The Big Sick co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon didn’t set out to tell the story of their real-life relationship on film. “I actually was writing it on my own,” Nanjiani said at Deadline’s The Contenders event in Los Angeles.
After learning from Nanjiani how Gordon was in a coma during the beginning of their relationship, Judd Apatow suggested it would make a good topic for a film. “I wrote the first draft because he was just like, ‘Write everything down as you remember it.’ I showed it to Emily and she’s didn’t have notes, she had a whole new perspective on it.”
Gordon said the film is, at least in part, accurate to reality. “That is exactly how we met,” she said of a scene where the pair first connect in a bar. However, “we really wanted to approach it as a movie rather than a documentary of our lives. We started writing based on the idea of a guy who uses humor to deflect and isn’t good at communicating.”
Will they work together again? Probably, Nanjiani said. “I thought we really worked pretty well together, and honestly, writing together was really wonderful for our relationship. It made us closer, and it’s the best because I’m such a fan of her as well.”
Other offerings from Amazon Studios discussed on the panel were Wonderstruck and Last Flag Flying.
Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck is the tale of two deaf teenagers growing up 50 years apart in New York City, trying to discover the truth of their family lives. It was adapted by Brian Selznick from his own novel. “It’s a children’s story,” cinematographer Ed Lachman said. “It’s about finding their place in the world and how they use their imagination to survive.”
Of working with Haynes, Lachman said: “He challenges me, and the best director will challenge you. I always feel like the cinematographer is another actor; I’m giving a performance.” The relationship is a collaborative one, he added. “We don’t always agree, but somewhere we come in the middle, and it’s better than either of us thought. I’ve been lucky to work with him.”
Richard Linklater, director and co-writer Last Flag Flying, said he’d wanted to make this film for 12 years, which he joked was easier than actually making a movie for 12 years, as he did with Boyhood. Based on Darryl Ponicsan’s novel, Last Flag Flying is something of a road-trip movie and stars Steve Carell as a retired Army vet collecting his son’s body after he’s been killed in action. The character calls on his old military buddies, played by Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston, to accompany him on the journey. “They’re offering him that support group he needs in that moment,” Linklater said.
Although Ponicsan’s book had been a sequel to his earlier work The Last Detail, which was adapted into a 1973 film starring Jack Nicholson, Linklater’s Last Flag Flying is not exactly a sequel to the Nicholson movie. “There’s some DNA there,” he said, “but I don’t think you can be a sequel if you don’t have the same cast. We’re a sequel the same way Silence of the Lambs is.”
The military families Linklater has shown the movie to have responded favorably, he said. “They kind of love it. They said, ‘We all have that kind of love-hate relationship with [the military].’ I was pleasantly surprised.”