Contacts helped build Massy Tadjedin's dream cast for Last Night
First-time writer-director Massy Tadjedin was born in Tehran, grew up in Orange County, California, and currently lives in Los Angeles. Last Night, however, is very much a Manhattan movie. The stylish romantic drama, which opens Friday (May 20), stars Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as an NYC couple going through marital strains on a single night away from each other.
“Hey, I’m proud of my Yorba Linda roots,” says the amiable filmmaker, calling from L.A. “But I don’t need to go back there anytime soon.”
In fact, Tadjedin, who’s in her early 30s, is still mapping her cinematic geography. Instead of film school, she studied scripts while working as assistant to a literary agent. Then she gave writing a shot, penning two intense psychological thrillers: 2002’s Leo (which she wrote with her brother) and a rewrite of The Jacket, made three years later with Knightley and Adrien Brody.
“Those stories weren’t my own, exactly,” she recalls of the learning process. “For my first job as a director, it had to be much more personal.”
That meant using her connections with Knightley and Eva Mendes—with whom she has since written a comic short that the latter directed—to have them play rivals in the low-budget Night, which was shot two years ago. Obviously, getting Worthington aboard right after he finished Avatar was a coup, but the director points to Knightley—playing a would-be writer less secure in married life than she aspires to be—as key to getting the film made, and made well.
“She’s very instinctive, and also one of the hardest-working actresses out there. She has a real grasp of subtlety—a sense of exactly how many degrees of possibility rest on a half-inch move.”
Completing her temptation-prone quartet, as Knightley’s romantic blast from the past, is Guillaume Canet, himself the director of such French fare as Little White Lies, which opens here this month as well.
“I went for the finest actors I could get, and I’m happy they all turned out to be from different places. That’s very New York. It also feels a little more nomadic, in the sense that these people are caught in the currents of life that are carrying them from place to place.”
The glossy film also features Griffin Dunne in a screen role that somehow answers his breakthrough in Martin Scorsese’s darkly urbanite After Hours.
“I didn’t realize until later that we were shooting in many of the same places Griffin went in After Hours, like SoHo and such. It really shows how much New York has changed in 35 years, because everything that was grimy and raw back then is so polished today. That worked with my story, which demanded a kind of shiny aesthetic, as these characters are living through their surfaces.”
Okay, but how does that relate to Adrien Brody in a straitjacket?
“There’s no way to know what the connection is at the moment. And I’m not really interested in figuring it out,” she adds with a laugh. “I mean, I don’t want to write myself out of a job!”
Watch the trailer for Last Night.