Drake Doremus on ‘Like Crazy’

The mumblecore director of Spooner and Douchebag explains the real-life origins of his latest critically-acclaimed romance.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


This is the interview I’ve been waiting all year for. I saw Like Crazy (in theaters Friday, October 28th) at Sundance and it was my favorite non-hobo movie of the festival. This is a romantic drama about a couple kept apart because she violates her travel visa and cannot return to the states. It’s no chick flick. This is a brutal, raw, honest, beautiful drama. I see the film as a story of mature adults dealing with difficult issues to get through them together, but everyone who sees it shares a different interpretation. What’s really important is what that reveals about the viewer. I met writer/director Drake Doremus briefly at Sundance and friended him on Facebook. Then I went back and watched his previous films, Douchebag and Spooner to see more of his work. Finally, at the Toronto International Film Festival, I landed the exclusive on Drake Doremus.

CraveOnline: I saw this movie at Sundance. Then I went back and watched 'Douchebag' and 'Spooner.'

Drake Doremus: Oh no. Well, that’s too bad.


Is it?

Spooner is… I don’t understand what I’m doing there I think.


Well, I can see the progress, but what stood out in all of them is you have a real sense of human behavior that you’re able to portray.

Oh, thanks, man, I appreciate it.


Where does that come from?

I don’t know. I’m just fascinated by relationships and people, a voyeuristic sense of just observing them in natural situations as opposed to forcing things on them. That’s what I’m fascinated with but I’m still learning and growing with hopefully every film. Spooner to me is not an improv film so it doesn’t belong in the same grouping. Douchebag was the beginning of this process in way so that to me is kind of the first film. Spooner, I’m experimenting and learning. It’s kind of a thesis in a way. Then Douchebag was okay, this is a process that’s my process. Then with Like Crazy it was like okay, now I’m really understanding. I just shot for the last two months and just wrapped yesterday at 4 p.m. and got on a plane to come here. I was like, “Okay, now I’m sort of continuing to work these things out.”


Where can I find a beautiful British poet who leaves notes on my car windshield?

Good question. Where do we both sign up for that? Let’s get in line. I mean, it’s Felicity Jones. She’s incredible and she’s the star of the new movie too. I had to continue to work with her.


It might be a little bit science fiction that he can get both Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. Can those two women actually exist in the same universe?

I don’t think so. They both deserve their own universe. They’re both too magnificent and too radiant.


Is this more the real ideal woman that man dreams of than the snappy rom-com girl we’re usually shown?

I do. I’m I guess projecting my feelings about love and women into these movies in a way, idealizing and romanticizing character traits and things like that I think to be honest, for sure.


Is Jacob right to get angry because it was that one stupid mistake she made that’s costing them this future they want to have together?

No, I think the grayness and the thing that’s so frustrating is it’s the little things that destroy it as opposed to the big things. They’re too young to sort of realize that but time and separation magnifies those little things and makes them get out of control. It’s unfortunate and it’s sad.


The conundrum is you can be mad but you’re mad at the person you love for depriving you of herself. How do you even deal with that?

Yeah, I don’t know. It’s messy. It’s confusing is what it is.


What gave you the idea that this immigration issue could be the subject of a romance?

Personal story for me. This is very personal. There’s a lot of truth in the film, out of an experience that I went through. So to me it’s a very, very personal story.


I’ve had long distance before but never blocked by the government.

Yeah, that throws a wrench in. I did and I’ll never be the same. I’ll never love the same. It really, really was difficult. It was a difficult situation.


Are you still with her?

I’m not. I’m not but we are friends, on good terms.


So is ‘Like Crazy’ the fantasy resolution of that?

Like Crazy is a fantasy in many respects. It’s also a very selfish, indulgent thing.


When people give you their interpretation of the movie, can you tell a lot about their baggage?

Oh yeah. It’s amazing how much people will open up and talk about their relationships and what they’ve gone through. It’s amazing to me how many people have gone through a similar situation and how much they do relate to the film and how universal the story is and how relatable it is.


I actually don’t think unfortunately I’ve ever had a relationship as good as Jacob and Anna have.

Me neither in a way.


But I’m hopeful for it so that’s why I love the movie.

Me too. If you’re a romantic you’ll like the film. The people who don’t get it or don’t like it are cynical and dead inside.


Some people at Sundance said it wouldn’t last, and I thought, “Boy, you’ve been really hurt in your life.”

I believe that it’s what you make of it. Whatever you’ve gone through in your life will determine how you perceive the film.


I couldn’t believe it was improv. How does the dialogue come out so sharp when it’s improvised?

Well, it’s knowing everything there is to know about the character and everything there is to know about the scene so that the dialogue is almost second nature and you’re not thinking about what to say. You’re not thinking about how to portray this plot point. It’s just being in the moment and having it happen and then the dialogue just comes and flows because you’re not forcing it or you’re not thinking about it.


I feel like even in the Judd Apatow movies, you can tell they’re improvising and finding the dialogue. It works but I was convinced this was scripted.

Oh cool, man. That’s probably one of the coolest compliments I’ve ever heard about the film because it’s so loose. To hear that it’s tight is really a tribute to my amazing editor actually.


What has been your experience getting into Sundance, getting picked up by Paramount and going to other festivals?

This is a fantasy. This is a dream. I really do feel like I’m living somebody else’s life. Being in film school five years ago, if you would’ve told me what would’ve happened, where I’d be right now, I would’ve said, “How is that possible? How can I possibly get to that point?” It’s sort of a fantasy. It still hasn’t sunken in yet. When the movie comes out maybe it’ll start to sink in and it’ll be like okay, wow, this is actually happening. The Sundance experience was literally the most surreal thing in my life. Selling the movie to Paramount after the premiere and then winning the Grand Jury prize all in the same week is the greatest week of my life. It’s such a home and being there is just home to me. Sundance to me is home and then to be here for the first time, this has always been a dream. For the first two festivals the movie played to be Sundance and Toronto, I don’t even know how to describe that feeling and how special and grateful I am to just be a part of such incredible institutions.

What do you think of the trailers and posters Paramount is making?

I’m into it. It’s so weird. Taking something that’s so personal and putting it on a poster or narrowing it down to two minutes is something I had to get used to. It’s a strange sort of thing because the movie exists in its 90 minute form and it’s hard to think of it in any other form. I love the poster actually. If I saw that poster, I’d be into it.


It really explains what the title means.

Well, that’s cool, the “I Miss You, I Love You…” I love that stuff.


If you’re just five years out of film school, are you also a testament to if you just start making films, you will get practice and get better?

Yes, that’s all it is. It’s the growth and learning curve. I’ve made four films in the last four years and I’m going to try to go for five, six and seven. Every time out I feel like I know at least one or two things that I can do better. It’s like yeah, you won’t get better by just thinking about it. You’ll get better by doing it. So yes, I do think especially now, with the way technology is, go make whatever you want to make whenever you can. Don’t let anybody stop you and eventually if you’re good at it, good things will happen.


One a year, you’re like the ‘Saw’ franchise.

[Laughs] The Saw franchise of love stories.


But definitely the people who sit around waiting for someone to give them a movie to make, don’t end up making movies.

No, no, part of this process and what’s been exciting is I’ve just said if no one wants to be behind me, then f*** ‘em. I’m just going to continue to do it. Now that people are sort of behind the movement and behind these films, it’s sort of surreal. No one would have given me money to go make a film with my process three years ago. No one would have done it, no one would have believed in it. Now people believe in it and it’s the greatest feeling in the world.


How many Spike Lees and Kevin Smiths and Robert Rodriguezes have to come out before people realize you can just do it?

I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think this is an exciting time. I think there’s an exciting crop of filmmakers that are really setting the tone now for what independent cinema is now.


What is the new one about?

The new one explores the same sort of themes. It’s a much darker film. Sort of a romantic thriller in some respects. It explores themes of being in love with more than one person at the same time, fidelity, grayness, finding love at the wrong time. Subjects I’m grappling with in my own life. It’s Felicity again. Felicity’s the star, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, Kyle Maclachlan. A really fun exciting cast.


Also something people will bring their own baggage to.

This film is going to sting. This one’s going to leave a mark for sure.


‘Like Crazy’ hurts. You go through all those years in 90 minutes and you’re breathless.

Yeah, it’s tiresome. It’s exhausting.


What is your creative life like in L.A.?

I try to spend as much time with my dad as possible, hang out and just try to watch as many movies as possible and constantly be working. I’m constantly either in the writing process or the editing process. It seems like the last four years I’ve only had a couple of months to really relax and catch my breath and that’s the way I like it. I like to be busy and I like to be creative.


So how much time do you have to watch movies while you’re busy?

I try to go once a week. On Netflix I’m constantly watching stuff.


I can’t believe all the sources we have now, with Netflix, Amazon on Demand, DVDs and Blu-rays, my digital copies. Remember when all we had was a VHS if we wanted to watch something?

Oh yeah and the tracking would wear out and you’d wear the tape out. Wow, it’s crazy to think about that.


Do you like to go to the retro theaters that show old movies?

Everything. I like to go to the Arclight and Landmark but I also like to go to the Nuart and I like to go to Cineplex. I’m up for anything. I love films especially by filmmakers and subjects and tones that are very different from what I do because I just find it fascinating to see what other people are doing so I’m just constantly interested in other tones and things. My mentor at AFI has a class where he screens European films.


Would you one day like to do an action movie?

If I did it would be like The Fifth Element. It would be a love story interwoven in an action film.


Could you do it improv style?

I don’t know. With all the stunts and things, probably not. That’s be crazy. Maybe 20 years from now.