Friends star on directing Trust, a movie about child abuse
If it’s cultural curve balls you’re after, then have a swing at this: Ross from Friends has made a film about online paedophilia. Yes, David Schwimmer, that loveable lunk from the small screen who bid adieu to the astronomical ratings, the exorbitant pay cheques and the throngs of screaming fans he accrued over 10 years of playing Ross Geller, has indulged his passion for directing to make a film about child abuse.
Although Schwimmer has always dabbled behind the camera – making TV movie Since You’ve Been Gone in 1998 and working on episodes of Friends and Joey – it wasn’t until 2007 that he had his first feature-film hit with London-based comedy Run Fatboy Run, starring Simon Pegg.
Set to open in the UAE this week, Trust is his latest directorial effort, and it casts Schwimmer in a very different light. It’s a chilling, small-scale ensemble drama that charts how a 14-year-old girl (Liana Liberato) is groomed by a child abuser over the internet, and the course taken by her parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) to come to terms with what’s happened. From talking to Schwimmer, it’s clear that he’s very proud of this film, even though he’s aware the subject matter is heavier than might be expected from him…
What were the reactions from friends and colleagues when you told them you’d set your sights on making Trust? Well, the first person I told was my wife, Zoe. I started developing it about seven years ago, then I put it aside. We talked about it and she knew it was important to me. She was very supportive of it. I find those early days weird: you mention to friends that you’ve got this idea and whatever you say they’re like, ‘Awesome! Go for it!’ The line I heard the most [from my people] was, ‘Are you sure you wanna do this? Because the chances are that no one’s going to see it.’ They were very… realistic.
We imagine the funding process was a nightmare. It was very difficult. One studio came aboard and said that we could do it, as long as we bring them a name, and that name was Clive Owen. Once you get Clive, you get your money. No one else mattered. Even though we had Catherine Keener and Viola Davis – both Academy Award nominees – it didn’t matter. Clive drives your foreign money, your video, everything.
While you were working on Friends, did you always have your eye on what was going on behind the camera? I would talk to a lot of the camera operators and the technical crew. I would just try to learn what each person on the set did.
What is your favourite film that stars one of the Friends cast? That’s a very good question… I’d probably have to say Analyze This [with Lisa Kudrow].
Nice. No love for Lost in Space? [Laughs] No, you asked what’s my favourite, so we’re not doing any special mentions! Actually, can I name any of my own? Just kidding!
When Friends finished its run and Matt LeBlanc got his own spin-off, Joey, was there ever any talk of you getting a Ross? I could easily have done that. Easily. [But] I felt like 10 years was enough time to do one character. I wanted to play other guys and do other things. I wanted the freedom to do a play, or come to London to do a film. I enjoy my freedom.
Do you still get offers to star in sitcoms now? Yes, I do. But I think it would have to be a great, original idea and a great, challenging character. I look at series such as Sherlock or Luther – both great shows – and I think: Wow, I like that schedule. Three episodes in the entire run? Yep, bam, I’ll do three! In fact, if you ever see them, tell those Sherlock guys I’m ready and waiting… Trust is in UAE cinemas now.