Lily Tomlin finds kinship with tough-minded feminist character in 'Grandma' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Lily Tomlin finds kinship with tough-minded feminist character in 'Grandma'

Lily Tomlin, a cast member in "Grandma," poses at the premiere of the film on the opening night of the Los Angeles Film Festival, in this Wednesday, June 10, 2015 file photo. Tomlin didn't have to stretch much for her latest film "Grandma," in which she plays a sharp-tongued feminist and lesbian. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File
September 24, 2015 - 3:15 PM

TORONTO - Lily Tomlin didn't have to stretch much for her latest film "Grandma," in which she plays a sharp-tongued feminist and lesbian.

The legendary comic and actress admits her cantankerous character Elle is "not unlike me in so many ways," right down to the car she drives and the clothes she wears.

Writer/director Paul Weitz devised the script specifically for Tomlin after the two worked together on his 2013 college comedy "Admission," and Tomlin found herself casually inserting her own personal touches as the project developed.

"I was with the costume designer and she brought things and I tried them on and I kept saying, 'Well, maybe I should just wear the clothes I just took off,'" Tomlin says matter-of-factly in a recent phone interview from New York.

"The car is just an accident. We were meeting and (Weitz) said, 'I have to go and see a car,' and I said, 'Well, I have an old car.' We went over to my house and he liked it. He said, 'Does it drive?' I said, 'Yeah, sort of.'"

The clunker ends up being a key part of the emotional comic road movie, in which Elle and her 18-year-old granddaughter Sage, played by Julia Garner, spend a day trying to collect on debts so the teen can pay for an abortion.

The misanthropic Elle is fresh from a breakup with girlfriend Olivia, played by Judy Greer, and obviously still consumed by grief over the death of her previous partner.

The former academic and once-prominent poet finds herself schooling Sage on the history of the women's movement, shocked that the teen has never heard of "The Feminine Mystique."

Weitz says he liked the idea of exploring that generational gap.

"I think that, literally, this generation has completely forgotten what certain words mean," says Weitz, whose other films include "About A Boy" and "Little Fockers."

"There's been a somewhat stigmatization of the word feminist, which I think is now coming around a little bit again."

The film actually examines three generations of women, including Elle's daughter and Sage's mother Judy — a steely corporate lawyer conceived via a sperm donor. She's played by Marcia Gay Harden.

Tomlin welcomes any reminder of the history of the women's movement, pointing to ongoing battles that keep gender inequality alive and well.

"Some strides have been made (but) we're certainly on the (decline) with reproductive rights and things like that. It's a maddening back and forth, back and forth, back and forth," she says.

And while it's unusual to see such a feminist film come from a male writer/director, Weitz says he was intrigued by the story for various reasons.

"On the most selfish level I have a daughter and on another level I had to learn a lot — I went to all-boys schools growing up, which were essentially breeding grounds for ... inherent misogyny," he says.

He recalls doing press for "Admission," which stars Tina Fey as a university admissions counsellor, and realizing it was his first to feature a female lead.

"There have been interesting female parts in my films, I think, but not a female lead and I thought that was kind of shameful," he says, noting that "Grandma" is his 10th feature.

"The first film I directed was 'American Pie' — which oddly we were trying to aim towards girls as opposed to boys. And if you look at that film, actually, most of the situations end up with the girl in control.

"Having said that, it's clearly a male-dominated film and it took me a while but it was quite a relief, actually, to do a completely female-dominated film."

"Grandma" opens Friday in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal before heading to other cities.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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