To make Crazy Eyes director Adam Sherman first had to live it. The young director, who co-wrote the autobiographical film with two friends whose lives also play a central part in the film, said that he often sees his own experiences as something for his films.
“Life’s just like a source of material,” Sherman said. “You have to get your ideas from somewhere. A lot of people get their ideas for movies from other modern movies, which is the silliest thing, in my opinion. You can get your ideas from old movies, you can get your ideas from old stories or from old plays, in this case I got my idea from life.”
Sherman’s story is one of a man, Zach (Lukas Haas), on a major downward spiral of drunkenness while trying to seduce a good friend, Rebecca, whom he calls “Crazy Eyes”. The two are seemingly at each others side each night, nearly all of which end up at either Zach’s favorite dive bar, his home or somewhere else where the two of them can get drunk together.
Madeline Zima, who stars as Rebecca, said she found being able to play drunk, “liberating.”
“I loved playing drunk, it’s fun,” Zima said. “After a while, your mind does believe that you are drunk, and it is a little harder to be more technical, but the actual playing drunk is super fun. You get to be crazy and loud. It’s something I practiced a lot when I was drunk.”
Zima said she and Haas fell into a natural chemistry based in part on their shared past as child actors (Zima was featured in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The Nanny; Haas was featured in Witness and The Lady in White among other roles). “We just naturally had good chemistry, it was good casting. We’ve both been acting so long that we both really know what we’re doing, how to create chemistry with another person. Most of the people I’ve worked with who’ve also started that early, it’s like we have this specific, weird bond, like we’re a kind of circus performer, and I always get along with other people who’ve started that early, even if they’re super dysfunctional, because I understand.”
That sense of understanding also extends to the part she played. As Rebecca, Zima goes through her own downward spiral, paralleling Zach’s own. “I really liked it (the script). I thought it would be a fun world to be in for a little while. What was most fun about it was that I felt I could do whatever I wanted with the character. I personally know people who’ve been in downward spirals like this, and thought it would be fun to just play a complete mess, and just have free rein to be as sloppy and crazy and unconventional as possible, and that that would be supported in a lot of ways.”
Though Sherman did change some elements from his own story for the sake of storytelling (the character of Zach is wealthier, for example), he said that much of the story happens as it did in life. But he wasn’t so protective of reality to stand in the way of a good line. Zima said that often times, if a line of dialogue might have differed from something truer to life, it would stay in the movie.
“You know, my style as a director is to collaborate with my cinematographer, my actors. So I have things in my mind that have to be there, but then I’m also open to them bringing parts of themselves into the work. I let it all be playful, even as I have some specific things. Once I get those, I kind of let it free up,” Sherman said.
Because Zach’s path is a dark one, he has to reveal some dark parts of himself along the way. This includes a mostly absent relationship with his son and parents and a number of strained relationships with other women. A few seem to have designs on his money, while others seem to be becoming increasingly possessive of the man himself.
“I’m a misogynist,” Sherman said.
“I would consider him no more a misogynistic than most men, on a deep level,” Zima said. “And women have experienced men like this over and over and over again. It’s more this how women are toward women a lot of the time.”
“I believe that there’s a difference between men and women,” Sherman elaborated. “I believe women are very competent, that they’re very important. I believe they should have the right to vote. It’s not like I believe they should have less human rights, but there’s a difference between men and women. Is [Zach] a misogynist? I guess that depends on your definition of misogyny. Does he look at women as something other than a man? Yes. But does he think they should have less rights? No.”
Zima said that working on the film helped her to learn more about the history of similar films, such as those by John Cassavetes. “I became a better actress. I felt totally creatively supported. I’d never seen a Cassavetes movie before I started working on this and then once I did I went on a Cassavetes rampage. I completely re-fell in love with moviemaking and acting. It’s really natural to be disillusioned with this business and art form a lot of times, and I was completely re-inspired by working on this movie.”