When Amy Schumer introduced a screening of "Trainwreck" - the comedy she wrote and stars in hitting theaters nationwide this weekend - at the Gateway Film Center in April nothing was off the table.
When Amy Schumer introduced a screening of "Trainwreck" - the comedy she wrote and stars in hitting theaters nationwide this weekend - at the Gateway Film Center in April nothing was off the table. Schumer is well-known for her refreshingly unfiltered attitude - see her emboldened statement, "I'm probably 160 pounds right now, and I can catch a dick whenever I want" during her acceptance speech for the Trailblazer Award at Glamour UK's Women of the Year event - so it wasn't a surprise for the comedian/writer/actress to be so candid.
Schumer's responses to a litany of questions, ranging from absurd to personal, lobbed by mostly college students was both hilarious and honest. Whether asked about her go-to Taco Bell order - she's a "soft taco girl" and offered a playful, trademark Schumer "Byeeeee!" after the questioner revealed she was vegetarian - or how much of a "trainwreck" her life is in reality compared to the character she plays in the movie, Schumer was on-point with a frank, sincere answer.
"I still can't believe it happened. Judd was the coolest, most laid-back dude you can imagine. He's a dad and super shy and such a devout father. The only rehearsals that we had were sex scenes, because Judd was so nervous about it. There was always a stunt coordinator there, and [Judd] wouldn't look me in the eye before and after," said Schumer to an audience member's question about working with the "40 Year Old Virgin" director.
As for the query about how much of Schumer's life is similar to the trainwreck Amy she plays in the film, she says it's about 40 percent genuine experiences, and 60 percent Hollywood inventions.
While the pre-screening Q&A was informative and joyous - crowd favorites included Schumer saying she can see herself hosting "Saturday Night Live" one day and responding to one woman's statement, "You're obviously very down-to-Earth" with "No. I'm a huge cunt" - the skyrocketing comedian also took a few minutes for a one-on-one interview. Schumer again didn't disappoint, offering insights on writing "Trainwreck," her personal life and what she really thinks of co-star LeBron James acting skills.
"Trainwreck" is inherently a rom-com, but dispels and/or inverts many of the genre's stereotypes and formulaic storytelling in building the relationship of Amy (Schumer) and Aaron (Bill Hader). The result is an approachable, funny and often irreverent comedy that also boasts a vital emotional core. (It doesn't hurt that Schumer and Hader have a strong chemistry, and the film's supporting cast is outstanding.)
Part of the reason "Trainwreck" is drawing favorable reviews (95 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Alive's review on page 56), drew raucous laughter during early screenings and will probably be the summer's smash hit R-rated comedy is because Schumer imbued the script with earnestness.
"At first I was trying to … write a Judd Apatow movie," Schumer said. "He said, 'Why not write something really personal?' When I wrote this movie I was falling in love with someone, and it wasn't fun. I was so worried about getting hurt that I wasn't even enjoying falling in love. I was just waiting of the other shoe to drop. You get so hurt in life and so disappointed that it's hard to be optimistic when you see what happens and you're so used to the pain of life."
That relationship was unfortunately over by the second table read of the script, Schumer stated during the interview. But there were other personal aspects of the film that were even more difficult: scenes involving her sister (played by Brie Larson). Schumer's real-life sister Kim Caramele is a producer on "Trainwreck" (and Comedy Central's "Inside Amy Schumer"), but Schumer asked she not be on-set for an emotional scene between the siblings in the second act.
"That is a real-life relationship. The hardest scenes for me were the ones where I was fighting with [my sister]. Those were really painful to do. I didn't want her on set that day," Schumer said. "Some of what I'm bringing in is autobiographic and hits really close to home, and other stuff are things I've manufactured in my mind. In terms of the balance of how much of each to use, it's just organic," Schumer said.
While "Trainwreck" has personal touches, it also comes with outlandish and grandiose components, like world-renowned NBA star LeBron James' big-screen debut.
"I wrote it for him. I wrote it thinking it would serve as sort of a template, and then we'd get a lesser player. But then LeBron said, yes," Schumer said. "That's what happened with most of the people in this movie - Tilda Swinton said yes. We were like, why?! - And (James) was so awesome. We were like, can we joke about Cleveland and going back? And … he was so cool. He didn't take himself seriously at all [and] was down to make fun of himself. Yeah, he was the best."
It's interesting how Schumer wrote this part for James. It upends the rom-com archetype of the wacky, supportive best friend that's usually - almost exclusively - a role for women. Here, King James has a sensitive side, one of the numerous instances where the film challenges the genre's gender stereotypes.
"People are like, oh god, girls are crazy. But for me and my friends who're still dating, sometimes you go out with a guy and you're not feeling it, but they call you a million times. For me, I've had people not be interested in seeing me again, and I'm like, bye. It hurts your feelings but …
"I didn't purposely flip the gender stereotypes. That's just how I've really experienced life. It's not like, now the girls are going to have their time. It wasn't like that. It's just true to my experience, which is I think the reason Judd wanted to work together. He hadn't seen a woman portrayed this way. This is just what my experience has been for me and my girlfriends. But I don't think it's cool to go out and fuck everybody. I thought Samantha on 'Sex and the City' was mentally ill," Schumer said with a chuckle.
I guess the big question is how audiences will respond to Schumer's honest, realistic portrayal of dating from the female perspective. Schumer said, "I don't know [if audiences will embrace the film]. I think so, and we've screened it enough that I'm confident," but noted that she's uncertain about how "Trainwreck" will connect with filmgoers. My guess is Schumer's hot streak will continue, mainly because the film - akin to the approach and mindset she bears in creative endeavor - is grounded in a sense of honesty and thoughtfulness.