'Celeste and Jesse Forever' Gets a Happy Ending at New York Premiere
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack joined director Lee Toland Krieger and celebrity friends including Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler to fete the indie romantic comedy’s Friday release.
NEW YORK -- Celeste and Jesse Forever may be a film about heartbreak, but the crowd was all smiles at the movie’s NY premiere on Wednesday night.
The film’s stars and co-writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack and director Lee Toland Krieger joined celebrity friends including Anne Hathaway, David Schwimmer, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer to fete the film’s Friday release.
Falling out of love proved to be a fun summer activity with talents taking a break from their August antics and Olympics viewing to come out for the offbeat indie romantic comedy about a couple dealing with a divorce and learning to let go. Alexa Chung, Gossip Girl’s Matthew Settle, Brady Corbet, Sophie Auster and designer Thakoon Panchigul were also among guests for the screening at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, which was followed by an intimate after party at the Hotel Chantelle organized by the Peggy Siegal Company.
For Jones, the evening was magical.
“It’s surreal. I know that people say that, but there’s definitely a reason why they say that. It’s crazy. It took us four years to get the film made so it feels earned. There’s a lot of luck involved, but it does feel like we worked hard to get here and it’s nice to finally have this day come,” Jones told The Hollywood Reporter.
Jones was poised and all smiles on the red carpet, but confessed to THR that “It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions” since the film premiered at Sundance earlier in the year. The film was made for a tiny budget and took years to make before premiering at Sundance in January.
Jones explained: “I was kind of a wreck at Sundance. It was too much for me to handle. I was totally overwhelmed – good and bad. And now I’m excited. I’m settled into it a little bit more. I feel like I can talk about the movie and my relationship with the movie in a way that I don’t feel like I’m naked all the time.”
The actress may not show much skin in the film, but she does bare all emotionally for what she feels is her most personal project to date.
“During the actual filming, I had to go to a place that I never had the chance to go before and I’ve never had to run the gamut of emotion so it’s all been a growing experience for me,” she explained, adding: “ I did exercise some demons and some flaws. The character is deeply flawed and we just magnified my real flaws and so I was forced to confront these things that I rely heavily on to live in the world."
While the film was certainly a collaborative effort, Celeste and Jesse Forever may be a game-changer, particularly for Jones, who headlines the project.
“It’s very much Rashida Jones’ movie both as a performer and as a writer,” Sony Pictures Classics President Michael Barker said.
Notably absent from the Celeste and Jesse Forever premiere was Jesse, aka Jones’ costar Andy Samberg who stars in a more dramatic role.
“He really surprised me and it was exciting to watch somebody get good at something new, especially a friend that you care about,” Jones said of the collaboration with her longtime buddy.
"Andy and I just gabbed the whole time. I mean, sometimes we didn’t even know that we were rolling and had to roll into the dialogue of the scene. It felt pretty effortless,” she said.
The chemistry between the two costars may have been effortless, but the film wasn’t as easy to get from script to screen. In fact, McCormack even had to resort to playing a large stuffed bear, Jones revealed to THR.
“In one scene, I get a bear hug from a bear in a bear costume and that was actually Will. We had a really small budget so we had to play random parts. We used my car, we used my clothes. We used my house,” she said.
For Krieger, the small budget lent a welcome intimacy to the project that he called a “labor of love.”
“We got to shoot the wedding scene on my parents’ property on Long Island since we couldn’t afford an actual location. Shooting it there with Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones and Elijah Wood and all of my 14 year old cousins who idolize those guys was kind of surreal,” he said.
The film could also be a major boost for the director according to Barker.
“It’s the beginning of a really good career. Lee has directed other films, but this is a great leap forward for him as a director,” Barker said, adding later that: “You’re in the hands of a very major American independent filmmaker who’s very young, but also very wise.”
Barker has high hopes for the title that he hopes will be an entertaining contrast to some of the action-packed Hollywood blockbuster hitting theaters simultaneously.
“It’s just one of those fresh comedies. I feel like I’m watching a 21st century Annie Hall or When Harry Met Sally except from a female point of view,” Barker said, adding that: “It feels new. Rashida and Andy have a special chemistry and you feel like you haven’t seen that before, which is a very difficult thing to pull off after seeing so many romantic comedies and romantic couples over the years."
Krieger aimed to stay away from the clichés associated with most contemporary romantic comedies.
“There’s certainly romantic comedy tropes here you know with going on dates and finding Mr. Right, but ultimately it’s a movie about heartbreak so that separates it from your run of the mill rom com,” Krieger said.
The crowd didn’t seem pained as audience members at the screening laughed out loud on several occasions.
Nichols and Sawyer said they enjoyed the film with Nichols citing its “inappropriate affect” and calling the film “strangely moving." “She’s fantastic,” Sawyer said of Jones with Nichols chiming in “Yes, she’s great.”
By the end of the long adventure, the entire cast were very tight, specifically McCormack and Jones.
“We wrote this whole movie on one computer sitting side by side,” McCormack said, adding that despite the close quarters, the two remain good friends and, he added: “In fact the whole process made us even closer somehow.” However, he added: “We’re actors so it’s sort of in our DNA to collaborate. It was really fun.”
The writing duo won’t be breaking up professionally anytime soon – they have two more projects coming up including a TV pilot for Showtime and a film for Universal.
However, the evening was less work and more play for Jones and McCormack who enjoyed the friendly fete at the nearby Hotel Chantelle that even featured an appearance from Catwoman.
“I’m here wishing Rashida a heartfelt congratulations on her film,” Hathaway said of her unexpected cameo at the afterparty.
The actress and The Dark Knight Rises star shed her tight leather one-piece for a more casual summer sun dress for the relaxed night with friends and fiancé Adam Shulman by her side.
“I’m taking a break this summer and then in the fall, I’m working on developing some things, but it looks like things are lining up pretty nicely so I’m excited about that,” Hathaway said adding that when she does go to the movies, she’ll see anything from romantic comedies like Celeste to more action thrillers like Dark Knight. “I don’t break it down according to genre. If I see a film that looks good, then I go to see it.” More recently, however, the star said she’s been spending her time watching the Olympics, particularly, her favorites, the women’s gymnastics and synchronized diving competitions.
Guests noshed on late-night sliders, tomato and mozzarella skewers and sipped champagne.
Rudd and Poehler arrived late in the evening to support the film and mingled with other party guests including Aziz Ansari, Andy Cohen and Max Greenfield.
Schwimmer spent the evening close by wife Zoe Buckman’s side. French actress Rebecca Dayan, who plays Samberg’s love interest in the film, also came out for the premiere and party. “I really don’t get to be that funny in this movie,” the breakout beauty said, but added that she enjoyed being surrounded by such a comedic ensemble: “It was quite fun and everybody was making jokes on the side. There are things happening that actually made me laugh on set. It’s really, really funny.”
Sony Pictures Classics is hoping audiences will be laughing – and crying – when the film hits LA and NY theaters in limited release on Friday, Aug. 3 before rolling out wide by the end of the month.
The event, organized by the ubiquitous Peggy Siegal Company was held in support of the International Rescue Committee. Jones has teamed up with the charity to help foster awareness for refugees and other victims of violent conflict, political oppression and natural disasters across the globe.