Bringing the broken dreams to big screen
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Liz Phair might not be used to the luxuries of promoting a major motion picture.
“Can I steal a water? I lost mine somewhere along the way,” she asks, eyeing a tray of drinks on a side table in a suite at the Four Seasons.
“This is so much easier than my normal life. I love this. Rock and roll is, like, way worse,” she confides. “If I were doing any kind of stuff gearing up for a release, it would be like phoners to death, just on and on and on, you’d do 50 million of them.”
After nearly three decades in the rock world, Phair finds herself in Hollywood for the first time, penning Dotted Line, the closing track for Alex Kurtzman’s People Like Us. Writing for a movie was new territory for Phair — and that’s just how she likes it.
“The whole way along, I felt like I’d stumbled into something where I was out of my depth, which is my favorite thing,” she says. “I throw myself into the deep end of the pool all the time, but it’s always scary.”
What was scary, it turns out, was seeing an earlier version of the movie at a Dreamworks screening room with Kurtzman in tow. The writer-director had approached her early on in the process, Phair remembers.
“Alex called me almost a year and half before it was finished. I didn’t know what he wanted with me. I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll go to lunch at Dreamworks,’” she says with a laugh and a shrug. “He said that he’d been listening to my music when he was trying to write the character of Frankie (played by Elizabeth Banks), and that my rock persona helped him get into her. And damned if he didn’t hit every one of my issues in the film.
“I didn’t hear from him for many months, and then he called and said, ‘Do you want to see a cut?’” she remembers.
And so it was back to Dreamworks.
“I bawled my eyes out in a dark room with these two men who were completely unmoved — they were like, ‘We should start this shot sooner,’” she says.
People Like Us follows two adults (Banks and Chris Pine) as they discover that they are half-siblings after their father, a successful rock producer, passes away. And that character, who looms over the story without actually being in it, is a familiar one to Phair.
“There are so many broken people in music, but they’re doing something beautiful with that brokenness,” she says.