How was it working with the other actors on the movie?
The kids are great in this movie; they were wonderful to work with. Little Meredith Droeger who plays Megan [Crowley]. And Keri [Russell who plays Aileen] is just – she touches everything with a light feather. It’s also that she walks that way too. She’s a former dancer for sure. I don’t think she leaves footprints on the beach where she walks. She’s delightful. I’ve known her since she was a kid, actually, and – I’m making myself sound old here.
If you were to sum up the experience in a sentence, what would you say?
I guess this film is the culmination of everything I look for towards making a nice family film. Playing a fully fleshed-out character who is indeed an individual who had some serious consequences to contend with, had measures of success, setbacks, challenges for sure, and has left a mark on society in a positive way that allows for us to reflect on how those sorts of virtues are so important for us as individuals and us as functioning members of a family, however that is conceived.
John Crowley talked about how although the situation that they are going through is specific to them, the themes in the film are universal. Can you talk about how you relate to this story as a parent, and how you think it speaks to a broader audience?
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for my kids’ well-being, so I understand certainly from that point of view. Thankfully, my own children are very healthy and I can only imagine the horror that it would have been to have gone through an iota of what John did. I admire him deeply for the courage and the ongoing – moment by moment, not day by day necessarily – persistence that one has to contend with when living in a family where the lives of the children count on each breath, as they’re on life support systems and they’re just so fragile.
But putting all that aside, there’s something to be said about this not being mawkish, sentimental or in any way pretentious, and I mean that sincerely. At the end of the day, it’s about being a kid – there was actually a scene in the film that was from their real true lives that didn’t make it into the cut. It had Meredith, who plays Megs, having a kid fit in the grocery store because she can’t have sparkle sunglasses. And her mom, on the phone to her husband, is saying, “Where are you? Why are you not here?” You know, one of those conversations in a marriage. And he’s saying, “I’m working, I’m doing everything I can.” It’s very stressful. And Aileen, or Keri’s character, turns, whirls into action and says to Megan, “You know what, just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you get extra toys.” And on paper, it was shocking. To shoot it, it was somehow astonishing. And then I was told they actually did screen it and it came off as funny, there were laughs. But we couldn’t keep it for time reasons.
I mention this with the point being that these are kids just like any others. They can misbehave, they can deserve a time-out, they need their praise, they need to have boundaries and limits, they need to go to school and have specific bedtimes and routines. It’s a family. And for that, I think that everyone can be able to find something to relate to, if not specifically. And be appreciative of the good things that they do have in their life.
Were you able to spend time with the Crowleys? What were your impressions of them?
I did. They came to the set, and I went and saw John at his research facility, the lab in New Jersey, which was fascinating to get inside a real, functioning, working laboratory, I’d never been to one before. He took me around on the dime tour, as he called it. He’s being modest; it’s a massive facility.
His company is really run by strength of character; the value that [the staff] people have as individuals seems to accompany or surpass in many ways what they have to offer one another in terms of their intellect. They’re a group who inspire one another. The whole company assembled, as they often do, and they are not just nerdy scientists – although they might laugh and admit that they are – but they realize that what they’re doing has an effect on people’s lives. They’re not just crunching numbers and doing experiments just for the sake of being clever. They very much realize the impact of their research and the good that it can bring; it’s in their company’s manifesto.
Yes, I’ve spent some time in the Crowley house; I met Aileen and Patrick and John Jr. and their terrier who doesn’t stand still. I had a movie open around this time last year, called Inkheart, and they came in for the screening. That’s when I met them the first time. I have to tell you, I was not prepared for the Herculean effort that it takes to transport these kids, the whole circus that goes with it, and this is how John would describe it, the number of people who need to accompany them in terms of their medical needs, the transportation, the vans, the planning in advance.