Directed by William H. Macy, the dramedy Krystal tells the story of Taylor Ogburn (Nick Robinson), a young man who is afraid that if he lives his life fully, his heart will explode. But from the moment he sees Krystal (Rosario Dawson), he decides that nothing – not his overprotective parents (William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman), not his opinionated older brother Campbell (Grant Gustin), not her teenage son (Jacob Latimore), who’s barely younger than he is, not her crazy ex (Tip “T.I.” Harris), and definitely not her crazy past as an escort and drug addict – will keep him from falling in love with this women, even if it kills him.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor-turned-director William H. Macy, who wears both hats on this project, talked about the kind of films he likes to make, why he wanted to direct Krystal, the biggest challenges of this production, working with his wife, Felicity Huffman, the casting process, and what he most enjoyed about the relationship between Taylor and Krystal. He also talked about returning to his Showtime series Shameless for Season 9, how he’ll be directing another episode this season, and the process the writers’ room goes through, at the start of each season, when they’re figuring out the arc.
Collider: We’ve spoken about your other two films, as a director – Rudderless and The Layover – so talking about Krystal feels like it completes the set.
WILLIAM H. MACY: It does! Thank you for your support, and thanks for talking to me.
It’s interesting because when you look at these three movies, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that they were from the same director. They’re so very different from each other. Is that something that you intended to do, or are you surprised by how different they are?
MACY: I knew they were different. I’m embarrassed to say that it’s more of a function of what I could get made. The reality is, on this level, with me being a new and untried director, one gets three or four scripts that you think are great and that you would love to do, and sometimes it’s a surprise as to which ones get off the ground. I think the one thing that they all have in common is that I love surprises. I love surprising films that are plot-heavy, with lots of twists and turns. I do like music in films, and comedy. I love funny. I’d rather laugh than anything.
Was it a weird adjustment for you to go from having a very established career, as an actor, to have people saying, “We don’t know that we can trust you as a director”?
MACY: No. I don’t blame them. Just because you’re an actor with success doesn’t mean you can be a director with success. They’re completely different jobs and have completely different requirements, and one doesn’t prepare you for the other.
When this script was sent your way, what was it that made you want to direct it?
MACY: It’s visual. I saw the whole film in my mind’s eye, clear as a bell. It was very funny. It made me laugh. It was unexpected. I loved all the characters, and I loved the way (screenwriter) Will Aldis also loves his characters. Everyone has a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end. No one just fades off. He gives them all a punchline, which is not easy to do. It takes some pages to do that, but he wove this tale, really, really well. And at the end of the day, I found it profound. It’s a coming-of-age story, but it’s about fear and addiction, and it has very profound parts to it. I really loved the mixture of farce with high drama, back-to-back, with very little transition.
What did you think would be the biggest challenges going into this, and did any challenges come up that you weren’t expecting?
MACY: It’s a lot of movie, for the amount of money we had, and there are some things that just eat up your funds. One of them is that normally an indie like this would have three leads, and we had eight or nine. That’s expensive. And I don’t care what they say, CGI is time-consuming. You’ve gotta go round and round and round to figure it out, and we had to figure out how to do the character of Satan. I thought it would be logistics that would get me. What I wasn’t prepared for and what surprised me was the tone of the piece. It was so much more delicate than I thought it was. When you read it, the transition from a very sad scene to something that’s very comical happens in your mind, and it’s fine. I was shocked that, when I put it on its feet, I would have to ask myself, “Why is this not working?,” and it was because there was some material and transitions that it needed, in order to keep the tone consistent, but allow you to go from high drama to high comedy.