by director Jesse Peretz
When the producers of Juliet, Naked reached out to me about directing the adaptation of this Nick Hornby novel, I was immediately intrigued. And honestly, who wouldn’t be? The movies that his novels have inspired are classics in the genre of wise and witty, life-affirming comedy that Hollywood doesn’t make enough of any more.
My guess is that they came to me, in part, because a lifetime ago I was a member of the alternative rock band The Lemonheads—granted, as the mere bass player, deep in the background to the main attraction, Evan Dando; maybe I’d have some insight into the psychology of Tucker Crowe (played by Ethan Hawke), the musician who, at the height of his popularity, decided to retreat into seclusion. Indeed, I related to Tucker’s repulsion at the blind worship and misguided myth-making that many die-hard fans succumb to when it comes to their musical idol.
Sadly, as someone who stockpiled and anally catalogued his vinyl collection as a kid, I could also relate to the man on the other side of this equation, the overgrown fanboy, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), whose pop culture obsessions completely overwhelm his personal connections. In the story, Duncan has spent way too many years over-analyzing a cult classic album by Tucker Crowe and the mysteries surrounding his disappearance, much to the frustration of his longtime girlfriend, Annie (Rose Byrne).
Juliet, Naked is Annie’s story above all, which set it apart from Hornby’s other novels in a way that appealed to me. Her relationship with Duncan has stunted her, and she’s submitted her innermost desires to his. As the story begins, one of the desires is rearing its head, surprising even her. She wants a child—desperately—even though she has officially signed onto Duncan’s philosophy that children, and parents who raise them, are lame. Pushing 40, she’s facing some painful questions: did she miss her window? And worse, has she wasted the last fifteen years of her life? Enter Tucker, whom she meets online, via Duncan’s website. He’s having an existential crisis of his own. Though in his case, he has more children than he’d care to count, scattered around the globe, unknown to him, reminders of his failure as a parent. They come together, and a new question emerges: Is it too late to right one’s regrets?
I worked on the script with my creative partner and sister, writer Evgenia Peretz. As middle-aged people living in New York, we are surrounded by dozens of friends who are facing regrets similar to those of both Annie and Tucker, from whom we could glean some wisdom. The question of second chances is a universal one—one we hope will touch many viewers who get to see the film.