LAFF 2014: Exclusive Interview with Mo Perkins for ‘The Last Time You Had Fun’

– by Gig Patta

In one of the most hilarious films at the Los Angeles Film Festival this year, “The Last Time You Had Fun” is an enjoyable laughable film of four middle-aged people trying to have fun during a night out in Los Angeles.

The movie stars Eliza Coupe, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Demetri Martin, Kyle Bornheimer, Charlyne Yi and Jimmi Simpson.

Here’s the synopsis:

When Idea, cheeks streaked by mascara tears, unexpectedly shows up at her sister’s place, the staid Alison bargains her way out of mom duty for the night and the two head off to an eastside win bar. There, they run into Will and the freshly divorced, sweatpants-attired Clark. After some slightly inebriated commiserating about mismanaged marriages and other adult concerns, the foursome head out into the night, careening from downtown lofts to pot dispernsaries to midnight swims and back again, determined to prove they still have what it takes to have a good time.

Latino-Review managed to score an exclusive interview with director Mo Perkins the day after the world premiere of the film. We discussed many topics about the production, cast, night shoots, limo rides, her screenwriting husband and joked around when was the last time she had fun.

“The Last Time You Had Fun” has one more showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Wednesday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m.

Read the full interview below.

Latino-Review: I understand your husband, Hal Haberman, wrote this script.

Mo Perkins: Yeah, he did.

Latino-Review: So how did he manage to convince you to direct this movie?

Mo Perkins: He had to convince me? [Laughter] You think I got tricked into it? No, we really wanted to work together. He’s a filmmaker in his own right. He co-wrote and co-directed a film called “Special” with Michael Rapaport. It was Sundance and Magnolia bought it. He had other scripts that other directors had directed. We always had it in the back of our minds that when we have a chance—we would like to really collaborate. Some time did open up and he wasn’t writing for anyone else. So let’s bring what the both of us could do best into a project and see if we can get it off the ground.

Latino-Review: So how did the process started? Did he had an idea for the story by himself and then he proposed it to you?

Mo Perkins: No. We very conscientiously said, “Okay. Let’s write something that’s going to be for us.” I’ve dealt with marriage as a subject matter in the past in mostly drama. He’s great with humor. So we decided to tackle marriage as a subject matter and came up with this idea of people in terrible marriages. I was commiserating to have [these characters] pursue a life outside of situations they felt like they were trapped. He took that and wrote the script. I took his script and put it all together.

Latino-Review: Characters weren’t based off anybody in real life, were they?

Mo Perkins: I won’t tell you that. [Laughter] You want me to have friends, right? No. No. NO. [Laughter] We do have a lot of friends in various stages of relationships. In the last five years, we had some friends who gone through some pretty heavy divorces. It’s devastating.

Yeah, it got us thinking about that. For our marriage, we are really in love. We actually have a ten year anniversary in September.

Latino-Review: Congratulations.

Mo Perkins: Thank you. So it seems like we’re really married now. For ten years, it really means it is official. Being in a world with this age range, it’s a story that’s not told a lot. We see a lot of people we care about feeling successful in all of their lives, except kind of coming short in this really essential way. That put a light under us to tackle this subject matter. Even though it’s a comedy, it’s to create characters that feel grounded in this silly, fun way.

Latino-Review: Of course, this project didn’t create any challenges between you and your husband.

Mo Perkins: You mean—are we still married? [Laughter]

Latino-Review: [Laughter] Obviously, you’re going to celebrate your anniversary very soon.

Mo Perkins: No, it made our relationship richer. There, of course, were some moments when I came home from set since he can’t be on production always due to our five-year-old daughter. He would say, “How was it?” I say, “It went great!” And then he asks, “Did they say the lines?” [Laughter] It’s because his relationship to the material is a lot different than my relationship to it. We could always walk into corners like that, but we always found a way out.

Latino-Review: Was there a lot of improv going on throughout the entire production?

Mo Perkins: You would think with that cast—it was all improv. However, it’s a testament to their performances. The film feels very improv, but there’s actually very little improv in there. Howe’s dialogue is very natural. Most of it is scripted and it’s all part of the plan to make something that’s really dialogue heavy. I feel like it had fallen away from independent films just a little bit. I miss that Woody Allen-like vibe of the way characters talk to each other like you do in real life. That was part of the mission. It comes off feeling like it was improv. I think that’s awesome. But, it’s really scripted.

Latino-Review: When I was watching the movie, I thought, “There’s a lot of conversations and dialogue.”

Mo Perkins: It’s mostly that. And it’s four people talking all night. You believe by the end that you are part of this awesome journey. Our mission is to put you in the middle of that conversation and to slowly unfold of what’s going on with each of the characters by what they’re saying and what they’re not saying to each other.

It helps that some of them are strangers in the beginning. It helps that they’re investigating each other as the audience is investigating.

Latino-Review: One of things I noticed throughout the entire movie is that most of the setting is in the limo.

Mo Perkins: Oh, my goodness. I know. That sounded like such a good idea. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: It wasn’t a good idea?

Mo Perkins: It was great. I’ve never actually been in a limo. So when we started shooting, I had this in my mind it was going to be great. I was going to have my corner working with them; we’ll be on the move; and with this fun thing. The truth is that once you start shooting with lights, camera, me and actors in there—I was smooched down on the floor.  We were trying to make sure I could see the performance.

It was a lot of fun to be in that captive environment for a lot of it. But, it was all night, smelly and hard. I’m not complaining, but it wasn’t what I expected.

Latino-Review: Just out of curiosity, how many people can fit in the back of the limo?

Mo Perkins: It was a really long limo. You have a driver up front, who is not Charlyne [Yi], for most of the time. She did drive some time. We put the sound up front. You put the director, the AC and the DP on one end. And the other four [actors] are on the other end. You always had cars following whenever you need to adjust the light.

Latino-Review: So this entire production, you were on the move the entire time?

Mo Perkins: We were on the move for most of the film, which is hard. I think it was worthwhile, because it lent this feeling of authenticity to what the cast was experiencing. It changed the way on what we felt we were making in a really positive way.

Latino-Review: Another big challenge for you is that the production was a night shoot. It was night after night, so how long was this production?

Mo Perkins: It wasn’t that long. It was seventeen days. That’s a lot of nights.

Latino-Review: So you’re telling me that it’s seventeen nights in a limo?

Mo Perkins: [Laughter] I know it sounds like a horror movie. It was not like that at all. There were some days in the beginning of the film, scenes at the bar and we get out to the ocean. There were reprieves from that confined space. It was mostly nights.

I’m that director who feels kind of protective of my cast. I want them to feel completely safe and taken care of so they can bring out their best. The trickiest part for me with the night shoots is to make sure they weren’t too exhausted. We make sure they were getting the rest they needed. They were taken care of so they can show up to do the job they wanted to do.

Latino-Review: Tell me about the cast. Who were you most fortunate to get on board?

Mo Perkins: You want me to pick? [Laughter]

Latino-Review: It’s like picking a favorite child, right?

Mo Perkins: [Laughter] That’s wrong! Do you have children? No, no. You do not pick your child especially with a film like this because it’s really an ensemble piece. The script is written that they are the flip side of coins. At the end of the day, they all have the same problem.  Due to their personalities, they respond to the problem in different ways. I felt like the cast was this perfect in this puzzle that came together. I couldn’t imagine the movie with one of them and without the other. I just felt blessed all the way.

Latino-Review: So what was the greatest challenge for you throughout the entire production?

Mo Perkins: It’s all the boring ones. Time and budget are always the challenge. Decision making under the gun is always a challenge. Filmmaking is hard. It’s really enjoyable and fun. In every ten minutes, there’s always something disastrous and something wonderful happening. Endurance.

Right now, I don’t feel challenged. I just feel happy. It was really good most of the time.

Latino-Review: Were there some scenes that you had to cut out, but you wished you can put back into the film?

Mo Perkins: Yeah, there was one scene that didn’t quite make it. It just covered some similar beats. It’s hard with comedic actors, because everything was so golden. I just laughed my way through the shoot, which is good because I’m kind of a straight man. I could be the audience for them. There were some moments that were hilarious, but when it was cut together it dragged. So I had to lose them.

Latino-Review: Was the beach scene really that difficult?

Mo Perkins: It was really hard for them.

Latino-Review: Not for you, of course. It was hard for them. [Laughter]

Mo Perkins: It was hard for me emotionally. I feel very protective of them. If you look, there are some on location shots. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and the whole crew are in parkas, boots, bundles and scarves. I would be in this big wooly coat. The actors were in their skivvies and we’re hosing them down as they just came out of the ocean. I was worried for them, but it wasn’t the North Pole. We didn’t really run into any trouble since I had them covered. The fatigue of being wet, being outdoors was tricky.

I would say after this, they had this team sense of accomplishment. It’s like “we survived something.” It changed their feeling they brought to the rest of the shoot. If they weren’t bonded before the beach, then they were definitely bonded after the beach.

Latino-Review: Wow. That’s great. I remembered your cast talked about over an incident.

Mo Perkins: Oh, yeah. A sting ray.

Latino-Review: Yeah, a sting ray. It’s quite fortunate that it didn’t sting.

Mo Perkins: It is! We had all the safety procedures. We had a park ranger and a life guard. We had everybody who needed to be there to make sure everyone was perfectly safe. On the night before the shoot, the ranger and the lifeguard huddled us together and were like “Let’s talk safety!” They pulled myself and the cast together to say, “There’s a lot of sting rays this time of year. What you want to do is to make a lot of noise when you run in. It’s like going into the woods. Stomp your feet. It will scare anything away.” Well, it didn’t work. [Mary Elizabeth Ellis] took a tumble with this sting ray.

Rather than letting us know, she chose to keep going with the scene. It was amazing and completely Mary Elizabeth. I was really glad that she was fine.

It became a running joke. They were like, “Oh, it’s Mary Elizabeth’s boyfriend—Ray.” [Laughter] It became part of their bonding story. It’s part of what they survived together, which was nice.

Latino-Review: It’s like you had a great camaraderie throughout this entire production.

Mo Perkins: That was the engine. It was really great for them.

Latino-Review: And one of my favorite scenes, and I don’t know how you pulled it off—was with the guys in Jimmy’s bedroom with the two women. They were completely naked and carrying this deep conversation. How could you not be laughing throughout this shoot?

Mo Perkins: We were. When the camera went off—everybody laughed. That scene was a lot of fun to shoot. The room felt crazy.

Latino-Review: Everybody was comfortable with the nudity?

Mo Perkins: Yeah, there was some modesty stuff going on. We had cover up robes for them whenever the camera was off. Everyone was at home with the idea that the mission was not to be exploitive. There’s so much talk about sex before that scene. The idea is to bring these two guys talking about sex and sexuality into this world that’s completely other to them. It’s to throw them off kilter was the mission. The girls really understood it wasn’t really putting them on display. Jimmi [Simpson] was really on board. Everybody was pretty comfortable.

Latino-Review: And for a fun question, when was the last time you had fun?

Mo Perkins: Oh, no. You know it was last night. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: What else happened last night besides….

Mo Perkins: I get to show my movie for those who want to appreciate it. It was the ultimate joy for my friends and family.

Latino-Review: And…..

Mo Perkins: And it was the last time I had fun. [Laughter] And it was the most fun.

Latino-Review: And…..

Mo Perkins: And what else happen? Tell me.

Latino-Review: I don’t know. You tell me. Was there a party?

Mo Perkins: There was a party! There was a party afterwards.

Latino-Review: Was there a limo? Was there marijuana? You didn’t go to the beach and run into the ocean?

Mo Perkins: Oh, did I get into mischief? No! It was very tame. My mom reads online stuff. So, no. [Laughter] We had some drinks and we celebrated. It was very nice. It was at the Hotel Figueroa with the whole cast. We were high on the spirit of that show.

Latino-Review: Awesome. Thanks so much for this interview. Congratulations. I really appreciate it.

Mo Perkins: I do too. Thank you.

“The Last Time You Had Fun” has one more showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Wednesday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m.

Interviews, Film, LRM Exclusives Mo Perkins, The Last Time You Had Fun