An Interview with ‘Landline’ Director Gillian Robespierre

Director Gillian Robespierre was in town to promote her new movie Landline, in which she reunites wither her Obvious Child star Jenny Slate for a comedy-drama when a family is thrown into upheaval upon the realization that the father (John Turturro) is cheating on the mother (Edie Falco).

I had the chance to ask her a few questions while standing in a loud hallway, meaning that I’m 90% sure the words transcribed below are accurate.

First question: Is Jenny Slate going to be in every one of your movies?

[laughs] Maybe. She is definitely a great collaborator and my muse.

Landline has a story that permeates time, so why the 90s?

We wanted to make sure we did set this in the 1990s, but that if we did take that aspect out it’d still be a strong story, a human story that could be set in any time period. We set it in the 90s because we didn’t want to be restrained by social media and cell phones. We wanted to show a family that was not connecting through technology, and that was keeping secrets inside. The clever way to do that was to set it in 1995.

And it’s loosely based on my childhood and [co-writer] Elisabeth Holm’s childhood.

That was going to be my next question.

I lost my voice, sorry.

That’s okay. You sound fine to me.

I’ve talked all day. I normally don’t sound like this. [

Interviews all day?

Yeah. Everyone in Seattle is so nice.

We’re pretty chill.

Yeah, very chill.

You interviewed with Sara Michelle Fetters, another Seattle critic, earlier today. She was raving about you.

She was awesome. Nice. Smart. She was actually my favorite interview.

Good. Well I’m probably not going to come close to surpassing her. So the story—all of the personal, family issues that occur—are based on your lives?

Liz and I came up with the story because we both have this one thing in common, that both of our respective parents divorced when we were teenagers. This similar thing happened where we became closer with our siblings, and a lot closer with our moms. They were suddenly not these untouchable women—they became humans. The relationships in our own family dynamic changed forever, and really for the better. We were able to flip that divorce scenario around, where so many divorce stories are so tragic. Divorce is sad, but it can also be beautiful, wonderful in regard to how relationships change. At least for my family, it was better for us. [laughs]

Are there other filmmakers you watch for inspiration?

In the television world, Jill Soloway. “I love Dick” is amazing, “Transparent” is amazing.

I’m also into “The Leftovers,” which is incredible. I can’t get enough of that freaking show.

I still need to watch a couple seasons of that.

It’s so good. It’s so beautiful, so cinematic, it’s gripping, it’s scary. When I’m not watching movies, that’s the kind of show I like to watch. It’s all about fitting things into my busy schedule—I’m also a parent of a toddler so I cannot watch full movies a lot of the time.

Alex Ross Perry comes to mind, too. There are many New York filmmakers I’ve slowly become friends with.

I love the question. I could go on and on.

What’s your favorite movie growing up?

I would say Raising Arizona. It’s such an important movie, especially for a kid. It’ where I realized you can do mixed genres. It’s silly, but also dramatic. I fell in love with Holly Hunter in that movie.

When I got older, I was more into her Broadcast News-type roles.


By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Miscellaneous