This piece is part of The Moviegoer's ongoing coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival.
On October 7th, I attended the press screening of 20th Century Women at the New York Film Festival. Following the screening, Director Mike Mills and cast members Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup, and Lucas Jade Zumann took part in a press conference. Here are five highlights from this event!
1. Mike Mill was interested in using the time frame of the 1970s as the "fifth Beatle" of the film Director Mike Mills wished to tap into the emotional context of the 1970s, which was dominated by waves of punk rock and feminism. The backdrop of the time period allows the film to flourish as a unique coming-of-age film rather than a cliché and familiar piece.
2. Bening's character of Dorothea was based on Mills's mother Mills's mother was born shortly before The Great Depression, and her experience as a child growing up in this era shaped the thoughts, values, and actions of Dorothea in the film. As a character in the film states, during this time, the entire community often helped take care of each other's children. This experience served as the impetus for Dorothea to enlist the help of two women to help her son become a man.
3. As an assignment prior to filming, Lucas Jade Zumann was sent a "70s CNN documentary" and a book entitled "The Cultural Definition of Punk" Lucas Jade Zumann plays the role of Jamie, Dorothea's adolescent son who is learning how to be a man amid familial tensions and societal challenges. According to Zumann, books and documentaries he was assigned to familiarize himself with allowed him to not only understand teenage angst, but also the "the more self-destructive side of punk."
4. Billy Crudup had a much easier, simpler pre-production process Billy Crudup's character, who lives as a tenant in Dorothea's house, acts as a major male figure in Jamie's life. After hearing his co-stars discuss the numerous assignments and readings they perused prior to filming, Crudup joked that his preparations consisted of "mostly growing facial hair." He attributed this lax process to growing up as a pre-pubescent male in the very time period the film was set in.
5. Elle Fanning was great during rehearsals at the "2 Lies and a Truth" game As she was playing a character who had various layers and showed different sides of her personality to different people, Elle Fanning was "really good" at this game, according to director Mike Mills.