Southerners turned New Yorkers Hunter Hill and Perry Moore kept a picture of Sissy Spacek tacked on the wall while they wrote Lake City, a southern drama about a reunion between a mother and son years after a family tragedy. They got her to star, along with Troy Garrity (Jane Fonda’s son), Rebecca Romijn, Drea De Matteo, and, oddly enough, Dave Matthews. Lake City hit theaters on Friday, the same day as some vampire-themed blockbuster. Hunter and Moore, partners in life as well as in business, spoke to Vulture about co-directing on a shoestring budget, the Maurice Sendak documentary they’re making with Spike Jonze, and Showtime’s gay-superhero show based on Moore’s novel.
This story is based on an actual childhood experience of Hunter’s. What made you decide that this would make a good movie?
Hill: Well, the story, the crux of the movie were fragmented images that I had from childhood, from my best friend. He died in a very similar way as in the movie. Just watching the family, how different families handle death, you know — some people run from that, some people embrace it.
You spent several years writing this and then got a commitment from Spacek. What if she had turned you down?
Hill: Sissy was the inspiration. We went down to visit Sissy in Virginia, had lunch, she had read the script, and she responded to the very personal situation herself, because she had also had some friends in similar situations.
I heard Spacek brought her own furniture to the set, and Rebecca Romijn used her own clothing?
Hill: Yeah. We shot on a modest budget and the house in the script was always a central character, and it was so important that we find the right place. Every other house we looked at was up and running, and the one we chose was an abandoned house — no running water, no electricity, we only could use half the house. It was empty. So Sissy, and Jack Fisk, who’s her husband —
Moore: Jack is a renowned production designer in his own right [he’s Oscar-nominated]. And Hunter had a panic attack a few days before we started shooting that there wasn’t enough furniture in the house, so Sissy and Jack loaded up their truck with a lot of her own childhood furniture.
Hill: It was a whole flatbed truck full of furniture. The bed in Clayton’s room, the boy’s room in the movie, that was Sissy’s childhood bed. She told stories how she used to walk it back and forth like a balancing beam when she was a little girl in Texas.
Moore: Troy [Garrity] found [Spacek’s] daughter’s diary in it when we were shooting a scene one day. We quickly gave it back to her. I mean, talk about Method acting.
How is it working as two directors?
Moore: We split up the work. We’d make sure that as two directors, we always spoke to the crew and the cast in one voice. It was a luxury, I think. It’s funny when people ask, “What’s it like with two directors?” I always feel like, What’s it like with one director? How do you have time to get all that stuff done? It’s probably easier since Hunter and I live together and do most things in our life together. We sort of have telepathic communication, I think, at this point, that makes it easier to do things together. I think that’s probably an advantage, working together.
Tatum O’Neal was originally cast in the role that Drea De Matteo played?
Moore: Tatum was shooting a series. She was supposed to do it, and she thought she’d be finished in time, and then she wasn’t.
Hill: And then we went right to Drea. She almost channeled Tatum in a crazy way. And, she came in, with the flu. She was there for one night, it was pouring down rain, she was on antibiotics.
Moore: And we had one lamp to knock over in that scene. We did a couple takes, and she was the engine that turned that scene. It was a very long take, and a very emotionally tense moment, and she had to knock this lamp over in the exact same spot without breaking it every time, and she did it every time.
It was just announced that Showtime picked up Hero, your book about a gay superhero, for a series to be produced by Stan Lee. Have you started working on the script?
Moore: Oh yes, we’re in the middle of it. That, and the next book, I’m hard at work on that too.
Is that a sequel to Hero?
Moore: We have a sequel to Hero, and another book, called The Way of the Wolf Book 1: Fire, which is a little more in the vein of Twilight. It’s a new fantasy series. I like rewriting mythology — C.S. Lewis was good about this, too — and I am rewriting the werewolf mythology. I combine a lot of American folklore, French folklore, Japanese folklore. I center it around the triplets, a young girl and her two brothers.
You are co-directing a documentary on Maurice Sendak with Spike Jonze. When will that be out?
Hill: We’re in the edit stages now. Maurice is a fascinating character, and people don’t know much about his personal life.” Maurice is an 8-year-old in an 80-year-old’s body. He’s just razor-sharp and really funny. So we’re very excited about that.
Moore: Maurice’s favorite actress is Sissy Spacek.
Hill: When we were shooting Lake City, he asked if he could come. He said, “Couldn’t I be the little Jewish man that runs a little cart in the small town?”
Moore: It was beautiful.