SAG-AFTRA Foundation – Conversations at Home with Sebastian Stan of ‘Endings, Beginnings’ Q&A with Sebastian Stan. Moderated by Jenelle Riley.
Category: Endings, Beginnings
Hollywood Reporter — The actor also dives into the debated ending of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and what the future holds for Bucky Barnes: “These characters are getting so much more mileage for all of us to explore them.”
Sebastian Stan jumped at the chance to try his hand at improvising for the duration of Drake Doremus’ latest relationship drama, ‘Endings, Beginnings’. Starring opposite Shailene Woodley and Jamie Dornan, Stan plays an Angeleno named Frank, whose erratic behavior complicates a budding relationship between Daphne (Woodley) and his friend Jack (Dornan). Despite being intimidated by the exercise of improvisation, Stan knew it was important for him to see what he was capable of without the comfort and safety of a script.
“I’ve always felt protected by scripts, lines and scenes. I feel like I’m one of those people who’s opened up much more by scripts. I’m not as witty on my own,” Stan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “This was one of those different experiences, and I would certainly do it again. I’d be curious to see if I could ever use parts of [improvisation] in a bigger movie… So, maybe this was a really training experience for that.”
Until the coronavirus pandemic shut down the entirety of Hollywood, Stan was just a few weeks away from wrapping Marvel Studios’ ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ — the MCU’s first foray into scripted television for Disney+. Since many fans have wondered whether the show would maintain the look and feel of its theatrical counterparts, Stan is now shedding some light on how cinematic the streaming show is.
“It felt like both. In a lot of ways, it felt like a movie,” Stan recalls. “What I loved about it was that, tonally, it was very much in the same world that ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ was, which was one of my favorite experiences that I’ve ever had, period. So, in a sense, it was grounded and very much in the world as we know it. But, it’s also really jam-packed with a lot of massive, massive action scenes mixed with deep focus on character. These characters are getting so much more mileage for all of us to explore them. We can put them in situations that we’ve never been able to put them in before because you now have six hours as opposed to two.”
Now a year removed from the release of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, the highest grossing film of all time, questions are still being asked about Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes’ concluding moments. While many fans agree with Rogers’ choice to pass his iconic shield on to Sam Wilson, there’s also a contingent of fans who wanted to see Bucky take on the mantle of Captain America from his best friend. To Stan, Steve was giving Bucky the same gift he gave himself: a life.
“Steve is saying to Bucky, ‘You’re going to go and do that, too. I’m not going to put this thing on you. We’re both going to live our lives — the lives that were actually taken from us back in the ‘40s when we enlisted,’” Stan explains. “So, that’s where I felt they were at the end of the movie. I don’t think there’s a desire or any conflicted thoughts about taking on that mantle. Sam, to me, was always the clear man to take on that mantle for numerous reasons, which also comes with so much more baggage that’s going to be explored in the show. I guess you’ll have to tune into Disney+ to find out why. (Laughs.) At the end of Endgame, for either Steve or Bucky, it’s really not about the shield.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Stan elaborates on the process of improvising an entire movie, the latest with Disney+’s ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ and his interpretation of Steve and Bucky’s last moments in ‘Avengers: Endgame’.
How’s everything with you in New York?
It’s alright considering what people are going through out there. I’m pretty lucky. I haven’t been home in a long time so it’s been good to be home. You always feel weird when somebody says you can’t do something; It’s difficult to grasp that quickly. But, in truth, if I wasn’t working and I had time at home, I would probably be doing what I’m doing now. I’m writing, watching a lot of movies and just taking advantage of this time to chill out and get back to being present, something that is more and more difficult in our lives. I’m finding that my motivation is all over the place. Once I get to about 3 o’clock, I’m done for the day because it’s hard for me to get my focus back. So, I try to do all the important bits in the morning. Once in a while, I’ll go out for a run in the very early morning because I know nobody is around here in New York, and I was able to grab a couple of really cool stills of Times Square empty. It’s just weird, but anything to make a day go by. (Laughs.) This is where we’re at.
So, as I said to Jamie, I felt like I was invading the characters’ privacy while watching ‘Endings, Beginnings. Did you feel that level of intimacy as a performer?
Yeah, man, it was extremely intimate right from the beginning. I was familiar with Drake’s work so I kinda had an idea going into it, but I didn’t really know what the process was going to be like. It really just started with this one-on-one meeting that Drake and I had really early on; we ended up talking for three hours about everything, basically. I don’t think either of us are small-talk guys anymore, so that felt very natural. I loved how honest he was about life experience, relationships and the curiosity of it all. So, we really hit it off. When I met him, I think I was trying to sway him to think of me as Jack, Jamie’s character. Personally, I felt a little closer to that character, but when we made the movie, Drake made me believe I was wrong. (Laughs.) We had an outline of what the movie was trying for, but the specificity of the performances, the relationship dynamics and the chemistry really made it feel like we were discovering it in the present moment on the day. There wasn’t a lot of rehearsal. Shailene came in late in the movie, and we probably had about two weeks where we were kind of rehearsing and just getting to know each other a little bit. The rest was a day-to-day, on-set trial and error in order to see what would light people up.
Since you had just come off a string of massive Marvel movies, was it nice to get back to basics with a film like this, so to speak?
Well, yeah, it’s just different. Particularly in the last two years for me, I’ve been so much more aware of directors like never before. I’ve desperately wanted to work with very specific directors — Drake being one of them. Then, when you go on that set with a specific director you’ve wanted to work with, they have a very specific vision, and I just immediately know that I’m going into somebody’s very specific vision. On the bigger movies, for example, I had a relationship with the Russos over three movies, and I knew the way they were working. Every time, I sort of felt like we were picking it back up again, but just in terms of format, structure and overall scope, I knew they were making a very different movie each time. On these little movies, sometimes, the director can take these very specific points of views, and you’re just in the hands of that. That’s what makes the experience different because it’s that director’s vision, and it’s very oriented to that particular person. That’s how I felt with Drake, and that’s how I imagine other specific directors are. I recently worked with Antonio Campos [on The Devil All the Time], who’s another director whose movies I love, and I’ve always wanted to work with him. Again, he has a very specific approach, vision and how he wants the thing to look and feel. You kind of just surrender to that.
When your character, Frank, first meets Shailene’s character, Daphne, at the New Year’s Eve party, they jokingly put distance between one another. Since many of us are now watching entertainment through our present-day lens, have you realized how ahead of the curve you were in this case?
(Laughs.) I didn’t even think about that; you’re right. It’s interesting to think because we don’t know, really, what the ramifications of this social distancing will be. We may still feel the effects of it well into the next couple years. It’s going to be a while before we get life back to “normal,” but will it ever really go back to normal? That’s the stuff that remains to be seen. I can definitely see a world where people are much more conscious about personal space, perhaps. I don’t know. Shailene and I were talking in another interview the other day, and I was like, “Listen, I know you’re a hugger — and so am I — but do you think people are going to want to be hugged by us after this?” I don’t know.
At least we can now opt not to shake hands without offending anyone.
Well, apparently, no one liked that. I was not aware that that was not a fun thing to do. Yeah, that might be gone at this point.
I got a kick out of Frank’s The Pianist reference. Did you name a different movie for each improvised take?
(Laughs.) No, that was the only time I referenced a movie. Every time it was different. One of the things that I learned with Drake really early on was to never try and do something that worked, again. That reference worked; I didn’t know he was gonna use it. Doing it again — even remotely getting close to it — goes against his way of working. You’re just recreating a moment, and he wants everything to be very fresh and in the moment. I have a friend who always picks on me for watching heavy, intense, dramatic movies by myself at home on the weekends. He just makes fun of me all the time. So, the reference came from that. I love all movies, but I just love watching the heavier dramatic movies. (Laughs.) So, it came from remembering that in the moment and just saying it. It was odd enough, but it made it.
I asked Jamie this question, but I’d like to get your take as well. How do you ensure that you’re improvising as the character and not as Sebastian?
That’s the problem. I don’t know. Even though we’re improvising as honestly as possible, we’re still kind of doing it with a direction from the outline. I think that is what gives it an element that’s still affected rather than me just going up there and saying how I feel. And then, in the editing room, which is what makes Drake brilliant at this, he finds the moments; the way he cuts is just fascinating to me. I remember saying to him, “Drake, no take is the same. I don’t know how you’re going to cut this. It’s impossible.” And yet, he made it work. He found the conversation, and he found the moments. He’s got a very specific way of cutting that I love which is the reactions and so on. He really filtered those performances in the editing room as well. There was a lot of back-and-forth dialogue between me and Shailene that never made it, but again, it’s about him picking what he feels is right for who each character is.
Did you have any history with improvisation before this experience?
No, not at all.
Were you intimidated by it?
I definitely was. Absolutely, I was. I didn’t have an audition for the movie, but I had that three-hour session with Drake where we talked about different things and topics. I think he was just curious to see how honest our conversation could go, and I just wasn’t afraid of that. It was very scary at the beginning. It’s that question you asked, where you go, “Well, this isn’t really who I am. I don’t do these things that this character does.” I’ve always felt protected by scripts, lines and scenes. I feel like I’m one of those people who’s opened up much more by scripts. I’m not as witty on my own. This was one of those different experiences, and I would certainly do it again. I’d be curious to see if I could ever use parts of it in a bigger movie. Believe it or not, on those bigger projects, you do use improv. You do the scenes a couple times. You get it as it’s written on paper, and then you say, “Let’s just do this one more time and try it out this way. Let’s just see what happens and then we have it.” Sometimes, that ends up in the movie because it’s weirdly a sort of wildcard. So, maybe this was a really training experience for that.
Shifting gears to some obligatory Marvel questions… Did you shoot ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ like a TV show or movie?
It felt like both. In a lot of ways, it felt like a movie. Again, we’re not finished; we still have some stuff to do. What I loved about it was that, tonally, it was very much in the same world that ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ was, which was one of my favorite experiences that I’ve ever had, period. So, in a sense, it was grounded and very much in the world as we know it. But, it’s also really jam-packed with a lot of massive, massive action scenes mixed with deep focus on character. That’s what’s really exciting about this. We’re getting to keep it in the world of the movies, so it’s recognizable that way, but at the same time, these characters are getting so much more mileage for all of us to explore them. We can put them in situations that we’ve never been able to put them in before because you now have six hours as opposed to two. It’s always a discovery.
Prior to the shutdown, is it true that you were only a week away from wrapping?
No, we were probably at least two or three, but don’t quote me on that.
At the end of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, between the dialogue and your performance, it seemed pretty cut and dried that Bucky knew about Steve’s plan to remain in the past with Peggy (Hayley Atwell). Were you surprised that some people didn’t entirely pick up on that?
I don’t know if I was surprised. The Internet completely misconstrued something else and made it entirely into something that it wasn’t, but later, I sort of became aware that people really felt like we needed to have more between the two of them or something. But, it hadn’t occurred to me because at the same time, that scene was saying so much with subtext. That being said, how do you put it all together in a three-hour movie? To merge all those different stories together, you could’ve had another movie of everybody saying goodbye to each other. So, I love how much people care about those two characters and that they wanted more from them, but I just took it as “This is as much screen time as we’ve got left before the movie ends.” It was already such a long movie. And then, it’s just the knowledge that these guys have always known each other’s moves, so to speak. They knew each other so well that they could say, “Okay, I know what he’s going to do, what decisions he’s going to make and I support that.” Yeah, it’s just what it was. That’s what was on the page, and that’s what we shot.
Bucky hugged Steve and said he was gonna miss him. To me, it’s crystal clear that you played it as knowing Steve’s intent.
Oh, a thousand percent, yeah. I played it as goodbye. What I was playing was, “Okay, I know he’s going, and he’s not going to come back. I can’t talk about it, because if I do, then they’re going to try and stop him from doing what he wants to do. So, I’ve gotta support that.” That’s what I was playing in the scene. Suddenly, when he shows back up again, I’m playing it like, “Oh! Well, he didn’t tell me he was gonna do that. I knew he was gonna leave, and even though I knew what he was going to do with the shield, I didn’t know he was gonna pop up over there now and be older.” So, I was playing that. Look, I love a good scene with dialogue, but sometimes, I find it really interesting when there’s not a lot said. And funnily enough, it’s sort of been the trademark of Bucky. Then, you’re watching behavior, you’re watching the eyes and you’re wondering what they’re thinking. You’re more involved and tuned in. So, it’s always fun for me to try to do as much as I can without dialogue. It’s exciting as an actor because then I wonder what people are getting out of it. In that aspect, it’s fun.
Some people still lament the fact that Steve didn’t give Bucky the shield in order to take on the mantle of Captain America. Bucky may have been brainwashed, but Captain America is such a symbolic position that you can’t just write off fifty years of transgressions by The Winter Soldier. I also have a hard time imagining that Bucky would even want that role. Since you know Bucky best, what’s your impression of Steve’s choice?
The MCU — as I saw it from my humble perspective — is a bit different in that regard to the comics. Where we arrived with him at the end felt more like he was in a place with a desire for some sort of release: to start over, start life again in a way, find out who he is again on his own and leave all this behind. Yes, it all happened, but at some point, you gotta own your mistakes, what happened and try to start over. That’s where I felt like the character was at the end of ‘Avengers: Endgame’. It’s also what he wanted for Steve. Like anybody that ends up traumatized by a war experience, he was affected by it for the rest of his life. So, what felt like a desire there was for a restart — for him and for Steve in a way. It didn’t necessarily feel like the shield was gonna be that. Steve going back in time and saying, “I’m gonna take something for me now. I’ve been here for all these guys, and I’ve done the best I could. I’m just a man, and I’m going to go back and try to live my life.” I feel that is something that Bucky would want for his best friend, and at the same time, Steve is saying to Bucky, “You’re going to go and do that, too. I’m not going to put this thing on you. We’re both going to live our lives — the lives that were actually taken from us back in the ‘40s when we enlisted.” So, that’s where I felt they were at the end of the movie. I don’t think there’s a desire or any conflicted thoughts about taking on that mantle. Sam, to me, was always the clear man to take on that mantle for numerous reasons, which also comes with so much more baggage that’s going to be explored in the show. I guess you’ll have to tune into Disney+ to find out why. (Laughs.) At the end of Endgame, for either Steve or Bucky, it’s really not about the shield.
I really loved ‘Destroyer’, and I thought you were great in it. It continues to blow my mind that Karyn Kusama isn’t able to do whatever she wants. Granted, she just got Universal’s Dracula…
I already emailed her about that. I said, “You know I’m from Romania, right?” and she goes, “Yes, yes, it’s very early — and there’s a pandemic. Hopefully, we’ll see you in four years.” (Laughs.)
What comes to mind when you reflect on that experience and working with Karyn?
Thank you for mentioning that movie. I love that movie, I love her and I had such a great time on it. I would love to keep finding projects with her — projects that kind of push you in a different direction. Again, this goes back to your earlier questions about these smaller movies, and I was referencing the vision of a director, how important that is and sometimes surrendering to that. That’s what that movie was for me. Karyn saw this character and movie in a certain way, and it was my job to learn that world, the tone and fit into it. I loved her as a director because she was so specific with me from the get-go. She also really allowed me to discover it on my own. We talked about the tattoos, the look, his history… It was very collaborative before we started, and then, when we started, it was actually very specific. She was one of those directors that made me feel so safe and confident in my choices, simply by the way she communicated with me. I think that came from her absolute confidence in what she wanted and what she saw. I really wish more people had seen that movie. Maybe they have by now; I don’t know. And obviously — Nicole Kidman. It was one of those dreams to work opposite her. It was a good package.
‘Endings, Beginnings’ is now available on digital HD and VOD on May 1.
Variety — Every night at 7 p.m., Sebastian Stan peers outside the window of his Manhattan apartment and cheers. It’s become a nightly ritual for most New Yorkers to honor doctors, nurses and other essential workers who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis.
“It was crazy the other day,” Stan tells Variety. “There was a woman on the street; it broke my heart almost. She started playing ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra, just blasting it out loud. And everybody was just like, ‘We ain’t going down, baby. No matter what.’”
Stan knows, better than most, what it means to be a New Yorker. Early in his career, the now 37-year-old actor had a reoccurring part on ‘Gossip Girl,’ which shot throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and has cameos from notable restaurants and clubs. But Stan’s career really took off after he played Steve Rogers’ best friend Bucky Barnes in ‘Captain America.‘ The notoriety from the Marvel Cinematic Universal has afforded him chances to take risks on independent films ranging from ‘Destroyer’ to ‘I, Tonya.’
Stan’s latest movie, ‘Endings, Beginnings,’ is now available to watch in homes after premiering at last fall’s Toronto Film Festival. In the drama, directed by Drake Doremus, Stan plays Frank, who meets a woman at a party (Shailene Woodley) that both he and his best friend (Jamie Dornan) start to romantically pursue.
Over an Instagram live conversation with Variety, Stan spoke about making ‘Endings, Beginnings,’ through improvisation, when he might return to the Marvel Universe and why he never wore a belt on ‘Gossip Girl.’
Can you talk about working with Drake Doremus. There’s no script when you sign on for one of his films, right?
Right. There’s only an outline, which is about 70 pages and it’s sort of like a general, loose direction of where he wants the story to go. Everything is discovered in the moment on the day. A lot of what you’re going to see in the movie is improvised. One of the things he’s such a master at is being able to take all these moments and piece it together into a performance. I have no idea how he edited it all together.
You and Jamie Dornan play—
… who are both vying for Shailene Woodley.
Yes, we are good friends in the movie and our friendship is tested when we meet Shailene. It’s a very honest movie about how confusing relationships are sometimes and really how messy they are in terms of a beginning, middle and end. Things don’t just always close. One thing I’ve love about Drake’s movies, especially ‘Like Crazy’ and ‘Newness,’ is the vulnerability and intimacy that he seems to capture, the authenticity of the connections between people.
Jamie told me he wanted to play the nicer guy, and that you picked the bad guy, because that’s more fun.
I would have played either role. Drake put me in that role. I was just happy to be part of the movie, it didn’t matter what he was going to choose. I think the way it was cast was the right way.
How do you prepare for a scene knowing you’re going to improvise most of your dialogue?
It’s definitely scary because you’re like, “How interesting of a person am I?” When you [normally] have a scene, you have lines, you have protection. But we had a direction. A lot of it comes from the dynamic you build in rehearsal. And being open with each other. Shailene, acting opposite her, it was total vulnerability, total honesty. It’s a lot easier when someone opposite you is giving their all.
Were their moments that you improvised that made you cringe?
Every scene made me very upset. Every scene made me question why I’m doing this. And why my relationships haven’t really worked. No! It’s a very exposing process. There are takes that we probably shot for 20 minutes straight without cutting and we would go all over the place. You go home and wonder if any of it is good. But it’s kind of nice because it gets you out of your head; it gets you out of your comfort zone. You just show up tomorrow and all you’re trying to do is be as present as possible and available to any accidents that might happen.
How do you feel about people watching ‘Endings, Beginnings’ in their homes?
If we could, I wish we would have had different circumstances for the movie. I think it’s so beautifully shot — every frame, every single angle. I’m also grateful it can be watched now. This is a crazy time. It’s a testing time. If people are at home and they want to tune into something else for two hours that makes them think about something else, then why not?
How have you been passing the time in self-isolation?
Talking to myself. By the way I’m in New York. We’re 10 minutes away from 7 p.m., baby. That’s the moment of the day — for people who don’t know — at 7 p.m., people go out to their windows and they start clapping for all the workers and everybody when their shift changes. It hits home, because everybody is on the same page. No matter where you are, no matter what apartment you‘re in, we’re all connected for that moment. There’s something very special about that. It’s about those people who hardly ever get any kind of notice for their work. I don’t know how it is for you. For me, I try to do something productive every day. I’ve got some writing that I’m doing and some reading. I haven’t been home in a long time. It’s been nice to be home and finally hunker down. And then I just think about all the things I’ve taken for granted, and how nice it is that we’re so lucky to be able to do the things that we do in our life. I just hope when we come out of this, we don’t blow through that. That we maybe learn to take each other in a little bit better. The fact that we can be so close and you could touch somebody, you can hug your mother whenever you want and go over there and be close to them.
In New York, it’s hard because we all live in a concentrated space. Even going for a walk, there are too many people outside who aren’t wearing a mask or respecting social distancing.
I think we have that problem everywhere, not just in New York. What sucks about it is all it’s going to do is make everything longer. Yeah, it’s a nice day out — and you’ve got to take care of your mental health, too. If you want to go for a walk, there’s times you can go for a walk, like really early where it’s empty. But this isn’t the time to be going and having a picnic in the f—ing park, which is still happening.
I wanted to ask you about your career trajectory, because you’ve taken some risks in the last few years. You starred in the ‘Avengers’ franchise, but you’ve also done some great work in independent movies, including ‘Destroyer’ and ‘I, Tonya.’ How do you choose what you want to do?
I think it’s all about a character or the directors. I’m just trying to surround myself with people I admire who I like to think are a lot better than me. And by that, by default, I’m going to end up learning. A lot of those choices are based on finding directors who have a very specific vision and honoring that vision. I don’t think movies, even TV, is not really an actors’ medium. It belongs to the writers and the directors. I’m just trying to do things that are interesting to me and kind of make me scared and keep me on my toes, because I’m a very bad self-critic. If I feel like I’m leaning too much into my Sebastian-isms, I get critical about that. I try to mix it up.
How did starring in ‘The Avengers’ franchise change your career?
Well, it was huge. It was 10 years ago, in 2010, when I came in. Looking back, I feel like I had half the amount of experience and knowledge that I do now. In a way, I felt like I grew up with the franchise as a person myself and I feel like that character grew up with me as well. But I don’t think any of these movies that you referenced would have been possible without it. I wouldn’t be here without it.
How did feel to have ‘Avengers: Endgame’ become the most successful movie of all time?
That’s just wild. You don’t even think about that. It’s crazy to think it’s bigger than “Titanic.” I went to see “Titanic” way too many times in the theater. It’s exciting, because 10 years worth of filmmaking went into making [“Avengers: Endgame”]. The fact that people went out to see it and support it so much only shows how much they love the characters, how much they’ve invested in the past 10 years. And they feel like in a way they grew up with the movie.
Is there anything you can tell us with your involvement of the future ‘Avengers‘ movies?
You know, I know nothing about that. I’m just a man. [Laughs.] We got to figure out a couple other missions first before we even get there. I’ve got to deal with this other person. It’s been nice to have a break from him, Anthony Mackie. It’s nice to have a little quiet in this quarantine without him. But we got to figure out some adventures together first before we get there
Our social media editor Meg Zukin wanted me to ask you if you had any insight into what’s happening to your character Carter Baizen on the ‘Gossip Girl’ reboot.
The old Carter Baizen, he’s still out there on the island of Maui or something — who knows. I can’t believe we’re having a reboot. It’s kind of cool. It’s kind of crazy. It kind of reminds me of how old I am. That wasn’t even that long ago.
It doesn’t feel that long ago.
It was 2008. It was like a different world. But it was a great job, like I was so happy being a part of it. I was in New York. I was working with my friends. And also, that show was at that moment. Everybody was talking about it. I remember going into the fittings and being told, “You’re never wearing a belt again from a fashion standpoint.” I was like, “OK.” So I never wore a belt again.
Why weren’t you allowed to wear a belt?
In terms of ‘Gossip Girl’ fashion, I think that set a couple of trends. I don’t know if I remember them entirely. But with men, I remember that. Don’t wear belts. Just watch. There’s not a belt on that show.
Interview Magazine — The first time we connected Shailene Woodley and Sebastian Stan over the phone, the idea was to get through the obligatory quarantine talk before segueing into a discussion of their new film, the romantic drama Endings, Beginnings. Thirty minutes, tops. Instead, the two actors coasted through nearly two hours of effortless chit-chat, with Stan in the role of interviewer, touching on their childhoods, the fine-print business of making movies, and what humanity might look like post-coronavirus. Then, thanks to a perfect storm of human error and technical difficulties, the call didn’t record. But instead of taking the loss, Woodley and Stan agreed to get on the phone a week later to do it all over again. And they did, as if they hadn’t spoken in months.
The pair first met in the Los Angeles apartment of Drake Doremus, who directed Endings, Beginnings, a stormy film about a woman (Woodley) caught between two best friends, played by Stan and Jamie Dornan. Doremus, known for making uncomfortably raw dramas with a technique that relies heavily on improvisation, encourages extreme vulnerability from his actors, which he did on that first day in his apartment. What could have been an awkward day of rehearsals, instead fast-tracked a real friendship. “We both have very similar dispositions and belief systems when it comes to connection,” Woodley told us. “So it wasn’t something that was forced, it was just very natural.” Woodley and Stan could clearly talk for hours, and they did.
SEBASTIAN STAN: How are you, Shailene?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I can’t tell. Is it okay to sleep as much as I’m sleeping? Some days I feel wonderful and then other days I eat half a pint of ice cream and get confused. I’m really putting into practice the “it’s okay to not be okay” thing.
STAN: I’m with you. Every day I have no idea how I’ll feel when I go to sleep and whether I’ll wake up feeling motivated or feeling weirdly tired and sort of scared.
WOODLEY: On the mornings when you wake up and don’t feel motivated, what do you do?
STAN: I need routine. Every day, I try to do one productive thing, whether it’s reading a book or working on writing.
WOODLEY: You consider reading a book productive?
STAN: I do. As long as I’m not waking up and watching TV for four hours, I think that’s a win. I’m curious about you, because I know how busy you usually are. You’re always running around and doing a lot of different stuff, whether it’s projects or other causes that you support. This is probably what I’d be doing if I wasn’t working and everything was normal, anyway. But it’s weird when you’re not allowed to go outside.
WOODLEY: You feel like a 12-year old and your parents are telling you to do something you don’t want to do.
STAN: When’s the last time you hugged someone? It’s been seven weeks for me.
WOODLEY: It’s probably been about that for me, too. At least six weeks.
STAN: Do you think you’re going to hug people once this is taken care of?
WOODLEY: I’m going to hug people, I’m going to kiss people, I’m going to high five people. There’s no virus that can stop that. But touching clammy hands? There’s no way after this pandemic that I’m going to be down with that shit.
STAN: Do you take dance breaks during the day?
WOODLEY: I take handstand breaks, for sure. And I’m trying to do more dance breaks, because it makes me happy. I have this voice in my head that’s making excuses not do things, which is pretty new for me.
STAN: Are you enjoying being out in nature and is that peaceful for you?
WOODLEY: There’s an immediate recharge that happens. It makes such a difference for my psyche and my spirit.
STAN: I know how passionate you are about the environment. What triggered that?
WOODLEY: I don’t feel like I had a trigger. I just remember feeling like there was so much injustice toward this thing that we labeled a thing that was outside of ourselves, and yet was so inherently a part of us. As a young person, I recognized that the way that we treat one another, with distaste and division and anger and greed, is the same way that we treat our earth. And yet we refer to nature as something that’s outside of ourselves. It really came down to the simple fact that without earth thriving, humans don’t thrive. It’s never been about saving the earth for me, it’s about trying to preserve humanity. I believe the earth will be okay and that she’ll regenerate, and it might not look the same way that it does now, but it will survive whatever circumstances we throw at it. But we won’t.
STAN: Do you think we’ll come out of this thing a little more appreciative of the stuff we take for granted? I get worried that we’re just going to forget everything and go back to the way things were.
WOODLEY: The real test is how we’re using our time. If we’re not working on ourselves and addressing the things that cause us internal suffering, then I don’t think anything will change. It’s that idea of a ripple effect, where you throw a pebble and the ripples go out. If you aren’t first addressing that pebble, nothing around you will shift. I hope that what this pandemic brings is a greater sense of individual adoration and individual love and respect. It’s a hard thing to ask of people, because there’s so much that lies in the unknown. But if we really do take this time to look inward instead of focusing so much on the external, I think we have a fair shot at emerging from this situation with a new narrative.
STAN: That reminds me of the leadership program that your mom started, All It Takes. When you’re talking about this stuff, do you feel like you picked up a lot of it from your mom?
WOODLEY: It’s a compilation of things. I grew up with two psychologist parents and a grandmother who was a naturopath. Empathy was drilled into us as children. And for most of my 20s, I lived all over the world. Whenever I did a movie somewhere, I’d just stay afterwards and get to know that culture. Or if I wasn’t doing a film for a while, I’d move to a foreign country. You learn about that culture, but what you really learn is about where you’re from. It creates a mirror to how you grew up and what your society provides, and the things that are maybe negative. Having those perspectives, I think, really helped shape my own personal view of the world. Also, who wants to see someone suffering?
STAN: But we do it all the fucking time. Human beings are very good at making each other suffer.
WOODLEY: Because people are suffering themselves. I don’t believe anyone’s a bully just to be a bully. They’re being bullied themselves, whether it’s by their own internal voice or an external factor. There’s a difference between being a people-pleaser and wanting everyone to like you. For a lot of my life, I lived from that perspective, of wanting and gaining validation from how others perceive me. By nature, that makes you a kinder person, because you’re trying to win everyone over. That’s not necessarily a healthy habit. Now I live more from the place of, if I’m not exercising love and respect and pride and confidence to myself, there’s no way I’m going to be able to do anything for this planet, whether it’s the Earth or people around me. That’s one of my qualms with activism, and with the left and the progressive side. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but we’re so quick to point fingers, and we’re so quick to deny responsibility and accountability, when in reality, we have to be accountable for every single choice, decision, and step we’ve made in our lives no matter what occurs around us. If we don’t work on ourselves first, nothing will actually change. With the progressive left, there’s a lot of ego involved, saying, “My way is the right way,” and every other way is wrong. And it’s just not true.
STAN: I feel like we’re also suffering from an over-saturation of information. There’s so much information constantly being thrown at you that you can’t keep track of things. You have to be very selective about where you’re getting it from. I think that’s causing anxiety. You said one key word, which is humility. That’s why failure is important. In the city, I hear the sirens every fucking hour and it breaks my heart every time, but as terrible as that is, we have to find a way to learn from this and be humbled by it. Hopefully we won’t take certain things for granted. You were saying earlier you traveled so much when you were a kid, and I traveled a lot, too. Do you think that contributed to you being an actor?
WOODLEY: I didn’t actually travel much as a kid. It was more in my 20s. My desire to be so nomadic came from being a curious bastard. I want to know everything there is to know about the human experience. I want to taste it all and smell it all and see it all. I’ve met so many people who never went to a normal public school, who traveled with their parents their entire childhood, and there’s something about that experience that has always intrigued me, more than the comfort of accumulation. Staying in one place, it’s really easy to accumulate and put material desires as your number-one priority. I wanted to rebut that. I wanted to get rid of everything I owned as a teenager. I wanted to travel with a carryon suitcase. I wanted to search for a level of depth that I couldn’t find in inanimate objects. Some actors watch a lot of movies and gain inspiration from other people’s performances. I didn’t grow up watching films and I have still seen very few. The way I gain inspiration is by witnessing the world around me. It’s by going to new places and seeing how different people use their hands to express themselves, maybe make different sounds with their mouths that we don’t make, or watching someone’s eyes when you’re on a train and you can tell they’ve had a rough morning. Those are all little psychological bits that I store in my head, so that when I’m building characters, I can pull from things that I’ve seen in real life.
STAN: When you decide to work on something, what are three things that are make-or-break?
WOODLEY: It wasn’t always like this, but now it’s very much actors, directors, and writers. Two of those three have to be 10 out of 10. And I’m so blessed to even be able to be in a position where I can say that.
STAN: I know we’re very blessed, but you worked hard. It’s okay to own that.
WOODLEY: If I’m reading a story and I have butterflies in my stomach, I’m in. If I don’t, I’m not. There have been a few times when incredible opportunities have come around and I have not had that gut reaction, and everyone around me has said, “You have to do this movie, because it’s this director or it’s this actor.” But I haven’t had that gut reaction so I passed.
STAN: Did you have butterflies when you read that you could work with Jamie Dornan?
WOODLEY: And that I got to work with Sebastian Stan? And Lindsay Sloane? Here’s the thing. I’ve seen half of Fifty Shades of Grey and I’ve seen I, Tonya, and that was the extent of my knowledge of you and Jamie as actors. So for me, it was exciting to get to work with these two people I was very unfamiliar with. It allowed me to get to know you guys for who you were, versus the idea of who I thought you were going to be as actors.
STAN: I know, I’m just teasing. You came in really late. I had a call with Drake [Doremus] and he said to me, “Hey, we’re going to try Shailene Woodley for the lead.” And I was like, “Oh my god, she’s incredible. Go for it.” A day or two later it was like, “Yes,” and then suddenly we were meeting at his apartment in L.A., and you and I were doing a staring contest while he was asking us personal questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do you remember that?
WOODLEY: I’ll never forget it.
STAN: You were definitely better at staring than me.
WOODLEY: I get high off shit like that. I love connection and I love being put in uncomfortable situations. You and Jamie were just as daring in your vulnerability. It’s such a rare trait to find in people, even in actors. The whole point of being an actor is being vulnerable, but I can’t tell you how many actors’ eyes I’ve looked into and all I see is a performance. I don’t see them at all, which is sometimes devastating, because there’s nothing real to connect to. So the opportunity to connect that deeply and to just dive straight in, that was like candy for me. It was so yummy.
STAN: The whole improvisational aspect of it was about getting out of our comfort zones.
WOODLEY: Every day was an invitation to reveal something about yourself that you were hiding from.
STAN: That’s so intense.
WOODLEY: I try to relate it to other experiences in my life, even the greatest loves and friendships of my life. There’s a depth that you still don’t necessarily reach that we all reached together as strangers, because we took a blind leap of faith into the unknown. I remember saying things and feeling things and doing things that I would be more censored about in my real life. It was easier to be vulnerable and to throw caution to the wind, and that is Drake Doremus’s gift. He creates a container for us to be able to go to therapy for 21 days straight.
STAN: Is that what this was for you?
WOODLEY: I guess I mean therapy in the sense that I usually feel the most vulnerable when I’m in therapy. I needed therapy after the movie, to recover from the film. But during the movie, it felt like a playground. Everyone involved was so down to truly look into one another’s eyes and smell each other’s smells, and that makes or breaks a film. I don’t think a lot of actors are willing to do that, or have been told they’re allowed to do that.
STAN: What would you want people to take away from this movie?
WOODLEY: Oh, fuck. I don’t know. Wear a condom. [Laughter.] The greatest thing I could take away from this movie, as someone who’s watching it, is the sense that we’re conditioned to look for one person in our lives. We expect them to bring us joy and happiness, and it’s such a falsity. That will never happen. In this movie you witness that through this woman’s journey. I hope people take that and apply it to their own lives, whether they’re in a relationship or not. The most important relationship you can cultivate is with yourself. I crave the sincerity of presence that we had on our movie.
STAN: What does sincerity of presence look like on the set of Big Little Lies?
WOODLEY: Are you trying to set me up here? Working with Meryl [Streep] was absolutely fascinating, because she has somehow mastered the art of performance, of knowing every single tick about her character, while also marrying that with complete and utter presence, which is a skill I don’t have yet. Nicole [Kidman] is very similar. They know inside and out who their characters are. That must come from experience. When you work with people who are better than you, or who you admire, you show up differently to set. And I have to say, I just fucking love working with professionals. Whether you’re someone who’s been on one movie set or you’re Meryl Steep, that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is your sense of adoration and passion for the craft of acting. I get frustrated when I work with people who don’t seem to appreciate the gift that we’re given as actors to be able to express ourselves in this way. I just finished working with Jodie Foster and there is no one on this planet like her.
STAN: What was that like?
WOODLEY: That woman restored my faith in this industry simply by being who she is. She has paved her own way from the very beginning. You know so little about Jodie Foster’s personal life, about who she is as a human being, and yet you feel so connected to her in every movie she does because she gives it her all. She’s dissecting a film from every perspective. The lens of a director, the lens of a producer, the lens of an art director, the lens of a production designer, the lens of an actress. Meryl is the same way. It inspired me to work harder than I’ve ever worked before, and to also not give a fuck.
Sirius XM – ‘Endings, Beginnings’ – In present day Los Angeles, Daphne (Woodley), a thirty something woman, navigates love and heartbreak over the course of one year. Daphne becomes intertwined with friends Jack (Dornan) and Frank (Stan) after meeting them at a party. During that time, she will unlock the secrets to her life in a sudden turn of events and in the most surprising of places. ‘Endings, Beginnings’ is now on digital, VOD May 1.
Sebastian Stan discusses ‘Endings, Beginnings’, ‘Destroyer’ & ‘The Bronze’ on Sirius XM’s The Jess Cagle Show. Click below to listen.
Entertainment Weekly – When it comes to romance, we’re all just improvising our way through — and for the cast of ‘Endings, Beginnings’, that became true of their movie-making process as well.
The new romantic drama from director Drake Doremus stars Shailene Woodley as Daphne, a thirtysomething woman navigating love and heartbreak over the course of one year. That love and heartbreak comes courtesy of two men, Jack (Jamie Dornan) and Frank (Sebastian Stan). But the twist is that the entire movie was improvised.
Sitting down with EW for a recent Zoom roundtable, the cast discussed the challenges of ad-libbing a feature film, and how they found their chemistry. “I felt very anxious to want to please you, way more than I’ve felt on any movie,” Stan confessed to Doremus. “I really want to make sure he gets what he wants. But I think that’s the nature of the unknown of that.”
Woodley echoed Stan’s thoughts, though she said things got easier as they went along. “At first it felt a little bit daunting. We started out the movie in Big Sur, and that was the hardest part because Sebastian and I didn’t really know each other at that point,” she recalled. “That was the trickiest part for me, of just knowing how close should these two people be with one another, and because you’re improvising, you don’t really know what has happened in their story beforehand. It’s kind of a guessing game. That was the hardest part, that first week in Big Sur, those first couple days, and then after that, it just felt fun. It felt like every single day we got to come to set and play together. It didn’t feel like improv at one point, it just felt like life.”
In contrast, Dornan said he found the approach freeing, particularly during a scene where Woodley’s character must tell him about her pregnancy. “I felt like weirdly I could’ve done that scene for the rest of my career and been satisfied,” he said. “Shai was the most raw and honest person I’ve seen, with or without a camera in their face. Every time she walked in the kitchen, I didn’t have a f—ing clue what she was going to say.”
For Doremus’ part, he was thrilled with the results he got from his cast. “I feel like all the performances in the movie are so natural,” he said. “You don’t see the strings really at all.”
For more from Doremus and his cast, including which movies they’d want to teleport themselves into, watch the video above. ‘Endings, Beginnings’ is available to stream now.
Variety – “Avengers” star Sebastian Stan talks about his latest film, “Endings, Beginnings,” including working with his co-star Shailene Woodley and how he managed to improvise throughout multiple scenes.
Apple TV – Watch Sebastian Stan and Shailene Woodley in an Exclusive Apple Clip From ‘Endings, Beginnings’. Jamie Dornan, Matthew Gray Gubler and Kyra Sedgwick also star in Drake Doremus’ romantic drama, ‘Endings, Beginnings,’ available digitally April 17 and On Demand on May 1.
Note: Credit to theyawchannel on twitter for the heads up/clip.
etonline.com – Watch Sebastian Stan and Shailene Woodley in an Exclusive Clip From ‘Endings, Beginnings’. Jamie Dornan, Matthew Gray Gubler and Kyra Sedgwick also star in Drake Doremus’ romantic drama, ‘Endings, Beginnings,’ available digitally April 17 and On Demand on May 1.
samuelgoldwynfilms.com – ‘Endings, Beginnings’ – In present day Los Angeles, Daphne (Woodley), a thirty something woman, navigates love and heartbreak over the course of one year. Daphne becomes intertwined with friends Jack (Dornan) and Frank (Stan) after meeting them at a party. During that time, she will unlock the secrets to her life in a sudden turn of events and in the most surprising of places.
Drake Doremus has made the following announcement on Instagram, you can view it here. The new release date is April 17, 2020.
In these crazy and rapidly changing times, self-reflection seems more important than ever… Due to theaters nationwide being closed indefinitely, we will now make the film available APRIL 17th on most platforms and then subsequently HBO. I hope the film brings you a sense of peace, love, reflection and calm in these difficult times. Thanks for checking out #endingsbeginnings Soon! Sending you ?? from afar D