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Faces of the Festival:<br>Cheryl Hines

We talk to one of our favorite funny ladies, Cheryl Hines, about what it takes to direct a film with Serious Moonlight.

 Cheryl Hines

Funny lady Cheryl Hines makes her debut as a director with the '09 Festival pick Serious Moonlight, a dark comedy about infidelity and commitment starring Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, and Kristen Bell. Filming a script by Adrienne Shelly (the writer/director of Waitress), Hines brings her impeccable comic timing to this ever-so-human mix of a romantic comedy. We got the comedienne on the phone to talk about the transition from acting to directing, the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Larry David's performance in Whatever Works.

What makes Serious Moonlight a Tribeca Must-See?

The performances in the film are great, the story is fun to watch, and… I don't know! I'm not good at selling myself! You'll have a good time watching it, I think. I don't know what to say.

What's the craziest thing that happened while making the film?

Probably Tim Hutton's head was cut, I don't know why I laugh when I say it, it was not funny at the time. There was blood and a fire truck and an ambluance but fortunately it wasn't very serious. Tim was a trooper and powered through, and we ended up shooting with him the rest of the day. But, there was a moment when time stood still!

What are your hopes/fears/wishes regarding Tribeca?

I'm a little fearful to watch this movie with 900 other people. It's exciting and scary at the same time. I honestly don't know what to expect. But I'm hoping that I can enjoy the moment and that my neuroses don't overtake me. I don't know how you prevent that from happening.

I think alcohol helps!

Alcohol! That is a very good idea.

If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would you want it to be?

I think it would be the Coen Brothers. Because I'd like to know what goes on in their heads. They are definitely in their own cool world.

It'd be cool to see you in a Coen Brothers film.

I'd like that too! Can you arrange that for me?

What piece of art (film/book/music/what-have-you) do you recommend to your friends?

Well, I love Nick Hornby, I love anything that Nick Hornby writes. I love Gillian Welch as a singer, she's amazing. It just turns out that her sister is my best friend. It is funny when you think about it, I had heard of Gillian, but for some reason had never made the connection, and then my friend gave me her CDs and it changed my life, I think. I love her voice and her music and everything about her.

Have you seen Whatever Works yet? Are you going to support your fake-husband Larry David at the premiere?

Yes, and I happen to know Larry David is fantastic in this film. I watched it with Larry one night and he is so good in it. You don't want to take your eyes off of him! He is the superstar of this movie, and deservedly so. You're so used to seeing him play a version of himself that to see him play a character in a Woody Allen movie is fabulous.

Can you talk a little bit about how you came to direct Serious Moonlight?

Michael Roiff, who produced Waitress and Serious Moonlight, and Adrienne [Shelly]'s husband, Andy Ostroy, they approached me and asked me if I was interested in being considered to direct this film. It took me by surprise, and I had to really consider it. It felt like a good fit because I adored Adrienne and I really appreciate her writing. Andy did not want to change the script, so they wanted to find someone who could tell the story that had been written.

I think the idea that I had a relationship with Adrienne played a large part in the decision-making of it all. I really liked the tone of her project. She was very good at finding a balance between comedy and drama, so I think that Michael and Andy were hoping that I would be able to tell that story with that balance. Whether that happened or not, I think that was the idea!

The story surrounding the film was so tragic, but we made this film with a lightness in our hearts. We didn't sit around during this project and focus on the tragedy of it all, which was great. I think it would've been too difficult to make it otherwise. It was a concern going in, just wondering if we would be able to move forward with the project without always wondering what would Adrienne do, how did Adrienne see it, what would Adrienne want? There was an element of that but it wasn't dominating. It really was a collaboration between Andy and Michael and me, just moving forward, not sitting around second-guessing ourselves. We knew that Adrienne would want us to make the best film we could make. I knew Adrienne would want us to do that.

You were at Tribeca last year for Bart Got a Room, right? [She also appeared in the '07 mockumentary The Grand.]

Yes, and it was so touching to see [Bart director] Brian [Heckler]'s entire family there. And by the way, I will have my entire family at Tribeca, and for some of them this will be the first time they've ever been to New York.

What are you going to do with them?

Put 'em all on a tour bus and send them around the city!

Do you see yourself directing more in the future?

I would like to direct more, I think it all depends on the material and the project. I had no idea how much of a toll it takes on a person to direct a film. Until I'm ready to live and breathe a project, I wouldn't do it. I certainly learned a lot from this experience and I can take that knowledge and apply it to the next project. I remember I went to see a screening of a movie Larry directed and I remember saying, "You must be so excited, it must be the best part!" He looked at me and said, "No, this is the hardest part!"

I honestly didn't know what he was talking about at the time and now I can relate.

What are you up to next? Are you shooting In the Motherhood?

I am, we are on a break from shooting right now, which is good, because I get to come to the Festival. I'm also shooting Curb Your Enthusiam [the seventh season] at the same time. We only have ten episodes this season. This is going to be our best season ever, actually. I can say that the Seinfeld cast is going to be on our show. But I can't tell you why, or what they'll be doing, but I can tell you they're shooting.

Serious Moonlight premieres on Saturday, April 25, 5:30 pm with more screenings to follow.

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