“Palm Springs” is a hilarious, wondrous comedy about two strangers meeting at a Palm Springs wedding, but due to a pair of bizarre, out-of-this-world of mishaps, Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) are stuck with one another and need a miracle to free themselves. This film gifts more surprises, chuckles, and genuine smiles than a Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration filled with laughing gas. Samberg and Milioti share boundless chemistry and comedic timing in a film – directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara – that never loses momentum or authenticity.
Well, Andy and Cristin also graciously shared their time on a Zoom call with the Art House Film Wire and several other media outlets for a light, fun, and engaging Q&A. The stars spoke about the film’s premiere at Sundance 2020, the script striking the right balance, and Cristin also mentions her experience with desert weather, and as Arizona residents, we can relate!
“Palm Springs” is available to stream on Hulu.
Q: A year ago, “Palm Springs” had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. What do you remember about that screening, the energy in the room, and the audience’s reaction?
AS: How great it was to be in a movie theatre and surrounded by people. (The premiere) went better than I was expecting, and (I was) excited by that. I (shared) looks with Cristin and other people who worked on the movie (during) the screening and afterwards and (felt) glad (that) everyone seemed (to enjoy) it.
CM: It was incredible. Obviously, (watching a movie in a theatre) takes on extra significance now. It was amazing to feel people react in the same ways that I reacted when I read (the script) and hear an audience of hundreds of people laugh, scream, cry, and not know any of the twists. (To) not only laugh so hard but (also) be moved by (our movie); it exceeded my wildest expectations. To be there as a cast and crew (too); we hadn’t seen each other since we shot (the film), and it was beautiful. I really want to go back in time.
Q: What were the unique challenges to “Palm Springs”?
AS: The biggest challenge was not (having) a lot of money (in the budget). That makes everything more challenging, but all of us (decided) that we still wanted to be very ambitious with how much we (shoot) and the scope of the things (that) we (shoot). Once we were up and running, it was more about the crunch of the schedule. It was the challenge of (making) this movie look (the way) we all envisioned it.
Q: How many days did you have to shoot?
AS: 21 and a half. (That half did make a big difference) because we spent half of it driving. It was at Joshua Tree. We got some great stuff with the tortoise out there.
CM: The goat, the tortoise. There was a whole cast of characters.
AS: A whole zoo!
Q: The weather in the film was a little misleading. It looked warm on camera, but that wasn’t always the case in reality.
CM: Oh yeah. It was freezing. (We wore) summer clothing, (but we) were constantly doing night shoots that were 30 degrees. That’s something that I didn’t understand about deserts. I don’t live on the west coast. It’s so unimaginably hot during the day, and then at night, it somehow plummets 90 degrees.
Q: What made Max Barbakow the perfect director in capturing the voice of this film?
AS: The whole script was born of Max’s and Andy’s imagination. They conceived it together, and Andy wrote it through many different iterations based on conversations and brainstorms. The tone of the movie really (is) the Andy-and-Max tone.
Q: Cristin, you said that you really had to believe that Nyles and Sarah would fall for each other, so how did you and Andy workshop the dialogue and chemistry?
CM: We were blessed enough that we had chemistry from the first time we met. We just had ease with each other. I met Andy (for) – what was supposed to be – a 20-minute meeting with him and Becky, our producer, and it ended up being three hours. We couldn’t stop talking. As performers, it was just there. (Andy and I) did a lot of talking about (the script), and we have similar sensibilities and a similar sense of humor. We like a lot of the same things. I know that sounds basic or something, but I never felt, “I really have to work for this.”
AS: It’s the same reason that you are friends with someone in real life. You just share a worldview, and it made it easier to fall in.
Q: “Palm Springs” is a smart film. It’s a tight balance to be funny and clever and then be philosophical, profound, and emotional. What were the challenges to strike the perfect balance and be all of those things?
AS: The real trick to it is having a great script. (That balance) was there the first time I read it. So many really great people agreed to be a part of the movie (because of) the source material. You read it, and it’s threading the needle between comedy, drama, rom-com, existential dread, and all the space in between. The sci-fi parts are so fun and interesting (too). You read a lot of stuff that attempts to cross genre-blending, and it doesn’t necessarily all work, and you end up with a lot of cool scenes that (don’t) feel like one story, but for whatever reason – and the reason is Andy Siara – “Palm Springs” does.
CM: Everyone involved (in the movie) believed in (that balance) and wanted to do it justice. It is rare that one film can encompass so many different aspects of life.
Q: Was it a choice not to reference other movies or television episodes?
AS: Definitely. We were hoping the movie would be a little more timeless than referencing anything (in) pop culture. I know there are a lot of songs in the (film), but we never wanted (them) to be within the diegetic space.
Q: In this movie, you both really had to go for it, and critics and audiences both noticed. Is there another time in your life when you just had to go for it, and it worked out well for you?
CM: A lot of things, actually. By its very nature, what we do for a living can be so embarrassing, to show up in front of a group of strangers, and (say), “It’s this, I think!” I did this episode of “Black Mirror”, and I didn’t get the script until two weeks before we started (shooting). I remember reading it and thinking, “Oh my God,” and then showing up in London and (saying), “I think it’s this,” and hoped for the best.
AS: I’m basically known for mostly going for it. (With) SNL, there’s no time, and you’re just going crazy-big and arched. Everything’s crazy. “Palm Springs” and “Celeste & Jesse Forever” with Rashida (Jones) (were) my (versions) of going for it, because (I) was not going for it, which was more a change of pace for me. I (put) my faith in the material more and was less going to be a rubber-faced hambone and power my way through (it).
Q: Have you considered doing a sequel or turning “Palm Springs” into a series?
AS: It hasn’t come up. I love everyone involved, so I’d love to work with everyone again. The story feels pretty resolved, but I also hear they are writing a sequel to “Edge of Tomorrow”, which I thought was almost a perfect movie in its own right. Nothing’s impossible.
Image credits: Hulu; Trailer credits: scene welove