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God’s Pocket is directed by actor/director John Slattery, and stars his Mad Men co-star Christina Hendricks alongside the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film is set in a blue collar neighbourhood and centers around a couple coming to terms with the loss of their son who comes to grief under (very) suspicious circumstances.

Bronwen Winter Phoenix recently sat down with Slattery and Hendricks as part of a roundtable promotion for the film, and below is the result:

When was the film shot?

John Slattery: We shot it in the summer, June and July of last year.

How did Philip Seymour Hoffman look at that time?

John: He looked like Mickey Scarpato, who is the center of the movie. He looked fantastic.

So you had no idea…?

John: He came in and did his job, and went home.

What was the exciting part, for you, of directing him? He’s such a fierce actor, so for you to get a chance to help him find that character and shape that character… 

John: Yeah, that was the fun part. Putting it together, and realizing that he liked it enough to want to do it in the first place…the fact that I had the good fortune to have the opportunity, and all that involved, which is, as you said, putting it together, deciding, “What should I look like? Why does this guy stay in this community where people are telling him he’s an outsider? And what’s this relationship like with my wife? And all the questions that you hope someone will ask you in trying to put a character together that you’re going to then shoot. I mean, I couldn’t feel luckier. And the finished product, I think, shows the complication emotionally and the vulnerability, and everything that he has. All that emotional and intellectual intelligence, combined with the technical wherewithal that that person, that actor had, is on that screen. So I feel very lucky.

(We’re joined by Christina while John is talking)

Christina, your look in the movie is such a different physical composure then what we’re used to on TV. Was it tough or easy to get into the mold of it?

Christina Hendricks: You know it’s funny, when I read the script, I had a picture of Jeanie in my head-

John: You sent me a picture of what the picture in your head was.

Christina: Yeah I did. I sent you a picture of sort of, the idea of hair and make up feeling like the time period, and John was like,”That’s kind of what I was thinking too.” So we saw eye to eye on that. And John liked the idea that it was gonna be a very different look from the project that we’d been working on together, since it was going to be another project together, it’s kind of nice to mix it up.

The costuming was very specific and kind of bizarre. Like, I’m in a weird terry cloth dress for three quarters of the movie that we kind of fell in love with and thought it was just strange enough and the kind of thing that you just throw on in your house. And yeah, I thought it was great, I thought those things represented the character very well.

At this stage, both of your professional careers are very much intertwined. Do you remember the first time that you met each other?

Christina: We were wondering earlier, I mean, we must have met at the table read…we don’t remember specifically. Cause I said, “Oh, remember, we all went out for dinner afterwards?” And he said, “I don’t think I was at that dinner?”

John: I don’t think I was. I was doing a play, I think I was doing Rabbit Hole on Broadway, and I don’t think I went to the read-through.

Christina: Maybe that.

John: I think it closed like a couple of days before…

Christina: I remember our first day of work together.

John: Yeah, I remember the first day we worked together, it was day one. We were in an office, and you were making that speech to a wall, you did a long walk through the bull pen, and then you did that thing with Peggy with, you know, go home, take a paper bag, put it over your head, cut the eyes out, now look at yourself objectively. And then Jon Hamm and I walk in at the end of it, and I remembered, you know, a lot of the day was spent on that scene.

Christina: I mean, it’s interesting, because it sort of established that day, a relationship between Roger and Joan, there’s a line where they walk in as I’m talking to Peggy and I say, “Good morning Mr. Draper,” and then I think I said, “Roger…”. And I did it very flirtatiously, not knowing any future story line, but Matt (Weiner, Mad Men) said at the end of the day, “Oh, if this show goes, Joan and Roger will have a little something,” and I was like, “Yeah!”

And you guys have worked together, not just as actors, but as actor and director.

John: Yeah.

Did you learn anything kind of fun or surprising in this project that you hadn’t picked up on from each other before?

John: You know, I don’t know…I’ll tell you one thing that I remember, was that Christina was claiming to have been nervous during some scene, and I thought, “You know, it doesn’t show at all.” And then Phil had sent me a text saying that he had always been an admirer of John Turturro, he did a week on the movie, and then when it was finished, Phil was remarking about how nervous he was working with John. And Richard Jenkins was telling me how nervous he was at the anticipation of working with Christina, who he was such a fan of. And none of these people showed it at all! You would never know that she had gotten through the whole day and she goes, “God I thought I was gonna have a heart attack.”

Christina: I thought I was going to throw up!

John: And not even like, you know, I’m a pretty good, I know what to look for, and you couldn’t tell at all. And I thought, “Well, that’s acting I suppose.”

Christina: Survival instincts is what that is!

John: Controlling your nerves, your know, you’re pretending to be someone else, you’re pretending to be someone who’s not nervous. And I was, not surprised by it, but sort of astonished by it.

I have to commend you for giving your mother-in-law (joyce van patten) such a great, juicy, little role.

John: How ’bout that?

Was that the first time that you had worked together?

John: Uhhh. Yeah!

Was it weird to direct your mother-in-law in such a crazy scene?

John: (Laughs) No, it wasn’t. She was, you know, she knew it – she knew what was called upon.

Christina: She was amazing.

John: There was one technical scene, which, I don’t want to give away what happens in the scene, but there was a lot of technical, there were a lot of things that could’ve gone wrong. And she’s so ridiculously professional, she would mark it out, mark it out, talk about it, mark it out…and then in one take we got this really difficult set up. But in general, I mean,she’s been acting a long time, and it shows.

She fell in with John and Phil in those scenes, and immediately had this, what looked like, lifelong history with John Turturro, and Phil, and how they were always hugging and kissing each other in the scene. So it made sense for the film that he (Mickey) gravitates towards those two people, who are the two people who look like they care about him genuinely the most. But yeah, that’s Joyce. She just jumped in and did her thing.

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Christina, what was your experience like working with Philip? Obviously an actor’s actor, in those scenes with him, what was your big takeway?

Christina: Just a real warmth, and a real sense of humor, on and off camera. A very giving actor, you know, obviously someone who’s listening, and watching in such a way that you just drop into the scene and you just are immediately…a very similar feeling that I have when I work with John on Mad Men. As an actor, you’re constantly striving to find these real moments, these moments where you actually feel like that just happened to you, and that’s the best you can feel, that’s the best you can do, and I always feel like that when I work with John. And I felt like that with Phil, and Richard Jenkins. Just about as much as you could ask for. It was a gift to work with Phil, and I was probably watching his every move, trying to take away some of his magic. Just being on set with him and watching him work, hopefully, I think you just sort of gain knowledge from him.

The end of ‘Mad Men,’ – how do you feel about it, and how do the producers ensure that nobody leaks secrets of it before anyone’s ready?

Christina: They ensure secrecy by extreme threats. (Laughter)

John: Kidnap one of your kids. (Laughter)

Christina: You know, I think it’s a testament to how much the people involved in the show respect the show. People have come and gone over seasons, there’s some people who’ve moved on to other jobs, different things, and they even kept the secrets all along. You could say, “I’m not on the show anymore so it doesn’t matter to me,” but people really do respect it, and they know that that’s exciting for the audience. So for us involved in it, it’s sort of an easy thing for us to do. But I’ve been very impressed with people who have come and gone throughout the years, that they’ve been so respectful.

And how do I feel about it ending? I’m overwhelmed with all sorts of feelings about it. The most is sadness, and pride. I’ll walk away from this feeling very very proud, and very possessive of Joan and that experience. But I’ll hold it very close to me.

God’s Pocket is out in theaters NOW.