Opens Friday, August 31
In the new romantic comedy Juliet, Naked, Rose Byrne is Annie, a small-town English curator living with Duncan (Byrne's Bridesmaids co-star Chris O'Dowd) who is equally devoted to both her and a man: Tucker Crowe, a Nick Drake-style folk musician (Ethan Hawke, doing his own singing) who made one record, Juliet, and disappeared. When that album's demos resurface as Juliet, Naked, Annie writes an anonymous, negative review on Duncan's fansite. Then she gets an email from Tucker himself—he agrees, and suggests they meet.
"I'll always use the term 'paralyzed' to describe the state of Tucker Crowe," says Jesse Peretz (Girls), who directed the script by a killer writing team—Tamara Jenkins (The Savages), Jim Taylor (Election) and Peretz's sister Evgenia (Our Idiot Brother) adapted it from the Nick Hornby novel. "But at the same time I do feel like by the time we meet him he has more of a poetic wisdom about his loserliness."
Byrne, a gifted comedian, came on board early in the process. "I was a little worried that she was so pretty," admits Peretz on the phone from New York. "And I felt it was intrinsic to this character that she be a little more homely, insecure. Definitely in the book there's a thing where she's embarrassed about how plain she is compared to his fashionable ex-wives." An afternoon with the actor changed his mind. "The way she saw playing the character just gave me total confidence that whatever that concern was was so insignificant."
Tucker and Duncan are both in different states of permanent adolescence—Duncan with his job teaching TV and his shrine, online and in real life, to a faded obscurity; Tucker with his joblessness and many children by different women—but where Annie always comes second in Duncan's life, Tucker sees her as something to ground him finally.
"I do feel like ultimately his journey, like Annie's journey in the story," says Peretz, "is about adults pushing into their middle ages who feel like they're unable to change the failings in their lives—and it's not worth trying to change directions—realizing it's not too late for them to chase their demons."