“Patti Cake$”, the tale of an unlikely rapper, was one of the surprise hits at Sundance.
No-one was expecting this indie film to be the success that it is. Not even the film’s writer/director, Geremy Jasper. This “was a small neighbourhood story that you don’t know if anyone was going to relate to or not. So the fact that people got on the frequency was an incredible thing.”
Geremy has called this a valentine to the women who raised me. “Because I felt there was a type of woman that I hadn’t seen on screen before – the strong Jersey woman. I felt that there was a void”
What do they think of it? “I haven’t asked all of them – all nine mothers of mine, but I think they loved it.”
In casting the film’s lead, Jasper went for a relative unknown talent, Australian, Danielle MacDonald. She had never starred in a film before, and after she read the script, she said to him, ‘I need to be very straight with you. I don’t rap, I can’t do a Jersey accent and it’s so cool and I want to, but there is all this stuff that’s not me.’ Even after that, Geremy still cast her. How did he know that she would be perfect for the role?
“It’s a sixth sense. It’s what I had with Bridgett, it’s what I had with Sid. I knew these characters so well and had been living with them in my head for so long, and you’re kind of searching the world for them, and they’re very hard to find because they are so specific. So, when you see your imaginary friend in real life, you’re like, whatever it takes, we’re going to get there.
If Danielle was a horrible person (then no). (But she’s not and) she’s so talented – and she likes to downplay her natural musical ability, even though she hadn’t done anything musical, if she had no sense of rhythm, and couldn’t internalise what I was trying to get across then maybe it would be different. But she had the raw essentials so I wasn’t going to give up on that.
And she worked her ass off. She’s the hardest working person I’ve ever met. And I could tell. There was something about her. She had the right attitude and the right foundation. I felt more comfortable working in the studio with someone and getting the music out of them, than the reverse – turning a musician into an actor, that would scare me.”
Geremy took a chance on Bridget Everett as well, as she is better known for doing comedy (“Inside Amy Schemer”) and for her raunchy cabaret act than she is for drama. So what did she think when Geremy first called her to offer her the part of Patti’s mum Barb, a woman who lived with a lot of anger because of unfulfilled dreams?
“I was like ‘No’. Not because I didn’t want to be in a movie or get the opportunity to act. But it’s just that I read the script and I was like, ‘somebody that’s really talented should pay this – as a dramatic actor’. But Geremy was like, ‘just come to Sundance and let’s just take the pressure off. We’re all in this together’. And that sort of made it feel like a commune or something. It felt like it wasn’t as big a deal that I was trying to make it. It was a big deal but you know what I mean? I could just let myself off the hook and see what this is about. I am so happy I did because he gave me the opportunity to do something that I didn’t think I had the ability or ever have the opportunity to do.
“Patti Cake$” encourages us to not conform, instead, make your differences work for you, in what can be a superficial industry, how did Geremy make his differences work for him?
“Just do yourself!”
“I always thought that if you were going to be a film maker that you had to do a bunch of schooling like almost train to be a doctor or something. You need to know every technical nuance of what you are doing. It was always very intimidating because there are always so many people you have to collaborate with but then I had friends who were making films themselves. They were finding people off the street and just getting cameras and were making beautiful films. So then I thought, you could approach it like getting a band together. You find like minded people. You get together. You find the chemistry and make something without waiting, obviously you have to knock on a few doors and scare up a few dollars, but once you have that and know what you want to do, you sort of hole up and make it yourself.”
But how do you keep going when it feels like it’s never going to happen? Bridget waited tables for 25 years. How did she keep her dream alive?
“I remember someone said to me, “Just jump off the cliff and take a chance on yourself.” And that was like the first time I heard it. My mum has always been super supportive and told me I was something special and was going to make it. But when you’re putting on your apron and telling someone ‘here’s the specials’. It’s hard to remember that.”
“But then, at one point in my life I cut everyone out of my life who weren’t lifting me and not part of the push forward. When I did that my life changed immediately. So, if I had any advice, it would be ‘Trim the fat and get the haters out of the way!’”
With all of the success of “Patti Cake$” can Geremy see a sequel?
“That’s too soon to call.”
So he’s not saying no? “Who knows, anything could happen!”
Patti Cake$ is in Irish Cinemas now.