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The cast of drama-comedy "Our Friend," based on a true story about the Teague family, said their aim with the film was to capture the authenticity of the events, not "mine their story." Stars Dakota…
The cast of drama-comedy “Our Friend,” based on a true story about the Teague family, said their aim with the film was to capture the authenticity of the events, not “mine their story.”
Stars Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel and Casey Affleck spoke to film awards editor Clayton Davis as part of the Variety Screening Series presented by the All-New Toyota Mirai. The conversation touched on the uniting themes of the film, as well as how the actors and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite approached the story sensitively. “Our Friend,” based on a 2015 Esquire article written by Matthew Teague (played by Affleck), details how a couple’s best friend (played by Segel) moves in with the family to take care of the matriarch (Johnson) as she battles cancer.
“I think that I felt profoundly affected by how vibrant Nicole was from what I learned about her and read and spoke to Matt Teague about, and how it’s so common that people’s lives are just robbed of them,” Johnson said. “And so many brilliant people are lost to terminal diseases at such a young age. It just deeply affected me, and I felt very connected to the story and the relationships in it were so beautifully written and very clear to me.”
Segel said he also felt drawn to his character, who has depression but also provides much of the levity in the film.
“A friend of mine said, ‘Choose parts where you’re doing self-exploration in front of an audience,’” Segel said. “And this seemed to really fit the bill for that. I mean, I’ve always used humor to not only help lift up the people around me, but also myself, because I don’t necessarily wake up feeling like the buoyant friends that you perceive from the movies.”
The panelists said Cowperthwaite was intentional in how the actors portrayed their real-life counterparts, ensuring that their story was portrayed, not copied.
“Our director Gabby made the choice that we’ll not impersonate these people, try to take on their accents and mannerisms, and even mine their story, their life for little anecdotes and stories to drop in, but instead try to capture the spirit of the story just through performing the characters as they were written in the scripts,” Affleck said. Although the actor admitted that when he met with Teague, he noticed his propensity to faint and decided to incorporate it into his character.
Additionally, Cowperthwaite felt it was important to balance the film between somber and uplifting tones: “Really, it was Gabriella who was realizing that the way to tell this story and have it reach people is to deliver it in a very organic, like not too lighthearted and not too gruesome, but really pretty, like the pendulum swings between the two,” Johnson said. “The movie I think is not about the suffering, it’s about the love and it’s about the compassion and the life and rather than the dying.”