New article and photos from the movie by My San Antonio below:
Looking razor-sharp as they sit side by side on a couch in a Four Seasons suite, acting greats Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones come across as every bit the high-altitude power couple their humble Nebraskan characters in “Hope Springs” are not.
Streep is warm and engaging, articulate, curious, glowingly intelligent and armed with an arsenal of multicolored laughs for all occasions. Jones is laconic and almost completely still when not directly involved in the conversation, then occasionally springs into action with a deadpan remark that elicits one of those various laughs from the lovely Streep.
But here, he’s got her.
“We met around … 1971, or 2, briefly,” says San Antonio resident Jones, with the authority of someone who remembers everything. “Outside the Public Theater in Astor Place.” Streep’s eyes don’t roll, but circle. “I remember what she was wearing.”
Streep makes a high-pitched sound that blooms into a full-throated laugh. “Probably overalls,” she says.
“No,” he says almost dreamily. “You had on this beautiful, fuzzy pill-box hat. It was pink in color. Lovely.” Throughout this, Streep makes the sounds of someone being tickled. “The color matched your cheeks.”
Practically blushing, she says, “I should have worn it today.”
“And you had a pink sort of shawl or something over your shoulders.”
“Well, you have to match.”
“You looked like an angel.”
“Awww … ,” she says, and one of the most revered actresses in film history giggles. When it is suggested that now is her chance to add that she’ll never forget how Jones was such a strapping, handsome, young man …
“She probably doesn’t remember,” he throws in with a loud, hearty laugh, to her polite protestations.
“Ohhhh, I do. I remember that.”
A rare thing
The sit-down is made surreal by its mirroring of “Hope Springs,” in which much of Jones’ and Streep’s screen time is spent on a couch, being interviewed about each other by Steve Carell, playing a couples therapist. The film, directed by Streep’s “Devil Wears Prada” collaborator, David Frankel, is a rare thing among studio offerings: An investigation of a very long-term relationship, and a story that treats people past middle age as three-dimensional, with real longings and pain. And it’s sort of a comedy.
“You can’t really divorce working with Tommy Lee and David from the whole package,” Streep says. “For me, the script is one thing, but what people bring is the whole deal. Especially in this kind of intimate piece, where the surprises are all in the doing of it, and how rich it’s going to be. But the subject matter itself was unusual.
“Nobody (in Hollywood) is interested in this kind of subject matter, and yet it seems to speak to the pain of a lot of people in long relationships, and at a certain age. I just liked a movie that’s centered around real things.”
“Yeah, it was real,” Jones says, suddenly jumping in. “The movie is about real things. That was appealing. People in long-term relationships get bored and frustrated while they’re dependent on one another at the same time, and get into a rut. It happens to everybody. And this movie is about how funny that can be.”
“And about the possibilities,” adds his co-star. “The hope – ‘Hope Springs’ – that there is a way to reignite a conversation in a marriage, or a connection.”
Jones buttons the thought with, “I liked the idea of working on a movie that shows us how funny it is to be normally miserable,” and Streep cackles.
The salvage efforts of a Midwestern couple after 31 years of marriage may not sound like box-office gold, which would explain why there are 50 or more “Expendables” to every “Hope Springs,” or perhaps more to the point, 100 or more romantic comedies starring actors in their 20s, ending at the first kiss and the implicit happily ever after.
“But people are very interested in long-term relationships. They want to know how people do it. I remember, even when I was in high school – girls are much more interested in this stuff, honestly,” Streep says with a feather-light laugh.
“But I remember there was an article every week in Ladies’ Home Journal, and it was about, ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’ When I was 17, I read it.
“I think women are interested in relationships; relationships are their religion.”
Apart from its unusual focus, though, the movie’s great draw will be seeing these two storied actors interacting. When asked about moments when they surprised each other, Streep begins a dragging, “Every day …”
“What are you trying to say?” Jones feigns offense.
“… every day he did things that were unexpected,” she says. “That’s the whole thing. It’s all about triggers. Because you can think about your character, and who she is and what she needs, but then you walk on and there he is in three dimensions, throwing stuff you never anticipated, and it’s wonderful. That’s what makes it alive.”
“Yeah, after you’re thoroughly, 100 percent prepared, that’s no longer your job,” he says. “The job is to pick up your cues, which come about five per second. To respond appropriately to some action or inaction that others take.”
By this point, the two are overlapping each other freely, interacting as comfortably as – actually more comfortably than – their long-married characters.
“A lot of it is between the lines,” she says, “and because it was such a limited palette, a lot of the time sitting on the couch, being analyzed – you’re so hyper-aware of every shift. It’s just like in a marriage. You know when you’re saying something – ‘Oh, don’t go off into that.’ I could feel … ”
“I don’t think any two takes were alike. I really don’t,” Jones interjects. “That was a good thing … ”
“You could have five different – 10 different movies from the stuff that we shot. It was really fun.”
“I bet it’s fun to watch.”