David Frankel: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones just crack each other up

The director of Hope Springs tells Anthony Gibson about working with Meryl Streep, his views on couples counselling and off-camera laughs.

Did you always have Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in mind for the lead roles in Hope Springs? 
You know, I came into it kind of late and Meryl Streep was already involved. But the moment I came on board, Meryl and I spoke and it emerged that the only candidate we both felt was perfect for Arnold was Tommy Lee Jones. We met and he was very engaged by the screenplay – and even more attracted to
the prospect of working with Meryl.

This is your second film with Streep: what do you like most about working with her? 

Well, first of all greatness is a given – and how rare is that? It really felt like you would have paid just for the opportunity to go and watch legendary actors working with a great screenplay at the peak of their talents and just exercising every gill at their disposal on a daily basis. There was this sense that you were watching scenes that one day people would look back on and say were classic moments from legendary actors.

Was it hard for everyone to keep a straight face during takes?
They didn’t ruin a lot of takes but there were definitely some good laughs as soon as the cameras stopped rolling. Steve [Carell] obviously was capable of cracking us up by just shrugging or lifting an eyebrow. The minute a scene was over, he had something funny to say. But so did Meryl and Tommy: they are really funny people and they did crack each other up. I will never forget the time we were shooting the movie theatre scene and Meryl called out to the prop guy: ‘I couldn’t get some knee pads?’ That was both the low point and the high point.

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