Over the past decade and a half, director Paul Weitz (who has also written some of his films) has been exploring adult-child – sometimes parent-child – relationships. They were there, in the background, in “American Pie,” one was right upfront in “About a Boy,” and, of course, there was the comic in-law business in “Little Fockers” and the searing father-son story of “Being Flynn.” In “Admission,” based on the Jean Hanff Korelitz novel, there are parent-child and student-mentor relationships left and right. Tina Fey stars as a Princeton admissions officer, playing opposite Paul Rudd, as an alternative high school teacher who tries to get her interested in accepting a young protégé. Weitz spoke about the film in New York.
Why is it that so much of your work is about shaping young minds?
I have three little kids, and certainly parenting has changed so much. Parenting in my dad’s generation – the WWII generation –was really different and strict. It would be utterly ineffective in dealing with my kids. Also, having waited a while to have kids, the question does present itself of whether you’re actually going to be any good at parenting.
Was working with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd different from working with other actors?
The great thing about directing for me is how different actors are from each other. In their makeup, there’s instinct and there’s analysis. Eventually the two things have to be going together. Because if you have a purely instinctive actor, but they’re walking away from the lights while they’re talking, then you’re in some trouble. There’s always something you have to be doing with your rational brain. And when you have somebody like Tina – somebody who’s able to analyze what’s going on with their character and what’s going on with the whole story – that’s really helpful. Paul is the same way. When I first told him about it, he was really excited because he wanted to work with Tina. Then I sent the script to him and he didn’t want to do it because he felt the character was soft, and a bit of a cliché. So I worked on the character with him, and rewrote with him.
Are you, as usual, working on many projects at once?
I’m writing a couple of original ideas and I’m working on adapting a novel which has been around for a while, called “Bel Canto,” by Ann Patchett. It would be really challenging to make into a good film. I’d direct and write it. I hope I’m up to the task.
What do you like about doing adaptations?
I feel slightly guilty about doing adaptations, because it’s almost impossible to do justice to a novel. The last adaptation I did – “Being Flynn” – was an awesome situation, in all but the fact that nobody saw it. It was Nick Flynn’s life story, and I became good friends with Nick. And now he’s written a book called “The Reenactments,” about the experience of processing his life through having a film made of it. So now I’m a character in his memoir.
Ed Symkus covers movies for GateHouse Media.