The indie pic “God’s Pocket” centers on an unexpected death and the search for an explanation – a topic its cast and crew became all too familiar with following the death of star Philip Seymour Hoffman just weeks after the film’s Sundance debut earlier this year.
At the Los Angeles premiere at LACMA on Thursday night, helmer John Slattery and Hoffman’s co-stars Christina Hendricks and Eddie Marsan cited the late actor’s contributions to the film, but also recalled their personal relationships with him.
Slattery said he originally offered Hoffman the role of journalist Richard Shelburn, played by Richard Jenkins, but Hoffman quickly called back asking for the lead role of Mickey.
“It took me about a minute to realize what a good idea that was and then we started,” Slattery said. “From there, we figured out a schedule, and with a Pete Dexter script and Phil Hoffman it wasn’t that hard to round up everyone I asked… But it started with Phil.”
He also pointed out that while some actors might be intimated by working alongside Hoffman, “He was daunted working with John Turturro. But he would invite everybody into the process – the crew, the other actors – and he had a great sense of humor and he was just a great person to have had the opportunity to work with.”
Hendricks said every moment she spent working with Hoffman is still “vibrant” in her mind, but she was most thankful for the humor he brought to the set.
“We had a lot of good laughs,” she told Variety. “In between all this darkness and all this emotion, we were able to sit back and have a good laugh with one another and that’s one thing I really appreciated about him.”
Marsan explained that he was saddened by the loss of his contemporary, whom he had known for roughly 10 years, and remembered their discussions about family life.
“I have mixed emotions about seeing the movie tonight because the last time I saw him we were doing these scenes,” Marsan said. “Really, we just spoke about being dads – about the logistics of being in the movie business and maintaining a family and how hard that is. (He spoke) about his kids and how wonderful they are and that he had lucked out with his kids, and that’s what I remember.”
Having directed a few episodes of “Mad Men,” Slattery makes his feature film directorial debut in “God’s Pocket.” Slattery said he was drawn to the story’s “sophisticated yet not snobby tone,” though working with his own material made the process more difficult than directing the popular TV series.
“It’s on me. If it doesn’t work, it’s my fault, whereas directing for ‘Mad Men’ it’s not my show. I didn’t write it. I didn’t create it. It’s Matt Weiner’s show and I’m just trying to help him envision it,” he said. “So there’s a little bit of the added pressure of ‘I got everybody into this mess, hopefully it’ll turn out all right.’”
Slattery also explained that directing his “Mad Men” co-star Hendricks made things a little easier since the two have developed a sort of “shorthand” having known each other for more than eight years.
Hendricks, who plays a mother mourning the loss of her son, added that their familiarity with one other created a more comfortable environment on set.
“He can be like, ‘Hey, hey do it like this’ and I know what he means and there’s not going to be any sort of being careful or tiptoeing around,” she said, adding, “Every day I had to wake up and go lose my son again, so that’s a lot. It was nice to have John there to sort of emotionally have my back, too.”
Following the premiere, guests including “Mad Men” actors Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm, Jennifer Grey and Dana Delany joined Slattery and Hendricks at the after-party at The Church Key in West Hollywood. Partygoers enjoyed a variety of bite-sized treats ranging from falafel and sliders to popcorn and brown sugar brioche donuts.
Other guests in attendance at the premiere included Slattery’s co-screenwriter Alex Metcalf, “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner, Clark Gregg, Spencer Grammer, Hendricks’ husband Geoffrey Arend and “About a Boy” star David Walton.
IFC’s “God’s Pocket” bows May 9.