Interview: “The Hollars” Producer Tom Rice

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
Producer Tom Rice (“The Way Way Back,” Mississippi Grind”) answered my questions about the endearing independent film “The Hollars,” with director John Krasinski starring as a confused young man about to become a father, who is called home when his mother is hospitalized with a brain tumor. The brilliant cast includes Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Sharlto Copley, and, as a kind-hearted church youth leader, singer Josh Groban.

How did you first come upon the script?

I read the script on an airplane and immediately fell in love with it. I was laughing out loud, I was crying – people were looking at me, and I didn’t care. I fell for these characters, and saw my own family in the Hollars. I fell in love with the sincerity and love these people have for each other – in the midst of the chaos and dysfunction. It’s such a special story, and it fits right into the Sycamore ethos.

What matters most to you in the projects you commit to?

Any project we greenlight has to fit the ethos of our company. The Sycamore mission is to make films with elements of redemption, reconciliation, social justice, or what Andy Crouch calls the “full human condition.” We don’t ever set out to make blatantly Christian films – but I hope everything we do will have some type of positive impact on our culture and community.

What did John Krasinski bring to the film as director?

Everything. It was his passion that kept this project alive during development. It was his vision that attracted the cast. It was his charm, humor and sensibility that’s organically infused in every scene. And it was his leadership that everyone got behind, every step of the way. John is a very well-loved person, and people will come out of the woodwork to support him.

What do stories about loving but dysfunctional families help us understand about ourselves?

Well, I think everyone will relate to this film in some way. For me, it’s about grace. Family is everything to me, but it’s not always easy. Communication, honesty, forgiveness, love – those are all necessary. We all need to be more giving in those areas, because we all need it to be given to us. It’s grace in action. We’re all messy, we’re all broken – and we all try to pretend like we’re not. When a story like this comes along and shines a light on that – with a perfect blend of heart and humor – I think it inspires us to let down our own guard a little – take of our masks, so to speak – and trust ourselves and our loved ones with who we really are.

Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
One of the film’s most endearing characters is singer Josh Groban as a church youth leader. How did he get the role and what does it add to the film?

Josh and John are friends, and so Josh took the role when John reached out and offered it to him. Josh is perfect casting here. He brings such a likeable, calm yet authoritative presence to the role. He never has any passages of dialogue where he’s preaching – but his character has a strong impact on another character just by being patient and understanding with him – and this grace – there’s that word again – allows the other character to grow and change. It’s a beautiful and honest portrayal of a good man.

Although it is not explicitly a faith-centered film, how does it touch on matters of purpose and connection?

I really hope those discussions are about healing. How it’s never too late to make amends, or to grow closer without the burden of the past weighing us down. This is true in human relationships, and central to our relationship with God. We can meet God wherever we are in life, and He’s there for us. And I would hope everyone has someone in their life – a family member or friend – that embodies that. We are all built for community. We need each other, and this film is about our human need for those relationships in so many ways – especially familial.

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