Four years after Big Eden enchanted queer and straight audiences alike, writer-director Thomas Bezucha returns with another ensemble piece about love and family. Only this time the central character is a straight woman trying--and failing--to make a good impression on her fiance's family, including his gay brother. With comedy diva Sarah Jessica Parker in the lead, gay audiences are guaranteed to descend on The Family Stone in hordes when it hits theaters December 16. The Advocate joined a conference call between Parker (in Manhattan) and Bezucha (in Los Angeles) as the duo enthusiastically discussed their work together on the film.
Tom, you have a huge, adoring following from Big Eden, and we've all been waiting for the follow-up. What accounted for the lag time?
Thomas Bezucha: [Laughs] You tell me. I set out after Big Eden--I thought, Well, what was successful in that that I can extrapolate? I figured, Ensemble. And boy, they really don't like 'em out here. And while people have always loved the script of The Family Stone, you put it in front of executives and there's this need to categorize everything. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Maybe there was a "feathered fish" aspect that caused some of the delay.
For both of you: Why do you think Sarah Jessica has such a rabid following among gay men?
Sarah Jessica Parker: I think my lawyer has advised me not to answer. [Laughs] It would be unsightly of me to ponder that out loud.
Bezucha: It's her strength as a woman. She is that delicious combination of extremely ladylike but there's a tomboy element. Where you know she's just ready te roll up her sleeves and get in there.
Tom, you have a background in the fashion industry. Was that a bonding thing for you two?
Parker: I wouldn't say there was a lot of time spent on that conversation, but it was wonderful to have Tom's extraordinary eye for detail not just his aesthetic, which is impeccable, but his desire to be part of every detail of the set and the costumes and the hair and the makeup, because it's all one, it's all part of the same story. The details could only have come from somebody who has either learned or developed a desire and interest for detail.
Tom, was it markedly different to be working with a larger budget and under the auspices of a studio after making an indie feature?
Bezucha: Weirdly, the only difference that I'm aware of is what it bought me in terms of time. It felt luxurious to me in terms of our schedule. Big Eden was, you know, 17 days--it's like running through a burning house. You just try to get out alive.
Sarah, having worked for years with Barren Star and Michael Patrick Kin8 and now with Tom, is there something that gay men bring to the table, creatively speaking, that maybe other filmmakers don't?
Parker: You mean "filmmakers with different lifestyle choices"? [Laughs] I would hate to generalize, but I will say this: It's the kind of emotional experience that's so important to an actor--I think; I don't want to sound like a jackass--it's the way somebody makes you feel about yourself that makes the work. It's somebody that believes in you in a way that doesn't have to be verbalized all day long. And I think that's because guys dating men tend to be more comfortable being demonstrative in certain ways.
Bezucha: That's interesting.
Parker: But I don't want to say that I haven't liked working for straight directors! [Laughs] They can be helpful and kind and committed, but it's a different kind of communication. …