Thursday night’s sudden snow squall was nothing compared to the flurry of activity at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, as the Sundance Film Festival USA’s world premiere of The Company Men took place, starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner. Writer, producer, and now first-time director John Wells was in attendance, and sat down with Hollywood East Connection before introducing the locally shot film to a packed theater.
Wells, whose previous projects include writing and producing long-lasting, hit television shows like “ER”, “The West Wing”, and “Third Watch”, stacked his deck well with his directorial debut. Aside from the A-list cast, the humble 6-time primetime Emmy winner spent years researching and writing The Company Men, despite the fact that its relevancy is practically ripped from today’s newspaper headlines. Though the cast features 3 Oscar winners (Affleck, Costner, and Chris Cooper), Wells maintains he did not write the roles for these specific actors, though they were all his first choices.
“Luckily, they were all anxious to do something about what’s going on. For artists, its gratifying to do something that you can see as relevant.” he told the audience in a question and answer session that followed the film.
Though he originally began writing the film during the .com bust several years ago, and even shopped it around production studios, it was deemed not relevant enough at the time, and it got kicked around in the years that followed, before Wells incorporated new material derived from interviews he conducted since the economy crashed a year and a half ago.
“I wanted to bring a dignity to it without being sensationalist or disrespectful to the experience” he said. “I talked to many people who were having a rough time but maintained that it was a tragedy with a small ‘t’.”
Still, the havoc that the economic crises has wreaked on the people who lost their jobs as a result left an impression on Wells.
“There was this leper colony sort of mentality amongst the people that were laid off. A sense of shame, but an individual shame, because they felt like they had lost their chance at the ‘American Dream’” Wells said.
When asked why he chose Boston as the city where he filmed his movie, Wells confessed he originally wrote the script to be set in Philadelphia, only to find that the “City of Brotherly Love” could not provide all of the settings necessary for scenes featuring abandoned manufacturing buildings.
Wells said of Boston “The city is beautiful, and everyone we encountered here was very cooperative. The tax incentives were helpful, as we were looking at cities where they were offered in order to make our budget. We also found great cast and crew from the area. There’s also a lot of great restaurants here–I ate a lot!”
In fact, The Company Men special effects team featured the talents of Jay Stone, and first-time local actor Anthony O’Leary, who we’ll be featuring here in an exclusive interview. For more from the multi-talented director John Wells, look for our upcoming video interview this week, only on Hollywood East Connection!