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THE DIRECTOR'S CRAFT

Like falling in love again

Jonathan Demme feels the old small-film spark making 'Rachel Getting Married.'

September 28, 2008|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

That meant incorporating musicians into the wedding party as a way to believably have them around to play live on the set during production. Demme realized the idea was working when he was shooting an early scene in which Hathaway walks down a hallway and the actress began to pace her movements to the music being played by violinist Zafer Tawil, which was wafting in from another room. At one point in the film, Hathaway pleads for a break in the music, which Demme said reflected her genuine response to the musicians' constant noodling and tuning.

He also tried to foster a family atmosphere on the set, hiring people he had met while working on his documentaries as well as family and friends. Among the faces familiar to Demme are film producer Roger Corman, musicians Robyn Hitchcock and Sister Carol East, and even his own children. The role of the groom, played by Tunde Adebimpe of the indie-rock group TV on the Radio, initially was offered to director (and avowed Demme fan) Paul Thomas Anderson, who after a few script readings turned it down to work on his Oscar-nominated epic "There Will Be Blood."

While "Rachel Getting Married" might seem like a fresh breeze blowing through Demme's creative spirit, this isn't the first time that the filmmaker has found himself at a crossroads careerwise. In the mid-1980s, after having the film "Swing Shift" taken away from him to be recut, he felt similarly over Hollywood. But after reading the script to "Something Wild" he catapulted into the phase that would culminate with "The Silence of the Lambs." Where he heads next will likely determine whether "Rachel Getting Married" is remembered as a recap or a refresher. "Now that I've made this movie, I do feel reborn as a filmmaker," he said.

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