Academy Award nominee Andy Garcia flexes his comedic chops with Vera Farmiga in At Middleton, a light-hearted romance directed by Adam Rodgers about two people who fall in love while taking a college tour with their kids. When straight-laced George (Garcia) meets free-spirited Edith (Farmiga) at the idyllic Middleton College, the two unexpectedly hit it off and decide to ditch the official tour for a carefree adventure of their own. What begins as an afternoon of fun soon becomes a revealing and enlightening experience for both of them. Now in theaters, the film also stars Taissa Farmiga, Spencer Lofranco, Peter Riegert and Tom Skerritt.
In an exclusive interview backstage at the Queen Latifah Show where Garcia was promoting his new film, he talked about how he fell in love with the beautifully written script, his producing partnership with Glenn German, the film’s financing, being directed by Rodgers, working with Farmiga and their “Chopsticks” duet together, and why good writing is key to any new project he considers. He also discussed his upcoming movies What About Love, Rob the Mob, Rio 2 and Kill the Messenger and his plans to direct and act in Hemingway & Fuentes which he co-wrote with Hilary Hemingway. Check out the interview after the jump:
GARCIA: I was approached by Glenn German and Adam Rodgers, who are the co-writers and the director. The script came to me with no financing, but what it had was an incredibly beautifully written script. They asked me if I would get involved not only as an actor but as a producer. I fell in love with it so we shook hands and we went out to try and finance the film.
You have a wonderful onscreen chemistry with Vera Farmiga. How was it working with her?
GARCIA: As a basis for the chemistry, we had the screenplay. I think good chemistry starts with mutual respect. We both wanted to work with each other and we committed to executing this particular story. She was an incredible partner. She was very spontaneous. She is very generous with her work and very available, too. I think it’s important to be very available and supportive of each other. You take the performance off of each other, and that I think is the essence of good chemistry.
The film comes across as such a fun and whimsical adventure. I was wondering if you did a lot of improvising?
GARCIA: We stayed pretty close to the script. There was some improvisation, but it was mostly with behavior more so than with dialogue – physical behavior and reacting to certain situations. But the screenplay was very beautifully written.
Can you talk about the “Chopsticks” piano duet you played with Vera? It’s a wonderful scene. Was that always in the script? How would you describe your piano playing style?
GARCIA: Yes, it was always in the script and thank you. Vera reads music and was taught classical piano when she was young. I’m self-taught and I don’t read music. So we differ in that way. She’s a much more accomplished pianist than I am and I play more by ear.
How was it working with Adam Rodgers on his first feature?
GARCIA: It was beautiful, extraordinary. He gave us room to discover each other and to play. He was a joy. Certainly I never felt he was a first-time director at all. Technically, he’s not a first-time director. He’s done many short films and he studied at NYU so these people come with experience. He’s very sensitive and very much in tune with the story he wrote.
Can you talk a little about your producing partnership with Adam Rodgers and Glenn German? Will you be collaborating with them on future projects?
GARCIA: Glenn and I are the producers of the film. Adam, in this case, was not although indirectly he helped produce. Any director helps produce a movie, even though he might not be credited. Glenn is fantastic. I couldn’t have thought of a better partner to make a movie with. Not only is he a co-writer so he understands the needs of the film and what we’re striving for, but I think we established a very good friendship. I hope to collaborate with them again. They’re great writers so I’m eager to see what else they have up their sleeve. There’ve also been talks about a sequel. It seems like the audiences who have seen the film want to see a sequel to the film. That always might be a possibility.
Every film is different and has its own unique challenges. What were some of the challenges you encountered making this film, either as an actor or as a producer?
GARCIA: Just the raising of the money. It’s always difficult to raise the money for a film independently.
GARCIA: It all stems from whatever my sensibilities are and whatever I’m interested in and I just follow my muse.
What do you look for when you’re considering a new project?
GARCIA: Great writing. It always starts on the idea and the writing. That’s the key and then you can build off of that. Great writing attracts great actors. It attracts money. Without a great script, you have nothing.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of making this on either a personal or professional level?
GARCIA: I think it just reinforced the importance of trusting the instincts I have on good material and the sensibilities I might have in reacting to good material. In this particular case, when I read the script for the first time, I saw the movie, and the movie has fulfilled itself. It’s everything that I hoped it would be.
What are some of your upcoming projects that you’re excited for audiences to see?
GARCIA: What About Love, Rob the Mob, Rio 2 and Kill the Messenger are all very good movies and I’m very proud of them. They’re all coming out this year at some point or another.
What else is on your calendar to do right now? What’s in active development?
GARCIA: Hemingway & Fuentes is a picture that I co-wrote with Hilary Hemingway that I plan to direct and also act in. If the movie gods are in our favor, we’ll be shooting that this summer in 2014.