The oft-repeated Hollywood mantra "But what I really want to do is direct..." just wasn't true in Kyra Sedgwick's case. And then one day it was.
Sedgwick, of course, has won or been nominated for just about every major acting award imaginable over the course of the fruitful film and television career she began more than three decades ago, when she was just a teenager, most notably for her leading role in "The Closer." And for the lion's share of that time, Sedgwick was perfectly content to act and occasionally produce -- indeed, a decade ago she optioned the rights to author Sara Zarr's YA novel "Story of a Girl," intent on finding the right filmmaker to help her bring the tale of a teenager struggling with social and familial backlash following the exposure of a sexual encounter.
During Sedgwick's oft-stymied 10-year effort to kick down the right doors to get her dream project made, in which her famous husband Kevin Bacon frequently floated the notion that she step behind the camera herself, she resisted the idea again and again -- until a fateful meeting with Lifetime in which she was surprised to hear herself offering to direct.
Following her husband's suggestion proved opportune for both Sedgwick and her inner circle: the resulting telepic "Story of a Girl," premiering July 23, features Bacon, their daughter and the family's latest emerging talent Sosie Bacon, and Sedgwick's "The Closer" co-star Jon Tenney in choice roles as well as a star-making turn by newcomer Ryann Shane -- and, as Sedgwick tells Moviefone, the discovery that she, in fact, really does want to direct.
Moviefone: What were the elements of this story that really drew you in and made you say, "I want to step behind the camera and try to make this"?
Kyra Sedgwick: It was a book I bought in 2007, so I've been actually trying to get it made for 10 years, as a producer. We tried to get it made as a feature. We hired Laurie Collyer to direct and to write the screenplay. We got really close a bunch of times. So when the opportunity came to make it, and to make it now, it really is something that I was living with for so many years.
And the idea of directing: I always said I'd never direct. I literally said that, in print, for many, many decades. I really had been encouraged by people that know me and love me, especially Kevin: "You've got to direct, you've got to direct." And literally, New Year's Eve before last, I guess it was, he was like, "This is the year you're going to direct." I was like, "Not happening."
Then, when the opportunity came, I was in a meeting with Tanya Lopez over at Lifetime. She said, do you have a passion project? I was like, "Yes, 'Story of a Girl,' and I want to direct it." I literally turned around like, "Who the hell said that?" It was really like, I hadn't gone in there with that intention, honestly. I was trying to give them "Story of a Girl" and trying to get them to make it as an independent feature. I never thought I would actually say, "And I want to direct it." Once it actually came out, I was like, "Yeah, absolutely. I really do want to."
This is something that I've been nurturing for 10 years. And of course, once I actually got in the driver's seat of directing, I had been preparing for directing my entire career, from the time I was 12 and did my first play. I'm a storyteller. That's what I do as an actor: you're a storyteller, right? But you're telling your piece of the story. You're always keeping in mind the whole piece of the story. I think some actors don't -- I always did. I always kept in mind the piece, the script, the movie, the film, the theater, the play, what was the piece trying to say? Then I was a cog in that wheel of like, "What can I say as the character to support what the play or the movie is trying to say?"
But for me, this is just a bigger job of storytelling. You're making the choice to tell the story about every single piece of the story, and you're also telling it visually, and you're telling it auditorily, and you're telling it editorially, and you're focusing the audience on what you want them to see. I realized that I had been preparing for it my whole life without even knowing it.
What was the great discovery for you in directing? Was there a surprise that you found yourself saying "Oh, I'm good at this. This is something I really have a great aptitude for"?
Yes. I knew I would be great with the actors -- or I figured I'd be good with the actors. I love actors with a passion. I always felt like, whenever I was on "The Closer," I would be sometimes in the scene with someone and I would quietly take the director aside and go, "Why don't you tell them this? How about you ask them to try this?" I would never say it to an actor, being another actor, because that's just a shitty thing to do. It's like, it has to be completely nipped in the bud if it ever happens on any set that I'm a part of.
I figured I'd be good with the actors, but I had no idea I was going to have a visual style, or have a visual choice, honestly. What I realized as we were in prep, and then when we started to shoot was, I actually am a visual storyteller. I didn't think I would be. So that was a huge surprise for me -- and what a relief, because that was the thing that was sort of keeping me from directing all these years.
I just figured like, you had to have a real sense of things that you want to deposit throughout the film that were visually familiar, or whatever. What I realized was that I actually had ideas about that. They were my ideas, not to say they were right or wrong, but I had definite opinions, and I had definite ideas about it. That was such a relief, because that was my biggest fear, that I was just going to be led around by the nose by my DP. He's amazing and was such an incredible partner in all this, and I did speak emotionally about how I wanted the scene to be, and he would have ideas about how to shoot it. But I would also have ideas, and I was surprised by that.
As a lover of actors, you must have been thrilled when you found Ryann Shane to be your anchorwoman for this. This young lady can do just about anything you ask of her, it seems.
Oh my God, I love that you said that, and I couldn't agree more. I could not agree more! I wish I could tell you that I dragged the performance out of her, but she walked in with it. She came in and auditioned, and she did those scenes exactly the way I had them in my head. Everything about her was Deanna to me, and I do think she can do anything.
I think she is absolutely extraordinary. I felt so great with her and safe with her, and she's also just a kind, good girl, you know what I mean? She's, like, a really good human and a good citizen. That's hard. It's hard to be the full package in that way. So I really admire her.
Tell me a little bit about the experience of having cast members that were close to you, like Kevin and Sosie, and your "Closer" buddy Jon Tenney -- working with them, and getting the performances that you got from them.
Actually, we can also add my son [Travis] in there who did the music, which was never planned, but a happy surprise, because he kind of just pitched me some ideas, and I fell in love with them. And I had no intention of actually hiring him, but then he just blew me away with his ability, because this is the first time he ever composed anything. It was incredible. It happened sort of slowly.
I always knew I wanted Kevin to play Michael, and he obliged. I knew that it would just be a special role for him, a different kind of a role. I find him very heroic. He's just such a hero in every way, in what he does for Deanna, but also who he is as a person, and how honest he is. He is the definition of "I made a mistake, but I'm not a mistake," kind of thing, which I think is one of the themes of the movie for me. So I'm thrilled to have him.
Because I had the film for 10 years, and because I had been working on the script for 10 years, we did a lot of readings. Sosie always played Deanna. She would do the readings for Deanna. Then when we actually got to making the film, I knew she was much too old, and a big star. So I figured I couldn't get her -- no, I'm kidding! But she wasn't right for the role. But then my friend who co-wrote the film and who produced it with me said, "What about Sosie for Stacey?" I thought, "Oh my God -- brilliant!" It's a perfect role for her, and she did an incredible job, and literally squeezed me in between "13 Reasons Why" and Alan Ball's new show on HBO. So I was very grateful.
And then Jon came on board, and I knew it would be a great part for him, too. Something very, very different. I knew that he was going to be at this perfect emotional place for it, because he literally had just dropped his only daughter off, at college right before he came to Vancouver to shoot the film.
I was able to get the actors together about two months before we started shooting, so everyone had time to really marinate on what it was like to be that family. It was great. I think it's challenging to work with your family, because you wouldn't want to mess up anything at home. But I think it's also incredibly comforting, because you know they're going to work incredibly hard for you, and Jon worked so hard for me, as did everybody. It was great. I was very blessed.
We know we're going to see you on our TV screen a lot this fall, when "Ten Days in the Valley" debuts, but do you have plans to get behind the camera again soon?
I am doing every single thing in my power to get behind the camera as soon as possible. Honestly, it was beyond my wildest dreams. I had the best time doing it. I loved it more than pretty much any creative experience I've ever had. So I can't wait.