Cold weather makes you want to cozy up with someone you love in front of the fireplace. In New in Town, Renee Zellweger plays a city girl out of place in a freezing cold small town, finding exactly what she wasn’t expecting — a little romance with Harry Connick, Jr. Zellweger and Connick took some time to tell Buzzine's Izumi Hasegawa about how they were able to understand their characters and the small town itself.
Izumi Hasegawa: Can you talk about any experiences of being new in town? Also talk about being new in a job?
Harry Connick, Jr.: When I moved to New York when I was 18, I was definitely new in town. I was coming from a much smaller place, although it was still a big city, but you have all these dreams. You think you’re going to make this and that happen. You get up there and nobody cares. You have to readjust how you think about things. I know that feeling pretty well.
Renee Zellweger: Every four months, [you’re] new in town. Wherever the next location is and wherever you get sent, the first order of business is to plop the bags down in what is going to be home for the next four to six months. Then you hoof it around and try to discover what’s going on in the community. You find what your patterns and surroundings are going to be for the next six months.
On set, there is an immediate intimacy, to some degree, because you come into a project with a whole lot of people with common goals. It’s this big huge cooperative effort that everyone is really passionate about, and it’s very exciting. It’s very strange because you become like a high school class or something, by the time you wrap a picture. It’s very strange to leave it behind. It’s a very strange, nomadic, circus life, I guess. You are perpetually new in every respect.
IH: How was working on set together?
HC: It was incredible. I heard a lot in the questions yesterday — “What drew you to this?” — and really it was that I read the script. I loved it, by the way. I thought it was fantastic, but it was the prospect of working with Renee. It was the idea I had about working with her that really made me want to do it. Unfortunately, none of the things I had thought would happen happened, but still, the idea of it was great.
IH: Renee, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the weather. Plus, talk about what you and Harry both had to endure in the film with the cold and all.
RZ: It was highly entertaining and very educational. I didn’t know cold like that; it was a whole different kind of experience. It was a marvelous exercise in developing new survival skills. It was a whole new language for the biological things that happen.
HC: Yes, nostrils being the first of many.
RZ: Who knew that panty hose could be so very important? Three or four pairs at a time. I never imagined that I would rejoice at the pantyhose laid out on the bed by wardrobe every morning. They were essential. I would not be here today were it not for the Hanes, I promise this.
IH: Can you talk about the challenges of the hunting scene and getting the frozen zipper to cooperate?
RZ: It stuck on its own. That was unfortunate in the latrine.
HC: That was a funny scene. Renee comes from a small town in Texas. It was funny to see her out there carrying a shotgun and wearing overalls. It was adorable really, to me, and again it was just so cold. It was to the point where we weren’t even laughing about it. We were just trying to get the hell out of there and back to the hotel.
The great thing about that scene, for me, was Renee’s commitment to the funny of the whole thing. She didn’t help me at all. You can see that Renee is petite. I’m a little bigger than the average guy, I guess. I ended up picking her up, and it’s not like she helped a little bit. She didn’t help at all. That’s what made it so funny for us. We thought it was funny when we did it, and we got a good vibe out of that.
IH: Working with Siobahn [Fallon Hogan], she is so funny on screen. Was she funny when you weren’t shooting? Did you have any moments when you couldn’t keep a straight face?
RZ: She got us in trouble. Look at her — she is trouble, trouble. I’m telling you, we got scolded because we needed to concentrate and focus. This girl is non-stop and they keep flying out. It’s really difficult. I think the most challenging part of this experience was trying to focus, concentrate, and not laugh when she was coming up with whatever it was that was becoming this gorgeous character. We had a really good time. I don’t think there was a day when we weren’t laughing till our eyelids were frozen together from tears.
IH: Were there any other aspects of working in the city that stuck with you? It’s a pretty quiet place in January.
HC: It’s not a question of sticking with you, it’s a question of sticking on you, and it’s so cold. Why you would live in that town? The people are amazing, but let’s just be real. It’s not human to live in a town like that. That’s colder than you can even conceive. Don’t go to Winnipeg between October and March.
RZ: Not without four parkas. There were so many things about that place that were so charming. I loved the ice sculpture downtown. The tenacity of the people was just so impressive. To me, you looked outside and [thought] “Where is the road?” because you can’t see the road. “I guess there is no driving today.” But that’s not the case. Everybody just gets up and they get on with it like it’s normal. It’s just commonplace that your face freezes within two seconds of stepping outside of the door.
HC: But again, for the record, it’s not normal. There is no semblance of normalcy about that at all.
IH: Harry, you are noted as being a real guy or a people’s guy. I wondered if Ted [Connick’s character] was close to you?
HC: I’m not even close to that guy. If I could be that guy, I would be a hero with my wife. That’s the kind of guy who is a real guy. I don’t have that kind of restraint or mystery. I’m much too emotive and spontaneous or impulsive. There are a lot of things about him I would like to be. I didn’t really do any research. I know who that guy is, so it was a matter of building upon things that I thought about or fantasized about in my head.
IH: I love how everyone learns something at the end. Did each of you have any preconceived notions about corporate CEOs or country folk that turned out to be not as you expected?
HC: It was a great reminder for me. What happens from the west coast [of] California all the way to the east coast of New York is basically what gives us what we have every day to use. It’s all those people in the middle. I live in the New York area. Out here, we don’t think about all these people — at least I don’t. I think about them to a degree, but this movie really made me focus on the people who make our lives livable. They produce our food, clothing, and transportation. Although I’m ignorant to business and how business affairs work, there has to be some common ground between firing everybody because there is not enough money to pay them, and realizing that these people have livelihoods. There has to be some better way. Hopefully, in this new era we are about to embark upon, we’ll start finding some of those answers. These people don’t have anything. They are losing everything they have. We are in the entertainment business. People say, “How is it working out there in the cold?” Man, we are working.
IH: Any thoughts on small town folk and corporate CEOs?
RZ: One of my favorite things about this job is it sends me all over the world and I get to look at things from different perspectives all the time — cultural perspective. It’s a thrill to me to be stuck on top of a mountain in Romania and turn on the Belgian news. I wasn’t enlightened in any way by these circumstances. It happens all the time. Initially, it’s about numbers, what works on paper, and a profit margin. It’s a big part of what is going on right now, and it saddens me. Like Harry said, I have my fingers tightly crossed. I watch so closely every day. I didn’t have any revelations with respect to how businesses are run. My father was a victim of those circumstances in the late ‘80s. Because I don’t work in that profession, I shouldn’t comment on it beyond a plebeian, pedestrian of television news and newspaper articles. I know communities of people like this who are not simple in that way. They are as headstrong and determined in their perspectives as anyone who comes in and doesn’t understand those perspectives. They make decisions about how they want to live their lives and what is valuable to them. It’s nice to be in it again. It’s a little colder in this particular community.
IH: What is something about small town life you still really enjoy?
RZ: I like familiarity. I like that you have real interaction with people in a community. I love that you know your banker. I live in a small town on the East Coast, and the mailman comes in the house, puts it on the thing, and leaves a note that says, “Don’t forget this” or “Your thing came.” I just love that because you feel supported, like you have a place. I miss that sometimes when I’m away and on the road.
'New In Town' is in theaters now from Gold Circle Films