On a private patio at the corner of Spruce and Columbia streets, overlooking stunning mountain views, Mike Mills and Gaby Hoffmann take it into account: it is their first participation in the Telluride Film Festival, and their film which has lasted for years, Go on! Go on—Written and directed by Mills, and starring Hoffmann — premiered at raves last night. This marked Mills’ first experience in a large screening room for about two years, and he got deeply nervous: For a filmmaker known for his deeply personal work, this one has perhaps been the most personal to date. .
Go on! Go on is based on Mills’ relationship with his 9-year-old son, Hopper. It follows the burgeoning dynamic between Johnny (Joaquin phoenix), a radio journalist working on a cross-country interview project, and his separated young nephew, Jesse (newcomer Wooded Normand), who is in Johnny’s care while his mother, Viv (Hoffmann), helps the boy’s father overcome his mental health issues. Mills takes the two characters from Los Angeles to New York via New Orleans, interweaving his portrayal of an adult and a child learning from each other with actual interviews with children in each of these. cities, meditating on life and the future in contemporary America. .
It’s classic Mills, in other words – an intimate story told with sweeping (and, in this case, gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, Robbie ryan) who chews up delicate and humane questions about family and relationships. And while the film is pointedly about Johnny and Woody, Hoffmann – in a radiant turn – emerges as the heartbeat of the film, the complex and deeply felt experience of motherhood hovering over every frame, be it. physically present or not.
Oscar winner Alexandre payne presented the film at the Thursday night premiere, saying it marked a move upscale for Mills, who was Oscar nominated for his 20th century women scenario. Mills might not agree with this, but he finds that he changes as a filmmaker as he ages. Under the hot Telluride sun, I joined Mills and Hoffmann – who worked closely with Mills on the film, from script to production to editing – for a high-profile conversation. After catching up with the films we had seen and hoped to see, we looked at their work, in Mills and Hoffmann’s first interviews on the film.
Vanity Fair: How was last night?
Mike Mills: My favorite part was Gaby’s reaction to the end. As a director, it’s really scary that the actor sees the film. I really want them to be okay with this and I respect Gaby’s opinion. It was one of the most significant things for me. She hadn’t seen the latest version. It was very ingrained. It was very hard to be there and to feel it. I am so nervous.
How did it strike you, Gaby, to see the finished version?
Gaby Hoffmann: When I read the script, I felt like it was this altered, parallel version of the story I would be telling and the experiences I was going through, but through a slightly different lens. I felt out of my body when I read it. I thought it was so beautiful, and part of it made me feel like I couldn’t do it too, but I bonded so deeply to it. It was a dynamic and bizarre experience. Then watching so many cuts, because Mike was kind enough to let me participate in the editing conversations—
Mike Mills: – I was greedy.
Gaby Hoffmann: [Laughs] So I didn’t see that last cut, and the experience of watching the movie was just like the experience of reading the script: it’s the most perfect realization of those feelings and ideas that I can. to imagine. He hit all the notes. I had such an amazing experience watching it. Through all the stages, I felt very involved, and I couldn’t separate everything; but last night I felt almost completely dissociated.
You have to let go a bit.
Gaby Hoffmann: It was an experience to have been part of it. I really loved it. I am delighted and proud of Mike. The editing process was a long one and he really found the iteration of this thing that was really meant to be.
Mike, what was that process like for you, to find exactly that–through these different cuts to what Go on! Go on finally became?
Mike Mills: I have a child so I needed to be there for Zoom school. I would go to editing at 12:30 p.m. It’s a very unusual life for me, and there was no rush. Like, when is the movie gonna come out, anyway? With all my films, I finish writing the script, then I meet the actors, then we start talking about it, then I rewrite. You get smarter, better and new information. Then you start shooting and you keep moving and changing it. We were constantly changing scenes. Then when I get to editing, I keep changing it. I play, I try different things from the script, I take something back. I’ve always done that. I don’t wanna be cool, now I know what I’m doing and I’m just gonna perform it.
Your last three films have all been about the relationship between adults and children, of course, and you mentioned in your intro that this one was particularly personal to you. Beginners was inspired by your father, 20th century women was inspired by your mother, and Go on! Go on is inspired by your own parenting experiences, isn’t it?