Marc Webb On ‘The Only Living Boy In New York… by Uinterview

The Only Living Boy in New York, the newest film from director Marc Webb (500 Days of SummerThe Amazing Spider-Man) is a wild coming-of-age story about a recent college grad who pursues a relationship with his father’s mistress.

Packed with established stars – the film features Jeff BridgesPierce BrosnanKate Beckinsale, and Cynthia Nixon – it also features a pair of relative newcomers, Callum Turner and Kiersey Clemons.

Webb recently sat down with uInterview to discuss makingThe Only LIving Boy in New York and its stars.

While The Only Living Boy in New York isn’t necessarily as romantic of a film as the wildly successful 500 Days of Summer was, Webb couldn’t help but acknowledge the two have something in common.

Despite having first read the script nearly 10 years ago, Webb told uInterview exclusively, “I think this movie really came together recently but is a vestige of a pervious phase in my life.” The script had been on the Black List of the best un-produced scripts in Hollywood for years.

“I don’t know how to explain that really, but it is something that is kind of interesting… It’s a phase of life that always peaks my curiosity.”

The Only Living Boy in New York was a long-time project of Webb’s which took a backseat at times to some of his other films, including those in The Amazing Spider-Man series. But after revisiting the script some time later, things began to come together.

“I was doing Spider-Man and looking through some old emails and I came across the script again,” Webb recalled. “It was no longer called The Only Living Boy in New York, it was called The Only Living Boy and it was set in Chicago, and it had been kind of developed to death.”

After reverting the script to its original draft and working from the beginning, one of the film’s stars came on board and expedited the whole process.

“Eventually Jeff [Bridges] came on board. And when Jeff comes on board, you’re very close to having a movie.”

But Bridges wasn’t the only big-time actor to come on board. Eventually, Webb was faced with a large cast of well respected actors. But working with them, Webb says, didn’t turn out to be the ego-fueled chaos one might expect.

“It was great group of people,” Webb said. “I mean, for that level of talent and the caliber of talent, people were incredibly friendly, incredibly warm – we had lots of dinners together.”

Webb added, “Everybody came to the table because they loved the project. It wasn’t about making money. It was a script that everybody loved and roles that people could really chew on and I thought that made it really fun. We were lucky to have old pros like Pierce, and Cynthia, and Jeff, and Callum and Kiersey as well. It was a great intersection of talents.”

The Only Living Boy in New York hits theaters Friday, August 11. Watch the trailer below.


Q: How did you decide to cast Callum Turner? -

That character is tricky, mostly because of what is required of the role, frankly. He's on the precipice of manhood and you need someone who can be put on his heels by someone like Kiersey [Clemons], a young, very intelligent young women, and then you also want to be rooting for him to get with Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). And that's a tricky space to walk because if he is too boyish it becomes kind of gross and weird but if he's too old then you don't quite understand what's going on between him and Mimi at the beginning of the movie. Callum, I think, walked that line really well, he kind of exists in that really specific space, with that nascent manhood. He also has a kind of geeky-ness and a lankiness that's nice but there is also a confidence that he can dig into and find that's really appealing.

Q: Is this genre the kind of film you're most comfortable making? -

When I first read this script, it was before '500 Days of Summer' so I think at that point in my life I was curious about those events, I was closer to them. And that was about 10 years ago. I think this movie really came together recently but it is a vestige of a pervious phase in my life, I guess. I don't know how to explain that really, but it is something that is kind of interesting. This isn't a romance in the same way '500 Days of Summer' was, but it is a coming-of-age-story in a certain way. But, yeah, it's a phase of life that always peaks my curiosity, I guess.

Q: How did you get involved in this project? -

I had read it many years ago and I went in to interview for the job – this was when I was doing music videos – and they didn't want me, the rejected me. But there's a scene at the beginning of the movie with Johanna and Thomas where she's talking about his mother and I thought that was a very provocative scene and that always stuck with me. Then, when I was doing 'Spiderman' I was looking through some old emails and I came across the script again, or an email to my agent about the script, and I asked my agent to send me the script again. And when I read it, in the intermediate years, the script had been developed and then sort of set aside. It was no longer called 'The Only Living Boy In New York,' it was called 'The Only Living Boy' and it was set in Chicago, and it had kind of been developed to death. I thought it was so strange. I went back into my computer files and found the original draft and script and said, 'I would love to do it still, but let's start from the beginning.' And we started from the original draft of the script and worked with the writer for a while and we came up with it. Once I was done with 'Spiderman' movies I worked more on it and eventually Jeff [Bridges] came on board and when Jeff comes on board you're very close to having a movie.

Q: What was it like to work with Jeff Bridges and Pierce Brosnan? -

It was a great group of people. I mean, for the level of talent and the caliber of talent, people were incredibly friendly, incredibly warm, we had lots of dinners together. Pierce, you know, it's a difficult role because it requires a deep charisma and sophistication and Pierce is the perfect guy for that role. Fortunately, he came on board. I think it's a cool – you think of Pierce as very chill, very calm, and he is – but he also has so many other colors as an actor and we get to explore a little more of the raging side of his character in this movie which I really enjoyed and I hadn't really seen from Pierce before. That was exciting. Everybody came to the table because they loved the project. It wasn't about making money. It was a script that everybody loved and roles that people could really chew on and I thought that made it really fun. We were lucky to have old pros like Pierce and Cynthia [Nixon] and Jeff, and Callum and Kiersey as well. It was a great intersection of talents.

Q: What was the most challenging scene of the film to shoot? -

The Uncle Buster toast was something that was – it's the wedding toast in the middle of the movie – it's sort of the centerpiece and the statement of themes in the film. I was working with the writer Allan [Loeb] and we were messing around with how the movie ends and we were trying to work on this middle section where all the lines of chemistry are overlapping and relationships are crumbling and relationships are blossoming, secrets are being revealed and lies are being exposed. But then, you know, it's kind of a very hot part of the script, there was a technical part about it, and I wanted all of these things to come together. I needed some words to hold it in place. We had messed around with a lot of different toasts and then Allan was like, 'We need someone to come in and guest on this' and so I called up this guy Alvin Sargent, who is a screenwriter who wrote 'Ordinary People,' he adapted 'Paper Moon,' he's one of the great screenwriters. He's also 90-years-old and has enough life experience to really look over life and come up with something and I was like, 'Well, this is a perfect assignment for Alvin,' and I went out and asked him, because he did some work on 'Spiderman' – he was married to Laura [Ziskin], who was one of the producers on 'Spiderman' – and he is a great friend, and obviously a wonderful writer. And I called him and was like, 'Hey, can you do this thing? Can you write a wedding toast?' and he was like, 'No, I can't do it, you don't want me involved, I'm a hack,' you know, in a very self-deprecating nature so I let him go. Then, at five o'clock the next morning, he had read the script and sent me this beautiful speech that was performed by Bill Camp. I think it encapsulates so many threads of the film in a really beautiful way. You start thinking this guy is gonna make a fool of himself and he ends up dabbling in the profound. And I really like that sequence. But it was a tricky intersection of stating the theme, tracking the story beats, getting the characters to behave in a way that kind of creates interesting parallel edits, so that was a tricky sequence to shoot.