Your Place or Mine : Press Conference with Actors Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Wesley Kimmel, Zoey Chao, Minka Jesse Williams and Writer/Director/Producer Aline Brosh McKenna

Your Place or Mine : Press Conference with Actors Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Wesley Kimmel, Zoey Chao, Minka Jesse Williams and Writer/Director/Producer Aline Brosh McKenna

Synopsis : Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) and Peter (Ashton Kutcher) are best friends and total opposites. She craves routine with her son in LA; he thrives on change in NY. When they swap houses and lives for a week they discover what they think they want might not be what they really need.

Rating: PG-13 (Brief Strong Language|Suggestive Material)
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Original Language: English
Director: Aline Brosh McKenna
Producer: Jason Bateman, Aline Brosh, Michael Costigan, Lauren Levy, Neustadter, Resse Witherspoon.
Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna
Release Date (Streaming): 
Press Conference with Actors Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Wesley Kimme, Zoey Chao, Minka Jesse Williams and Writer/Director/Producer Aline Brosh McKenna

Q: This is your feature directorial debut. The idea for the story is pretty personal to you, but what made you decide that this was the one to make the leap into directing a film?

ABM: I was very taken with the story. It was based on personal experience. I wanted to do a romantic comedy for people who have been through something in their lives, and have accumulated some life experience. As I was working on that, it just felt very personal to me through the whole process. And it was an idea I’d had for a long time. When it finally came to fruition, it felt very personal. And then, you know, I like to work with unknowns. I’m really looking to discover people, as you can see with this cast, people you may not have heard of. I was lucky enough to find these folks.

Q: Reece, your character Debbie adores books, and she’s always had this dream of being an editor. Did Aline tailor this [character] to you because of your connection to the literary world?

RW: I don’t think you did.

ABM: I didn’t.

RW: No, ‘cause I don’t read [laughs].

ABM: Never read?

RW: I never read a book. It’s not on-brand at all [laughs].

ABM: That was in there, but you don’t have to convince anyone that Reese likes to read.

RW: I was like, “Will people know that I like to read?” And you were like, “I think you can do this. I think you can make them believe [laughs].”

Q: Ashton, you’ve done a lot of rom-coms…

AK: I don’t know how to read.

Q: You’ve often played these sort of stunted man-children, and while Peter doesn’t want to settle down, I would say he’s definitely an actual grown-up. Was that refreshing to get to play?

AK: I’ve played grown-ups before. It was interesting. It was very much about the hair. Aline had a very particular hairstyle that she felt that this character had to have. And she used the word “grown-up” a lot. She’s like, “I want you to have grown-up hair.” I’m like, “This is my hair. Like, it ’s old. It’s 45 years old hair — the same age as me.” But the style and put-together essence of the character, I think was a juxtaposition to the all-over-the-place world of Debbie. So that was fun to play. It’s just this person that had this meticulous, everything-needed-to be-in-its-place [character]. The pen needed to be there and the headphones and this-and-that there. And the other great thing… I’m not a very big fiction reader. I don’t read a lot of fiction. And she’s like, “Yeah, but this character’s a novelist, so he’s going to be very well-read in fiction.” I ended up diving in. Aline sent me, I think, 10 books prior to the film. She’s like, “You need to read all of these.” Every one of the books had notecards in them about what Peter got from this book, specifically, what he got as a writer from this book.

RW: Which was your favorite?

AK: “When Breath Becomes Air.” That book was devastatingly wonderful. “High Fidelity” was very good. I read all of them. I read 10 books –

ABM: I didn’t expect you to read them at all. You did read them all.

AK: I read every, single one of them.

ABM: I also gave you books I thought Peter would think were overrated.

RW: Oh, let’s not go there.

AK: Oh, yeah. Some of them were, yes, overrated, relatively [speaking]. [But I liked] the one about the kids catching on fire all the time.

RW: And “When Breath Becomes Air.” Oh, I loved that.

AK: That one’s fantastic. I actually fell in love with reading fiction again from this experience. So that was kind of fun and refreshing.

AK: Kids just spontaneously combust in [“Nothing to See Here”]. It’s spontaneously combusting children. It’s delightful.

ABM: Peter’s favorite book.

RW: That’s the Kevin Wilson book?

ABM: “Nothing to See Here.”

AK: Oh, it’s so good.

RW: Great book.

Q: Great. Well, you can hit your Goodreads challenge.

RW: Aline also sent me 25 books [laughs]. I did not read any of them [laughs].

ABM: Those were books I thought she’d have, so I bought you all vintage books.

RW: I called her and said, “I have three children. I’m running a company,” [laugh], “and I have a full-time other job. I’m not reading these books.” But they would look really good on the set, and they did.

AK: Oh, and to be fair, don’t read “Permanent Midnight” right before you go to bed. That’s just a note to everyone.

RW: What is that?

ABM: That’s recovery-addict Jerry Stahl’s book, his memoir about his drug addiction. Since Peter is sober, I thought that would be good.

Q: This is a really unique rom-com in that our two romantic leads are barely in the same room together. Reese and Ashton, how did the two of you build chemistry with that obstacle? And how challenging was it filming the split-screen pieces?

RW: We decided probably a month before we started shooting. I had a little panic attack because we didn’t know each other.

AK: We didn’t know each other.

RW: But we had met one time at a party, and it was weird.

AK: I was sharing a cooler.

RW: And he was weird.

AK: She thought that I was quirky.

RW: I said, “quirky,” but I really thought he was weird. Anyway, I’m kidding. We were quirky. Then, about a month before, I was like, “I don’t know this guy, and we’re supposed to be best friends for 20 years.” So we started sending each other videos every day.

AK: Every day, we would send back and forth videos of how’s your day going? What’s going on? What’s happening with you? What are you afraid of? Like, hold on, if you had pancakes, would it be syrup or hot…

RW: It was good. It was actually kind of fun. And then our kids would get in the videos and our dogs. You met my dad on my video.

AK: I met your dad. We hung out on your porch quite a bit.

RW: Yes, we hung out on my porch a lot.

AK: Spent time on your porch. And then, by the time we started shooting it, we were sort of used to communicating this way. And so it felt really natural to communicate that way.

RW: We should put a little compilation video together of all our videos. It would be funny.

AK: They got really personal. Although, the tricky part about shooting it, was when we’re in a scene together, and we’re both there, we were very improv-y with one another. Given the way that this was done, one side of the coverage was done before the other person even began to shoot their side of the coverage. We were acting against a video of the other person.

RW: And the choices they had made.

AK: The choices that were already made. You couldn’t make a choice that would dictate the choice that they had already made. There was no sort of, like Meisner, playing off [of one another].

RW: Oh, my God. He just said Meisner [the famed acting coach].

AK: I’m just saying there was none of that sort of affecting the way the other person reacts to the thing that you said.

ABM: Well, you did some of it on the phone.

AK: Some of it, yeah.

ABM: And one we did in the bathroom and the closet.

RW: Oh my God, the bathroom.

ABM: At the same time.

AK: The bathtub.

ABM: You guys almost quit. Both of you almost quit.

AK: And then you said, “I’m never doing this again.” And then we didn’t do it again.

Q: Jesse, to return to the subject of books for a minute… Your character Theo is a literary editor, and you used to be an English teacher. Is there some version of your life where you became more like Theo instead of an actor? Are you also an avid reader?

JW: I am an avid reader. I was definitely a reader of fiction until I kind of converted. I stopped reading fiction, became obsessed with non-fiction for the last, maybe, 10, 15 years. I’ve been returning to that recently. And, yeah, I did teach, so I love books. Books changed my life particularly in high school. Actually, during this process, Aline was awesome enough; she got me a vintage, signed copy of one of my favorite books ever, which is Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,? It’s an absolute treasure. Books are absolutely a transformative mark in my life or a fork in the road where things could have gone very differently.

ABM: Jesse and I worked on a list of books for his office. And we sort of collaborated on that list. And then the art in Theo’s office, much of it is copies of Jesse’s own art, artists that Jesse likes and brought to our attention. So to make that feel as authentic and grounded as possible.

Q: But of course, Miss Minka doesn’t read any books.

ABM: No, not a book.

ZC: No. She reads people.

RW: But also, isn’t she, like, a molecular scientist?

ABM: Yes. She has a degree in differential calculus, but books are boring.

RW: I still don’t know what that is.

ABM: It’s hard.

ZC: It’s numbers. Maybe.

Q: Zoe, what I love about Minka is how surprising she is from showing up without any underwear at Peter’s apartment to this master’s degree in differential calculus. How did you find that balance in portraying this woman who just defies expectations at every turn?

ZC: I fell in love with Minka as soon as I read the script. Aline had just made such a surprising, lovable, weirdo on the page. Then Sophie De Rakoff brought in all these amazing clothes. Boom, the character was there. I love Minka because, though you don’t know what she does, there’s a very calculated mystique about her. She’s not a sinister person. She’s actually a very positive person and the ultimate hype-sister like the wing woman you need in this life. I like that she’s full of contradictions.

Q: Wesley, I understand that you share an interest in hockey just like your character Jack. Was that something that got worked in once you signed on, or was it on the script when you auditioned? What other things do you share with Jack?

WK: It was always a part of the script. I had started playing hockey when I was little. I learned how to skate on hockey skates. I never really got to playing actual games like Jack never got to in the movie. But, I always skate in the summers. So it was like, “Oh, I’m skating in this.” I had some lessons leading up towards the shoot but it was not super new. It was not like someone learning how to skate.

AK: This guy’s playing this down. Okay. So we show up to shoot the hockey stuff and he’s slaying it on the ice. He’s downplaying, like, you go out and all the sudden, you look like you’ve been playing full-scale hockey your whole life. It was crazy.

ABM: Ashton was legit excited. But also, you wrote me a beautiful letter after you read the script about how much Jack spoke to you and why. It was really beautiful.

WK: Well, in that first audition that I had, we were reading the script before, reading the sides over and over, just to get a gist of what was going on. I looked up at my mom, and I was like, “This is literally me.” We had the exact same qualities, the same issues, the same allergies. It was just like easy to be natural in the audition. It was just crazy.

RW: I’ve never had the same allergies as my character in 32 years. Have you?

AK: You’re allergic to me.

RW: No, I’m not.

WK: Dust mites and grass.

RW: Dust mites and grass. Wow.

Q: Zoe, you serve as Debbie’s guide to New York City. Would you say that you would also be a good New York guide if you were placed in Minka’s shoes?

ZC: No, no [laughs]. I do live here, but I heavily rely on Google Maps [laughs]. All my friends who live here think it’s really LOL that I…

JW: You still don’t know your way around?

ZC: I still [laugh] don’t know my way around.

JW: It’s a grid.

ZC: Okay, Jesse. [laugh] Yeah, just forever a learner. And I love the city. I do think I’m a good hype-woman [laughs]. I do really love my friends. There’s nothing more fun than just singing someone’s praises. I could do that day in and day out. I could sing praises about New York, all the things I like, but I can’t tell you where we are now for example [laughs].

Q: Jesse, I feel like some of the audience is going to think Debbie should choose Theo. Was there anything that you had to do to make him less of a contender than Peter or soften that response?

JW: I just bring myself to the role. And that’s a repellant on its own [laughs]. We’ve got that covered. No, I don’t think so because, early on, I realized that it’s not really about Theo. It’s about what’s true for Debbie. And that’s one of the lessons in this. She surrounds herself with people, intentionally or not, who want what’s best for her and want to [push] her forward. We say the adage that the people around you are a reflection of you. Choose your friends wisely. If you notice, the characters around her always have her best intentions in mind. Even though it feels like a random meeting with Theo, he still sees something in her and puts energy towards her realizing her greater self. Sometimes people are in your life for, what, they say, is a season? He’s there. He’s available. But her decision ultimately wasn’t because of a failing of Theo’s. It was just body odor.

ZC: Like, right now.

Q: Aline, in addition to writing, directing, and producing the film, you co-wrote the song “Embers,” which appears in the film multiple times.

ZC: I didn’t know that.

ABM: Is that going to segway into me singing it?

Q: If you want, but what was that experience like, and how did the song relate to the story for you?

ABM: We used The Cars as sort of Peter’s music. I had grown up on that band. Also, I noticed that men tend to pick a band or an artist that they love and then really stick to that. For her, we had a bunch of female singer/songwriter-type artists, but we wanted a song that was hers. I was lucky enough that Sid [Khosla], who did the composing, and Alan, who works with him, invited me in to write a song with them. It was really fun, and we spent hours on the phone. I told them stories about why I had written the movie and some of the experiences that had led me to write it and what my inspirations were. We talked a lot. Then we came up with this idea of embers, that it’s a relationship that is not in flames at the moment. But the flames were still there — they just needed to be stoked. So, it was really fun. Then we found this young group on TikTok, a young group of artists from the Berklee School of Music. They sing a cappella a lot. We did the arrangement with them. It came out to be a pretty cool song that sort of represents Debbie’s hope for re-igniting. I wanted to say, Reese has three men who are interested in her in this movie [laughs]. One day, Reese was like, “Why do they all like me? They all really like me [laughs]. “They really like Debbie.”

RW: Because it’s a movie [laughs].

ABM: [It] was important… I wanted to show, when you’re falling in love and you’re not 21, that maybe she has more of a romantic history, there’s other people in her life. Sometimes in romantic comedies, the female lead is incredibly chaste to a point which seems unrealistic. So that was fun to give her a number of different love interests to play off of.

Q: Sometimes we don’t dare to take that step that could change our lives completely, but we see that happen in the movie. For Aline and the rest of the cast, is that the message you’re hoping audiences will get from the film — to take that leap of faith?

WK: I think you have to take the risk. You have to accept what the outcome of that risk is. It’s really about taking that risk.

ABM: We’re all going to end up working for Wesley. I told him that at the end. I’m submitting my resume for him, and his mom has it on hold for later in my career when I report to Wesley.

Check out more of Nobuhiro’s article.

Here’s the trailer of the film.

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