‘The Tender Bar’ Virtual Press Conference

“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”

“The Tender Bar” is the story about J.R. – as a kid (Daniel Ranieri) and then young adult (Tye Sheridan) – who looks up to his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck).  Since J.R.’s father is rarely in his life, Charlie fills the void and encourages his nephew to read and pursue his passions.  Hey, he even gives dating tips.  Everyone could use an Uncle Charlie! 

George Clooney’s film – adapted from J.R. Moehringer’s 2005 memoir – has a terrific ensemble cast, and Art House Film Wire was invited to a “The Tender Bar” virtual press conference with Ben, Daniel, Tye, Lily Rabe, Briana Middleton, screenwriter William Monahan, and Christopher Lloyd!   Art House Film Wire questions weren’t chosen, but we were thrilled to attend the event.

“The Tender Bar” is playing in theatres and streaming on Amazon Prime!

Q:  Ben, in the film, J.R. looks up to Uncle Charlie, not only as a father figure but also as a guy who he admires.  When you were growing up, who did you most look up to?

BA:  I have a number of people in my life that I was lucky enough to really support me.  My father, interestingly, also was a self-taught guy.  He was very, very interested in language, writing, and storytelling.  Ultimately, I had a drama teacher who was extraordinarily inspiring and influential.  He gave me a sense of confidence about (pursuing acting), so I didn’t seem reckless, crazy, and absurd to go out to L.A. and decide that I could be in movies.  Despite the fact that nobody wanted me in their movies (at first), I thought, “Well, Jerry thinks I’m good, so I probably am, I guess.”  That’s an incredibly powerful thing that (mentors) provide.  It’s an undervalued role in society, but it makes a huge difference.

Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) and J.R. (Tye Sheridan)

Q:  Daniel, was acting for the first time easier or harder than you thought it would be?

DR:  It was easier than I thought.  I was kind of nervous in the first scene, but after, I said, “Oh wait. (There’s) no reason to be nervous.  This is easy.”  I wasn’t nervous (during) the rest of the scenes.  We filmed (them), had a good time, and I loved the experience. 

Q:  Tye, how closely did you and Daniel work together to make the performances consistent in playing the same character at different ages?

TS:  We didn’t get to work too closely.  We were shooting on the same days.  We would often have lunch together, so we got to know each other a little bit off-camera.  We were almost building the character together at the same time.  George was at the helm of directing and making sure we were both growing in the right way.  What did you think, Daniel?

DR: Yea, the same thing!  Tye (and I) have a relationship now, and I love him so much, like my big brother. 

TS: I love you, Buddy.

Q:  William, what are the main assets of J.R.’s memoir, and what were the main challenges of translating it to cinematic language?

WM: The main problem always is that you’re looking at a 400 or 500-page book, and you’ve got to bring it in (to) about 115 or 120 pages.  If you did a straight adaptation, you would have the kid, (the) teenager, and the young man.  So, one of those had to go.  It had to be the teenager, and you try to make the young boy work with the college-aged kid.  The book itself is just a monument of riches, and I grew up at the same time (as J.R.).  We were journalists (in) New York at the same time.  I come from the same sort of background with very tough, literate Irish uncles, and (the book) suited me. 

Mom (Lily Rabe) and J.R. (Daniel Ranieri)

Q:  Lily, what were your biggest sources of inspiration in coming up with your characterization of J.R.’s mom, Dorothy?

LR:  The memoir, like (William) said, is a mine of riches.  (J.R.) dedicated (it) to his mother, and there were so many beautiful things to fill my suitcase with before showing up to start shooting.  I had a very wonderful mother.  (We have) periods in (our lives) when we are waiting for the good things to start happening: to figure out who we are, to figure out what we love, to figure out what we’re going to do next, between breakups or between jobs.  My mother was so brilliant at pointing (out) that there’s so much life to be had in (those) “in between” moments.  There’s so much opportunity for joy in the down moments, in those moments of stillness.  That was such a remarkable quality in my mother.  

Sidney (Briana Middleton)

Q:  Briana, Sidney is a very complex character.  It’s very tough to side for or against her, depending upon the situation.  Is this something you felt when playing her?

BM:  Yes and no.  I hope that people feel conflicted about her throughout the film.  I, as the person playing (Sidney), was an advocate for her and totally on her side.  I’m glad we get to see her family and the world that she comes from, and I hope that it adds an element to her, other than being the crazy girlfriend.  She’s very complex, and she’s someone who knows her trajectory but is maybe conflicted about what that is.  (Sidney) is still a young person but understands the world that she’s in, where she comes from, and the expectations that she has.  I think we’re seeing her figure that out too, and (J.R.) just happens to get caught in the wake of it.  

Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) and J.R. (Daniel Ranieri)

Q:  Christopher, when it comes to accepting roles, what do you look for in a project?

CL:  When I read (a script) for the first time, I want to feel that I can connect with something about the (character) that everybody else can connect with.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Images credit: Amazon Prime

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