics and imperfections, so I sort of had that to bring to the table.
Brody: It’s such an incestuous group … but they were also friends. And we [the cast] naturally became friends.
Katie, what are some romantic gestures that a loved one does for you?
Holmes: I think my husband has red roses for me everywhere I go, whenever we travel.
Duhamel: Tom [Cruise] is making us all look bad.
Holmes: [She laughs.] I know.
Rebecca Lawrence and Adam Brody in “The Romantics”
Adam and Rebecca, where do you think your characters go after the story ends in “The Romantics”?
Brody: I don’t know. We’re going to have to wait and find out … I think we’re besties, so we work through our indiscretions.
Lawrence: I don’t know. And I don’t know how much of that night is revealed after the fact …
Duhamel: I’m just wondering if Malin’s character goes on to become a big Hollywood actress.
Akerman: Yes, she becomes a huge hit. I don’t what would happen with her. I think she puts her mask right back on … I think that happens a lot … to the one who brings the fun to the group. I don’t think you ever let your guard down … I don’t think she changes much.
Niederhoffer: One thing I quickly realized is that these actors in particular always know their character best.
Strong: I was just going to say that a lot of these relationships are living on fault lines in the way relationships can be. And loving as an action instead of a feeling is also what the film is about: making a choice to love someone willfully.
Akerman: Jeremy is the true romantic in this group.
Strong: I’m single!
Jeremy Strong, Elijah Wood and Malin Akerman in “The Romantics”
Galt, can you talk about any differences between “The Romantics” book and “The Romantics” movie?
Niederhoffer: The movie is actually pretty loyal to the book. I looked at the book with a harsher, more critical eye when I was adapting it, looking for different things than you look for as a novelist. When you’re writing a book, you’re looking for description and interior monologue and psyche and things that don’t move.
And when you’re writing a script, you’re looking for things that move across the screen and move across the face — things that enact the drama and action. I think when I write books, I think a lot in terms of the screenplay, because I’ve been working in this medium so log as a producer, so I think I’m already influenced by the screenplay and the movie structure inherently.
Was the ending of “The Romantics” book different from the movie?
Niederhoffer: Not really. It [the movie] was a chance to correct some of the mistakes I felt I’d made in the book …
Katie, do you think you’ll do a movie musical?
Holmes: I love to sing and dance, so anytime.
Malin Akerman, Katie Holmes and Rebecca Lawrence in “The Romantics”
Katie, do you think your role in “The Romantics” will make people see you as a more mature actress?
Holmes: I really don’t know. I really enjoy my time with my daughter and family. It was also great to work with this wonderful cast. We had a great time. I was so floored by the performances. These guys are such incredible actors, so it was really inspiring every single day, because you’d watch somebody else do a scene. And you’d go, “Oh my God! Wow, I didn’t know that’s what it was about.” They brought something so different and wonderful. It was such a great time. I think that’s why we all still hang out and go to dinner often. We’re a tight-knit group.
Niederhoffer: I was going to add that there is one anecdote you might enjoy, which is from the day we shot the scene in the movie that takes place at the rehearsal dinner. And in that scene, every one of these characters that these actors play basically performs a soliloquy about the bride and groom, but really defining him or herself. And that day, we sat all of us and the rest of the cast — Anna Paquin, Candice Bergen and Dianna Agron — we seven sat in a room filled with 80 other people. It was really hot, the lights were bright, it was freezing cold outside, and we watched each other perform. And it was magical. And it was impressive also. And it was revealing, just to see these guys perform for one another and each other. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Wood: It was so defining that day, for each of us and I think for our characters, for each of us as an actor.
Strong: It was an incredible stage environment, because we were all there in support of each other. It was an amazing experience of being present for each of the individual actors.
Niederhoffer: And they also wrote a lot of their own monologues that day, on the spot, some of them. That’s something that did change drastically from the book. In this scene now, as it’s written, some of the extemporaneous speech that these people did ended up defining their characters so well that it became a back story that I’d never written.
For more info: “The Romantics” website
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Photo credits: Photo #1: Getty Images. Photos #3, 8: Carla Hay. Photo #4: J. Crew. All other photos: Paramount Famous Productions