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Interview with Michael Pressman and Lisa Chess

From "Frankie and Johnny are Married"

By Fred Topel

What does it take to get you to say no?
Michael Pressman: It's very painful to say no. Very hard. I have to pull it from somewhere deep inside of me and take the risk. But no is a very hard one to say. Do you also double as a therapist by the way, because you're hitting some touch points.

Lisa Chess: I always say you have to learn how to say no to our son. You have to say no to him.

Have you read Dale Carnegie?
MP: No, I haven't. Why, am I good at business?

You act very much according to the teachings of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
MP: That's very interesting. When the friend in that café scene says, "All you're doing is taking care of others and no one seems to take care of you," though it may be a Dale Carnegie attribute in the fact that I've done well by that characteristic, I do perceive it as a shortcoming in my character that I want to overcome. That I think I do overcome in the telling of the story, the writing of the script and the making of the movie. And I don't mean to jump to a question, but I do think that the experience of making the film for myself and I think for our relationship has been transformative.

How old is your son?
MP: He's five.

Has he seen the film?
MP: Pieces of it.

LC: It's R-rated, you know.

Is it true what they say about working with children?
MP: He was the toughest one. He didn't do anything he was supposed to do.

LC: He rehearsed lines and he was so excited to say the couple of lines that Michael had written for him in the scene in the bedroom when he was supposed to not be feeling well. Then when he arrived on the set to do his scene, the art department had moved his bed and his pillows around, and his animals. He was very upset so he refused to say the lines as written. He was temperamental.

MP: He had a fit, he was screaming, "Who took out my pillow?"

LC: So the scene was a little bit improvised. Our dog, however...

MP: Oh, was terribly cooperative.

LC: She wanted to insinuate herself into every scene. She loved being around all those people and she tried to be in everything.

What pilot did you leave to do the play?
MP: I was on "The Guardian." In real life it's different. I sort of restructured reality there. In the movie, I leave a pilot and stay with the play. In real life, we shut down, I went to Canada, I did the "Guardian" pilot and then we did the play and then I left "The Guardian" to do the movie. So what happened was I was on "The Guardian" for one year as an executive producer and then I left my job and spent a year making the film, so in fact I left something much bigger than just two months. I left a secure job to do this film.

Lisa, have you noticed a resemblance to Helen Hunt?
LC: [Laughs] I am told a lot that I look like Helen Hunt and have been for several years.

Why don’t you go for roles as her sister?
LC: I did. It's funny you ask because I don't know if you watched "Mad About You," but in the last couple seasons they brought a part on, the part of her sister. And I went in and read and I went back.

MP: Thought you looked too much like her, right?

LC: And then I think they hired somebody who looked nothing like her. Much taller, much darker hair, a completely different look. Because I felt especially when I had a callback or two on it, I thought, "Okay, well, there's no way I can't get this." And I didn't.

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