The Team VIVA recently attended the red carpet premiere at The Printworks of the fabulous new film ‘Now Is Good’. However before they were even making their way across town to the big screen, they were lucky enough to meet both the film’s star (Dakota Fanning) and its wonderful director (Ol Parker).
VIVA: Tell us a little bit about Now Is Good and your character Tessa?
Dakota Fanning: Yeah, ‘Now Is Good’ is a story about a seventeen year old girl called Tessa, and she pretty much finds out at the beginning of the film that she is terminally ill and is going to die. She has made the decision to stop her treatment, to be able to do things and live her life the way she wants to – and it ends up being a story of, kind of, you try to do all these things and your life just sort of happens to you. Your life just sort of happens to you and she finds that other things are more important and other things become less important…
I haven’t actually seen the film yet but I had the most fun making it – and I look forward to seeing it.
VIVA: Now Is Good is a film adaptation of Jenny’s book Before I Die. If you could choose to play a character in any other film-remake of a book, who would you choose and why?
Dakota Fanning: Wow – well it’s hard, certain ones have already been done so… There’s a book called The Marriage Plot and I absolutely love that. It’s a bit of a random one but – I love it.
VIVA: Like many of your past film characters (such as Lewellen in Hounddog and Emily in Hide and Seek), Tessa sounds like an intense role to play. How did you prepare for the role and get into character?
Dakota Fanning: I don’t know, I don’t really know how I do it. I truly love what I do and I look forward to doing these roles. I had so much fun doing this one – people ask, you know, “how did you have fun doing this one?” but I really did! The script is what I really base everything on, and you’re very lucky when you have someone like Ol to work with. He’s so amazing and I knew I’d be protected by him so, I just went with my instincts. It’s what I want to do and love to do, so I sort of just go for it.
VIVA: we’ve read that your family background is actually very sporty – as oppose to part of the drama industry, which is interesting particularly as an actress who started work so young. What was it that made you want to take on acting?
Dakota Fanning: Yeah you know, I mean it kind of happened randomly – things just sort of happen in life. I’m from Georgia originally and I did a few things there for fun and then went to LA to see how it would work out… I got my first film, it all sort of happened from there and so I kept going. I’m so lucky my parents and family supported that; it’s so cool to know what you want to do, it’s a nice feeling to be able to do it. A lot of people find negatives in that, but knowing all along has been the biggest blessing I’ve ever had. Getting started so young and being able to do so many things has been great – I’ve had a great life so far and I’m extremely grateful for it.
‘Now Is Gone’ is obviously a book adaptation – Jenny Downham’s ‘Before I Die’: had you read the book before?
Ol Parker: No, I was actually writing another film at a time for the producers. They had been to a book fair and I was given it before it was published; I thanked them and said it sounded lovely but that it wasn’t really my bag of chips.
Despite that, one of the guys encouraged me to read it, telling me “you never know…”, which ended with me texting them at around two in the morning saying “we have to make this film” (putting on pretend sobbing voice). It was a brilliant book.
Then Marigold (‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’) did so well, and I had about a year I think it was where, for which I was unable to do [‘Now Is Good’]. When I actually came to write it, I’d not given it much of a thought but it was very easy as we got started.
VIVA: You shot the film in a matter of weeks. Was it difficult to cram it all in?
Ol Parker: Oh it was chaos, and very difficult. The film was an extremely tough shoot and completed in about forty days. We worked hard and were all over the place, particularly when darting in between London and Brighton, but it was worth it.
VIVA: We spoke to Dakota about the film’s story and her character Tessa, but as director, how would you describe ‘Now Is Good’ in terms of its style and feel?
Ol Parker: The thing is, the idea is that it isn’t what you think at first. I always wanted that to be at the forefront both as moving and satisfying for audiences.
It is a weird desire when you want people to cry – and we’ve been testing it and screening it with people – and I think that is what we’re beginning to do. Having seen it so many times, I’m now beginning to watch [the film]’s audience instead. The minute their arms go up to their faces, you think “got cha”, which again is weird and yet satisfying. The response over all has been great so far and if people don’t cry then, I assume, they did not enjoy the film whatsoever.
To answer the question, though, I hope it isn’t just a weep-fest. We hope it is very celebratory.
VIVA: Definitely. It sounds like Tessa’s rejection of her treatment and focus on the simple things, which Dakota explained to us, does this entirely.
Ol Parker: Most definitely. For a lot of younger people these simple things are incredibly important, and thus there is a tremendous intensity invested into them, both in the real world and into the script of this film. Your first kiss, when that goes right (or indeed wrong), that’s absolutely huge. Adding death to that equation only makes it even more huge.
In celebrating what many would call ‘the mundane’, we emphasise the fact that Tessa just wants a normal teenage life with normal teenage experiences, which was always encouraged to come across as extremely intense.
VIVA: Was there much communication with Jenny Downham (the author of ‘Before I Die’) when bringing the film together?
Ol Parker: Not especially. I mean, Jenny obviously had to approve me which was great – I would not have gone on to make the film otherwise. As no work had really started on the film, we didn’t talk that much about what I was ‘doing’. We did meet for dinner however, looked at the drafts and gave me notes – some of which we took heed of and integrated into the final film. In addition to that she came to talk to many cast-members. So, whilst she was extremely supportive she was never intrusive – I know that she is an honest woman and very happy with our finished product. If she hadn’t have been, I’d have been quite disappointed, as I obviously started loving the book before beginning work on the film version…
VIVA: How did the film come about to premiere in Manchester?
Ol Parker: Manchester is a lovely place – it is a great area for gaining publicity and a lot if moving along and going on here. I like it and it’s a city we enjoy, so it was perfect to premiere the film here.
In addition to that I really feel that the feel of Manchester matches a lot of what we are going for with the mood of the film. ‘Now Is Good’ may well offend people – although it is a 12A so obviously will not be that bad – as it features drugs, sex and other wild things. I like that though, and I like the fact that Manchester embraces that sort of culture and extremely interested in the sort of gritty nature to it.
VIVA: This is a similar question to what we asked Dakota, but if you could make a film out of any book (old or new), which would you choose and why?
Ol Parker: Oh, that’s a great question! If I knew that I’d be begging to get on-board with it!