I try to steer clear of questions that others have asked when conducting an interview, but when it came to the remarkable timing of Sian Heder’s giving birth a mere three hours after locking down her film, TALLULAH, I was curious about what deal she may or may not have made with the universe to achieve that sort of timing.
We went on to discuss the way Heder constructed her film so that the kidnapper of a toddler evokes as much empathy as the hysterical mother. And the hysterical mother, whom we’ve seen treat her child like a cross between a fashion accessory and an annoying house pet, can break our hearts. I asked her to talk about how the need to be nurtured, and to nurture others runs through the film like a primal force, as does her refusal to create anything as glib as heroes and villains.
Also covered were how a European trip with longtime friend, and TALLULAH co-star, Zachary Quinto, led to one of my favorite moments in the film, and Heder’s provocative take the trauma of motherhood.
We finished up with one of my nitpicky tech questions, in this case, the challenges of effectively framing co-stars Allison Janney (5’11”) and Ellen Page, who is almost a foot shorter.
TALLULAH is a film about children, parents, and unexpected emotional entanglements. Ellen Page plays the title character, a tough waif who has lived her adult life on the road in her van. When her upper-middle class boyfriend decides to head back home without saying goodbye, she tracks down his mother, played by Allison Janney, who is going through her own abandonment issues. When that initial meeting doesn’t go well, TALLULAH, Lu for short, finds herself mistaken for a nanny by a distracted woman of great wealth, finds herself bonding is the woman’s toddler, ultimately absconding with her in an impulsive move to keep the child safe. Issues of freedom, responsibility, mortality, and how to get a great deal on lemons run through a film that questions our innate need for connection, and our not so innate instinct to follow through on that. The film co-stars Uzo Aduba, Tammy Blanchard, John Benjamin Hickey, David Zayas, Evan Jongkeit, Fredric Lehne, Felix Solis, and Zachary Quinto as the man trying to make sense of artichokes. Heder directed from her own script, based on her short film, MOTHER, which won, among others a Cinéfondation award for emerging filmmakers at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. She is also a writer on the groundbreaking series, Orange is The New Black. In a side note, Heder was so committed to finishing TALLULAH, that she somehow willed the universe to delay the birth of her child until a few hours after locking down the film.