‘Home Again’ is a great movie for the rom-com lover in your life. The director talked EXCLUSIVELY about working with Reese, having her famous parents on set, and more!
Hallie Meyers-Shyer is no stranger to the film industry. She’s the daughter of beloved directors/producers/screenwriters Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer. Home Again is Hallie’s directorial debut, and it’s one of those romantic comedies people will be watching forever. The movie stars Oscar winner and Big Little Lies star Reese Witherspoon as Alice, a separated mother of two, whose life is turned in a totally new direction when three young, charismatic filmmakers move into her guest house. Alice, her daughters, and the adorable trio create an unlikely new family that’s full of fun, laughs, and love. Home Again’s cast is an incredible ensemble, with Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, and Pico Alexander starring.
In honor of Home Again’s release on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand, HollywoodLife.com talked EXCLUSIVELY with Hallie. The director says having her parents on set — her mom was one of Home Again’s producers — was a “great asset.” Hallie also talks about how her mom showed her the “advantages” of being a woman in film, casting the charming trio of boys, and how Reese brought everyone together on set. Check out our Q&A below!
You come from a very notable family. Did you always know in the back of your mind that you wanted to be a director?
I did. I knew I was going to be a writer, but I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to direct. But as a person who’s always loved film, and I was really educated in film history by my parents and then I went to film school for a bit, so much of what you’re seeing on screen is the director’s work. For me, it was a good way to protect my writing and just something I’ve always been really interested in, so I guess I always knew I wanted to do it.
You acted in a couple of your parents’ movies, so you could have gone that route.
It’s funny, because a lot of people ask me, “How did you make the transition from acting?” But I was never really an actress. I never had any interest in it. My parents sort of threw me into their movies, which was always a kind of fun way to be on set with them, and now I’m really happy that I had that because I get to look back and find myself in all their movies.
What was it like working with your mom on Home Again? Were there challenges with having to work together, because she’s also your mom…
It’s obviously challenging to work alongside a parent, but you kind of push that away because there’s such a bigger thing at hand, which is making this product. There’s so little time, and when you’re making an indie movie, there’s so little money that you just have to put your best foot forward. For me, I was excited to have her there. It was an enormous asset for me. She’s such a talented filmmaker. Everyone at the monitor knew we were mother and daughter because that dynamic doesn’t go away. If anything, it was really wonderful because there’s a short hand in the way you talk and communicate. So she would look at me and I would know what that meant. It was like teamwork. It was really great, and I learned just an enormous amount through that experience, and her movies are so carefully told and so layered. People love them and watch them over and over again, so working in this genre in particular, I was grateful to have her there and ask her advice. You know, when you’re making your first movie, you don’t know sometimes what’s normal or when you can ask for more or when you can say no. Having that person who has 40 years of filmmaking experience was really helpful.
Did you ever have your dad on set?
I did. I really embraced the fact that my parents were filmmakers because I’m sure any director would tell you that being able to ask somebody next to you, “Do you agree? Could the camera be in a different place?” Making a movie, especially in prep, is all about the discussions, the discussions, the discussions. For me, I had no ego about it. I just wanted to make the best possible movie. My dad came and I would send him some production designers. I would say, “Hey, this is the person I’m thinking about, what’s your opinion?” He pointed things out that I wouldn’t have seen. For me, it was a great asset to have my parents.
On Home Again, you were a first-time female director directing a female-led movie. Your mother has been a pivotal female force in Hollywood for so long. What’s the best career advice she’s given you about being a woman in Hollywood?
She’s never really given specific advice about being a woman. Her advice has always been more about the job at hand. For me, I think her just leading by example was the best lesson she could have given me. It seems to be a job that mostly men have had, so for me to grow up with a woman having that job made me not think twice about it. It just seemed like a natural job for a woman. I saw the advantages of being a woman that rather than the disadvantages. I really saw how when you’re a woman and you’re picking a woman’s wardrobe, you do all of your tasks like a woman. In some ways that’s an advantage because it’s a natural job for a woman. You pick female-friendly clothing or the way a woman would say something versus the way a man would say something. The way in which I felt her lead actors related to her and how much she bonded with them always, I felt she really showed me the advantages of being a woman working in film.
Was Reese Witherspoon someone you always had in mind for the role of Alice?
I kind of always secretly hoped that Reese would play Alice because she’s such a perfect person for this part. Not only because she’s excelled in the genre, but because she’s so funny and warm and audiences really love her and are on her side. But also because I think she has been divorced, she is a young mom, and she’s a terrific mom. I sort of think you can always tell when an actor is really a parent in real-life onscreen. Those girls loved Reese. She’s a mom and you could feel that. For me, I always secretly hoped it would be her, and when we sent it to her and she said yes, it was really just the best day.
There have been so many great romantic comedies, but I feel like in the past 5 years there’s been a lull. We’re surrounded by superhero movies and big budget movies, do you think romantic comedies are finally making a comeback?
I hope so. The number one thing I heard when I was doing publicity for this movie was, “I’m so happy to see this genre again.” People have been craving and longing for it. I don’t think they ever asked for it to go away, but the business changed and became franchise heavy. What I found is that it’s not really an indie genre — the romantic comedy — you want to see familiar faces, music you love. It doesn’t feel like it necessarily belongs in this micro budget indie world, which is where it’s sort of been pushed to because the studios don’t really make them anymore. It kind of got lost along with a lot of mid-budget movies. Other than the romantic comedy, I think the drama is in danger also.
I feel like romantic comedies are really underrated…
Especially around this time of year, the holidays. You just want to watch Love Actually. You don’t want to watch the Avengers.
Tell me about your dynamic in working with Reese with you as the director and her as your star. What did you learn from working with her?
She was so terrific. I feel like she taught a lot of lessons more to the actors because there was a lot of first-time actors in this movie and that was one of the best ways she could help me was by helping them. The lead actress, especially if they’re a star as big as Reese, really sets the tone for the set. She was friends with everybody. She knew everybody’s name. She was inviting us all over for dinner after we would wrap. She was just a wonderful person. She created this dynamic on set that was really family-like. It was fun to be on set because there were two little girls running around, there was my mom and Candice Bergen, there was the Reese and Michael Sheen age group, and then me and the boys. We covered every age bracket. There was a lot of first-time people on the movie. Our costume designer and our AD. There was also a lot of really seasoned people like our DP, so everyone was always teaching and helping and learning. For me, I learned the most from Reese about… she’s so professional. She just knocks it out of the park when she shows up to set, but she’s also a really warm and inviting person.
Another pivotal part of the movie is the chemistry between the three guys. What stood out to you about Pico Alexander and Jon Rudnitsky and Nat Wolff that made them perfect for that trio?
Well, I had written the part for Nat because he had a small role in The Intern. My mom had said, “This kid is so terrific.” She knew I was writing a movie with three really meaty parts for young boys so she was like, “You need to look at this guy. He’s so terrific.” He has a real natural boyishness about him, so I tried to infuse as much of Nat into the character as I could because he’s a really unique, cool person. We’re really close now. I love his mannerisms and I tried to infuse those into the characters. Jon is also a really special actor. He’s really comedic and very dear. People didn’t know him that well, but he had been on Saturday Night Live. If you did know him, you knew him as a comedian, so it was fun to show this different side of him because he’s really such a great actor. Pico is just a super special talent. He’s different and someone you haven’t seen before. He kind of has this young movie star vibe about him, which is really fun to watch. He’s easy on the eyes, too.
Are you going to work with your mom again soon?
I don’t think we’re going to do this again, where I direct and she produces. We always sort of felt like this was going to be a one time thing, and this was the right project for us to do together. But I think moving forward, I learned so much, and I’m excited to take that knowledge and carry it out myself. As long as she’ll give me advice, I will take it.
HollywoodLifers, have you seen Home Again? Let us know!