Director to Lesbians: ‘Kids Are All Right’ Not Irresponsible

Lisa Cholodenko responds to blowback she’s received over her touching and often hilarious movie, at TheWrap’s Academy Screening Series

“Some people in the lesbian community think that it’s not a good thing to explore a lesbian that wants to have an affair with a man,” said Lisa Cholodenko about the blowback she’s received over her touching and often hilarious movie, “The Kids Are All Right.”

“It didn’t seem irresponsible or reckless or like I was damaging any community.”

Cholodenko and her writing partner Stuart Bloomberg stopped by the ArcLight in Sherman Oaks for a Q&A Thursday, following a showing of her critically acclaimed movie. Part of TheWrap’s ongoing Academy Screening List, the site’s Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman hosted the discussion. (Photographs by Jonathan Alcorn)

Cholodenko is best known for such indie faves as “High Art” and “Laurel Canyon.” Blumberg has worked on such studio screenplays as “The Girl Next Door” and “Keeping the Faith.” Both were nominated for Golden Globes earlier this week for “Kids.”

The two were old friends when they met by chance in 2005 at 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood. Cholodenko was working on a drama involving a lesbian couple with two kids and the sperm donor who disrupts their lives but hadn’t been able to break the story.

“I’d been talking about sperm donors for months, but I had never met a sperm donor,” she laughed.

“I was a sperm donor in college, and I always wondered if I had children, what would I do?” recalled Blumberg. 

“It was like manna from heaven,” said Cholodenko. “There was my sperm donor!”

Blumberg’s ideas were more than seeds, however. He was a full collaborator, working side by side with the director when he was in L.A. and long distance when he was home in New York City. “It wasn’t a thing where if the character had a penis I wrote it, and if it had a vagina, Lisa wrote it,” joked Blumberg.

“I give this man some props for being very wise,” said Cholodenko of her partner. “While he has not experienced 25 years of marriage, he added a lot that I thought was really profound.”

“I can readily imagine the horrors of marriage without going through it,” quipped Blumberg. “But beyond that we really wanted to tap into the universal-ness of marriage and a family and what it is to be a parent, what it is to be a child.”

An acquaintance of Cholodenko, Julianne Moore signed on years before production began. “It had to be a recognizable A-list excellent actor that’s going to give the film some stature,” insisted the director. But years passed as they tried unsuccessfully to finance the movie.

In the interim, Cholodenko had a child and Blumberg went to work on other jobs.

In the end, they wound up with only $3.5 million and a 23-day shoot with five weeks of prep, a far cry from the $13 million the pair thought they would get for the movie. “If we hadn’t spent so much time writing it, I would have walked away from that,” recalled the director. “That’s a very, very short time to make a film.”

As reality dawned on them, cuts were made, including a river-rafting scene that was to take place in the first act. One item that couldn’t be sacrificed, however, was the rights to Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.” During an ensemble scene around the dinner table, Annette Bening, as Jules’ partner, Nic, breaks into song. “People were saying, ‘Joni Mitchell’s too expensive,” recalled Blumberg.

“The publishers were pretty cool about it, but she charged us a lot of money,” rued the director. “At the end of the day, it had to be that song.”