The music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life, sang Morrissey on The Smiths song Panic, released in 1986, a year before the band broke up. Lyrics that no doubt spoke to a…
By James Kleinmann,
March 25, 2021
I loved how the songs were used and the way the dialogue incorporates some of The Smiths’ lyrics. How did you go about striking the right balance of not overdoing it with the characters quoting the songs?
“Oh, we totally over did it! But that’s kind of what we did ourselves. I have a friend who still emails me with song lyrics, and we can go back and forth for 20 minutes, it’s kind of ridiculous! The lyrics themselves were all pilfered from other sources and that was how The Smiths built their songs. Almost the half of the first album is Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey
. Talent borrows, genius steals, and The Smiths’ songs are all stitched together from references and lines and lyrics from movies and music and plays and literature. So there’s one level where we’re just quoting The Smiths lyrics, but then I decided to go to the sources and steal from them as well, so Billy’s got some lines from Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
, and there’s a little sprinkling of Oscar Wilde in there, and there’s definitely some Shelagh Delaney.”
“There are song lyrics from bands that The Smiths were friends with too. Morrissey’s best friend Linder Sterling had a band called Ludas, so look out for some Ludas lyrics in there. It’s kind of ridiculous. I mean there are so many Easter eggs, and it gets super nerdy super fast, but that was kind of the fun of it, assigning different literary modes to different characters. Morrissey stole a bunch of stuff from Middlemarch
for example and so there’s some of that in there, it’s a total patchwork but it’s integrated so really the whole thing becomes this musical meta-fiction. It’s quotes-within-quotes, played straight sometimes but with a theatricality to it. Then of course the songs are very much written into the story. Each of the songs reflects the story and the story reflects the songs. Everything was really stitched together as if we were making a musical, I thought about it in those terms. I grew up with a real musical theatre mom so we had that kind of storytelling as a foundation for our lives in a lot of ways. It’s the musical jukebox method, but I wanted it to be really integrated.”
As it is based on you and your group of friends growing up in the 80s, what kind of vibe did you want to create by putting this great cast together?
“The cast, I swear to God, came together and fell apart at least three times over the course of trying to make this film, but I am really psyched with this current cast, they’re all just fantastic. It took a long time to put them together, but the casting directors, Amber Horn and Danielle Aufiero, did a really brilliant job. Joe Manganiello was attached first, really early on, and stuck by it through thick and thin, then the kids all came together naturally. We thought, wouldn’t be cool if Ellar Coltrane wanted to do this, and lo and behold he wanted to do it. Then Helena Howard showed up at the last minute and she had just appeared in Madeline’s Madeline
and reviewers were talking about her like she was the second coming of Gena Rowlands, which is always a good thing in my book. Some of the kids didn’t really know the band, but she was raised by a New Wave mom and her mom’s gay best friend essentially her queer uncle, had followed The Smiths around on tour in England. When he sadly passed away when she was younger he left her some stuff including his Smiths’ tour program for the Meat is Murder
tour. She actually brought that to set one day and it was like a holy relic! So there was a deep emotional connection to the story and the music that really comes through, especially for her, but the whole cast is just genius I think; Elena Kampouris, James Bloor, Nick Krause, the whole bunch of them. We were so blessed.”