Best Chapter: Third Act
"In society, in Hollywood, there's a tremendous amount of ageism, a belief that
at a certain
point your relevance is over.
It you believe there's another chapter the only obstacle to overcome is your own
- Director /Co-Writer /Producer Bill Holderman
Well, that and life pre-Christian Grey.
At least that is what Holderman's all-star comedy taps as it wraps the
friendship around a sisterhood challenge to society's ageist attitude - lust for
life and love for that matter
has an end date.
Book Club is a definitive choice for Holderman's directorial debut. A film about
their 60s breaking both self-imposed and relational barriers - carried by a cast
of Oscar winning
legends - is an atypical choice for a younger male director who co-wrote and
co-produced it as well.
Even better, he co-wrote and co-produced it with his friend and colleague Erin
Simms, an intrepid
female filmmaker, who like the narrative's characters, is emboldened to break
any "no." It's a debut
for Simms too - the first film she wrote and produced.
"It was weird," says Holderman. "I think the decision (to direct) came because I
to have someone else do it. It wasn't 'I have to do it because I have always had
this dream to direct.'
I wasn't one of those eight-year-olds who was running around with a camcorder -
'I wanna be a
filmmaker!'' Yeah, no, I wasn't that kid. It was more like, 'if this is gonna
fail, I want it to be my
failing and I want those decisions to be mine. I think I was frustrated having
those extra layers in
projects before, where if I have an idea or vision for something I don't have
the ability to execute on
it because it's someone else's movie. On this one, there was just no one else I
wanted to do it with.
There's a little more to it than that.
Simms says one has to go back to the very beginning:
"Bill and I worked together for a bunch of years for Robert Redford at his
company. I was doing development and Bill was a producer running the company.
Then E.L. James'
Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy came out. So Bill decides to send his mother the
trilogy for Mother's Day,
which I thought was completely insane. How could he have that kind of
relationship with his
mother where...where sex is even a topic?! Then he tells me his mom is totally
open, that she's
'active in that area.' (Think Vivian.) I thought that's hysterical so I sent my
mother the trilogy for
Mother's Day which is, you know, sending it to the opposite kind of woman.
(Think Sharon.) She
thought it was hilarious. And then, I decided well why not just top this off and
I sent it to my
stepmother, (Think Carol), who has been in a very long-term marriage, has way
too much dopamine
in her brain, happy all the time, life is grand. I mean, three very different
women. Anyway, the next
morning I was like `What about?' Now Bill is going to say, 'Erin always claims
she came up with the
movie.' Well I did. I came back the next morning and said, 'What about a book
club with, you know,
women of a certain age and they're reading Fifty Shades of Grey?' It was
instant... that's what we're doing!
So it's all Bill's mother's fault." He can take credit for that.
Simms added that the films adapted from the books hadn't been released, "so it
was a very
different time when we started to write our script," the characters inspired by
women in their lives
they deeply love. "Back then we tried to quote as little as possible from the
books because everyone
said to us there is no way E. L. James will ever give you guys permission to use
her book, which
really just reminds you - don't listen to other people. Well, she loved the
script and told her
publisher to let us use the (book) covers. We are big fans of E.L. James."
Simms continues: "So, we had sold the movie (previously) and they held onto it
years, didn't do anything and wanted us to cast younger which, for me, is THE
massive taboo. I was
very upset. I mean, if you wanted us to cast younger then you didn't understand
our movie. That
was the first thing. The other thing was, 'Why are you guys using Fifty Shades
of Grey?' Again, if I have
to explain... We got the movie back and decided to stay in control of it, to see
how far we could get.
I knew that Bill had so much experience as a producer working with Robert
Redford. He really
hands-on produced Redford's movies, did a lot of writing on the movies and was
right next to Bob
the entire time. I knew he was ready to step up although nobody had any reason
to believe he
He could and he did.
"I have a mother who has her own business; she runs it by herself and pushes
herself to be
up to date on everything - art, news, music; Always pushing to be relevant and
to sort of challenge
people who question it," tells Holderman. "So I was always a little skeptical of
this being my first
movie for 'several reasons.' The pressure that I felt in terms of delivering a
movie about women was
mitigated because I had these actors represent the characters. My job was to
make it true to what the
script intended, to work on the script, and work with them on the script so that
it feels like it has a
truth to it. My job was to deliver on that truth. Their job was to bring the
character. The only way I
could sleep at night was to know that they were going to get me through this."
Despite Saks' and Simms' belief that Holderman was always up to the task, "there
were a lot
of challenges. We were making an independent film in a studio genre. We had a
studio crew," notes
Saks. "Wrangling a huge cast is always a challenge and we had a lot off
incredibly talented actors. Bill
is a first-time filmmaker but he's produced so many movies and the crew we
surrounded him with
That includes Director of Photography and multiple BAFTA Award winner Andrew
(Tumbledown, Edge of Darkness, Threads). "He and I met over Skype," tells
Holderman. "He was the
number one choice on our list. We sent him the script. He read it. We set aside
30 minutes and we
ended up Skyping for 90. Afterwards, I was like - done. I didn't talk to another
Then I panicked - 'Oh God, what did I just do? I didn't do my due diligence.'
Everything you learn
as a director is: do your due diligence. But with Andrew and his resume, he was
the number one
choice. I was head over heels. I don't know how we would have made the movie
Everyone wanted to work with him. The crew we got was remarkable because they
all showed up
for Andrew. He has this calm, centered beautiful spirit and it put an energy
over the entire
But being a first time director wasn't an easy pitch with talent the caliber of
Holderman knows the film has the potential to resonate with more than just fans
book; the audience for his film has a history with these genuine, warm and funny
watching their films over the years with their best friends, children, on date
nights, etc. Now with
the journey of these characters, that audience gets to realize the beauty of
getting older means the
pressure is off, the filters have dropped and they don't have to take themselves
or anyone else so
seriously anymore. And yet, they do. They wake themselves up and thus everyone
else into realizing
they may be seasoned (like all of that fine wine they drink) but another
fabulous adventure awaits. The
past is just prologue for what's to come.
Co-Producer Alex Saks fell in love with it. "I grew up watching movies like The
Club, When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail. (Directors) Nora Ephron, Rob Reiner
- that's fun for
me. But I think that's what this movie can be and what Bill wants it to be in
terms of something that
is about female friendships that is timeless and classic. The jokes and humor
are not only relevant
and timely, they're transcendent."
Both films also share a leading lady - Academy Award Winner Diane Keaton.
"We wrote the movie for Diane," notes Simms. "I mean, the character's name is
was always Diane since the beginning and I never really thought past 'What
happens if Diane
Keaton doesn't say yes?' I never went there. When Diane read the script, she was
like, 'Well, I
understand why you guys came to me.' "
"Well first of all, it was actually something that I had the opportunity to
read. It wasn't like
you get a lot of scripts coming your way all the time!" quips Keaton.
"Her name is Diane, and that means a lot to me," says Keaton. "And the way she's
feels right up my alley. It's funny. Funny is great. Funny makes you feel
better. The characters, we
find them united and it remains. I mean we've got future blows to deal with,
without a doubt, but we
have each other, and so that's really important in this movie. It's well written
by Erin Simms and Mr.
Holderman. It's the most fun I've ever had."
"The meetings with the actors were hard because Bill had to convince them to
take a chance
with him," says Simms. "So many legends, so much happening and a tight schedule.
It was tough."
She would find out the meaning of tough when she pitched the script to Jane
Fonda. "At the
end of working with Redford, I had put together a movie called Our Souls at
Night," which starred
Fonda and Redford. "I knew Jane from that project so I just emailed her and
said, 'Hey, got this
script do you want to read it?'. She read it in like two seconds. She's so
amazing. We wrote the
movie for Diane but we also wrote a role for Jane and called the character Jane
at one point. I sent it
to her and 24 hours later she came back and said 'No. Pass.' It was
heartbreaking and I don't know
why Bill and I didn't give up. We rewrote the character. At one point, it was
her and her gay best
friend; at another point she was obsessing over a married man. We had so many
Eventually we realized this character is propelling everyone forward, she's
further along in the
journey of embracing sexuality and confidence. She has the reverse storyline.
Once we hit on that,
the story came together. Two months later, I still wanted Jane but Bill thought
there's no chance. I
don't know what came over me. I just emailed Jane 'Hey, we rewrote the script
for you. Loved your
notes, super smart. I know it's pretty obnoxious for me to ask you to read this
a second time. If you
feel like it, read it.' Jane always responds and when she reads the script, she
gets back to you. I didn't
hear from her so I just figured it's over. Then I got this email one morning in
bed. She said, 'I'm in.'"
There was just one problem. Simms failed to tell Holderman or the other
producers she had
gone to Jane and the script was out to other talent. "I didn't know what I was
going to do. It was
great news but I was also scared. But then it sunk in with them: we got Jane
Fonda. They were through
the roof! When Jane realized Bill was a first-time director she wondered if we
should get someone
more established who had done this a bunch. But Simms held her ground and asked
Fonda to meet
with Holderman first. She did. "Once she met Bill, you've never seen anybody
more supportive, more grateful, more awesome. Jane does her due diligence.
You're not going to
manipulate her but she's really fair. She saw that he could do it."
Once Keaton and Fonda were onboard, Academy Award nominee Candice Bergen and
Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen followed. So did the supporting cast of
Globe nominee Craig T. Nelson, Academy Award nominee Andy Garcia, Golden Globe
Don Johnson, Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss, Golden Globe nominee Ed
and Wallace Shawn. Shooting the film in Los Angeles made it easier for casting
since all the actors
could stay at home for the shoot.
While plenty of challenges were yet to come, Holderman was amazed and dazed by
fortune with such a celebrated lineup of talent.
"They did it. I did nothing.
I stood back and watched the magic happen and tried to make sure that we were
camera in the right direction.
I got lucky."
- Director Bill Holderman
"In my past I've been fortunate enough to play a lot of insecure women and I
(Diane) is an insecure woman," muses Keaton. "She has just lost her husband and
she has these two
daughters who are raising her in a way. They're trying to change her. You see,
she's kind of lost,
doesn't know exactly what to do or how to manage it. She's supported by her
friends. In a way, she's
kind of giving up. It really is meeting this man that really changes everything
for her. She falls in
love with him right away." That man is Mitchell, played by Andy Garcia.
"He's really great in the movie. But their relationship becomes complicated and
I think for my character was shaped and helped by her friends," Keaton explains.
friends for about 15 years. That's who you have left because many people have
disappeared in your
life. I'm 72 and I'm playing my age and it is really hard to lose your loved
ones. Then to have your
kids take over and tell you you're a kid. That's really unpleasant. So that was
my part. I identified
with that easily. You get insecure and you're afraid and you get worried.
"You're always going to have something in the way and your friends come in for
help you. This film is about that bond. It's a love. To find people that you can
trust and you're happy
to be with, that you have and share your struggles with and it is a family in a
certain sense. You're
older. You've lost a lot of your family, your initial family. My parents aren't
alive and for me that was
a huge loss. I think about it more as I get older and I really miss my mother
and father a lot. I have
my siblings and my siblings mean everything to me. But in this movie, its
friends. I don't really have
other friends, so we're united together."
Diane's friends are the ones who open her eyes to possibility. And that
Garcia's Mitchell. It is the second time the two actors have collaborated.
Keaton and Garcia
previously co-starred as aunt and nephew in The Godfather, Part III.
But Keaton, like Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen, had never worked together on a
"I feel like we would never know each other if it weren't for the Book Club. And
everybody's character is so entirely different. They have completely different
lives. And so with that
in mind, the thing that brought us together was reading. That's really moving to
me. My character
especially had the opportunity to get to know these three women. I love these
three women (Fonda,
Bergen and Steenburgen) in real life as much as I can love."
"Diane is everything you'd want. I'm going to share a great Diane moment,"
recalls. "We were shooting the scene where Diane was supposed to put on an ugly
outfit and comes
out and her friends are like, 'No, No, No! You can't wear that. We're gonna take
that to Goodwill.'
On the day of rehearsal, the jacket we had was too elegant, the joke didn't
work. Diane is like, 'okay,
I'm gonna go home'. She races off and 10 minutes later, I go down to her trailer
and she brought
out all of these incredible pieces of clothing, one of which is in the film. The
poncho that she comes
out in, that beautiful thing that we make fun of... it's actually from some very
famous designer who
is probably going to be really upset that we put this in the movie. She solved
the problem herself.
She just goes and does it. What she's NOT is shy. And she's NOT careful about is
opinions when she has one. She likes to make you know where she stands."
"Diane Keaton is definitely the most unique individual I have ever encountered
in the best
possible way," says Simms. "She's so ridiculously funny yet she doesn't even
want to be funny. But
she can't stop herself. I think the funniest thing Diane did on set was when she
was getting into
character. She talks out loud and she's such a good actress that I kept falling
for it. I kept thinking
that she was talking to me or people thought she was talking to them and she
would throw off the
whole crew, so there were a lot of really funny moments of people trying to talk
to her but she was
just getting into character. And when she was getting into character with her
daughter she'd just get
angry, and we'd all be like, 'Is she really mad at them?' And then we'd realize
she's just getting
everybody in the mood! She's a very in-the-moment actress."
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