Listen: ‘Marriage Story’ Director Noah Baumbach on Adam Driver Punching Walls, Singing ‘Being Alive’

Noah Baumbach knew right away that Adam Driver singing Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive” was going to work in “Marriage Story.”

“A lot of times, when you’re shooting things, you’re not getting, necessarily, the chill that you might get when it’s in the movie,” Baumbach says on the latest episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast. “That was one of those days where you’re getting the chill while you’re shooting it, and it’s all one take, too. So we did I think, like, 12 of them.”

In the scene, shot at New York’s Knickerboxer Hotel, were many of the stage actors whom Baumbach cast to make up Driver’s character’s theater company. “It was getting toward the end of the shoot. We’d been through a lot,” said Baumbach, who wrote and directed the divorce drama starring Driver as Charlie and Scarlett Johansson as his estranged actress wife, Nicole.

“They were all there, watching and applauding,” he said. “It was just a really nice time.”

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Much tougher to shoot was what’s likely to become an iconic argument between Johansson and Driver. At one point, Driver punches a hole in the wall. They went through “a lot” of pieces of wood before getting it right. “We would actually flip it, because there was a wall on the wall for him to hit,” Baumbach said. “So sometimes we would flip it so the hole was on the bottom, because he could hit the top.”

“There’s…a black-and-white photo of me with the two of them in that scene,” he said. “There’s a vacuum in the back, which was there to vacuum up the drywall, because of all the little crumbs that would come. But if you look closely, Adam’s also holding a bag of ice to his hand because it really did start to hurt. That scene was everything. It was verbally, emotionally and physically a lot.”

Baumbach recalls giving “extra attention” to the 11-page scene during rehearsals. “By the time we’re shooting it, we’ve already kind of spent some time with it. We have a good roadmap for it,” he said. “But that’s definitely one of those days where you feel it in the crew and everybody, too. Everyone’s just a little bit quieter. I mean, I like a quiet set, but everything is a little bit quieter. The boom operator often is not looking. It’s almost the same way they treat a love scene or something. There’s a sort of intimacy to it, where they’re looking the other way.”

Where are Charlie and Nicole now? Don’t ask Baumbach. “[That’s] for everyone else to take it on, take it into the world with them,” he said. “I feel that with all my movies. I don’t really know where they go. You only really need to know as much as you’re showing.”

Marriage Story” is available on Netflix.

What are Baumbach and Greta Gerwig planning for their script for the upcoming live-action “Barbie” movie starring Margot Robbie? Find out by listening to the full interview with Baumbach below. You can also listen to “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

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