‘Juliet, Naked’ director Jesse Peretz talks about obsessions and interpretation of art

‘Juliet, Naked’ is the screen adaptation of one of writer Nick Hornby’s most beloved novels of the same name


                            ‘Juliet, Naked’ director Jesse Peretz talks about obsessions and interpretation of art

Director Jesse Peretz is most well known for his work on the small screen directing episodes of series like ‘Girls’, ‘Glow’, ‘Nurse Jackie’, ‘New Girl’ and more. He has also directed films including ‘My Idiot Brother,’ ‘The Ex’ and of course his newest big screen release ‘Juliet, Naked’.

‘Juliet, Naked’ is the screen adaptation of one of writer Nick Hornby’s most beloved novels of the same name. The film follows Annie (Rose Byrne), a woman stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) who is an obsessed fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When an acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago resurfaces, it triggers life changing events, giving these characters a second chance at life and love.

Director Jesse Peretz attends the 'Juliet, Naked' Premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 19, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
Director Jesse Peretz attends the 'Juliet, Naked' Premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 19, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Before Peretz became a director, he was actually a founding member of the rock band The Lemonheads. Having this background in music along with many life experiences in the world of rock and roll, Peretz really connected with the material.

“I do feel like I know people that share qualities with Tucker Crowe, like Evan Dando the lead singer of my old band The Lemonheads. But ultimately, I feel like what I knew in my gut from that experience is how fraudulent you feel in the face of very obsessive fans who overly romanticize the art that you make, and ultimately, the levels of their obsession outweigh the depths of you as an artist. So I was really turned on by what I read in the novel. This guy Tucker Crowe was really put off by the people who romanticized what a genius he was, and I love the idea of exploring that artist who hates to hear people romanticize their genius.”

Director Jesse Peretz and Ethan Hawke attend the 'Juliet, Naked' Premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 19, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
Director Jesse Peretz and Ethan Hawke attend the 'Juliet, Naked' Premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 19, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

The character of Duncan is definitely an interesting role for O’Dowd, who typically plays the likable, goofy guy everyone is rooting for. However, in ‘Juliet, Naked’, this isn’t necessarily the case. There is a point in the film where it looks like Duncan may reconcile with Annie, which would have honestly been a pretty frustrating and generic storyline to watch. Peretz also knew this as a road they could go down, but agreed it was best the way that it ended up playing out.

“I thought it was important that we depicted Duncan’s character the way that we did. There was discussion about having it seem like she might take him back, but ultimately, I think this was the best way to go."

Director Jesse Peretz and actor Chris O'Dowd of 'Juliet, Naked' attend the Acura Studio at Sundance Film Festival 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Acura)
Director Jesse Peretz and actor Chris O'Dowd of 'Juliet, Naked' attend the Acura Studio at Sundance Film Festival 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Acura)

One of the best scenes in the film is when Duncan finally comes face to face with his idol Tucker Crowe, and it definitely doesn’t go as planned. In fact, what transpires was probably one of the most humiliating and disappointing experiences of Duncan’s life. With that being said, this is a moment that is somewhat redemptive for Duncan, which is what Peretz was going for.

“We play Duncan as sort of like the fool who doesn’t understand how foolish his obsessions are.  And then suddenly in that scene he ends up with a redemptive speech in favor of art over the artist. I feel like that is a very satisfying, redemptive moment that sort of delves into the relevant discussion of interpretation of art vs. the artist’s intentions. And I loved in the book the way in which Nick Hornby worded Duncan’s defense. To me, the intention of shooting that was to make sure I gave the scene justice.”

(L-R) Actors Chris O'Dowd, Rose Byrne, Azhy Robertson, Ethan Hawke and director Jesse Peretz attend the 'Juliet, Naked' New York Premiere at Metrograph on August 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
(L-R) Actors Chris O'Dowd, Rose Byrne, Azhy Robertson, Ethan Hawke and director Jesse Peretz attend the 'Juliet, Naked' New York Premiere at Metrograph on August 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

This past January, ‘Juliet, Naked’ took Sundance by storm in hopes of a theatrical release, which is exactly what it is getting. ‘Juliet, Naked’ hits select theaters on August 17th, followed by a national release on August 31st.