John and Marilyn Wells teamed up with Grant and Lysa Heslov last week to host a screening of their film “August: Osage County” to benefit Children Mending Hearts and The Episcopal School of Los Angeles. The film’s director and producer were joined on the red carpet by stars Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney, who turned out to support the two organizations.
“I founded Children Mending Hearts as a way to create educational programming for kids and connect them to other kids in other countries. Our after-school program started last year with 39 kids and now we have over 850 a week,” said a proud Lysa Heslov.
CMH encourages kids to find their voices through creative expression, and also conducts workshops in the arts for children around the world.
Meanwhile, John and Marilyn Wells are founding donors to the Episcopal School of Los Angeles, where Marilyn serves on the founding board.
“I’ve been involved from pretty much the beginning, as soon as I met Maryetta Anschutz, who is incredible. I was sold on the school before our son Jack started going and now that he’s there we’re just really excited. He loves school for the first time and he’s really excited about it,” said Marilyn Wells.
“It’s a STEM school — science, technology, engineering and math — and a big part of its mission is providing full tuition assistance for 50% of the student body. The STEM program is really terrific for boys and girls, but particularly for boys because it’s very hands-on and they get to get in there and blow stuff up and make things,” added John Wells.
Before the screening began, Heslov and Wells told TheWrap how the ensemble cast was assembled.
“We got very fortunate. Tracy Letts and I worked on the script for about 18 months and then Meryl [Streep] read it and wanted to do it and Julia [Roberts] wanted to do it. I called Chris Cooper, who’s a friend, and I said ‘you’re coming and doing it, you have no choice,’ and he said ‘Who’s in it?’ and then ‘Oh yeah, I’m in.’ Everybody else auditioned with the exception of Ewan [McGregor], who came in at the very end because he hadn’t been available for a long time. We slowly built the cast over a six-month period to make sure they really looked like a family and were the appropriate ages,” said Wells.
“We had lots of discussions because there were a lot of cooks, but I think we ended up with the exact cast we were meant to have,” added Heslov.
“For a short time I was John Wells’ neighbor, so I’m going to attribute me getting the part to that,” joked Mulroney. “In all seriousness, I had to audition several times. It felt hard to get but it was a great cast to join.”
“Auditions are not my forte but somehow I’ve done pretty good,” explained Lewis. “I’ve gotten some work, especially early on. [Martin] Scorsese, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone. That shit worked out. Besides Meryl and Julia, everybody went up for these parts. My old friend George [Clooney] and his producing partner Grant were in my corner, and of course John will tell you that I was his choice for Karen. But I had to audition with a three-page monologue. I’d never done it before in my life onscreen,” exclaimed Lewis, who like Lysa Heslov, is also a strong supporter of the arts in schools.
“That’s the first thing government gets rid of, so I’m really pro-art and music and painting as a therapy and a form of expression that rehabilitates one’s sense of self-worth. It makes you more imaginative and helps at-risk youth by getting their creativity going and giving them an outlet. Had I played music when I was a teenager, I might’ve stayed out of more trouble,” said Lewis, who is preparing to release a new EP with Cage the Elephant next year.
Lysa Heslov pleaded the fifth when asked to choose a favorite scene or performance, though Marilyn Wells singled out a scene in which Streep tells her daughters (Roberts, Lewis and Julianne Nicholson) about a pair of boots her mother gave her for Christmas. “Meryl was extraordinary in that scene,” said Mrs. Wells.
“I’m a little glad that I didn’t see the play because I didn’t have a frame of reference, so I had nothing to compare it to when I read the script. I think it’s a beautiful tale of a wonderfully gothic southern family. Watching these actors is amazing, and I’m so proud of Grant and John,” boasted Mrs. Heslov.
“Every single one of these roles is an actor’s dream. Every part, even if it’s small, has an arc or something that they unravel. It’s what you live for as an actor, the kind of drama and pain that is in these characters,” Lewis said. “My character comes off very sunny and put-together and she unravels by the end. You always look for huge challenges, and for me it was different.”
“Juliette and I play a couple in the movie. Like a lot of the characters in this story, I don’t turn out to be quite what I seem and I also work closely with Abigail Breslin in the film, if that gives you a hint as to my character’s ill intentions,” added Mulroney, who did had not seen the play prior to joining the cast. Mulroney also said it took four days to shoot the infamous dinner scene, which takes up about 20-25 pages in the script. “It’s a phenomenal scene right in the middle of the movie and it’s the only time in the film you see them all together … and then all hell breaks out.”