Everybody wants a piece of Cake. Since the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival late last year, director Daniel Barnz’s stark look at a woman attempting to move on from life-changing and traumatic events has been talked about endlessly. Part of that has to do with the surprising turn from star Jennifer Aniston, who significantly altered her appearance for the role, but plenty of the chatter has to do with the deft work done by Barnz, who discovered the script while judging a screenwriting contest.
Here, the director chats about making the movie, the overwhelming attention it’s received and how he fell just a little bit in love with his star.
How’s it going today?
If I sound out of breath, it’s because I’ve invested in a walking desk. It’s so great. Do you have one?
I do not.
As a writer, I have fully come to appreciate all of the benefits and what it does for your energy and focus.
A concern of mine is that I would forget I am walking and fall off.
I am literally walking two miles an hour right now. And if you walk too slowly, it can create a feeling like seasickness. But when I’m absorbed in writing, I completely forget that I’m walking.
OK! Well, your movie’s earned a tremendous amount of buzz. What’s it like to have people react that way to your film?
It’s been crazy and wonderful, and unexpected and emotional. We began this adventure just last year. Jen came on the project and we didn’t have financing yet, let alone a start date or a schedule, or dreams of premiering in Toronto. When something unfolds that quickly, it makes you incredibly grateful. You didn’t have time to think what would happen next, you only had time to think about the movie.
Will that affect the way you approach projects from now on? Is it all the fast lane for you here on out?
I do actually think that there’s tremendous value in having the momentum and pace on your side. I made a conscious choice right after we ended shooting. If we wanted to be considered for Toronto, I would have to show my first cut of the film after six weeks. I decided that I really wanted to martial all the resources I could and make it to that deadline, and I think it really was great for the movie because it unified everybody. All the producers and the actors, everybody came together to make the same movie. We didn’t preview it, the largest audience we screened it for before Toronto was eight people. We didn’t open ourselves up to that, we never had that and I think it paid of with the cohesiveness of the film’s vision.
It’s a movie about a woman with some serious demons. What was it like to be working with subject matter like that every day?
There was a lot of lightness on our set. I love to create an atmosphere that is warm and fun, and I was lucky to be working with an actress who feels the same way. I think the whole community was working together to make a warm and creative environment. Jen’s so funny; she’d make fun of my lisp, which I thought was hilarious. We had this on going joke because I am obsessed with those Listerine pocket sprays, it kind of satisfies any kind of anxious habit thing. So I’m constantly walking around set spraying myself. Jen thought I was going to get cancer from it so she bought me licorice root, which is literally like chewing bark.
A lot has been said about how Jennifer Aniston stopped working out and barely wore makeup for the role. It’s funny because now that you’re promoting the movie, she’s back in full movie star mode.
It’s so funny, I got so used to seeing her as Claire in the movie. I don’t know if there’s a thing about directors falling in love with their stars, but there was something about her appearance in this movie that is so beautiful and I think it’s because she had such an open and honest experience. I find her without any makeup to be incredibly beautiful. It took me a long time to get used to Jen with makeup. I think it’s because I kind of fell in love with this openness and honesty.
It’s a unique experience, to work with one of the world’s most glamorous women when she can hang out and have a burger or a beer.
She actually brought In-N-Out burgers to set one day, as a gift to the crew. And to all of us, really.