Interview with “Trouble with the Curve” Director Robert Lorenz
The Academy Award nominated producer (“Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Mystic River”), Robert Lorenz is directing with his long time producing partner, Clint Eastwood in “Trouble with the Curve,” which happens to be Lorenz’s directorial debut. The film also stars Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman. I had the honor to sit in a round table discussion with Lorenz to discuss the film that will be released nationwide on Friday, Sept. 21st. Trouble with the Curve website
How’s it going?
It’s going well; it’s fun to be back in Atlanta where we stayed in this hotel for three and a half months living here. It brought back a lot of emotions. When I got in bed it brought back a lot of thoughts about shooting for the first time here; so it’s fun to be back.
It’s funny when you bring up emotions because it’s your directorial debut; that’s got to be pretty emotional for you since you had to step up from producer to director?
Yeah, it was. It felt good though. That’s what I got into the business to do was to direct. I started Assistant Directing then eventually producing all with the idea that I could by being around a director that I could gain knowledge and experience. Clint’s a great teacher in that regard. I was ready to do it. It just took a little while to get it going because I having been doing projects one right after another. But I was ready to do it and it felt good; I liked it a lot.
With you being new up at the bat with first time directing, having Randy Brown write his first screenplay and having Joe Massingill in his first major film role playing Bo; did you see all that as a risk or a welcome challenge?
A welcome challenge for sure. The screenplay worked on paper, so there really wasn’t any concern there. When it starting attracting the people that it did, like Clint, we knew we were on the right track. I was so thrilled that Amy was so interested in that part, so I knew we had something good going in. With the rest of the characters, such as Joe with him being a new actor but he did such a great reading in the casting session, so I knew he could handle that role well.
What’s funny is he had never seen himself on film before and I just showed him the movie last week. He was just a jittery mess watching it, but I think he was pleased when he walked out of the theatre. Clint has taught me that you have to approach things with confidence. When you are directing people, they are looking to you for leadership. If you have self-doubt people will sense it. So you just have to go in like you know what you are doing and just try and plug away.
How did you convince Clint to do the project because it had been rumored that he was getting out of the acting business after he did “Gran Torino?”
Well I think it had more to do with the fact that there aren’t that many roles that come along for an 82 year old guy that are new and different from what he’s done before. Clint really enjoys directing, so that’s where his focus is. I don’t think he expected that many more roles for him to do, so that’s why he indicated that he might never act again. But this particular role did appeal to him. He liked the story.
I worked with Randy and Michelle, the Producers, to try and craft it to appeal to him; while also at the same time trying to distinguish it from some of the roles he’s done. Ultimately, he’s Clint and that’s what people come to see some of the characteristics and mannerisms that he brings to a role. So we couldn’t deviate too far from what people expect. I was thrilled that he decided to do it. I never expected him to be in the first movie or any movie that I directed.
Just because of that long-time relationship?
Just because I thought I don’t have any track record as a Director, so why would an experienced Director want to take a chance with me. But, obviously he knows me well enough and he was on board as a Producer. So if things had gone bad he could have stepped in and taken command. But I knew that it was a very motivating thing that I knew Clint’s instincts would be to take over if things weren’t going well, so I was as prepared as I possibly could be. I had my shot list prepared every day and I saw in my head how everything was going to look and how it was going to be edited. So I just charged in and did before he could have a moment to sort of know what happened.
With the casting of Johnny, was it always where you saw Justin Timberlake playing the part or did his performance in “The Social Network” help in your decision?
All that played into it because that was a tough role to cast. I had some different ideas on who could do than Clint did. I was the one that cast everyone, but I wanted Clint to feel comfortable with everybody that I chose. Justin was a name that didn’t occur to me at first, but when his name came up it all fit. It just made sense. The role called for somebody that is really charming and likable and that’s what Justin is.
I didn’t want the movie to get too Baseball-y, to where it would turn off the people that don’t care about Baseball. But I also didn’t want it to get too romantic that it would turn off the guys. So I was trying to find the right balance and Justin has such a broad appeal. The stuff that he has done on “Saturday Night Live” is so funny and Clint has always loved him on that show. He seemed like such a natural fit and he brought in such great energy and humor that it worked.
How did you enjoy shooting in Atlanta and how is it different from shooting on a sound stage in Los Angeles?
Well, it’s a little hotter but for the most part I loved it. The people were very refreshing and they had enthusiasm for film making. Which you don’t find much anymore in LA, when a film truck rolls into their neighborhood and all do is they roll their eyes and groan. But here in Atlanta people still treat it as something new and exciting, which is great. I found the crews here were really great, plus the availability of equipment was good. The talent pool for acting was particularly good, which surprised me. I expected to bring more actors from LA and New York, but I didn’t need to.
I loved the change of scenery because Atlanta has everything. For this particular story, it had the urban setting with the sophisticated look we needed for Mickey, Amy Adams character. And then not too far away we could go and get the ball fields that fit the rural part of the country.
Tell us about the cooperation of the Atlanta Braves Organization.
They were terrific. John Shuerholz, the President of the Braves, had some concerns at first because some of the characters in the film are a little rough around the edges. I told him we had nothing but respect for the Braves and for baseball. That’s what I wanted to convey in the movie; which is what we tried to do. That’s all he needed to hear and from that point on it was carte blanche. We got to shoot in their offices, in the stadium and he hooked us up with his scouts who worked with us on the set counseling us. In fact, the scenes at the ballparks with Clint where there are a bunch of guys with radar guns, they are the real deal, actually scouts from the Braves, Red Sox, Yankees and Twins. They were helpful pointing out things we were doing wrong and keeping everything on track.
You mentioned how great it was in your first movie to have Clint and Amy but when you look behind that there’s such an all-star cast with John Goodman and Matt Lillard; did you ever think you would ever get Clint Eastwood and John Goodman in the same film?
Well, that’s the beauty of having Clint in your movie, he attracts everybody. Never did I expect to get Amy Adams and John Goodman in my first movie as a director. But, Clint basically vouched for me. That’s what his presence does. John was probably the first person in the casting that we agreed on; we’re both big fans of his.
That particular role was kind of tricky to cast because it’s a really important one but it’s not all that flashy. The wrong person in the role could have just melted in the background and made for some boring scenes. But John has such great charm and presence; plus he’s so likable that we were thrilled to get him for the part and he really is great in the part.
He really is a second father figure to Amy Adams character, which he carried off really well.
Exactly! He plays a crucial role there in the film where he brings Clint and Amy’s characters together. We tried to highlight that in the last scene of the film where he shares some eye contact and a wink with Amy’s character to remind us that he’s the guy that made it all happen.
What is your baseball knowledge on a scale of 1 to 10?
I love baseball, so it’s probably a seven. I wanted the Baseball scenes to be authentic because one flaw in a movie can hurt the whole thing. I didn’t want the baseball scenes to seem silly, otherwise none of it was going to work. It was my job to make sure everything seem believable.
Some of the cast was chosen specifically because they played ball well, not because they had acting experience. Then other people were chosen for their acting talent. Amy didn’t have a lot of baseball experience, but I knew she could pull it off because she puts her whole self into the experience and she is athletic. She worked with coaches to make sure that she could hold a bat and throw correctly.
I loved the scene where Clint throws a baseball to her and she connected pretty well with the ball. It wasn’t a bad swing.
Yeah, she pulled it off.
I also love her reaction when she hits the ball with running the bases and the sheer joy that she shows in that scene is really fun.
Yeah, that cartwheel is all her and I didn’t know she could do that. She asked me, do you want this in the scene and I said yeah, that’s great. She has a background in gymnastics, so she’s very athletic.
Now that your first film is about to be out, do you think you want to stick with Eastwood with the next project you want to do? Do you want to continue directing?
I want to continue directing, but I’ll also produce. I’m right now attached to a project that Clint has been set to direct for a while. Right now, we’re just trying to get it cast and organized. If and when that goes I’ll be there, but at the same time I’ll be developing projects for myself to direct.
I know you have done a lot of assistant directing, but when you’re the director you are calling all the shots. What surprised you most about being a director for the first time?
You know the interesting thing is the last several years I have been producing and in that role, especially, your job is to bring all the pieces together so that the director has what he needs for the day. There is a lot of stress that goes into that because you have to guess what they need; hoping that you got it all figured out and that you haven’t forgotten anything.
As a producer, it’s a lot of anxiety on the set, hoping that the director has got everything. In this case, since I was the director, I knew what I needed so the anxiety was all gone. I had already thought of everything that I intended to do, so it was an exhilarating experience to just go out and put it on film.
Thank you so much and good luck with your film.
Check out “Trouble with the Curve,” directed by Robert Lorenz and starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman which opens nationwide on Friday, Sept. 21st.