Lake Bell talks Casting, Lasting Love and I DO…UNTIL I DON’T — Diana Saenger Interviews (Exclusive)

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bell headshotActress Lake Bell has been starring in films and on TV since she graduated from theater school in 2002, but her career took a quantum leap forward when her directorial debut, In A World…, a comedy she also wrote and starred in, opened in 2013. For her sophomore feature, I Do…Until I Don’t, Bell has again done it all — writing, producing, directing and starring in this quirky comedy about couples whose relationships are put to the test by an unscrupulous TV ‘journalist’ (Dolly Wells) who taps them for a show suggesting marriage should be a seven year contract with an option to renew or cancel. The film’s premise, characters and dialogue reflect Bell’s signature style of filmmaking. We wondered where that comes from. So we asked her. Continue reading…

Diana Saenger: What inspired you to want to act in and then to write and direct films?

Lake Bell: As a small kid I was enamored with the idea of taking on different characterizations, existing in different worlds, getting to learn different occupations, and just living different lives. The more I grew, I craved more of those techniques. As an actor you can really experience those things.

Saenger: Were there other related elements that urged you to pursue this journey?

Bell: Writing was always my closeted favorite thing to do. My writing took on a professional aspect, and I was very excited to tell stories in that medium. I’m a deeply visual person and a student of films I have watched over the years, and on sets, and I sponged much knowledge from them. That was more or less my film school, but it continues every time I’m on a set. That led me to craze and taking on the all-encompassing job of filmmaking.

Saenger: It’s amazing that you can write, direct, and choose the perfect cast – what were you mostly looking for when you were casting I Do…Until I Don’t?

Bell: For me casting is a fun and thrilling part of the process. I wrote the part for Ed Helms because, I knew him. We had been friends for many years so that was natural and organic how that came to be. I’ve been a fan of Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen for many years, and I was hoping deeply that they would respond to the characters. And I could not be happier how their natural chemistry was evident from the get-go even in rehearsals. So I felt very fortunate to have them. Wyatt Cenac is very hilarious and can be a very moving character. I loved the chance of bringing Amber Heard in. Also with Dolly Wells as Vivian. She was, of course, a comedy genius and can be heartbreaking when she needs to.

bell i do posterSaenger: Your films are unique. I Do…Until I Don’t has interesting angles and twists, and an amusing premise. Do the ideas and dialogue come easily for you?

Bell: I really enjoy the process of writing although sometimes it’s lonely. I try not to judge myself during the writing process until it’s at the end. I enjoy improvising with myself as an actor and in general. I do utilize my actor self quite a bit in dialogue. I also sponge a lot from many characters and experiences of actors and people I know. I fantasize about playing a character and that helps me find the words naturally.

Saenger: Producer Jett Steiger said your commitment to this story included the lists, storyboarding and prep work. When did you learn to embrace those elements of filmmaking?

Bell: I enjoyed writing growing up. When I got to Hollywood I didn’t want people to think I had nothing to show for it, especially as an actor. I had little to show for it at that time. So I told myself to just keep writing in a private context, and then I would have something to show for it. I also learned for me, storyboarding was good. I would draw to help me express where the cameras, lights, rooms and where things like that on the set were going to be. Sometimes it would turn out right, other times there would be changes and of course, there would also be actor’s notes, and production notes.

Saenger: When the audience leaves the theater after seeing I Do …Until I Don’t, what do you hope they are talking about?

Bell: Deeply hopeful and unabashedly pro commitment. In a time when we are challenged daily with an intake of newsworthy happenings where there is a lot of tension and angst I hope those who see this film will have an opportunity to discover the hope, and life and love and how to evolve in our relationships.

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Diana Saenger

Diana Saenger, entertainment editor of the East County Gazette, also reviews film and theater for San Diego Suburban newspapers, her Saenger Syndicate sites and and others. A 2008 "Woman of the Year" for CA's 77th District, roving film historian and author of 3 books, she has interviewed more than 400 A-list celebrities and filmmakers.