Recently at a press event to publicize The Odd Life of Timothy Green, writer/director Peter Hedges and the stars met separately in mini press conferences. The film is centered in the story of a family and often the questions came around to discussions of family and family issues.
Hedges was asked, “Your films kind of use family as a crucible for weighing out what is of value. Could you talk a little about your thoughts on family?”
I keep wondering why do I keep coming back to family? Is it laziness or is it that for me—you use the word crucible, which I thought is a really interesting word. My particular childhood was full of real ache and a tremendous amount of joy too, but there’s just some really hard things went down. I just feel that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, or you’re a Christian or an atheist, whatever language you speak, whatever socio-economic background you come from, it is one of the great things we have in common—the family we’re born into. Sometimes that’s pretty good and you make that work. Sometimes it’s the family you find, or the family you create. Of course, it’s a great political structure; there’s all sorts of intrigue. So many of my favorite plays—the plays of O’Neill, the plays of Tennessee Williams, the plays of Arthur Miller—great plays, family plays. Even Shakespeare has some really good family stories going on. I think for me family is just always interesting. Tolstoy of course said, “All happy families are the same, and all unhappy families are….” He said it better than I’m saying it. I particularly like families where people are well intended, but they’re broken, and they’re doing the best they can, and it’s never good enough. I keep thinking I will write something one day that will just exhaust me of this particular theme, and it hasn’t happened yet.
Later when Joel Edgerton was being interviewed, he was asked what family meant to him.
For me family is… That’s a great question. The word unconditional really, really resonates with me with family. I was thinking the other day, no matter what a child does, it’s amazing how there’s maybe an inbuilt genetic thing in humans that we just want to stay connected. That’s pretty rare in the animal kingdom too. I’m amazed by people I know who have kids and the older they get that connection doesn’t die. They’re interested almost to the point that, the way I was when I used to watch MTV, I’d just be glued to the screen. People are glued to their kids. Some of them a little bit too over-proud, but at the same time there’s a pride that’s also a great inherent forgiveness. Now children are number one, so they don’t often realize until later that they can give a bit back. My conversations with my father are generally him asking me questions and me answering them. If I try to turn the conversation around, he quickly flips it.
A bit later, in response to a question about his decision to go into the arts, Edgerton spoke about his childhood and his father.
My father was an attorney. He had a law practice which was half an hour from where we grew up. He was just starting it and he and his partner Bruce were like basically running the whole circus themselves, and he worked long hours. I’d say my childhood started at kind of the upper end of lower class, working class, and ended firmly in the middle class, upper middle class, and that’s the result of everything my father did in that law practice. He quit when he was forty in order to free up his time because he just wasn’t around really a lot. Unfortunately for him, he used to turn up most nights having to be the policeman of our family because our mom, just like you’ve heard a million times, used to utter the words, “You wait till your father gets home.” I feel really sorry for my father that sometimes the only contact he had with us was having to come home and punish us. So what I’m saying is that a lot of my childhood I misinterpreted—at a very young and formative age—I misinterpreted my father’s love for me in the form of working his ass off for us. I misinterpreted that as like where’s my dad and why doesn’t he love me? I know that now. It’s completely obvious to me that my father thinks I’m one of the two greatest people in the world.