Writer/director Don Roos, whose debut feature "The Opposite of Sex" played the Seattle International Film Festival back in 1998, returns to the screen with the ensemble comedy "Happy Endings," which opens today at the Guild 45th and stars Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Tom Arnold. In a telephone interview, he discussed his new film — and what's coming next.
Finding the story
"Originally, ["Happy Endings"] was about three sisters. What happened to that, I've forgotten. Eventually it ended up [being about] a stepbrother/stepsister. As a writer, you kind of ask yourself: 'What's the most interesting thing [that could happen]?' Well, that would be if they had sex. And what's the most interesting thing that could come out of that? A child. What's the most interesting way for a child to come into the world? Well, she has a child and puts it up for adoption and doesn't tell the other person. Now there's a secret, a big secret. That's how you write — you kind of ask yourself 'what if ... ?,' 'what would I like to see?', 'how could I make this more interesting?'
"It's the same thing for the Maggie [Gyllenhaal] story. You start out with a girl who is on the make, needs money. She finds a rich boy. OK, what would be the most interesting thing? Well, he's gay. What would be the next thing? Well, it would be great if she's with the boy, but the father looks more attractive. You can see when you lay it out, it happens."
An unseen character
["Happy Endings" uses onscreen title cards as a narrative voice.] "I didn't want to do a character voice-over, because I'd done it before. I needed [the titles], because I wanted to tell the audience it was a story, and have the audience relax. We're going to talk about difficult things, and I wanted the audience to understand that there was an author between then and what they see on screen.
"This is another character, this voice. It's sort of like, if you're being highfalutin, Puck in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' 'Lord, what fools these mortals be!' Someone who finds human beings touching but comical, but has a vision of what happens to them down the line — a godlike voice, but a god with a human personality."
On abortion and adoption
"My position is the same as Lisa Kudrow's character, which is, everything is a much bigger decision than we think. That's neither pro-abortion or pro-adoption or pro anything, just that once there is the possibility of consciousness created through an act of sex, it's a very big deal. I don't think Lisa's character really knows how she feels, finally, about her decision 20 years ago to give up her child. I don't know if she's ever really come to a conclusion about that. For me, [the screenplay] was always about the dramatic possibilities of adoption and abortion, what it means humanely, what those [choices] mean to a person's life."
"I'm adapting a novel that hasn't been published yet, 'Love and Other Improbable Pursuits,' by Ayelet Waldman. It's about the couple of months after a woman loses a child to SIDS, and her relationship with her 5-year-old stepson. I wanted to write something that I wasn't going to direct.
"I don't usually direct things that don't come directly out of my mind. Directing is more fun [than writing] — there's more people, showbiz, makeup and lights, that's really fun. But you're basically interpreting a script, stepping back and letting other people do their jobs. You basically have to be kind of gracious and let them do their work. But when I'm writing, I'm the only one in the room, and it's all about what I feel and I think. So much better to be a composer than a conductor."
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com