The Big Sick Interview: Michael Showalter
I have been a big fan of Michael Showalter since I was a teenager. I grew up watching The State and am a big fan of Stella. I adore Wet Hot American Summer. I am pretty sure that I have seen every film that Showalter has directed and/or starred in. I was absolutely delighted to see The Big Sick at Sundance and now, several months later, am able to sit down with one of my favorite comedic minds.
Scott M: Well, Michael, congratulations on this film. What was it like having it at Sundance and then have that huge deal that happened afterwards?
Michael S: Yeah. It was crazy. It was fun. It was really fun. It was snowing. It was like the very … It was sort of the Sundance experience that you always dream of. It was snowing. We were in snow boots the whole time. It was like a dream. It was like a crazy dream. Like being the belle of the ball.
And I’ve had the opposite experience. People don’t really know this, but Wet Hot American Summer was at Sundance, and we didn’t get distribution at Sundance. It was months after Sundance that we only then did we get distribution, and even then it was super crappy distribution, and so I know the other experience, which is to go to Sundance with all the hopes and dreams of getting that big deal, and then having nothing happen. The phone doesn’t ring. So I also sort of took it with a grain of salt. There’s a little bit of just luck involved in it and randomness to it, but it was a blast. It was a total blast.
Scott M: Awesome. I saw it at Sundance, by the way, at the premiere, and saw that roar of the crowd. It was an amazing experience even for me to be in the theater, but this film seems like a little bit of a departure from the normal films you direct. What was it about this that spoke to you and made you know that you wanted to do this?
Michael S: Well, it is a bit of a departure. The movie that I did before this, Hello, My Name is Doris, is in a similar vein of a kind of dramedy. It’s people going through something very serious, dealing with serious issues, but also having there be a humorous element to it. So I think there’s a continuation from Doris to this, and Kumail Nanjiani has a supporting role in Doris, which is sort of the connection. We had worked together on that. He knew how I, that we had a good rapport as an actor and a director.
He showed me the script just for feedback, like, “Hey, I wrote this script. What do you think?” I think he knows that everything I’ve done up to that point was something that I had written myself, or that was original to myself, and I read it and I was just totally blown away by it. Really surprised by the story, by the execution of it. It was such an honest sort of movie, not what I would’ve expected from him. Called him the next morning and said, “do you have a director? I would love to be considered for this.” But I just liked all of the, so many things that the movie talks about. The love story, and the life and death story, and the cultural identity, and his family, her family. There’s just so much going on and I just felt, as a director, it would be exciting to try to tackle it all.
Scott M: This is a two part question and my last question, but in terms of love stories, what draws you to them, because I feel like you tackle a lot of different types of love stories, and then what is your favorite romantic comedy?
Michael S: I think I want to believe that the characters in the story have a real connection. That there’s something between these two people that is authentic and that I can root for them, and I can root for them to try to overcome whatever differences they might have to find each other towards the end.
And in terms of my own favorite romantic comedy? I love Four Weddings and a Funeral. I love all the Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant films.
Scott M: They’re the best.
Michael S: Notting Hill and Love Actually, and they’ve influenced me a lot in terms of the way I think about romantic comedy. Yeah.
Scott M: Awesome. Well, thank you very much. I wish you best with this film.
Michael S: Great to meet you.
The Big Sick is now playing in limited release. It opens everywhere on Friday, July 14, 2017