Nick Cassavetes has already sparked debate with his latest film before it has even hit theaters. My Sister’s Keeper has had journalists debating it for reasons of hitting too close to home or dealing with provocative stances on issues like right to die. Cassavetes had a logical perspective on dealing with the emotional reaction to the film.
Nick Cassavetes Talks My Sister's Keeper
“Families aren’t logical,” Cassavetes said. “Families are emotional. There’s always some weird person in the family and, if you’re like my family, all of us are strange. When things happen, people are entitled to have opinions that aren’t politically correct. I don’t believe the mother is particularly sympathetic in this movie, but I understand her completely. I don’t think that the daughter wanting to stop being poked, prodded and cut upon is perfectly logical, but I don’t sympathize with her. If things were so politically correct and pat, then they’re not worth exploring. The fact that this family doesn’t come together and all the pieces don’t exactly fit is what makes the story worth telling and it’s also my experience with family. I’ll probably have a message on my machine right now with my family having some kind of a problem that they shouldn’t have, but that’s the beauty of it. What [screenwriter] Jeremy [Leven]’s done so well is to capture a family in all its imperfection. That’s really what the film sets out to be and hopefully becomes, is an examination of a family that’s going through something very hard.”
The story of a family dealing with Leukemia hit close to the Cassavetes home, though he has not dealt with medical emancipation. “I have a sick child. When I was a young man, my second daughter was diagnosed with congenital heart disease when she was a week old. Casting is part of the overall process of storytelling, at least from a director’s point of view. When I was young, I was wide open. The world was wide open before me and I was a happy guy. I didn’t know anything about life. This illness from my daughter, Sasha, was temperance on my soul. It was a learning experience. It was something that I had to go through and it was something that she had to go through and we had to go through together with a mother and the entire family.”
My Sister's Keeper
My Sister’s Keeper will inevitably tug on heartstrings like some of Cassavetes other films, though that’s not what the director set out to do. “I remember when we were doing The Notebook, there was a cut of the film that my producer wasn’t exactly happy with. He said something. He was talking all around it. I knew he was dissatisfied. I couldn’t understand what his darned point was. But he let something slip, he goes, ‘I didn’t even cry in the movie’ and I said, ‘Mark, is the whole idea of this movie that we should cry?’ and he says, ‘Yes, you idiot.’ I was like, ‘Oh, alright.’ Then we adjusted the film and we made it more emotional. The point of this film was not to make people cry. It’s to make people understand that life is beautiful, we’re all going to die, and not only that, it’s okay. It’s an outrageous thing to say but it’s the truth. So, if we have an emotional experience along the way, mazel tov.”
That may be a lot for any summer movie audience to take, let alone anyone who’s lived it. “I guess it just takes all kinds. There’s lots of romantic comedies and things that are very easy to take. If you’re looking for a truthful experience and you’re doing a movie on this subject, this is the movie you get. Is it tough? Yeah. Do people want to see that? We’ll see. I think they do. What is the moviegoing experience? You go, you sit in a dark room, you get overcharged for popcorn and you’re either going to look at something pretty or something fun or something like that, but it’s a real sensory experience. You’re going in there to feel things. So if you feel bad because the girl is sick, and I’m sorry for your own personal experience, I’m sorry for that. Somebody at the foreign press said, ‘Your movie is agony. It’s just agony.’ And I said, ‘Thank you?’ Guilty as charged, sir, guilty as charged. We’ll see who goes to see it.”
By the way, Cassavetes likes big blockbusters as much as anyone. “Am I going to go see Transformers? You bet I am. I like to see cars change over into robots. I think it’s awesome. No, I do. Escapism is great, but there’s room for all types of movies. Just because I don’t direct movies where helicopters explode, it doesn’t mean that those movies are bad or those movies have any less validity than the movies that I choose. I’m interested in stuff. I’m interested in people.”
My Sister's Keeper opens to theaters on June 26th.