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Marc Lawrence '81, left, and Hugh Grant answer questions from the audience following a special screening of the movie "The Rewrite."
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
A ‘love letter’ to Binghamton
February 9, 2015Tweet
Binghamton pride was out in force Sunday afternoon as 1,200 people viewed a special screening of “The Rewrite,” starring Hugh Grant and what writer/director Marc Lawrence ’81 calls his “love letter to Binghamton.”
If you were to ask anyone in the audience, you’d hear that the movie is a hit and Lawrence and Grant are a match made in heaven, but Binghamton was the star of the film. That became apparent every time a scene from the campus filled the screen and applause filled the Osterhout Concert Theater.
Listening to the pair’s self-deprecating responses to audience questions following the screening gave a clear message that Lawrence and Grant are close friends who work well together – and like to laugh.
How was this movie different than the other three you’ve done together?
Lawrence: “We had no money. There are film hubs around the country, and Binghamton is not one of them, so if we were to shoot up here we would have to bring the entire crew – 150 people for about six weeks and that costs more than shooting the film around New York City.”
Grant: “It’s sad we couldn’t have filmed more of it here.”
How did the green light work for this movie/when did you get a commitment it would be a film?
Lawrence: I’ve never written an outline for a script. I wrote the script and worked with Castle Rock, and so after I had a finished draft, I showed it to Hugh and he said ‘Let’s do it.’”
Grant: “We did it differently, with private money and the luxury of doing it the way we liked.”
The family theme was heartfelt in the film. Was it drawn from experience?
Lawrence: “There certainly was a lot of family involved in the movie. My son, Clyde, wrote and performed the score, and my wife and son, Linus, are briefly in the movie, but not specifically otherwise. There is one character who Hugh and I both know from Hollywood and Hugh is actually the one who said let’s see how long this takes to make him cry. So it’s bits and pieces and some from professors I had in Binghamton. They’re in the movie a bit, but nothing directly.”
What’s your favorite place in Binghamton?
Grant: “It’s hard to choose, but in the end, it might be the Red Robin.”
Lawrence: “Hugh liked Wegmans and learned to drink bourbon at Number 5.”
How have your experiences living in Binghamton shaped other things you’ve written?
Lawrence: “The very first script I wrote that got me an agent was called “The World’s Most Famous House” about my experiences at 130 Oak St., which is now a parking lot and strangely in better shape now than when I lived there. That got me an agent and started me off, so my first and most recent scripts were Binghamton based. I can’t think of any other special stuff, but I have an affinity for certain aspects of life here and they may have shown up in some other scripts.”
We’ve read that acting is something you fell into and you’re not super passionate about. Have you found anything to fill that gap?
Grant: “The acting thing, yes. It’s true I like to moan a bit about acting. Film acting can be a bit slow and tedious, but once I’ve signed on the dotted line, then I’m very dedicated and serious – and annoying as an actor. I interfere with every aspect of the film. Have I ever found what would make me happy? Not at all.
Lawrence: “Hugh asks a lot of questions. I enjoy that kind of thinking. He’s very, very easy for me and the attention to detail is great. When I look in his trailer, his script is open and he’s marking it up.
Grant: “Marc’s script when you get it is very damn good. He’s already done hundreds of versions.”
How many scripts did you write before you were happy with one when you first started out?
Lawrence: “When I started writing in 1982 or 1983, it was pre-computer and I don’t really remember how many. No less than 10 for a 30-minute television show and then I sent that out. Most writing is rewriting for me. I wish I could do outlines, but an outline goes right out the window when I start writing the script. My wife, Linda, has read through and suffered through my scripts, from “Family Ties” to this thing I’m writing now.
Do you consider yourself to be a romantic?
Lawrence: “It is ironic. Do I consider myself to be a romantic? A lot of my favorite movies are romantic comedies, but it’s really because I’ve done nothing with my life. I don’t take vacations. I’ve no spirit of adventure or wanderlust or desire to meet new people. My life story is really boring, so that’s what I know a little bit about and having kids. So it’s probably a lot of that.”
Why do you love Binghamton?
Lawrence: “I met Linda and most of my best friends here. I played in a band that was just brilliant. I met incredible professors here. I loved the campus, loved living off campus. It was a little world at the end of four years and I think we felt like we owned it. It was a great four years and a cherished memory for me and for the rest of my career I’ve tried to extend that environment.”
Any advice for students?
Lawrence: “I don’t really have any. It depends what you do here. If you’re a writer, you have to keep writing. There are no shortcuts. Stay true to the 11-year-old in you. I learned how to dig down – to the hood of my car in the Newing parking lot.”
What are the top skills we can learn at school that industry people are looking for?
Grant: “The film touches on all that. There has to be a bit of talent, but apart from that, the one thing I’ve noticed is that there’s no industry where the discipline is better than in the film industry. People never turn up late or call in sick or don’t get along with the crew. There’s no slacking.”
Did you have any experiences in general that made you want to be a writer?
Lawrence: “I went to law school for a year. Actually, I took no creative classes here and never had any formal training, which is probably clear. I always loved to write but hadn’t shown anything to anyone and the year at law school was the spark I needed. At Binghamton I was hoping to be a rock star, but was bad on so many levels including lack of talent. But four years here prepared me in many, many ways to do what I am doing, even though I wasn’t conscious of it.”
The movie doesn’t end with a kissing scene. Why not?
Lawrence: “We did a kiss scene.”
Grant: “We all shuddered and we cut it.”
Did you write this movie with Hugh in mind?
Lawrence: “Hugh was like the eighth or ninth choice. No, I absolutely wrote this with Hugh in mind. He reads a script and if he likes it, he’ll do it. It’s been that way with every movie we’ve done.”
Grant: “I didn’t want to do any of his movies, I just felt sorry for him. But no, for me, his scripts always make me laugh and it’s impossible to resist.”
Cast members Annie Q., Emily Morden and Steven Kaplan also attended the screening. Kaplan’s two older brothers and a sister-in-law are Binghamton graduates, so this wasn’t his first time on campus.
Prior to the screening, Lawrence was honored at a reception, which included a proclamation by the Alumni Association for his extraordinary accomplishments in the motion picture industry and his sustained engagement with his alma mater.
Surprised at the recognition, he joked that he “got a lot of this treatment as an undergraduate,” then added that “I love this place. It absolutely made me who I am. I met my wife here, a lot of my closest friends are from here, and Bill Spanos, my favorite professor of all time. Professors made an enormous difference to me, so it was an easy call to set the movie here.”
When asked at the reception about what he thought of Binghamton, Grant said that he “will always have a special place in my heart for the Red Robin and spiedies,” adding that “The Rewrite” is “quite a celebration of Binghamton and I feel by proxy very fond of Binghamton and a bit Bearcat-y myself.”
“The Rewrite” will be released in some cities Friday, Feb. 13, though Binghamton is not included on the list. However, those wishing to see it will find it on video on demand and iTunes.