Louis C.K. and the cast of his new film “Fourth of July” gathered for a panel discussion on Thursday night at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan. Directed, written and edited by C.K., the indie drama stars co-writer Joe List, who quipped about C.K.’s fall from grace after the moderator praised C.K. for being able to disappear into his role.
“Well, Louis has disappeared before,” List said, referring to allegations of sexual misconduct brought against C.K. in 2017.
“We’re back, baby!” C.K. responded, prompting the crowd to burst into applause and laughter.
C.K. took a step back from Hollywood after five women came forward with allegations that he undressed and masturbated in front of them. However, C.K. has been trying to revive his career since 2018, embarking on a sold-out comedy tour and releasing two specials, one of which earned him a Grammy for best comedy album this year.
With his small role as a therapist, “Fourth of July” marks C.K’s first appearance in a feature film since his directorial debut, “I Love You, Daddy,” premiered in 2017, mere months before the sexual misconduct allegations came to light.
During the Q&A, C.K. revealed that he paid for the entire film out of pocket and that AMC Theatres will exclusively screen the film for one showtime – July 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET — in most AMC locations across the U.S. The worldwide premiere at the Beacon Theatre also marked the first time that C.K. screened one of his films in front of a large audience.
“The only time I’ve ever seen a movie I made with an audience was in Sundance,” C.K. said. “It was my first movie, and there were 12 people in the audience. I just sat there and I was crying [of happiness].”
“Fourth of July” follows a disgruntled jazz pianist and recovering alcoholic named Jeff (List) who confronts his family about his past trauma during their annual Fourth of July vacation.
“You have feelings, you want to go back and tell your folks that they ruined your life and it’s all their fault that you were depressed … and they’re like, ‘fuck you.’” C.K. said of the film’s plot. “It’s somewhere in between that it’s just like, ‘Oh, you hurt me and I hurt you. Let’s have some pizza. It’s gonna be okay.’”
List, Robert Kelly, Nick Di Paolo, Lynne Koplitz and Chris Walsh were among the stand-up comedians that C.K. recruited to star in his film.
“A guy like Louis can go out and get stars and all that, but he always gets us,” Kelly said. “He always puts comics in it … and gives us a shot to be able to show our talents and help us.”
Kelly continued, “He chose Joe as the fucking star of the movie, who the fuck would have ever done that?”
While writing the script, C.K. and List drew from their own experiences trying to express their emotions with family. C.K. credited List for helping him understand the weight of having anxiety.
“I’ve known Joe for a long time and I love him. I really have love for the kid. He’s an anxious mess,” C.K. said. “A lot of people in my life are anxious, and it’s … serious and very painful. He helped me understand some of it.”
The film also explores how the generational trauma weighing down on Jeff’s shoulders affects his relationship with his wife, Beth (Sarah Tollemache). List and Tollemache, who are also married in real life, received praise from C.K. for their raw and compelling performances.
“They’re really compelling as a couple together because they’re not Hollywood mushy,” C.K. said. “There’s some acting that is so good that you’re like, ‘What the fuck are you doing? Nobody talks like that.’”
He continued, “But movies are about people having a hard time. And if you can really feel your feelings, you’re doing great.”