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Whit Stillman: Having a Disco Ball

Maker of 'Metropolitan' and 'Barcelona' reenters the club milieu in 'Days,' a reflection of a singular era; chatty characters included.

May 28, 1998|KATHLEEN CRAUGHWELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A: I knew from "Barcelona" that the actresses we cast out of London were great at accents so I was hopeful. And she was so close to the part [of Charlotte] in "Cold Comfort Farm" and in [A&E's] "Emma," that I thought she could do the part. And she has a wonderful quality with language. She actually did a better East Coast college accent than some American actresses who tend to get Valley Girl-sounding when they try to do an accent.

Q: Now a minute ago you said that Kate's characters in "Cold Comfort Farm" is close to the Charlotte character. But Charlotte is a phony person and a very bad friend to Alice.

A: I thought the character in "Cold Comfort Farm" was like Charlotte without the nastiness. Sometimes funny goes with mean.

Q: Chris Eigeman, who has been in all your films, is very funny. Was he your discovery?

A: Yeah, I'd never worked with any of the actors [in "Metropolitan"] before. But the cast members of "Metropolitan" got the reputation that they had been pals of mine and they were really just playing themselves. But they were really just good actors playing the parts.

Q: Fans of "Metropolitan" will be excited to see Carolyn Farina make a cameo as Audrey Rouget [the Jane Austen-toting deb from "Metropolitan"] in "Last Days." [The Audrey character, now about 10 years older, makes an appearance as a successful editor with Farrar Strauss.] Taylor Nichols also makes a cameo but I wasn't sure whether he was playing the Charlie character from "Metropolitan" or the Ted character from "Barcelona."

A: Well, he's there twice. He's in one scene with Audrey as Charlie, and then he's in another as Ted from "Barcelona" with his girlfriend Betty.

Q: Are you looking forward to "54," the Miramax film on Studio 54? It seems that your film and "54" will inevitably become a revival house double bill.

A: Oh, yes. I was very high on the idea, in the sense that that film would cover the stuff we weren't covering. Therefore we get off the hook about being able to just have our film be about what we wanted it to be about, which is a fictional group of characters in a fictional club. We could really focus on these characters and not feel incumbent to cover a particular disco in a documentary way.

Q: I've read that you're a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald; what contemporary American authors do you admire?

A: Well, my favorite living author, before he died, was Isaac Bashevis Singer. His short stories set in New York and Warsaw. And, recently, the most enjoyable contemporary novel was "Memoirs of a Geisha."

Q: Is there a novel in your future?

A: Yes, there is. In the course of making the film I actually got a contract from Farrar Strauss. I thought it was pretty funny that Audrey's publisher wanted to do the book.

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