Their Inside Stories
Barker and Bernard reveal untold details about the making of seven of their most memorable movies.
Lone Star (1996)
Barker: We went to a test screening, and the test screening didn't go so well, so we just threw all the forms that they filled out in the garbage. The thing about John Sayles is he just made the movie he always intended to make. To me, that was the most incredible revelation [at the end of] that film. I'm from Texas, and it was so right on the money. I think when people saw it without the context of the campaign and the trailer and all of those things, they might've been a little shocked by it. But Tom and I firmly believe that 95 percent of our films just don't lend themselves to testing at all.
Waiting for Guffman (1996)
Bernard: It was a movie that was gonna go straight to video. Castle Rock had movies at Sony at the time, and they asked if we could do anything with it. We jumped at the chance. We thought the movie was great. We had to get Ishmail Merchant to sign off on the Remains of the Day lunchboxes from the movie we gave to the press. We had to get the copyright people to sign off on them, because we made them as party favors. A true collector's item today.
In the Company of Men (1997)
Bernard: I saw the movie at Sundance in the Yarrow, in one of these pop-up screening rooms they built in the ballroom, and thought, "This guy [Neil LaBute] is a misogynist." As everybody did -- people came out of there, they were just horrified. But when you watch a movie, you continue to think about it, you don't live with your first reaction. It evolves with you. Later that night, I was having drinks and chatting about movies with the female TV critic for The New York Times -- Caryn James? -- on Main Street at the Riverhorse Cafe. And she started to tell me how that movie reminded her a lot about her old boyfriends. Then another girl chimed in: "Yeah, it was like being a voyeur in the room, watching them when we weren't around." And it dawned on me that there would be a female audience for the film as well as the usual suspects. Me and Michael talked about it and that's when we decided we'd buy it.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Bernard: We decided to screen it in competition at Cannes. It was still the classic '90s. Every studio head and distribution guy came up to us and said, "You gotta open on 5,000 screens, this is a monster!" We made $130 million dollars with the movie, we were never number one at the box office, and we played from December to May, which was the way you had to do that.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)
Bernard: There was a conversation with Frank Rich, Robert McNamara and Errol Morris at the Kennedy Museum in Boston. Kennedy's press secretary Pierre Salinger is there, and what's left of the Kennedy administration shows up to this event. McNamara's in his nineties. McNamara never said why he wouldn't support getting out of Vietnam after he resigned. In the movie, it's a real bone of contention. Frank Rich asked him the question -- and he answered it! He said, "Look, I didn't want to look like I wasn't supporting the troops, and that's why I didn't get behind getting out of Vietnam at that time, even though I knew it was the right thing." There it was.
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Bernard: Jonathan [Demme] said Anne Hathaway wants to do this part, we said great, we want to do it too, and he invited us to a table reading. Most of the cast members were there, and Anne acted the whole movie right there at the table. It was unbelievable. She made it happen. From that moment, we saw it at the table, we knew it was going all the way to the Oscars.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Bernard: Woody just called us up and said, "Hey, wanna come over and see the movie?" And we said, "Sure." We saw it at his screening room over at his hotel and said, "We want it." It really is that simple.
Barker: Woody Allen is incredibly savvy about trailers, he's savvy about one-sheets, he's savvy about every aspect of his films, and he approves everything. The one-sheet of Midnight in Paris was the very first one we did. It was unbelievable that he just said, "That's the one, don't do anything more." When you look at that poster, it's Owen there, and he's walking along, and there's this crazy kind of visual thing in the background like a Van Gogh painting. A lot of the French complained about that, by the way: "How can you have that in your poster and the painting's not in the movie?" I didn't know what to say.