Rosario Dawson: "He's actually really shy and surprisingly about – not his physique – but just doing the love scene with him in this film was a revelation, I have to say. It was very sweet to see him just be like, 'Well maybe…what should I do? Should I get a buffer? Maybe my wife should be there. I don't know. I'm just kind of a little nervous. I don't want to be that guy. As soon as he says cut should I just throw something on you?' It was the thing that we talked about consistently when making this film. He was pushing it to the end of the schedule. He rescheduled our kiss like twice. I was starting to get to the point where I thought maybe it was me. I was starting to get really worried. And on the day that we actually started to shoot the stuff he was like, 'Yeah! We're going to get this scene!' I was like, 'You're just really nervous. You're really shy right now and that's just so endearing.' I think people don't normally see him like that. He takes that very seriously. I think people are going to be really surprised to see how sensitive he is."
Madison Pettis: "Will is the biggest movie star in the world and I was a little bit nervous at first to get to work with him. But after I met him I realized that he's so down to earth and so normal, I just loved working with him. I'd love to work with him again."
It's such a serious movie. Did he ever get out of character and crack you up?
Madison Pettis: "He does. He cracks me up. Right when the camera stops he starts like beatboxing and cracking jokes, just like his character in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And he even taught me a stunt."
Did he? What did he teach you?
Madison Pettis: "He taught me how to slap someone in the face when you're doing a movie. I'll give you a little secret…they don't actually slap each other."
Octavia Spencer: "She's great and beautiful, and she's a crack. She's really, really funny and so it was just really great being on the set with them. It was really relaxed. It was a great experience. It was one of my best experiences."
You say she was a crack up and this is a very serious movie. We don't see her laugh much in this film. But on the set it was more light-hearted?
Octavia Spencer: "Very light-hearted. In front of the camera it was serious business but behind the scenes they were just wonderful."
Grant Nieporte: "I did not. Not at first. I would have thought Billy Crudup, a million bucks, and Sundance. And it ended up becoming kind of a studio love story and we were lucky enough, blessed enough to get Will."
How long did it take you to do the script for this?
Grant Nieporte: "It took about six or seven months to get a draft that was workable, that went out to some friends. And by the end of that time I had something I was ready to show."
And then you did that, how many changes did you have to do once Will Smith came onboard?
Grant Nieporte: "I did a couple of polishes with my producers at Escape Artists. And then Will came on and we did a couple of polishes for him. And then the director came on, did a couple of polishes for him. We worked right up until the strike off and on. He would come in from Italy, Gabriele Muccino, and we'd work when he was in town for a week at a time right up until the strike. And then we got together again right after the strike ended and did more work on the script to get the shooting draft in shape."
Where did the idea come from?
Grant Nieporte: "The story came from I met a gentleman at a cocktail party almost a decade ago now, and just I could tell that he was profoundly sad. He was carrying something around with him, kind of the weight of the world. He was brilliant and didn't look like anybody else in the room and didn't talk like anybody else in the room, but profoundly sad. I walked away kind of thinking, 'I've never met anybody like that. I don't know what he's carrying around. I wonder what he feels responsible for.' And I found out that he felt responsible for kind of a national tragedy that happened in his work life. And that got me thinking if you felt responsible for the taking of life – one or more – how far would you go to make amends. When is it okay to live again? When is okay to love again? These questions just kind of percolated and I thought eventually it sort of kind of formed into the genesis of the story."
This is so interesting because you can interpret a couple of different ways when you're watching it. You can walk out extremely sad or [see it as] a very life-affirming type film.
Grant Nieporte: "I hope hopeful and some kind of celebration of life. You know, it's this idea that every day is precious and every day matters so when we get up in the morning what does it mean to spend your day…is it going to be all about you or is it going to be about serving other people? I kind of like to ask of myself, 'What does it mean to love your neighbor in today's day and age?' It's a tough question and it's an easy one to brush aside in how busy we all are in life."