Shalom Life | October 12, 2014

TIFF 2014: Interview With ‘My Old Lady’ Director, Israel Horovitz

Horovitz discusses his directorial film debut and the challenges of effectively adapting stage to screen.

By: Anthony Marcusa

Published: September 8th, 2014 in Culture » Film » Interviews

TIFF 2014: Interview With ‘My Old Lady’ Director, Israel Horovitz

It took over seventy years and some seventy plays written, but Israel Horovitz has finally taken to the director’s chair to see his work through on the big screen.

The acclaimed and award-winning American playwright began writing in his teens, and throughout his life has watched as his plays were translated and performed around the world. While he has had opportunities writing for short films and television, including on the screenplay for 1999’s feature film Sunshine, it was only recently Horvitz sought to helm his own piece.

“I wanted to do something to really frighten me,” said Horovitz during a phone interview ahead of the Toronto International Film Festival, where his directorial debut My Old Lady has made its world premiere. “I started to day dream, thinking about the play,” he continued. “I wrote it as a valentine to Paris, but I realized in the play Paris is only being described. What romance there would be when you actually see Paris, what a good movie it was could be where you really see this romantic setting.”

The play centers on a trio of figures, as a hard-luck New Yorker travels to Paris to sell the apartment he has inherited from his passing father. It’s the only thing Mathias has to his name, but upon arrival, he learns that the elderly Mathilde and her daughter are living there legally, and not only can Mathias not get rid of them, but he has to pay them rent. The situation is that of French tradition known as viager, and here makes for altercations and misunderstandings both comedic and dramatic.

The strength of the film and the ease of the process Horovitz attests, rests with the three leads he was fortunate to cast: Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristin Scott Thomas.

“They were a dream cast,” said Horvitz. “They are all theatre actors, it's where they come from, and so they were very responsive. [Kevin] has this uncanny ability, he would give me exactly what I wanted, and then he could show me the comic version, the tragic version. I had this remarkable inventory where if I needed a lighter moment, I had it with him, if I needed a darker, I would have that.”

Read more about Israel Horovitz and 'My Old Lady' on the second page.

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