The Lovers is a romantic comedy about a long-married couple, each of whom is having an affair. When something re-ignites their passion for each other, they begin to cheat on their lovers. And then the fun really begins. (Read the review.)
I recently had the chance to sit down with Azazel Jacobs, who wrote and directed The Lovers, and actor, Tracy Letts, who stars with Debra Winger, to talk about the film.
Azalea, how did you hit upon the premise of this film, can romance survive love? And why focus on a middle-aged couple?
One of the things that happened to me when I got into my 40’s was that a bunch of couples I knew were no longer couples. It was hard for me to think about their love not existing any more. In some ways, that was the jumping off point for me. And the question became whether or not they’d get back together again. The possibility that we can get so far away from each other, but that we can meet up again fascinated me. I also liked the idea that at one point we’re with someone and have an impression of them, but even when we walk away from that relationship, we still carry them with us.
Tracy Letts and Debra Winger
Finding the perfect combination of people for the lead roles was critical. I know you had been in touch with Debra Winger for years and had, in fact, written the role of Mary just for her. But how did you go about finding the perfect husband? How did Tracy Letts fit the bill?
I was looking for someone on Debra’s level. My long-time casting director suggested Tracy. I first became aware of him through the film, Killer Joe (the 2011 crime thriller whose screenplay Letts had written). I also admired his work in The Big Short. I said, yeh, wow, that’s him. I felt like I could see him in this role, too.
Tracy, this role is a departure from your usual stage work with its serious characters. What appealed to you about it?
It’s about middle aged people who not only love; but there’s also sexuality. Normally, when we see people in middle age in films, they’re settled, they’re done – as if life stops at a certain age. But it’s not true for me or for anyone I know. We keep changing and working, trying to improve ourselves and failing – we keep failing. Showing middle-aged people with that kind of complexity was very compelling to me.
Azazel, is this a film about affairs or about relationships?
Definitely relationships. That’s something that I really hope comes across. I understand the issues and the hurt and pain. I am interested in how we are ultimately similar and how we connect to one another; and how we are trying to connect to each other and how we can get apart from each other. I think of it as much more of a love story; and I see the connection between all of these characters. And I see the love despite the anger and the real damage.
Tracy, what do you want people to walk away with from this film?
I hope they walk away seeing something about these people that they can apply to their own lives. It takes a lot of energy to create and maintain a relationship and how one manifests that energy is very individual. But you don’t settle into that. There has to be something that is activated with energy, interest, and curiosity. How do you keep your curiosity about someone else? I hope that people re-invigorate that energy with their partner. And I think we’ve already seen some of that in the responses to the film. I hope people relate the film to their own lives. I guess that’s a hifalutin goal, but that’s my goal.
Photo credit: Robb Rosenfeld courtesy of A24
Top: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Tyler Ross and Jessica Sula