TORONTO—One of the scariest critics director Drake Doremus faced when he finished making his true-life romantic dramedy Like Crazy was the woman who inspired him to write it. “We did a screening at Paramount, just the two of us,” Doremus says. “It was an emotional experience.”
Like Crazy is Doremus’s dramatic exploration of a long-distance love affair that goes sideways when a woman, Anna (played by film newcomer Felicity Jones), overstays her student visa to spend the summer with her beau, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), and finds herself banned from the U.S. Although he fictionalized his experiences (“it needed to be Jacob and Anna. It needed to live on its own”), it was important to Doremus to be as truthful as possible. That quest for truth is what inspired Doremus to go beyond his script and let his romantic leads own their characters, sometimes shooting 30-minute improvised takes.
Speaking at a roundtable interview for his film’s premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Doremus explains why he wanted to give his actors so much room to explore. “Because after about the first five minutes, people stop acting. They forget there’s a camera there and truth happens. My process is getting away from filmmaking and getting into reality.”
That’s also why Doremus focused on moments that don’t always make it into movies and steered away from the ones that almost always do. “You never really see the first kiss. You never see the things that most romance stories would focus on. I wanted to focus on the little intangible things that when you look back are burned into your minds: the little glances, the looks, the truthful moments where you’re just sort of luxuriating in each other.” He also opted out of including traditional sex scenes, even though they did shoot some. “To me, there are still sex scenes in the movie—just in a different way.”
Doremus’s raw, realistic approach struck a chord at Sundance—scoring the grand jury prize and a deal with Paramount. It also hit a nerve with audience members who have lived similar love stories. “It has been so surprising how many people have gone through a long-distance relationship. I get 20 Facebook messages a day, sometimes pages. I got a Facebook message the other day from this man who lives in Canada who has been dating this woman in Washington and he got a DUI and now he can’t go back to the States and he’s going through this exact same experience.”
Doremus says his favourite aspect of making a film is “the intimacy. The moment that I’m standing there behind the monitor by myself and I’ve seen something that no one else has seen yet, and it’s true, and it’s real, and it breaks my heart. And I have it and I can hold onto it and it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.”
Watch the trailer for Like Crazy.