Toni Collette is no stranger to one of the most rare kinds of movies: those about female friendships. “Muriel’s Wedding” is about two friends, one who gets cancer. The same thing happens in “Miss You Already,” with Collette the one who gets ill. She’s Milly, an extrovert whose struggle with disease brings her even closer to her longtime bestie, Jess (Drew Barrymore). It sounds like a bummer to make, but Collette says it was a blast — at least up to a point.
How much time did you get with Drew Barrymore to establish that long, deep connection?
Not much, actually. We had five rehearsal days. Prior to that we’d written to each other. We both loved the script; we both admired each other; we both wanted to have a great time. So we just went for it. And luckily we just loved each other. We got on like a house on fire. The more time we hung out the better we got. That just infused the film with something very real, because you can’t always fake chemistry. But we got lucky.
Films about female friendship seem to be rare, though you’ve done your fair share.
I’ve been pretty lucky. “Muriel’s Wedding” was the second film I ever did, and that’s what that film is about. It’s a lot like this, actually: It’s about two best friends and one of them gets cancer. And in “In Her Shoes” and “The United States of Tara” we’re sisters but friends as well. So it hasn’t been that rare. Although when this film came along it felt like it had been awhile. It felt rare in 2014.
It’s also a film directed by a woman, namely Catherine Hardwicke. It seems odd pointing that out every time that happens, but there’s more awareness these days of how infrequently that happens.
When I got a whiff of the fact that there was an issue about the lack of female directors, I made a point of working with as many as possible. I hate to be sexist, because I don’t think you just hire a woman for the sake of it. You hire the right person for the job. And Catherine was the right person for the job. We’re all humans, we all share the planet. We’re all eager to tell stories. Just get the right person.
This is dealing with grim subject matter, but it seems like it was fun to make.
That’s part of the spirit of the piece, which is very life-affirming and more celebratory than sad. It was also because of the budget. There was no chance of anyone running off and finding their solitude. We were all hunkered down on set. That gave it a personal, intimate feeling. When you’re hanging out with people for 15 hours a day, a lot of humor comes out of that. You get to know people in a different way. It’s not like working in an office, where you might have a little conversation every day. It’s hours on end.
How common is that, that everyone gets close?
It depends on the people, it depends on the director. Catherine Hardwicke is both kooky and committed. The highest budgeted films do have more segregation. It takes more time to light a set, so I go to my trailer and hang out. There’s not as much communal time.
You haven’t done too many of those, though. You haven’t done any superhero movies.
I think it’d be super-fun to be a superhero. I’m not averse to any particular budget. I’m just averse to a s—ty story. [Laughs] I don’t care about the size of the budget; it’s about the quality.