As she was writing her movie, Enough Said, Nicole Holofcener had James Gandolfini in mind as its leading man. When she approached the star, who died in June this year and who will forever be known as Tony Soprano, she was surprised to discover he was a fan of her films.
"I'd met Jim a couple of years ago for another part where he was not quite right, but he was a fan of Lovely and Amazing and Friends With Money, which just killed me," Holofcener recalls. "We had a similar sense of humour and started teasing each other right away. Jim has a charming, cheeky way about him, so I thought he would be perfect for Albert. I think he wanted a part like this."
The eternal triangle she creates in Enough Said has Catherine Keener as Albert's pretentious poet ex-wife Marianne and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, the new love in his life. Only when massage therapist Eva takes on Marianne as a client, she starts to hear about Albert.
"The idea that one man's heaven is another man's hell is what interested me", says Holofcener. "I am someone's hell - I am an ex-wife and I'm also my boyfriend's heaven. I'm sure my ex-husband says, 'How can that be?'. I know that's exaggerated, but you have to be exaggerated to create this kind of plot. But underneath the humour there is a reality. The film is about learning to accept someone and knowing that everybody has their crap and it's really just a matter of whose crap you can deal with.
With every new person you're just going to get new crap. I swear that's not a negative view - it's just a grown-up one."
Did she plan on having Elaine from Seinfeld and Tony Soprano in the same movie?
"I wrote the script long before I was hiring two incredibly famous TV icons, and I had to cut out a lot of the jokes when they're in the TV library where Albert works. Eva said, 'Ever see Seinfeld?', Albert says, 'Yeah, it sucked'. That should be on the DVD.
"I didn't initially think of Julia for the part of Eva," Holofcener says. "But I jumped at the opportunity to meet with her; I'm a huge Seinfeld fan so it was scary. But I could see the depth inside of her; she seemed able to express emotion easily."
Certainly Louis-Dreyfus didn't hold back in her tough portrayal of Eva.
"Watching the scene where Eva is tearing Albert apart at the table with the guacamole and the calorie book - women can be really harsh on men. I include myself in that, but I'm working on it."
Gandolfini, she says, took it in his stride.
"Jim came to the film wanting to do his best and wasn't going to phone in the performance," Holofcener recalls. "It was his combination of being very focused and serious and also acting like a crazy, foolish clown that we all fell in love with. He improvised but was scared of coming to a comedy with Julia, as he had a very slow pace and she does not.
"I think he felt he had to match wits with her and be as fast. But once he realised everyone was appreciating exactly who he was and what he was bringing, he would relax and be hilarious in his own way."
Who: New York director Nicole Holofcener
What: Enough Said starring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
When and where: In cinemas now
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