Prior to Saturday afternoon, when I attended the junket for Me Before You, the movie adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same name, my sole (second-hand) experience of press junkets was the scene in Notting Hillwherein Hugh Grant—LA Looks Hair Styling Mousse personified—must pretend to be a reporter from Horse and Hound magazine and ask Julia Roberts questions about a sci-fi movie he has not seen.
I had one up on Hugh (working for a non-equine publication!) but I was still pretty nervous, for the following reasons: 1. I am not so great at talking to new people! 2. Especially when the new people are Finnick Odair, the Khaleesi, a best-selling author whose books I think are wonderful, and a film director with a devastatingly cool haircut. 3. The first two weren’t enough for you? FINE, I guess you have the social grace of Pippa Middleton and the smile of Joe Biden.
But I am a professional (at the very least, I have business cards) and a grown-ass woman—overalls notwithstanding—and so I persevered.
It didn’t hurt that both the book and the movie were hilarious and devastating and full of sweeping shots of the British countryside and close-ups of Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke’s faces.
Me Before You is the story of Lou (Clarke), a woman with a bright disposition and brighter shoes, who is hired as a companion/caregiver for Will (Claflin), a former financial bigwig and man-about-town who was rendered quadriplegic when he was hit by a motorbike. As the presence of two absurdly attractive movie stars suggests, romance ensues. I won’t give anything more away, except to say that the chemistry between Our Mother of Dragons and The Late, Lamented Finnick is as palpable as Jonathan Franzen’s distaste for women’s literature.
Speaking of which! I got a chance to talk to Jojo Moyes, author of the book as well as the screenplay, about the way the media treats so-called “chick lit” (a phrase that “makes [her] want to kick something”):
Jojo: My biggest problem with being called chick lit is that that to me implies something cheap and formulaic, and all the women writers I know, the last thing they want to do is turn out something formulaic. They work really hard to invest themselves and create a piece of writing that’s quality.
[…] I just think it’s like music—there’s room for everything. There are a million genres I’m willing to dip into, depending on my mood. So why can we not feel the same way about literature? It’s just all part of the same fantastic cultural rainbow that we’re lucky enough to find ourselves in.
(At this point, I’m so excited about how the interview’s going that I say out loud—but definitely mostly to myself— “Oh, that was great!”)
Next, we talked about the relationship between Lou and Will, which was, to use the wildly inarticulate description I gave her, significantly less “eye-contact-y” and po-faced than your standard-issue star-crossed romance. (They just seem like they’re having so much fun!)
The people I know who love each other are entirely capable in a two-hour period of bitching at each other, laughing at each other, being quite romantic with each other, challenging each other… all those things are encompassed in a relationship. Yet it’s a kind of grit that isn’t often reflected in a “romantic” film.
[…] I like couples who joke with each other. I think the thing my husband likes best about me is that I can make him laugh.
Jealous of her husband, TBH. Finally, we talked about the kind of women Jojo likes to depict, and why.
I have a teenage daughter, and I have a little filter in my head whenever I’m writing anything, which is “What would she take from this story?” I’m interested in women who do things, rather than buy things. I’m interested in women who learn something about themselves and can put something out there, rather than just fixating on a man.
I’m not just saying this because the free brownies at the junket put me in a good mood: Jojo Moyes is a straight-up delight. She even got my Horse and Hound reference!
And speaking of delightful women (and men!) who do things, I got to talk to Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflinnext. Full disclosure: this was a round-table interview, which means I was able to sit silently startstruck while the girl from Us Weekly asked questions from a fancy typed-up dossier, and movie blogger stole some hotel napkins.
Sam and Emilia told us the beautiful story of their first meeting…
Emilia: I had just finished doing Terminator, so I wanted to clean my body out of guns and protein powder, so I was on this weird cleanse. I was just eating raw bulbs of garlic. So the day of our chemistry read—
Sam: —it was the first thing she said. “Sorry, Sam. I can’t say hello properly. I’ve just had some garlic.”
…but the hands-down best thing I learned from this interview was that Emilia Clarke LOVES pranks.
When asked whether he was a Game of Thrones fan, Sam began to respond in the affirmative when a fight broke out:
E: You’re such a fan that you STOLE my—
S: —I didn’t steal your Game of Thrones doll! She’d got this little Daenerys Targaryen doll, and you’d lost it. And you came onto set and said, “Sam stole my doll!” And I thought, “How’s this working out?” So all the crew thought I was a thief. And then you found it, and hid it in my bag.
E: I only just remembered that I did that.
Finally, I got to speak to Thea Sharrock, badass director. This was Thea’s first feature film; she’s a veteran theater director (with no fear of Shakespeare)…
Thea:When you’re doing Shakespeare, your trying to make it as accessible as possible. I’m never interested in trying to cut down my audience members.
…and, it turns out, unabashed Potterhead. Matthew “Longbottom” Lewis plays Lou’s boyfriend (well, initial boyfriend, SORRY) in the film, which lead us to…
He is such a hunk these days, COME. ON.[…] He was phenomenal. An absolute joy.
I asked the inevitable question—sort yourself)—and found out that Thea identifies as Gryffindor (checks out).
And I would want to play Quidditch. Without a shadow of a doubt. I think I’d just want to go straight out and be a chaser.
And there you have it: Thea Sharrock, built to chase.
Me Before You opens in theaters tomorrow, June 3rd. See it! Bring Kleenex!