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    L to R: Moderator Thomas Campbell, Sam Elliot, Brett Haley, Blythe Danner

The following questions and answers are excerpted from a conversation that followed the NBR screening of I’ll See You in My Dreams.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?

Haley: This is of course the first question I get at every Q&A. The first thing people say when they see me – since I’m a young guy – is you made this? They ask if it was inspired by someone, and it’s not. It’s not based on any real life events or people. It’s more based on themes and questions I was asking myself as a human being about life and death and loss. I guess now I look back and it is sort of surprising that the character of Carol came to me. I think having the weight of older characters that have experienced loss was frankly more interesting.

“I have a theory that chemistry comes from generosity as an actor.”

You two had such lovely chemistry in your scenes together. Had you ever worked together?

Elliot: No, we’ve never even met. Never crossed paths. Only from afar.

Danner: I had always heard that extraordinary voice and seen him in those incredible films and thought, wouldn’t it be nice . . .

Haley: That’s a testament to these actors. We didn’t have any time. We only had a table read. And that just goes to show you the talent of the people in this film. I think a lot of that has to do with Blythe being such a generous actress. She’s in every scene. People talk a lot about chemistry, and I have a theory that it comes from generosity as an actor. If you’re generous and realize that it’s not about me, but it’s about us and about you as much as it’s about me, then it works. I think it comes from being on stage – I was taught that in drama school. I was taught the more you give to someone else, the more they give to you.

Blythe: It comes from the helm, from the director. He was so flexible and patient and kind.

Ms. Danner, it’s an amazing performance and you’re the center of the film carrying every scene.

Danner: After I read the script, the only thing that kept me from saying yes immediately was would I have the stamina? I was doing a play at the time. We did know it’d be a short shoot. It was eighteen days. The one saving grace is that he was kind enough to give us two days off. We did five-day weeks instead of six, which is rare for independent film. So that was my worry, but I couldn’t get over what this young man came up with and how he understood loss. It was so eloquent, so simple, and everything was on the page. All we actors had to do was access it. I feel sort of guilty saying this, but it was one of the easiest jobs I’ve had. And I’ve never had a leading role in a film. It was such a joy to live this long and be given such a wonderful leading part.

Bill is a really interesting character. We know just enough about him to know that he’s mysterious, yet we understand him because he’s so direct.

Elliot: I think that’s a great quality for one to have. I’d like to think I’m direct, but I’m certainly not as direct as Bill. It’s a wonderful opportunity, a gift to play these characters that come along in our careers that are so much better human beings than us (laughs).

Danner: Carol and Bill have a similar quality, that’s why they connect. They’re past the age of being polite. They speak the way they feel.

Haley: Sam was the first person I offered the part to. On the page, Bill was meant to be mysterious. Sam and I would talk about his backstory. Usually you want to talk about this stuff, but with Bill it didn’t matter. He’s supposed to be a mystery. But then Sam brought a really sensitive quality to Bill. There’s that scene, one of my favorites, when they’re at dinner after being on the boat. He talks about his theory, and he’s acting like a big guy, but then she tells him about losing her dog, and he just clicks in and becomes so much more. It’s like another layer is revealed. He really understands loss and I think it’s a really beautiful conversation about the themes in the film.