'Danny Collins': Jennifer Garner, Writer-Director Dan Fogelman Reveal Their Own Motivational Letters

Jennifer Garner - H 2015
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Star Al Pacino talks about the real-life musicians that inspired his aging rock star character and the head of production company ShivHans talks working with former Focus co-CEO Andrew Karpen's indie distributor.

In the new movie Danny Collins, Al Pacino plays an aging rock star who receives a letter from John Lennon 40 years after it was sent. Pacino's eponymous character, whom he said he viewed as the "love child of Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow," has an epiphany and starts to take stock of his life after reading the letter, which urged Collins to be true to himself. As part of his journey, he goes to New Jersey to get to know his grown son (Bobby Cannavale) and his family.

But what about the film's star-studded cast — Cannavale, Jennifer Garner and writer-director Dan Fogelman, making his directorial debut? Have they received any letters that motivated them in their careers?

Garner, who plays Collins' daughter-in-law and the wife of Cannavale's character, talked to The Hollywood Reporter about a note that she received from Bill Irwin, who was directing a play at the Roundabout Theater that both she and Kristin Chenoweth auditioned for.

"I was way inexperienced. I had not done anything professionally in New York, and I didn't get the role. But Bill wrote me a letter and told me how much he enjoyed the process of my audition and that I should keep going," Garner recalled on the red carpet at Danny Collins' New York premiere Wednesday night. "I lost the letter in a cab the night that I got it because I was taking it somewhere to show someone because I was so thrilled. But the letter itself has always stuck with me, and I've always been grateful to him for those words of encouragement."

Fogelman, meanwhile, received one of his most treasured letters from Pacino after the actor saw Danny Collins for the first time.

"My big thing I cared about was when Al saw it, what he thought. And Al sees every movie by himself for the first time just in an empty screening room," the writer-director said. "He wrote me a letter saying it was one of if not the first time he got emotional watching one of his movies. I kept the letter, and it's literally, like, my house goes on fire, it's one of the first things I would hypothetically grab."

Cannavale also has a cherished letter from Pacino, which he called "really lovely and beautiful," which he received on the opening night of the Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross in which the two acted together.

He revealed that, interestingly enough, "Al loves to write letters," so he's saved others he's received from the veteran actor. "They're all great," Cannavale said.

It's unclear whether Fogelman knew of Pacino's fondness for letter-writing when he wrote the film for him, but Cannavale said that was a smart move on the first-time director's part because he ended up creating a movie for someone who works like he does.

"It was a really good instinct on his part, not only because the part was really good for Al, but because they work together really very similarly," he said.

Indeed, it was the fact that Fogelman wrote the script, which he loved, for Pacino that helped him decide to make the project his directorial debut.

"I couldn't imagine turning it over to someone," he said, adding, "I felt that I was at an age and a time where I was ready to [direct my first movie]."

The film also marks the first collaboration between production company ShivHans and Bleecker Street, the indie distributor founded by former Focus co-CEO Andrew Karpen. Bleecker Street will handle U.S. distribution for ShivHans films, including Collins, Trumbo and Captain Fantastic.

Speaking to THR at Danny Collins' premiere, ShivHans' CEO Shivani Rawat called Bleecker Street "the perfect distribution company I could ask for."

"They've been with me from day one, helping out," she explained, adding that Karpen's industry experience was reassuring. "I knew I was in good hands with Andrew as the CEO."

After the screening at Manhattan's AMC Lincoln Square, guests attended the afterparty at Stone Rose Lounge.