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Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and Amy Poehler
The Poehler-directed Netflix film celebrated its New York premiere on Wednesday night, and the cast discussed the onscreen and off-screen laughs and experiences.
The wine in Wine Country might be fake, but the friendships are real. The Netflix film, which marks Amy Poehler’s directorial debut stars Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Paula Pell, who have all known each other since working together on Saturday Night Live. (Gasteyer calls them a seven-headed parrot.)
In the film, they play friends who met in a Chicago pizzeria and reunite for their friend Rebecca’s (Dratch) birthday. But there was one rule on set: No real wine on camera. (Off-screen was a different story.)
“Amy knew she'd never get the movie done. We'd still be shooting it if we were drinking real wine,” Pell told The Hollywood Reporter at the New York premiere at the Paris Theatre on Wednesday night. “This was definitely a grape juice sort of thing and then at night, we'd pour it on. We'd get a few inches down in the bottle.”
Working with friends can sometimes make issues, but the cast raves about the experience and Poehler's leadership.
“They're not just my friends. They're comedy legends. They're pros. So it was awesome,” Poehler said of the directing experience. “There’s a good amount that was taken from real life because we did all go on a bunch of trips together, and then we used some creative freedom and bumped some things up.”
The story is loosely based on Dratch’s real 50th birthday, and while all the actors admit they have some similarity to their characters, it’s exaggerated for the screen. Poehler’s character Abby is the planner who makes itineraries for the trip, and she fell into a similar role as director. Pell actually did buy her friends a bunch of vibrators. “The person that worked at the Hustler store got me an employee discount because they felt so bad for me," she said. And Spivey is the first to admit she is her character Jenny, who doesn’t want to go on the trip. Spivey, who also co-wrote the film with Liz Cackowski, was hesitant to be in the movie
“In the credits, I want it to say, ‘Poehler made me do this,’” Spivey said. “I also don't want people to be like, ‘Who does she thinks he is? She wrote herself into her movie?’ It ended up that I'm so proud of it. Amy knew to push me out of my comfort zone and I'm so glad she made me do it.”
Rudolph, who plays the exhausted mom Naomi, said it was such a rare opportunity to have a part written for her, and she’s grateful for Cackowski and Spivey’s collaboration.
“That's the benefit of people that know you well and have written for you for so many years and know your voice,” Rudolph said. “Writing something for you, which in my experience is very rare, so that's such a gift in and of itself and from there you're only able to build more. It's so nice and such a luxury because that never happens to me at least. Everyone's personalities and their skill set were all able to shine.”
They also have a shorthand from working together in comedy for so many years, and Gasteyer says the environment they were able to create on set was very different from the traditional comedy environment.
“This kind of environment was deeply feminine, which is a very different environment in many ways than the traditional comedy environment — SNL included in that. I think we're all fighters but I think when you're in an entirely female situation like this, the boxing gloves come off a little bit just because the vibe is different. At this point, it's probably more about our friendship and supporting each other and connecting. I don't mean that one is better than the other. I think there is value in each," she said.
Jason Schwartzman is the token guy in the movie, but he said he didn’t see himself as the only male actor on set. When Poehler introduced Schwartzman before the film, she said. “I only like like five straight guys and you’re one of them Jason, so thank you.”
“I just thought, I cannot believe I'm with these incredible actors. When you look at the names up there, they've all had an impact on me in a way and so I cannot believe I get to be here with them,” Schwartzman said. “So I don't know if it was like I'm the only the male. But I did feel like, not an outcast, but like I don't belong with these people. They're so incredible. It was more of a feeling like that. Like what’s it like to be the only non-superhero funny person here?”
Everyone recalls fun memories of singing, dancing, and drinking on and off screen, and Rudolph said the dance sequence in the movie is something that has happened many times. As a groups of friends who have known each other for decades but don’t often get to all be in the same room together, they took advantage of all the time they had to just hang out.
“We didn’t actually ever retreat to our trailers. Any other professional situation where you have 14-hour days ahead of you, people retreat to their trailers. We always wanted to spend time together,” Gasteyer said. “We always wanted our chairs in a little group. So we'd play HQ together. We'd do bits. We sang ‘Who farted’ to ‘Who are you?’ in harmony. I have hours of video tape of just time in our cast chairs. I really didn't think about it until today when I was like we actually just spent all that time together.”
The evening was a family affair. Gasteyer brought her kids, and many of the cast’s parents attended. When Poehler listed off her thank yous from the stage before the screening, she teared up when thanking parents, who had watched them roller skate in the driveway. Poehler and Cacowski’s brother also have cameos in the movie.
Friends like Seth Meyers, Jon Hamm and Sofia Coppola also attended the screening and the afterparty at The Oak Room. Poehler quoted her friend Julia Louis-Dreyfus from the stage, and when Poehler walked into the party, she was surprised to see Louis-Dreyfus and the two embraced.
The director also applauded the all-female creative team and cast. “I can’t believe that this is happening! We’re here. We did it, we fooled ‘em,” she said, before dedicating the movie to all the girlfriends out there.
“This is a film that celebrates female relationships, which I think is the fossil fuel of our great nation,” Poehler said. “For those of you that are here, you’re sitting next to women that you love, this is for you. This film is for you.”