"I'm not dumb. You have to have a connection."
After 13 years of pecking away at screenplays, Manhattanite Jenny Lumet is finally seeing one of her scripts come to life on the big screen. "Rachel Getting Married," a drama that documents the havoc wreaked at a wedding by the bride's sister, a recovering addict (Anne Hathaway), has already earned critical acclaim after opening in New York and Los Angeles. (It arrives Friday in Washington.)
It's somewhat strange to think of Lumet, 41, as an industry newcomer, since she has spent her life in the presence of cinematic greatness: Her father is the revered director Sidney Lumet, of "12 Angry Men," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network" fame. He's also a guy who, as his daughter explains, has issues with dishwashers.
-- Jen Chaney
Is the father in "Rachel Getting Married" anything like your dad?
In terms of character-pilfering, the closest one is the character of the father. I stole the dishwashing lunacy and I stole my dad's penchant for giving everybody on the planet a meatloaf sandwich. He is this maniacal maker of sandwiches. I mean, you could show up at his door having never seen him before and he'd say, "Oh, you hungry?"
The dishwashing lunacy inspired an important scene in the film. Tell me about that.
My dad's this director, but it's not like you would come home from school and Elizabeth Taylor would be under the sink. It was pretty normal. But sometimes you would have famous people in the house.
So one night, Bob Fosse was over for dinner. My dad is loading the dishwasher and Bob Fosse looks at him and goes, "You know, Sidney, if you put the containers from Zabar's in the upper level, you can get 10 percent more stuff in the dishwasher." Then the two of them -- who you would presume might have something better to talk about -- went off for about an hour about whether the tines go up on the forks or the tines go down, and where do you put the butter dish, and this whole insane drama. And I didn't remember it because I was a prescient 11-year-old who thought, wow, I will use this someday. I remembered it because it was completely psychotic and disturbing behavior.
I understand your dad gave your screenplay to Jonathan Demme, who ultimately directed "Rachel Getting Married."
I essentially extorted my dad. I was like: You will never see your grandson again unless you get this script to Jonathan Demme. And eventually it paid off.
Were you hesitant to ask him to do that?
I live on [West] 95th Street. And there are probably 15 screenwriters on my block who are freaking geniuses, right? And they can't get the right person to read their screenplay because it's so freaking hard. So I'm not dumb. You have to have a connection and you have to use it.