At age 34, screenwriter and first-time director Massy Tadjedin is garnering praise—and sparking debate—with her gentle, evocative movie, Last Night. Starring four of today’s most in-demand stars, it examines 48 hours in the lives of a married couple, Joanna and Sam (Keira Knightley and Avatar’s Sam Worthington), and the sexy singles (Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet) who may or may not lure them away from their vows. On the eve of the film’s May 6 opening, Tadjedin talked to More about her script and directing debut.
MORE: Infidelity is a favorite Hollywood theme, but so many of these movies are really cheesy, with over the top, bunny-killing scenes, melodramatic music, and the “manipulative/evil/loveless wife who won’t divorce him.” The last was big in the 1940s.
Massy Tadjedin: It’s gone through a lot of transitions, treatments over the decades. I certainly noticed it when I was preparing to direct. I didn’t think about other films with infidelity when I was writing. I just went to write and this was what came out. It’s a universal subject matter, which is why they’re so many novels and films about it. A lot of those are message films, so they easily identify one party as the wrongdoer. A lot of movies about relationship struggles are trying to teach you something, to pass judgment. We were trying not to pass judgment.
More: Are you married?
MT: For seven years. I got married relatively young, and I sure hope we stay married. I don’t think this film is about marriage, but about relationships and commitment. You don’t have to be inside a marriage to relate to these issues.
More: How did your husband react to the movie?
MT: He read the script. He judged it like my others, on the strength of the story. Then when he saw the first cut of the film, he saw little details in Joanna and Michael’s marriage, to make it feel lived in, like getting ready for a party, things shared by a lot of couples. My husband saw similarities in opening scenes. He said, “Is this us?” It’s personal, but not autobiographical. I’d have to be a total idiot.
More: Was he threatened?
MT: He thought it was very honest. We have the conversation a lot of couples have after they see the movie, how the infidelities are different, what each character is struggling with. We’ve had similar conversations about friends. This is the stuff life is made of.
More: There’s no real villain in this story, but there is a predatory character, Laura, who goes after Michael.
MT: I thought she was in a weird way the most morally unambiguous of the four. We wanted to fasten her character as less the stereotypical vixen. She’s not motivated to disrupt his marriage, but thinks these moments are to be snatched when they can. Laura has a very day to day view of life, our obligation to be living it. She seems very forthcoming. She’s not trying to seduce him to disrupt the marriage; she just desires him.
More: In the end, you do have some sympathy for her.
MT: I was sympathetic toward all four.
More: How long did it take to film?
MT: It was a low budget, so we only had 28 days, and a lot of nights. We hit the ground running. In the end, it was good, because I had no time for second guessing. If I had 40 days, I would have screwed up.
More: Were you nervous?
MT: Of course! By the second scene, I was not nervous, because there was no time. You just have to get it done. You have to balance and address so many things. By the end of the first week, I had it under control.
More: It’s a great cast.
MT: Not even because they’re well-known. They’re really good actors, very talented, professional, experienced. That’s part of the reason I could do it in 28 days.
More: And they’re all so attractive!