Wednesday, March 21, 2012

'Trouble' in mind: Q-and-A with director Michael Knowles

"The Trouble With Bliss" opens Friday at the Village East Cinemas on Second Avenue at East 12th Street. The movie is based on the novel "East Fifth Bliss" by former East Village resident Douglas Light, who lived at 343 E. Fifth St. for several years.

"Dexter"/"Six Feet Under" star Michael C. Hall plays the title character in this darkly comic tale about 35-year-old Morris Bliss who's stuck in a state of inertia.

[Michael C. Hall]

Morris longs to travel, but he never leaves the East Village. He doesn't have a job and he lives with his widowed father (Peter Fonda). For good measure, he starts a relationship with the 18-year-old daughter (Brie Larson) of his former classmate (Brad William Henke) and tries to avoid his over-eager neighbor (Lucy Liu). Anyway, trouble.

Director Michael Knowles and his cast and crew filmed around the neighborhood during the spring of 2010. (We covered some of this here and here.)

[Hall with Michael Knowles]

Knowles answered a few questions for us via Facebook ...

Why was the novel "East Fifth Bliss" something that you wanted to adapt into a movie?

There were a a number of reasons I wanted to adapt "East Fifth Bliss" into a movie. The first was that I laughed a lot while I was reading it so I thought it would be fun to make into a movie and share with as wide of an audience as possible. Second, I loved the overall message, which to me was basically "live your life. Stop putting things off and do what you say you're gonna do." This is a story and a message that, if told well, can really resonate with most people.

I also felt that we could make a great movie from the novel because of how unique the characters, humor, tone and world Doug had created were.

Morris is a bit of a sad sack, yet you find yourself rooting for him. How did you strike a balance to make a character that moviegoers will ultimately find likable?

Naaaaaaa. Morris is.... Okay, yeah, you're right, he is a bit of a sad sack but he never complains about his life or feels sorry for himself. On some level, Morris is living a life of Bliss. He, for some reason, has accepted his life as it is and it isn't until things start happening to him that he realizes that he as been a bit rudderless for the past 20 years or so. I think that since Morris doesn't feel sorry for himself it makes it easy to like him ... and he is on the receiving end of a lot of jokes in the novel as well as the movie.

How did you find the experience filming in the East Village?

I loved filming in the East Village. Before I moved to Los Angeles 4 1/2 years ago, I lived in New York for about 13 years and 11 of those years in the East Village. So for me it was perfect to come back and film in a neighborhood I knew very well.

Any memorable moments from the shoot?

There was one night that we were filming in front of the Blue & Gold Tavern on East Seventh Street and we knew it was supposed to rain. So we had to get the scene shot as quickly as possible. As soon as we started rolling, firetrucks came around the corner with the horns and sirens blaring —and it started to pour. We cut and I remember standing under this tent we had set up and watching three firetrucks come to a stop right where we were filming.

Turns out a neighbor had called the fire department on some neighbors who were barbequing on the street nearby. The whole scene was funny since it was so far out of our control. Ultimately, after a handful of starts and stops we did manage to get the scene shot. The whole cast was a bit punchy from being up all night. It was magical.


Also, folks from the movie will give a few EV Grieve readers a free set of tickets for any screening of "The Trouble With Bliss." We've never done this kind of thing before, so ... the first few people to send EV Grieve an email this morning can get the tix. Just need your name. We'll pass on your name and email to the publicist who will make it all official from there. Well, wasn't sure what to expect with this. But several people quickly sent along an email for tickets...more than the allotment. Thanks for the interest!

Previously on EV Grieve:
About the building that inspired the novel "East Fifth Bliss"

Q-and-A with 'East Fifth Bliss' author Douglas Light

[Photos Courtesy 7A Productions]


abrod said...

I remember these guys shooting - they made me stand in the pouring rain for five minutes as I was trying to run home to get my coat one night, outside some restaurant on 2nd Ave, even though there was no shooting or anything going on outside. Guy mumbled something about Lucy Liu when I asked him why he was holding us up. I'm always ready for the worst when I see the trailers roll up but this one stood out.

LvV said...

Yeah ... that schlub looks exactly like the kind of guy that cute 18-year-old girls always go for!

*massive eye roll*

Anonymous said...

LvV, you'd be surprised at the kind of things cute 18 year old girls will go for

Anonymous said...

Why such a long piece on this nonsense? Sure, I see the connection between the movie and the neighborhood but there's no need or good reason for us to read about this.

The story sounds like typical junk fare Hollywood wants us to fall for.

You sleeping with his publicist, Grieve?

LvV said...

Anon 10:47, you say that like I wasn't a cute 18-year-old girl myself at one point. And sure, I went for unpleasant things on occasion ... but I chalk that up to my massive depression and substance abuse issues at the time.

This film sounds like another pathetic male fantasy. I see no need to support it just because it was filmed in the hood.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for covering this. Sounds like an interesting film. LOVE Michael C. Hall - wonderful actor. And it'll be cool to see him step out of his Dexter role.

Anonymous said...

I think we can guess which commenter here is the 18-year old-esque target audience.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Douglas Light and the great actor Michael C. Hall. Definitely going to see this for his performance alone.

Anonymous said...

The NYT review is out and the last line is "... the kind of movie that gives a bad name to the concept of "quirky" in spite of Dexter's performance.

Anonymous said...

oh god is lucy liu in this? lucy liu = bad movie.