Interview: James Ponsoldt - Director of 'Spectacular Now' & 'Smashed'
by Alex Billington
August 1, 2013
"I like emotional experiences - when I go into an art museum, or listen to an album, or see a movie, I like to feel something deeply." One of my favorite indie films this year is The Spectacular Now (watch the trailer), a superb coming-of-age film starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley directed by James Ponsoldt. It first premiered at Sundance, where the year before Ponsoldt brought his second film Smashed, and in 2006 premiered his first film Off the Black. I love Ponsoldt's films and I finally met up with him in New York this past weekend for an interview. It ended up becoming a fantastic discussion on storytelling. One quote: "Don't judge your characters… Just look at them, let them bet he best advocate for themselves."
James is actually a journalist too, writing for places like Filmmaker magazine, which he references at one point. Photo above is from the Walker Art Center premiere. We first met up for an interview at a downtown hotel in New York City, but they wouldn't let us shoot video. So we walked around the block to a very small, very shady park and decided to shoot outside while we could. There was an open cement chess table and seat. The guys sitting nearby warned we'd be kicked out soon, but everything worked out fine for our chat.
Watch my interview with The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt, recorded in New York City:
I love what Ponsoldt says about the studio system and the product: "What films need, what music needs, is a relationship with a listener, or an audience member." Many of the films he references have that kind of connection. He names Five Easy Pieces, the Jack Nicholson film that "haunts" him, as well as Last Picture Show, Splendor in the Grass, Kes, 400 Blows, Over the Edge, River's Edge, Say Anything, Show Me Love.
A big thank you to James Ponsoldt (@jamesponsoldt) for his time and for going along with this crazy NYC interview. I really am a big fan of Ponsoldt and his films, and I love the performances he gets out of his cast. If you haven't seen his other film Smashed, or his first film Off the Black, both are recommended viewing in addition to The Spectacular Now. At Sundance this year, Jordan Raup from The Film Stage raved: "A rare coming-of-age film, The Spectacular Now doesn't simply take a snapshot of some of the most important years of development, but rather echoes the consequences of complex life-changing choices." Opening soon.
A24 Films is releasing James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now in select theaters starting August 2nd this weekend, with nationwide expansions throughout August. The film earned rave reviews and was one of our favorite films from Sundance this year. Follow their latest updates on Facebook or Twitter for info on when the film will show at your local theater. Another highly recommended coming-of-age indie to catch this year.