Nothing lagging about Lynn Shelton and ‘Laggies’

October 22, 2014

shelton Given the organic nature of most of her work, “Laggies” should be a major departure for writer-director Lynn Shelton: the first film she directed that she didn’t generate herself.

But “Laggies,” written by Andrea Seigel, fits right in, Shelton says, sitting on a couch on a rear veranda of the Bowery Hotel, where she was briefly in New York doing press for the film’s release this week.

Her early films were improvised from outlines; her last film, “Touchy Feely,” had a script but also included improvisation.

“It’s very rare, among the scripts I read, that I want to do something that isn’t self-generated,” says Shelton, 49. “I wasn’t searching for a project. But this script was the rare exception. I read it and thought I could have written it because I felt such an affinity for it. What’s important to me was important to Andrea. The characters felt fleshed out, three-dimensional.”

 “Laggies” focuses on Megan (Keira Knightley), who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her adult life – and is freaked out when, at her best friend’s wedding, her long-time boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes marriage. Feigning enrollment in a week-long personal-growth seminar, she spends the week hiding out at the home of a high-school-aged girl, Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), who she has casually befriended.

“I liked the fact that the humor is based on the characters, and that, tonally, there was a nice balance between the comedy and drama,” Shelton says. “These are flawed human beings who are allowed to make mistakes, to be imperfect and fumble their way through their journey.”

Shelton was approached by the production company that had been developing “Laggies” at a serendipitous moment: Another film she had been developing, “Touchy Feely,” had been pushed back. When she became involved with “Laggies,” Paul Rudd had just dropped out after being attached, because he wasn’t going to be able to shoot for six months. He was replaced by Sam Rockwell; Moretz was already attached.

But the central character, Megan, was cast: Anne Hathaway, who spent months working with Shelton to develop the character. “We had these intense creative conversations – so I was bereft when she had to drop out to make ‘Interstellar,’ which she’d been committed to even longer,” Shelton recalls. “Then Keira came on soon after and slid right in.”

Shelton loved the idea of casting Knightley because she felt that the British actress brought a facet of her talent that had been unseen almost since the beginning of her career: her silly, physical side.

“What I was hoping she would bring is that part of herself we hadn’t seen since ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’,” Shelton says. “And she did: this loose-limbed side of her that is game for pratfalls, who has an ease in her body that she’s not able to capture in period roles with period costumes. She can be so exquisitely beautiful as to be inaccessible. I wanted to humanize her, to see that goofy side, her real human side without a lot of make-up. And she did bring a lot of herself to the role.”

Shelton has three projects in development, and a long list of actors she’d like to work with. Just as she created a showcase role for one of her favorite actors, Josh Pais, in “Touchy Feely,” she’d like to do the same thing for another actor she’d like to work with: Garret Dillahunt, who was a classmate at New York University.

“He can do anything,” she gushes. “I have to work with him one day or I’ll just lose it. Sometimes I despair because there are only so many more movies I’ll be able to make. I probably won’t get to work with all the actors I want to.

“I really want to get on the set with a small, improvised movie. I’m hungry to have that experience again. It’s the most intimate kind of movie-making. I don’t know which of these three will hit first. I’m equally excited about all of them.”

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