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Interview: Star Gattlin Griffith & Author Joyce Maynard on ‘Labor Day’

Interview: Star Gattlin Griffith & Author Joyce Maynard on ‘Labor Day’

Interview: Star Gattlin Griffith & Author Joyce Maynard on ‘Labor Day’
January 30
15:35 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

Opening tomorrow is Jason Reitman’s newest film and adaptation titled “Labor Day,” about a family who helps an escaped convict.

The North Texas Daily had the chance to sit down with 15-year-old star Gattlin Griffith (“Changeling,” 2008) and author Joyce Maynard at the Joule Hotel in Dallas last week to talk about pies, trick riding and how influential parents are.

I love that this film takes place in 1987. There are all these flashes of posters, products and cars throughout the feature that remind you of this. What’s something from that time period that you wish you could have experienced?

Gattlin Griffith: “Oh, yeah. I’ll admit it; I’m on my cell phone too much. I like how back then everything seemed more personal. You had to go hang out with friends and talk to people. I would like for it to be more like that now. And short-shorts were rockin’ back then. I mean that’s a good tan that you could get.”

Well, you should bring it back and start a fashion trend.

Griffith: “I’m thinking about it. I’ll bring it back. I’ll wear it on the red carpet or something. I’ll try it out [Laughs].”

Joyce, what were you doing in 1987, when this story took place?

Joyce Maynard: “In 1987, I was struggling in a unhappy marriage with three very young children— a three-year-old, a five-year-old and a nine-year-old, living on a farm in New Hampshire, with not a scrap of my day for me. Everything was about taking care of everybody else. Two years later, that marriage ended and I was alone with my children. That was both the hardest time and the beginning of the possibility for me to be my own self.

In 1987— none of these were conscious, intellectual choices. I don’t write that way. I just sort of feel it. But I love capturing that simpler time where people aren’t all consulting their cell phones, or texting this or texting that. It’s not a very romantic, passionate thing to be doing. It’s a sort of deadening thing.

So I believe we need a story like this more than ever in these times. There are people out there, around your age, that never knew those times.”

LABOR_DAY_2

Gattlin, I’m assuming that you’ve read Joyce’s novel before.

Griffith: “Yes, several times.”

Did you read the screenplay first?

Griffith: “Well, not exactly. I got sides, which is kind of a condensed version of the script, first. So I read that and then I read the book. Then they gave me the full script after I got the part.”

So what did you think about all the changes from the book in the script. For instance, in the book, there are more scenes where you get a little cozier with Eleanor, who is one of the girls that your character likes.

Griffith: “Yes, that’s actually something that I was going to bring up, but overall, the movie is pretty close to Joyce’s novel. I think the filmmakers made it more family-friendly, but that’s what you kind of aim for anyway. But besides the book going into more detail about the relationship between my character and Eleanor, the movie is pretty close.”

Something that has always fascinated me – and I think the movie points this out very well – is how we are all influenced by our parents. What did you take away from your parents? How do you think your parents influenced you?

Maynard: “Oh, gosh. I’ve written a whole book about that one. My parents were brilliantly creative people who were frustrated in their own creative lives, and that is a central fact in my life. I felt driven to accomplish for them, on their behalf, what they deserved and did not get to accomplish.

My mother was a mother and a wife in the 50s with a degree from Harvard, who couldn’t get a job. My father was an extraordinary painter, who just painted in complete obscurity for most of his life. So when I watch this movie, I think about how much my mother would have loved it.

This movie has that scene where they all bake a pie together. I watched my mother make pies, but my mother was so much more than a pie baker. Pie is very symbolic. It’s like, ‘there’s your pie, mom. Up on screen.’ It still chokes me up.

Another part is telling the truth. I grew up in an alcoholic family where we never talked about what was going on and that was terrifying. A lot of my career writing – certainly over the past 18 or 20 years – has been about refusing to keep forbidden secrets. I like to talk about what’s going on. And in this movie, people do: they tell the truth.”

What about you, Gattlin? I know that your dad is a stunt man and that you actually do some trick riding on horses yourself.

Griffith: “Yes. I follow in his footsteps, obviously. My grandpa and grandma are in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. I do lots of sports and I am a pretty good athlete, and so are my mom and dad.

My dad just sets his mind for something and goes for it. I remember when I was seven and I told my dad, ‘hey dad, in one year I’m going to have my own trophy, be in a commercial and in a newspaper.’ He said, ‘well, you can’t just say that because that’s not going to automatically happen.’ And I said, ‘no, I think I’m going to do it.’ The next year, I was in the newspaper for my boy scouts, got a trophy for soccer and booked my first national Yamaha commercial.”

That’s impressive. So how do you still do all of those things and go to school?

Griffith: “Well, we’re very busy. I also have three little brothers, so I feel bad for my mom. She’s constantly running around and getting us to our different places. After school, sports are my main priority— well, sports, acting and then trick riding. They’re all in there.”

If the each of you could teach a college course to students at UNT, what do you think you would teach?

Griffith: “A trick riding class— I would probably be a professor of that. I know quite a bit about it. But I would also promote letting things happen and not stressing, because everything happens for a reason. Even if it may not seem amazing at the time, it has a reason and it will work out in the end.”

Joyce, how about a pie baking class? The pie in the film looked delicious.

Maynard: “Yes! The pie class would be a good one because it wouldn’t just be about pie. The pie is a metaphor for accepting flaws, relaxing, getting away from the numbers and the recipe that’s written down on paper, which is never how you learn to do something. It comes from the heart.

So I would teach pie, but it would be much more than that. And if you’re interested – because so many people have asked me – I decided to film a little pie video. So if you go to curious.com and type in, ‘Joyce Maynard’s Home Apple Pie,’ you will get the Josh Brolin pie lesson, which is the anti-recipe. It’s not about how much of this or how much of that. It’s about feeling it.”

“Labor Day” opens tomorrow at the Cinemark Denton.

Feature Photo: Gattlin Griffith and Josh Brolin star in “Labor Day.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures 

Center Photo: Author Joyce Maynard teaches “Labor Day” stars Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet to bake a pie. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

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