Gaby Hoffman Joaquin Phoenix went off course in “C’mon C’mon.”

C’mon, C’mon is a sidekick road movie of sorts in which Joaquin Phoenix as radio journalist Johnny tries to bond with and care for his 9-year-old nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) who struggles in difficult circumstances. Ultimately, according to director Mike Mills, the exploration of family, parenting, relationships and responsibilities means the film’s “hidden center” is the third wheel, Johnny’s sister Viv, who is Jesse’s mother.

Gaby Hoffmann was hooked on the role of Viv even before she read the script. “I had a very long, luxurious dinner with Mike where we struck up a conversation about all the things the film is about and it felt like the start of a conversation that we might have for the rest of our lives would lead,” she says sympathetically.

Mills says the Hoffman, a former child actor who was Emmy-nominated for “Girls” and “Transparent,” gives performances that are grounded but unpredictable. “She’s incredibly intelligent and funny – you never know what she’s going to do next, but you buy everything from her. She does little jazz moves within the lines, so even if the lines were 98% my words, they didn’t feel written.”

Mills’ Mike Leigh-like approach uses pre-rehearsal discussions and time together to create chemistry and help the actors bring their own authenticity and personal touch to the role. “I want the actor to co-write with me,” he says.

But Hoffmann and Phoenix also deviated from Mill’s plan.

While spending time with Mills and Norman, Hoffmann felt, “Joaquin and I shouldn’t be doing this — even though I’m not a method actor, our characters had become estranged, but I also had this instinct that there was just this energy between.” would give us. ”

Phoenix had the same instinct and Mills agreed with him, accepting the idea that the actors would first meet on set when Johnny arrives at Viv’s. “There are so many bets in a movie and you have to give it your all,” says Mills. “It was just like an electric shock in that first moment and that chemistry burned them hot.”

Hoffmann says they did multiple takes and each one taught her something new about her co-star. Finding the chemistry proved crucial, as most of Hoffmann’s biggest scenes took place over phone calls with Phoenix. She commends Mills for breaking with the tradition of filming phone conversations by having a script supervisor read the other character’s lines while that actor was relaxing in a trailer or at home.

“We filmed every call, Joaquin was on the other end for me and I for him,” says Hoffmann. “That made a difference. Also, we had done most of our personal scenes first, so we were in each other’s rooms, breathing in each other’s smells and developing a relationship. That meant the phone scenes felt like any other part of the acting.”

Mill’s envisioning of actors as co-writers meant he turned to Hoffmann to ensure the dynamic was right between Viv and her son. “Gaby is a mom and it’s embedded in her, so I could ask if that made sense and she could test it as a mom,” he says.

Finding the essential truth is crucial to Hoffmann, who says, “I’m an instinctive actor and not good enough to fake it — if I don’t feel it, I can’t do it.”

But not only did she bring herself to Viv, she also brought ideas from conversations with other women she knew. One thing that was critical to her was making sure that Viv was more than just someone taking care of the needs of her son, her dying mother, her mentally ill ex-husband. “I wanted to make sure we were seeing Viv beyond that,” says Hoffmann, “I wanted to leave some space and time to see her deeper colors.”

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