Exclusive Video Interview: Writer/Director Adam Elliott and Producer Melanie Coombs – MARY AND MAX

     January 25, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

As most of you know, the Sundance Film Festival has just ended. Now that I’m back in Los Angeles, it’s time to post tons of clips and video interviews from this year’s festival. Up first is “Mary and Max”.

If you haven’t yet heard of the film, “Mary and Max” was the opening night of the festival and it’s a claymation feature film from Academy Award winning writer/director Adam Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs. The film features the voices of Toni Collette, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Humphries and Eric Bana. Here’s the synopsis:

Spanning 20 years and 2 continents, “Mary and Max” tells of a pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle (Toni Collette), a chubby, lonely 8-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; and Max Horovitz (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a severely obese, 44-year-old Jewish man with Asperger’s Syndrome living in the chaos of New York City.

As “Mary and Max” chronicles Mary’s trip from adolescence to adulthood, and Max’s passage from middle to old age, it explores a bond that survives much more than the average friendship’s ups-and-downs. Like Elliot and Coombs’ Oscar winning animated short “Harvie Krumpet”, “Mary and Max” is both hilarious and poignant as it takes us on a journey that explores friendship, autism, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, where babies come from, obesity, kleptomania, sexual differences, trust, copulating dogs, religious differences, agoraphobia and many more of life’s surprises.

Even though the film got mixed reviews, I really enjoyed it. Unlike most animated movies made in the studio system, “Mary and Max” tells a story that no studio would touch (as you just read in the synopsis). Also, it never walks the trouble-free path. It would have been very easy for the film to be safe and offer happy answers to life’s difficult issues…but that’s not this film. Instead, “Mary and Max” tells the unusual story of two people from very different backgrounds that find one another. And once they do, each is able to make the other’s life better.

While I was in Park City, I was able to talk with writer/director Adam Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs. During our interview, they talked about not only making the film, but how they found out they were the opening night movie and a lot more. It’s a great interview with the talented filmmakers.

Finally, while “Mary and Max” doesn’t yet have distribution, we’ve been provided with the trailer and some clips, so check out the footage here. And with that…enjoy the interview:

Writer/Director Adam Elliott and Producer Melanie Coombs

  • When did they first find out they’d be the opening night film of this year’s Sundance
  • We talk about how an animated film can do certain things that in a live action film might be creepy…like…say…a friendship between a 40 year old man and a 8 year old girl
  • How long did it take to make the movie
  • One of the great things about the movie is the tone. It’s both funny and filled with drama. We talk about it.
  • What can people look forward to on the DVD release and what will be their next project

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