Things start falling out of the sky in the SXSW comedic drama Linoleum. Really big things.
First, it’s a falling car that nearly flattens Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a children’s science show. Then an old Russian satellite crashes into the family home, and Gaffigan’s character gets the urge to repurpose it into a rocket.
“Science was always kind of like a part of my upbringing, which is where the ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ stuff comes in,” writer-director Colin West explained as he and his cast stopped by Deadline’s SXSW Studio. “That’s sort of like the sci-fi sprinkle of the story. But really, when it comes down to it, it’s this story about a husband and wife and this couple throughout really their entire lives, told in a pretty unique way structurally.”
West said he, Gaffigan and co-star Rhea Seehorn, who plays wife Erin Edwin, discussed how the story is “not really set in a time, but it’s set in a tone.” A challenge for the actors was to understand the overall framework of magical realism, but deliver a grounded feel in each scene.
“Your strategy for playing it was to just play the reality of that moment,” Gaffigan said. “That was really exciting because every day we’d work on it and we’d kind of discover a different piece and a different layer.”
“Philosophically and artistically,” Seehorn added, “the three of us would have conversations about how the jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together, which was really stimulating conversation and really interesting. But then when you’re performing it… you had to have an eye to what the cog in the wheel is [for] the scene so that you could understand the tone that you’re playing with. But Jim’s right, then you had to just let go and play the relationship.”
There’s an elliptical quality to how the movie unfolds, appropriate given what Einstein once observed: “People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
“It’s not really a typical thread of plot,” West said of his film, which is playing in dramatic competition at SXSW. “It kind of bounces around in this way that I think was really kind of like an adventure, a discovery process for everyone. We were like, ‘Oh, but this relates to that.’ I mean, I was discovering s**t and I wrote it.”
Watch the conversation in the video above.
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