Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview: Lea Thompson Is Queen of The Cabin

Lea Thompson stars in the world premiere of “The Cabin,” a Hallmark Movie Channel Original Premiere, on Saturday, July 30 (8 p.m. ET/PT, 7C). In this cute, family-oriented romantic comedy, what was supposed to be a vacation of culture, adventure and ancestral bonding, becomes the Clash of the Macs. Two divorced strangers, with nothing in common but their last name, battle as they are forced to share the same cabin with their kids in Scotland.

I spoke with Lea recently, who told me all about the movie, as well as her new ABC Family show, "Switched at Birth." We also discussed "Red Dawn," Judd Nelson, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, John Hughes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood and "Dancing with the Stars" — so sit back, relax, read and enjoy!

Celebrity Extra: What made you decide to do this movie for the Hallmark Movie Channel?

Lea Thompson: I hadn’t done a romantic-comedy movie in my whole career. I like trying different things and I thought, isn’t this fun that I get to do this kind of family romantic comedy that’s generally kind of reserved for 30 year olds. How nice to do this. I love the whole thing with the Scottish games. I thought that would be really fun. I love to do physical things. The idea that I got to go to Ireland to shoot the movie was really, really, really fun. I just liked the script and I really liked the director, Brian Trenchard-Smith, who’s just so lovely. It was a win-win-win situation.

CE: That must have been a lot of fun to not only get to shoot a cute movie, but to get to travel to Ireland to do it.

LT: I know! It was very exciting and my sisters got to come and visit me. Our mother’s Irish, so that was really fun to spend a week and a half with them in Ireland. I love making movies in these places, because you really get a chance to really know the people and go to places you wouldn’t go if you were just a tourist.

CE: Can you empathize with some of the stuff Lily goes through to try to make this a great vacation for her kids?

LT: You know that idea of really wanting the vacation to go really great, and there’s lots of things that are out of your control? Being a working mom, your time is so precious with your kids that you want things to go perfectly, and they never do, and a lot of times the things that go wrong are the things that are the most special. Like in the movie, the little mistakes that happen end up making the trip even better in some ways — if you can role with the punches. I can definitely relate to that.

"The Cabin" cast
CE: And not only is it a romantic comedy, but there is also a nice family bond that happens between the two families …

LT: I loved that idea. The world is filled with blended families. There are so many people who get divorced and families getting together, and there are adopted kids and all that. Family is not only the people you are blood related to, but also your extended family, which can be just as important.

CE: I know you are athletic, but just watching you guys preparing for and competing in the games was making me tired!

LT: Yeah, it was exhausting. We didn’t have a lot of time to really train, especially the hammer throw. It was a little bit dangerous every once and awhile. Everyone was really game. It was a great cast. Everyone was really willing to try. Steven Brand (who plays Conor) was unbelievable at all of this stuff. He was so good at all these things, and he had never done it before. He is a really amazing athlete and he kind of led the way. The competition was very real between us. I really love that. It’s really fun in a movie to get out and be outside and do something physical. The crew always appreciates it. When you’re acting, they kind of go to sleep sometimes. When you’re throwing a rock, they wake up.

CE: Your character could have come off as somewhat of a two-dimensional bitch, but she wasn’t. You made her very likable. Was that a conscious choice on your or the director’s part?

LT: I think sometimes when people find those parts they purposely put me in them to try to soften them out a little bit. That’s a very nice compliment. I try to make you see why she is acting like she is. If you can understand why someone is acting defensive, you get to see underneath. You can see she’s just being a good mom and protecting her kids.

It’s my job to make words on a page feel human. I start by falling in love with my character. I fall in love with them so I can see that they’re good people underneath. You need conflict, and you need people in movies to not get along, but you also have to be rooting for her, because she was one of the main characters.

Cast of "Switched at Birth"
CE: You are also in ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” (airing Mondays at 9 p.m.). How did they convince you to come back to series television?

LT: I did my nine movies for the Hallmark Channel for “Jane Doe,” so that was kind of like a series, even though it was movies. Regarding “Switched at Birth,” I just really liked the part. I’ve never played this person before. She’s really rich and she’s really uptight, and she’s got her whole life kind of perfectly ordered.

It’s also a really, really smart show. It’s not talking down to teenagers at all. There’s a lot of really great conflict in it. Just the idea that you got to meet your daughter and the woman who raised her after sixteen years, and try to live together.

I really love the opportunity for growth that she has that all of a sudden this kind of bomb goes off in her life and everything that she thought she knew was real is not real. I liked the opportunity for growth, and the writing was really, really good. I have two teenage daughters, and they love ABC Family, so the idea of being on a show that they have a lot of fun watching was really great to me.

CE: I see you are also set to co-star in “J. Edgar” as Lela Rogers this winter. What can you tell me about the movie and your part in it?

LT: I don’t have a huge role that’s for sure. But I play Ginger Rogers’ mother, who was actually a really interesting character. She was an actress and a writer, and she also was an expert witness at the McCarthy hearings. She determined what lines and which movies were Communist propaganda. Yeah, pretty nutty. You don’t get to see that part of her life, but I was fascinated reading about that.

It’s just an amazing movie and it was really an honor to work with Clint Eastwood. He’s kind of like Woody Allen: Whenever he calls, you’re like, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” So that was really exciting and it’s been a long time since I’ve done a period movie, so it was really fun to be immersed in the ’30s. Leonardo DiCaprio is amazing, he looks amazing, and he sounds amazing. He’s just awesome.

CE: I see that both you and Christopher Lloyd will be at September’s DragonCon sci-fi convention in Atlanta.

LT: Yeah, we have fun doing those things together. We’ll call each other up: “You going? OK, I’ll go.” We both never wanted to do them before, but we did a couple of them, and it was really fun. It’s good PR and it’s really fun.

CE: Do you have any other projects in the works?

LT: I have a movie that just came out on DVD that I produced called “Mayor Cupcake.” I produced and starred in it with my daughters. It’s such a cute movie, you’d love it. It’s a great family movie. It’s about a woman who makes cupcakes in this little tiny town. My husband is Judd Nelson. I also have three daughters in the movie with two of them played by my real-life daughters, Madelyn and Zoey Deutch. In the movie, I accidentally get elected mayor of this little town, and of course it’s really corrupt, and I have to clean up the town in my down-home kind of way. It’s just a lovely, funny little movie.

CE: It’ll be great to see you working with Judd Nelson …

LT: This is kind of a convoluted story, but when we were shooting — you remember that Judd Nelson was in “Breakfast Club”? The main song was “Don’t You Forget About Me.”

CE: Of course — that was actually my high-school senior-class song.

LT: Really? Then you’ll definitely appreciate this. My daughter sings it in the movie backed up by a band. My husband, Howard Deutch, and I met on “Some Kind of Wonderful,” a John Hughes movie. Two days before Madelyn had to record the song, John Hughes died. So Madelyn was singing “Don’t You Forget About Me” to Judd Nelson and myself and my husband, and we were all just balling. It was so special, and it was a really amazing moment. Sometimes things like that happen and we were all so sad. My husband loved John Hughes. We all loved him. He was obviously important to us in particular, because we’ve been married for 22 years.

CE: I have to ask, how do you feel about the remake of “Red Dawn”? Personally, I have my doubts …

LT: I don’t know. I have my doubts too, clearly, because they haven’t even released it yet, and the fact that they turned the Chinese people into Koreans digitally afterward was kind of interesting. I don’t know. I’ll be really interested to see it. One of the really amazing things about the original “Red Dawn” is that there were no special effects in terms of CGI or any computer-generated effects. Everything that happened really happened, which I think makes it more of a visceral nightmare. Because you never see it, we just talk about what happened in the other cities. But I’m sure in the new version, you’ll get to see a lot of bombs going off and stuff like that. Sometimes some things left to your imagination are actually more haunting.

CE: I also can’t believe that the original movie came out in 1984!

LT: I know. It’s so shocking that Patrick Swayze is gone. And that Charlie Sheen is so crazy. And Jennifer Grey won “Dancing with the Stars.”

CE: I loved her in that! I was voting for her the whole way.

LT: Me too, she was amazing.

CE: Would you ever compete on “DWTS” if they came a’callin’?

LT: Probably. I always do whatever anybody asks me to do. I’m like: “Really? Okay, I’ll do it.” I’m working with Marlee Matlin right now on “Switched at Birth,” and she loved doing “DWTS.” Everyone who does it loves doing it, so it must be great.

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