Q and A: The cast and crew of 'New Year's Eve'
By TANYA FLOWERS, Special to The Wave
Whether one is looking to make a wholesale life change, start a new relationship/repair an old one or simply experience a first kiss, one thing is certain: The wee hours before the next set of 365 days brings the dizzying fusion of boundless optimism, out-of-character bravery and plain old hope that makes anything seem possible. Even if it’s just for one night.
It is on this universal axiom of human existence that director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate have built the ensemble “New Year’s Eve,” a thematic follow-up to their last collaboration, the 2010 hit romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day.” As with that film, an all-star cast of actors (so many of them, in fact, they’re sure to be working for well below their typical fee) brings to life a series of interconnected, emotionally-charged stories set in New York City — mostly exploring how love, determination and regret can often force seemingly common people to show uncommon fortitude and compassion. Among those players: Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank and Halle Berry, along with Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Biel, Zac Efron, Seth Meyers, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl, Lea Michele, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Sofia Vergara and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. And it wouldn’t be a Garry Marshall picture without a scene-stealing role for Hector Elizondo.
On a recent Sunday in Beverly Hills, The Wave was on hand as the cast discussed the making of the film. Few of them, it turns out, had a clue what “Auld Lang Syne” means.
Have any of you had a particularly miserable New Year’s Eve experience?
Duhamel: I think that if you keep expectations low …
Swank: Exactly when I stopped wanting my New Year’s Eve to be perfect … [is] when it started working out right. I always found when I was young, I was looking for the best party to be at to ring in the New Year — and I always ended up in the car going [flatly], “Happy New Year.”
Marshall: I got to kiss the girl I really liked, and then she turned around and kissed seven other people. Not a good night at all.
How difficult was it to build so many stories with so many stars with different time requirements?
Marshall: [For] many, this is the first time they’re meeting these stars, because they weren’t in the same scenes … What is pretty startling is [that] they could all act pretty good, it turns out, and so when they showed up … we connected well and we moved along. The biggest thing I had to do was hug them — not because I was so attracted, but because they were freezing. So we all hugged each other a lot.
Who were you excited to meet?
Swank: I have a nice story. I got to work with Robert De Niro — and for me, he is on the bucket list. He is at the top of the list of people I have to work with before it’s all said and done. So I got to check that off. My first two days was with him was the real dramatic stuff and I thought, “Well this isn’t very funny.” … So I go in and Halle Berry and Robert were in the room, and they had been working all morning and they’ve got their thing going, and I am kind of the outsider here — I don’t even know the crew or anything. And … I am just trying to get a sense of the vibe before I work, and I walk in and Robert’s in the bed and you know he is kind of lying there. So you hear all this stuff about Robert De Niro and he’s a [method] actor … and [his character is] dying, so I don’t want to get in anyone’s way. So he was lying there, and I am like, “Wow.” … He is kind of giving it to me, like we are connected here. We are connected. Me and De Niro, method. And so I am getting kind of emotional, but the camera is not on me … we’re just getting into the mood of father-daughter. A father dying, you know … I am feeling it. I am going deep with De Niro. The next thing I know, he’s saying, “Anyone got that coffee ?” I am like, “Oh my God, he was sleeping.” He was gone before I ever got there. He had been in that bed all day.
What is your favorite way to spend New Year’s Eve? And do you have any special plans this year?
Michele: I do the same thing every New Year’s. I have done it for the past seven years now. I am from New York, [so] I did the Times Square thing once and I will never do it again, but New Yorkers have this special spot in Central Park where they do a 5K run the minute the clock strikes 12. I ran once, I will never do it again but it is awesome to watch these people run. It’s such a great environment and place to be — so that’s where I’ll be.
Swank: Well, while Lea is running … I’ll be eating pie and drinking champagne and cheering you on.
Michele: I drink champagne — and that’s why I am not running again, because both of those combined doesn’t work very well.
Swank: I actually … stopped trying to chase the perfect place to be, and realized the perfect place to be is with your loved ones and with your few closest friends, around the dinner table over a good meal, talking about the past year and the year to come. And I never make it to midnight. Ever.
Pfeiffer: I also never make it to midnight. I watch, I celebrate New Years at 9 p.m. west coast time. I watch the ball drop in my jammies with some champagne, maybe some pie — whatever happens to be around. I stopped setting those unrealistic expectations for New Year’s Eve many years ago.
Efron: Yeah, we’re going to change that. You’re coming out with me this year.