INTERVIEW: Director Jason James becomes entangled in ‘Entanglement’

Photo: Thomas Middleditch stars as Ben in the alternative romantic comedy Entanglement, a Dark Star Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures / Provided by October Coast Publicity.


The new offbeat comedy Entanglement stars Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch as a man on an unexpected journey to self-discovery and romantic love. When Ben falls for Hanna (Jess Weixler), he doesn’t immediately realize the many challenges and triumphs he is about to experience.

Entanglement arrives in theaters, plus video on demand and digital HD today, Feb. 9, from Dark Star Pictures. Director Jason James put his unique touch on the script by Jason Filiatrault, showcasing Ben’s world from both realistic and imaginary viewpoints. The result is a tender, whimsical and sad portrait of a man eternally searching for something or someone.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox spoke with James, best known for That Burning Feeling, about his new film. Here’s what he had to say:

On how he became attached to the project …

“I read it from front to back and put it down, and I just loved it. I thought it was really weird and different and raw and emotional and visceral and something I just really wanted to be a part of, so I created a Tumblr site of images and music and video of how I would execute this film if I got a chance. And I sent it to him [Filiatrault] and just pitched him really hard on letting me be a part of it and finally talked him into it, and he and I developed the movie for another two years just on the script side of things. And then once we got Thomas involved, the financing and everything else fell into place from there.”

On how things changed once Middleditch signed up …

“I think, yeah, any movie it’s just attaching that first marquee element, either a director or an actor, and people start to see the film a little bit more. So Thomas was the first actor we sent it to. It was just someone who I really saw in this role. He had a great sense of tone and comedy/drama. He was one of the first people we sent the script to, and we kind of built the movie around him, the other actors who could play well with him and the financing around him. And so, yeah, he was the first building block in all of it after the script.”

On how he sees the central character of Ben …

“I think Ben is in a significant moment in his life that all of us can relate to: uncertainty, alone, lost, not sure what the next step is and sort of retreating into ourselves. So that was kind of my initial instinct, and he’s also a character that is seeing things and hearing things that may or may not exist. I thought that’s interesting. That’s a very writerly thing to do, so when I direct something, I always want to know what the real world version of something is.

“And so I gave the script to a psychologist friend of mine and asked her to diagnose Ben. ‘What is the clinical diagnosis of this behavior?’ She said that he had schizoaffective disorder bipolar subtype, and so then I sat down with her. And I said, ‘OK, well patients that exhibit this, what kind of medications are they on? What are the side effects of those medications? What are some of their mental and personal tics, and what does that look like?’ Sat down with Thomas and talked a lot about that. The idea was to ground this idea as much as possible, to make it as real and honest and natural as possible, yet juxtapose that with a real dreamlike, fantastical world.”

On telling the story from Ben’s perspective …

“I think what’s exciting about this type of movie is that it’s so much from Ben’s perspective. Whenever I take on a project, I think about perspective. How are we viewing the world, and what lens is on the world? And it’s so much from Ben’s perspective that it really allows you to do a lot of interesting things with the camera, with focal shifts, with lens sizes, with reveals, and then there’s a lot of visual effects in this movie — and so, yeah, a really interesting license to do anything in a lot of ways and to play with what’s real and what’s fantasy. That was also something that really drew me to the project initially as a filmmaker. It’s such a rich world to play in.”

On working with the entire ensemble …

“We all worked on the script right up to the moment we’d be shooting a scene, over lunch or over breakfast or right before we stepped in. All of us would constantly be rewriting moments and just playing with dialogue. It’s a real collaboration, how we’re blocking the scene, where a character wants to go or how we can play things out. Everyone just brought their own ideas, and it was my job to sort of filter it and put it on the screen.

“What I love about being a director is that you kind of have to learn a different language for different people. Each of those actors works in such a different way. Jess is Juilliard trained and does a lot of homework … and wants to talk about every moment and situation, and Thomas is much more from the improv world where he doesn’t want to talk about it too much. He just wants to show, and then he can work and shape from there. So it’s interesting to see the totally different approaches to the work and material. That was part of the fun, and then I think for me trying to get each actor to bring a little bit of themselves into the role, trying to find that personal connection to who they are and where they’re going.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Entanglement is now playing in theaters and on video on demand and digital HD. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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