‘Family Stone’ Divas

BTL Staff
By | 2005-12-15T09:00:00-05:00 December 15th, 2005|Entertainment|

By Christopher Cappiello
“We want a morning talk show!” Diane Keaton declares, remembering her expansive, early morning conversations with Sarah Jessica Parker in the makeup trailer they shared on the set of “The Family Stone,” Tom Bezucha’s new holiday romantic comedy with an all-star cast.
“We could talk nonstop, easily, about anything,” Parker adds with enthusiasm during a joint interview. “And Diane is interested in everything in the world.”
But “The Family Stone” wasn’t all deep conversation and female bonding for Parker, in her first film role since the end of “Sex in the City.” The perky blonde whose on-camera persona is normally so appealing, plays Meredith Morton, an uptight, type-A workaholic New Yorker who travels to New England to spend Christmas meeting the laid-back family of her new boyfriend, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney). The open-minded, slightly bohemian Stone family is headed by college professor Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) and Sibyl (Keaton), his wife of more than 30 years. Everett’s parents and four siblings take an immediate dislike to Meredith, ostracizing the Manhattan maven who arrives overdressed and underwhelmed by the Stones’ cozy if slightly frumpy old home.
The sense of Parker being an unwelcome fish out of water at the Stone home didn’t necessarily end when the director yelled, “Cut,” either. When asked what he did to help create the sense of isolation for Parker from the family, writer/director Bezucha reveals, “I would say Diane set that up sufficiently for me not to need to goose it any. Sarah Jessica is a brave girl!”
“I wasn’t kind,” Keaton coyly responds when questioned about her on-set treatment of her prospective daughter-in-law in the film. She then bursts into the inimitable laugh that has brightened films ranging from “Annie Hall” to “Something’s Gotta Give.” “You know, I’m Irish Catholic,” Keaton explains. “You know what that means: Teasing is the best thing in my life. My father used to torture me with teasing and now I’m carrying the legacy on.”
“Diane played harsh,” Mulroney reveals in a separate interview, “To her credit, Sarah Jessica took a lot of abuse right on the chin, like a champ. And had such a sense of humor about it.”
Parker remembers, “I was like, ‘Well, that’s a shame. She doesn’t like me,'” before laughing at the memory. The result of this real-life dynamic, however, is that the audience ends up feeling empathy for Parker’s socially awkward, tightly wound character, giving the film added layers of emotional life.
After an awkward first night with the Stones, in which Everett’s younger sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) is forced to give up her bedroom because Meredith is uncomfortable sleeping with her boyfriend in his old room, Meredith checks into the local inn and calls her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come for emotional support. In a particularly painful and wonderful dinner sequence, Meredith manages to offend Everett’s deaf gay brother Thad (Ty Giordano) and his African-American partner Patrick (Brian White) several different times. After Meredith has dug herself a deep hole, Keaton’s Sibyl affirms her love for her gay son in a beautiful ending to the scene, one of the highlights of Bezucha’s touching and heartfelt script.
When told that after seeing this film every gay man in America will want her to be his mother, Keaton instantly replies, “Good! I’m ready. They can have me! I’d be happy to be that.”
Bezucha’s script quietly shows the audience that the longtime relationship between Thad and Patrick is actually the strongest, healthiest in the family. And, in a nice ironic twist, the deaf son is probably the family’s best communicator.
“Could there have been a better gay couple in the world?” Keaton asks. “They were so moving. I loved them so much.”
One of the ways Meredith manages to offend the couple involves a discussion of their impending adoption of a baby. “I think that baby would be in great hands,” Keaton concludes.
Parker acknowledges that Meredith is a strict departure from the roles audiences know her in best, but is quick to clarify, “I am not burdened by this legacy of ‘Sex in the City’ and Carrie Bradshaw. I’m happy to have to work hard as an actor to remind people that I was a working actor before that show.” As for the character of Meredith, “I loved the way she was written,” she explains, “But the larger piece is equally important. It’s fine to have a great part, but not so fine to have a great part in a mediocre script. This was a double whammy – a great part in a great script – and with great people.”
“It’s one of the things I admire about Sarah Jessica as a person and as a friend,” Bezucha recalls, “is her insistence on challenging herself constantly. She was terrified. It was very scary for her, but she really wanted to do it. I had no doubt she had the chops. I felt only honored that she was willing to spend all the ‘Sex in the City’ capital on me.”
The Family Stone had been kicking around Hollywood for several years, and went through two false starts with two different producers before Michael London stepped in and steered the project to fruition. London’s recent successes include such thoughtful, script-driven dramas as “The House of Sand and Fog” and the Oscar-nominated “Sideways.”
“He’s one of the sort of heroic, less remembered parts of this, I think,” Parker points out. “All of a sudden the whole thing was elevated.”
And snagging Keaton made it easy to assemble the rest of the cast. “When I signed on, they gathered together everybody else because then they pretended they had a movie,” Keaton explains. “But they didn’t. And my belief about that whole thing is that when people hand you scripts and they go, ‘So and so’s attached,’ then that means, if you’re an actor, ‘Oh, if so and so’s attached, I better read it.’ That’s all it gets you, is a reading.” But because of Keaton’s name, Bezucha’s strong script got that reading from the rest of the A-list cast.
“She’s just enormous fun,” Craig T. Nelson says. “Very smart. Comes really prepared, very helpful.”
Luke Wilson signed on as Ben Stone, Everett’s younger and wilder brother, who has left New England to make documentaries on the West Coast. “You get somebody like Diane,” Wilson explains, “and you feel like everybody is kind of looking to her – the cast and the crew. And in a very gracious way she’s kind of aware of that. And she just couldn’t be more fun to hang around with. And it creates a vibe on the set. And it hopefully goes into the movie, that feeling.”
Mulroney says about his screen mom, “She’s phenomenal. And so friendly. That’s what got me. She didn’t separate herself from the rest of the cast at all.”
Except for Parker, who endured Keaton’s constant teasing about her uptight character. “In my whole life,” Keaton explains with glee, “the greatest pleasure I’ve ever had was just constantly repeating – to my delight and nobody else’s – that she was the bitch from Bedford. I told them they should title the movie The Bitch from Bedford!”
“It wasn’t cruel,” Parker points out. “I have brothers. I have a husband. It’s fun to poke fun. You have to have an implicit understanding that this is what it is. It’s swordplay.” She adds, “The circle [of teasing] was not complete because we were put in a trailer by ourselves – the two of us – for hair and makeup, which is a pretty intimate experience.”
So how did the two dynamic divas finally resolve their characters’ oil and water personality issues in that shared trailer? “The tension was so strong that I thought the best way to solve this problem was to make love. We were lovers,” Parker deadpans, repeating for dramatic emphasis, “We were lovers.”
“I’d be honored, frankly,” Keaton concludes after a pause, punctuating the thought with one more of her signature laughs.

“We want a morning talk show!” Diane Keaton declares, remembering her expansive, early morning conversations with Sarah Jessica Parker in the makeup trailer they shared on the set of “The Family Stone,” Tom Bezucha’s new holiday romantic comedy with an all-star cast.
“We could talk nonstop, easily, about anything,” Parker adds with enthusiasm during a joint interview. “And Diane is interested in everything in the world.”
But “The Family Stone” wasn’t all deep conversation and female bonding for Parker, in her first film role since the end of “Sex in the City.” The perky blonde whose on-camera persona is normally so appealing, plays Meredith Morton, an uptight, type-A workaholic New Yorker who travels to New England to spend Christmas meeting the laid-back family of her new boyfriend, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney). The open-minded, slightly bohemian Stone family is headed by college professor Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) and Sibyl (Keaton), his wife of more than 30 years. Everett’s parents and four siblings take an immediate dislike to Meredith, ostracizing the Manhattan maven who arrives overdressed and underwhelmed by the Stones’ cozy if slightly frumpy old home.
The sense of Parker being an unwelcome fish out of water at the Stone home didn’t necessarily end when the director yelled, “Cut,” either. When asked what he did to help create the sense of isolation for Parker from the family, writer/director Bezucha reveals, “I would say Diane set that up sufficiently for me not to need to goose it any. Sarah Jessica is a brave girl!”
“I wasn’t kind,” Keaton coyly responds when questioned about her on-set treatment of her prospective daughter-in-law in the film. She then bursts into the inimitable laugh that has brightened films ranging from “Annie Hall” to “Something’s Gotta Give.” “You know, I’m Irish Catholic,” Keaton explains. “You know what that means: Teasing is the best thing in my life. My father used to torture me with teasing and now I’m carrying the legacy on.”
“Diane played harsh,” Mulroney reveals in a separate interview, “To her credit, Sarah Jessica took a lot of abuse right on the chin, like a champ. And had such a sense of humor about it.”
Parker remembers, “I was like, ‘Well, that’s a shame. She doesn’t like me,'” before laughing at the memory. The result of this real-life dynamic, however, is that the audience ends up feeling empathy for Parker’s socially awkward, tightly wound character, giving the film added layers of emotional life.
After an awkward first night with the Stones, in which Everett’s younger sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) is forced to give up her bedroom because Meredith is uncomfortable sleeping with her boyfriend in his old room, Meredith checks into the local inn and calls her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come for emotional support. In a particularly painful and wonderful dinner sequence, Meredith manages to offend Everett’s deaf gay brother Thad (Ty Giordano) and his African-American partner Patrick (Brian White) several different times. After Meredith has dug herself a deep hole, Keaton’s Sibyl affirms her love for her gay son in a beautiful ending to the scene, one of the highlights of Bezucha’s touching and heartfelt script.
When told that after seeing this film every gay man in America will want her to be his mother, Keaton instantly replies, “Good! I’m ready. They can have me! I’d be happy to be that.”
Bezucha’s script quietly shows the audience that the longtime relationship between Thad and Patrick is actually the strongest, healthiest in the family. And, in a nice ironic twist, the deaf son is probably the family’s best communicator.
“Could there have been a better gay couple in the world?” Keaton asks. “They were so moving. I loved them so much.”
One of the ways Meredith manages to offend the couple involves a discussion of their impending adoption of a baby. “I think that baby would be in great hands,” Keaton concludes.
Parker acknowledges that Meredith is a strict departure from the roles audiences know her in best, but is quick to clarify, “I am not burdened by this legacy of ‘Sex in the City’ and Carrie Bradshaw. I’m happy to have to work hard as an actor to remind people that I was a working actor before that show.” As for the character of Meredith, “I loved the way she was written,” she explains, “But the larger piece is equally important. It’s fine to have a great part, but not so fine to have a great part in a mediocre script. This was a double whammy – a great part in a great script – and with great people.”
“It’s one of the things I admire about Sarah Jessica as a person and as a friend,” Bezucha recalls, “is her insistence on challenging herself constantly. She was terrified. It was very scary for her, but she really wanted to do it. I had no doubt she had the chops. I felt only honored that she was willing to spend all the ‘Sex in the City’ capital on me.”
The Family Stone had been kicking around Hollywood for several years, and went through two false starts with two different producers before Michael London stepped in and steered the project to fruition. London’s recent successes include such thoughtful, script-driven dramas as “The House of Sand and Fog” and the Oscar-nominated “Sideways.”
“He’s one of the sort of heroic, less remembered parts of this, I think,” Parker points out. “All of a sudden the whole thing was elevated.”
And snagging Keaton made it easy to assemble the rest of the cast. “When I signed on, they gathered together everybody else because then they pretended they had a movie,” Keaton explains. “But they didn’t. And my belief about that whole thing is that when people hand you scripts and they go, ‘So and so’s attached,’ then that means, if you’re an actor, ‘Oh, if so and so’s attached, I better read it.’ That’s all it gets you, is a reading.” But because of Keaton’s name, Bezucha’s strong script got that reading from the rest of the A-list cast.
“She’s just enormous fun,” Craig T. Nelson says. “Very smart. Comes really prepared, very helpful.”
Luke Wilson signed on as Ben Stone, Everett’s younger and wilder brother, who has left New England to make documentaries on the West Coast. “You get somebody like Diane,” Wilson explains, “and you feel like everybody is kind of looking to her – the cast and the crew. And in a very gracious way she’s kind of aware of that. And she just couldn’t be more fun to hang around with. And it creates a vibe on the set. And it hopefully goes into the movie, that feeling.”
Mulroney says about his screen mom, “She’s phenomenal. And so friendly. That’s what got me. She didn’t separate herself from the rest of the cast at all.”
Except for Parker, who endured Keaton’s constant teasing about her uptight character. “In my whole life,” Keaton explains with glee, “the greatest pleasure I’ve ever had was just constantly repeating – to my delight and nobody else’s – that she was the bitch from Bedford. I told them they should title the movie The Bitch from Bedford!”
“It wasn’t cruel,” Parker points out. “I have brothers. I have a husband. It’s fun to poke fun. You have to have an implicit understanding that this is what it is. It’s swordplay.” She adds, “The circle [of teasing] was not complete because we were put in a trailer by ourselves – the two of us – for hair and makeup, which is a pretty intimate experience.”
So how did the two dynamic divas finally resolve their characters’ oil and water personality issues in that shared trailer? “The tension was so strong that I thought the best way to solve this problem was to make love. We were lovers,” Parker deadpans, repeating for dramatic emphasis, “We were lovers.”
“I’d be honored, frankly,” Keaton concludes after a pause, punctuating the thought with one more of her signature laughs.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.