Sundance Features

January 19, 2007

Jake Paltrow, The Good Night

"I had three pictures I'd written that didn't happen. In the meantime, I was directing television and trying to get these movies made. It was difficult."

Penelope Cruz and Martin Freeman in Jake Paltrow's The Good Night

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

Now, you're a New Yorker, but The Good Night isn't necessarily a New York film, is it?

Well, it is a New York film. It takes place in New York. We shot it at Ealing Studios in London; we built sets that were New York apartments, and then shot for three days in New York at the end of the schedule.

Ah. So fill me in on the rest of it -- what is The Good Night about?

The film is about the search for perfection and how lost people can kind of get in its pursuit. It's essentially about a guy who was once successful as a musician and who's now kind of fallen on hard times -- composing music for commercials and jingles and things. We track the dissolution of this relationship he's been in for a long time, and he begins to have a series of vivid dreams that are very fulfilling. And he becomes so obsessed with his dream state that he goes out to try find a way to spend more time dreaming than awake. He meets Danny DeVito, who portrays sort of this post-Beat era Greenwich Village idealist who is an expert in lucid dreaming technique, and he teaches him to be in this idealized state with Penelope Cruz.

I guess "idealized" is not a hard state to achieve when Penelope Cruz is around.

Not so difficult, no.

This is your first feature, but you went to Sundance with your previous film, the short An Eviction Notice, 11 years ago. What took so long to get a feature going?

You've talked to other filmmakers, and I'm sure they've all told you same thing: It's hard to get pictures going. I had three pictures I'd written that didn't happen. In the meantime, I was directing television and trying to get these movies made. It was difficult.

But once it got going, you assembled a pretty solid cast. How did you settle on each of them and get them to sign on?

I had actually written it for Martin Freeman. I'd seen him on The Office and thought he'd had a remarkable quality; he reminded me somewhat of Jimmy Stewart. So I'd written it for him and sent it to him. He was the first one onboard. And then Simon Pegg and Martin are very close in real life, so it seemed a perfect match to pair them. Gwyneth is pretty easy to explain. Penelope, I didn't know her. I sent her the script; she read it and really liked it and came onboard; same thing with Danny. I'm just lucky they liked it.

Culturally, anyhow a lot has changed since your last film screened at Sundance. Have you been back?

I haven't. Not since 1996.

What are you looking forward to?

Well, I'm hoping the film connects with people in some way. And we don't have distribution, so I hope we make a sale. Those would be the two big things.

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