Joey Lauren Adams has had a tendency to often shine as the girlfriend or best friend. But it’s her work as a director that is finally generating the buzz she has yearned. Her feature debut is a small slice of life drama called Come early Morning.
The film tells of Lucy (Ashley Judd), a 30-something woman who keeps waking up with a stiff hangover and a guy she doesn’t even want to look at. If coming to grips with why she keeps repeating this pattern isn’t enough, Lucy also begins to realize that she needs to get in touch with her familial past and, more importantly, with the person she has become. Loosely based on Adams’ experiences growing up in southern USA, the writer/director talked to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Question: Now so this is, to what extent is the film autobiographical?
Adams: It’s more just emotionally, like none of the events actually happened. But you know I definitely struggled with a few things that she struggles with, like I’ve had relationships long term
Question: Did you base the men in this movie on any of the men that you’ve had in your own life.
Adams: No, not really.
Question: So was it more challenging for you to create the male characters?
Adams: No because I wanted Cal to sort of be a mirror. I definitely had people in my life that were sort of a mirror, you know who were in a better place in their life than I was and in more sort of a solid place. So I wanted a character like that, that wasn’t just mental or you know or also wasn’t going to come in and make her happily ever after, but just someone who didn’t sort of shrink to her level that just was comfortable enough with themselves to treat her however she was presenting herself.
Question: Now, how much of Ashley’s character is in you?
Adams: You know I mean I love country music like old country music, and I definitely I cling to that. I have had a weird relationship with my father, I mean there’s things like that, I’m Southern, I drank too much in my life, things like that. But I don’t think my life was as tragic as hers. But I wanted to see a character that sells in one area and is not so great in other areas and I’ve definitely experienced that. I’m very responsible with my career, I’m on time, I’m sober, you know what I mean but then there’s areas of my life where I’m just really screwed up.
Question: But not now right?
Adams: Not as much no but I don’t know that they ever like I don’t know that those voids ever go away. Like I think that you constantly have to keep filling them but I fill them with different things. But I think if you stop doing the work and start getting lazy you could easily get back.
Question: Is writing a script like this or any script for that matter in some ways a reaction to the kinds of roles you’ve been offered as an actress and the frustrations that you’ve felt in that area?
Adams: Absolutely, one hundred percent. My agency sends a script to my door, they drop it in front of my door and just wanting to get a script and open it up and read it and feel that feeling of passion, I just wasn’t feeling that with anything I read.
Question: Yeah it must be hard finding roles, so it must have been great for you to be able to create a character that an actress would be able to get their teeth into? Did you ever want to play the role yourself?
Adams: Yeah. I mean I wrote originally just to have something to get out of bed for, because during the down time as an actress I don’t function well. I need a reason to get me out of bed or I just get really depressed. And so I started mainly so I feel like, okay I do have something to do tomorrow, I’m going to write. And I didn’t know if I could write and if it would be good or what not it was just for me, it was good for me to just get out and do it. And then once I’d almost finished or half way through I gave it to my agent and he was really positive with the feedback and then I finished it and then it felt like, okay maybe this is something we could get money for and that I was going to act.
Question: What changed your mind about acting in it?
Adams: Because we started talking about directors for it and you know because it was a little small movie, you know we weren’t going to get the people they were talking about and I started to immerse myself in it. Like the music was really important to me, the locations were really important, I felt I had done in the script a pretty good job of not characterizing these people and respecting them. And I just started worrying that someone is going to interpret this differently, so just out of fear I think I just decided to direct. Then I was going to do both, and then I came to my senses and knew there was no way I could. So then I went back and forth saying do I want to direct or do I want to act, do I want to direct, do I want to act. And then I finally said I want to direct. And Ashley Judd was my first choice.
Question: Why was that?
Adams: I think because she’s Southern and I like that and she was the right age and I don’t know if I heard or just had a feeling that she was looking for something more stripped down.
Question: So has this given you a feeling now that having done this movie and having gone through the whole Sundance experience with it, promoting it now, do you want to do it again?
Adams: I do yeah, absolutely I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And I think next time it will be somewhat easier but I feel like I’ve got to crew now, I’ve got actors and I’ve got a movie and I totally understand why no one wanted to give me money. I had never done a short, I had never made a home movie. So I think it will be a little bit easier and it’s fun.
Question: What are you doing next? Are you doing anything as an actress at the moment?
Adams: No I live in Mississippi I bought a house there and I’m going to go and write the screenplay. I have a screenplay that I wrote but it’s going to be another labor of love, it’s about two old people that are in an old folk’s home.