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Zoe Cassavetes tackles harsh reality for 40-plus actresses in 'Day Out of Days'

Eddie Izzard (left) and Alexia Landeau star in the indie-film
Eddie Izzard (left) and Alexia Landeau star in the indie-film "Day Out of Days"
Zoe Cassavetes

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Day Out of Days” is an indie film about a 40-year-old actress, played by Alexia Landeau, who struggles to keep her career alive in Hollywood because of her “old age.” 

The film is directed and co-written by Zoe Cassavetes, the daughter of the indie-filmmaking great John Cassavetes and legendary actress Gena Rowlands. Landeau, who herself is a 40-year-old actress, co-wrote the movie her own experiences to tell the story.

Zoe Cassavetes and Alexia Landeau talked with the Frame's John Horn about the inspiration for the film, the realities of the film business for a 40-year-old actress and why they went to crowd-funding to make this movie.

Interview Highlights

Alexia, you play Mia, an actress who is hitting 40 in the film. You're about 40 yourself. So what happens when an actor turns 40 — especially an actor who is a woman?

Alexia Landeau: I would like to say that it's even before 40 — like around 35. There definitely seems to be a shift in the kind of roles that you're suddenly seen for. The age width gets really big, it's like 35 to 45 in break downs. You're like, "There is a whole life between those 10 years!" Of course then you go into the mother roles or the roles that are not as sexual.

Did that happen to you? Did it change when you turned 35 in the evolution of the kinds of parts you were offered?

AL: It's funny that you ask, because you know in my career, so to speak, when I started I went to college. And then I was only in my mid-20s, because I went to acting school and then college. I wasn't one of those people who started auditioning at 15 or 16, and I looked very young. I was playing teenagers. I was going in, and I was so frustrated.

I was going in for 17-year-olds and I was 25. I remember going for Penny Marshall, and she was like, "I don't really believe you're 17." Damn right I'm not. I'm 24 years old. I remember being really frustrated, and my manager at the time kept being like, "Count your blessings." I kept saying, "Let me play moms! Let me play women!" So at that time it was frustrating, and then you have this incredible jump.

Then suddenly the worms turn, and then you're like, the wife or the mom. So that  has definitely happened to me and now — I have to be honest with you, I will often speak to my representatives and I'll be like, "Why am I going in for the mom of a 19-year-old? That's not even possible really." They'll say, "Well, it is possible. If you had children at..." And I'm like, "I know."

Zoe, it looks like you guys jointly made a decision not to shoot Alexia in a very glamorous way. There is not a lot of make up. She's wearing plain waredrobe. Is that something you discussed very early on that you thought that was critical to this film?

Zoe Cassavetes: Yes, it was critical, because this movie isn't about the glamour of Hollywood. It's about the reality of Hollywood for a certain kind of person. We often, when we were writing — and the joy of writing with your actress is, we would talk about things. And then even though things are true, we didn't want to cliche everything out.

Because you could've written the script and it would be super funny, but we really tried to stay as honest as we could with all of our performances. Even when we were writing we'd look at something and we'd think it was funny, and then the next day we'd be like, "Wait, this is almost too on the nose," and then we'd kind of flip it. That ended up working really well for us as a sort of method.

I want to talk about what this film has to say about the way an actor's life is on set. There is a scene where Mia wants to know, where her motivation is to scream at a scene in a horror movie. There is a lot going on in this scene. Not all of it nice. How did this scene come to be?

ZC: What I think really about Mia is interesting — as far as what I didn't notice when we were writing and what I notice now that the film has done — is that the world has changed. Hollywood has changed, and Mia has not changed. Mia still lives in a world where she thinks art actually matters. She stands up for it and she fights for it in a world where people are literally throwing cabbages with wigs on her.

It's not the reality anymore. So I think that even when she goes into a horror film or something, it feels degrading to her. As opposed to what the rest of the world feels like, "This is an incredible opportunity for you!" She has a fight inside her. But how much can she give when still maintaining her dignity?

AL: What I also thought is that, you know Mia — she's a complicated person. She's a little entitled. She's not particularly very likable. I mean, in a sense there are times when we felt like, "You should be lucky." From an outsider or bird's-eye point of view, you're getting this job, you're on a movie, you're the lead — be happy. She kind of thinks she's too good for this, and she's her own worst enemy in certain moments.

I remember really wanting that to show, because I think — as an actor, I have been told that a lot, and you pointed out that she's not glamorous. You know, for me, the conversation I've had with the people that represent me about the way you look, "Come on, go out and get a blow-out." You know, like, "They don't like the way you dress." Those are conversations that happen all the time. Mia struggles with that, and she doesn't give in to it. 

This movie was partially funded through crowd-sourcing. Was that a result of people not being willing to finance it? 

ZC: It was a really interesting process actually, because I wasn't looking for a studio. Actually, I might really be my father's daughter. I just wanted to make a movie where I wanted to make the decisions, and then I wanted to see how it came out, instead of somebody lording over me telling me what I should do, who wasn't actually making the movie. Crowd-funding was definitely part of it when we looked at it, because this movie I'm obviously not going to make with anyone but Alexia, which a lot of investors weren't really excited about.

But that's the whole point of the movie.

ZC: Exactly.

AL: I think Zoe felt — may I say? I think she wanted someone unburdened by any sort of public persona and any kind of history. Any other actor would come with that, and for the story to work, she needed a blank slate.

Did the people who said no because you wanted to cast Alexia realize the irony of what they were saying in the movie that you wanted to make?

ZC: No, no they didn't.

Did you recognize the irony?

ZC: Of course I did. Life is only irony in this town. But no, of course I did. But I think them saying no made me more resolved to get it done. I mean, don't tell me no. That's all I have to say.

AL: We had this thing happen too where we were crowd-funding and then — can I say what happened? I got pregnant.

ZC: Oh yeah, sure, yeah.

AL: And then we had this very short window — I was pregnant through the whole movie — to do the movie. I was pregnant through the whole movie. There was a moment where Zoe could have walked. I mean, her actress is just like, "We have four months to do this, and then I'm going to be showing." And Zoe just sort of stuck by me and said, "This movie can only happen with you in this part." It was just, very few people get to do that anymore, because it's just too hard to get money.

Meaning, Zoe, that people would say, basically, "I'm interested in making this movie if somebody like Jennifer Lawrence can play the over-the-hill actress."

ZC: No. It wasn't even so much as that I think that everyone has ideas about how casting should go. Everybody wants to be helpful, you know? I'm not looking at anyone like they were trying to hurt me. They were trying to help me. But I had already made up my mind about what I wanted to do, and I wasn't going to change my mind.

People were literally talking to me sweating. So we cut down our budget and we did what we had to do to make the movie in the way that we wanted to make it, and we did. It was a pretty special experience all the way around. I mean, the fact that Alexia called and was like, "I'm pregnant, and like not just one month."

I thank Dominic, her son, for lighting a fire under our ass, because now the movie is done, it's out, and it's a pretty special thing to even be able to make any movie these days, I think. So everybody jumped on the fast-moving crazy train and we got it done.

"Day Out of Days" is currently screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival. 

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