Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

Noah’s arc

Baumbach from Squid to Margot
By GERALD PEARY  |  November 20, 2007

NO UNDERPANTS: But the thought of Nicole Kidman on a train got Margot started.

Bride and prejudice: Margot has snob appeal. By Peter Keough.
William Faulkner conceived The Sound and the Fury from a mental picture of a pair of women’s underpants dangling on a clothesline. Speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival, Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) said that what sparked Margot at the Wedding was “a mother and her son riding on a train — that was the image I had in my head. I had a feeling about it, but I didn’t know what it would turn into.” It became the film’s opening scene, with the tense, competitive, neurotic novelist Margot (Nicole Kidman) traveling with her adolescent son, Claude (Zane Pais), to visit Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Margot’s younger sister, a teacher who is newly engaged.

“In the early part of writing, I work on characters,” Baumbach continued. “I don’t outline. I don’t like to know too much at too early a time. As I continue writing, I’m in the world of the characters, and it becomes infectious. I walk around with this world in my head. My father, Jonathan Baumbach, is a novelist; my mother, Georgia Brown, was a film critic for the Village Voice. I grew up around writers and teachers. I’m friends with them; and both in The Squid and in Margot, I find myself writing about people I know who are sophisticated and articulate and realize a lot about themselves, but that can hide chaos underneath.

The Squid and the Whale was, in a way, a cozy family movie, easy to find your bearings. Margot is about not finding your bearings. The anxieties of the characters keep shifting. Margot is having a hard time being a mother, being married, dealing with expectations of herself and her expectations of people around her.”

The casting of Nicole Kidman? Baumbach laughed. “It’s safe to say that before Squid I would have been arrested trying to have coffee with her! But working with her was the easiest experience I’ve ever had in the movie business. She was my first choice for Margot. I did have coffee with her. We’re both shy, halting people. But the next day, she said yes. It was so nice! It took years to convince people to make The Squid.”

And Jack Black as Pauline’s underachieving fiancé? “Jack also was my first choice. Jack wanted to meet me after The Squid. We had lunch, became friendly. A lot of times people cast a comedian in a drama and then want him to be glum, not do comedy. With Jack, I wanted him to be funny and yet exist in the realm of the film.”

Margot at the Wedding was the first occasion on which Baumbach worked with his off-screen wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who accompanied him to Toronto. “I really love working with my husband, it’s the greatest time,” she said. “I read drafts of what he’s working on, and I went into the editing room on The Squid. I respect Noah so much. With Margot, I kind of wanted to show off a little for him. He’d never seen me on a set. I work really, really hard, and I’m good at what I do!”

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Bride and prejudice, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Review: She’s Out Of My League, More more >
  Topics: Film Culture , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Media,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE  |  March 12, 2013
    A decent little movie, but hardly a major one, from Iran's master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, who, self-exiled, here shoots in Tokyo with an all-Japanese cast.
  •   REVIEW: THE GATEKEEPERS  |  February 26, 2013
    Great cinema journalism, The Gatekeepers was the National Society of Film Critics' winner for Best Documentary of 2012.
  •   REVIEW: THE LITTLE FUGITIVE (1953)  |  February 27, 2013
    It's the 60th anniversary of this pioneering American independent feature, which greatly influenced both cinema vérité documentarians and the French New Wave.
  •   REVIEW: HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH A VODKA EMPIRE  |  February 20, 2013
    Daniel Edelstyn launched this film project after reading the spirited diary of his late grandmother, Maroussia Zorokovich, whose wealthy Jewish family split from Ukraine as the Bolsheviks were taking control.
  •   REVIEW: HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA  |  February 12, 2013
    What Robert Flaherty did with title cards in his silent Nanook of the North , Werner Herzog manages with declamatory voiceover in Happy People : romanticization of the austere, self-reliant lives of hunters and trappers in the icebound north.

 See all articles by: GERALD PEARY