Liz Phair goes from sex to sets, writing the sound track to ‘People Like Us’
Liz Phair might not be used to the luxuries of promoting a major motion picture.
“Can I steal a water? I lost mine somewhere along the way,” she asks, noticing a tray of drinks on a side table in a suite at the Four Seasons.
“This is so much easier than my normal life. I love this. Rock ‘n’ roll is, like, way worse,” she confides. “If I were doing any kind of stuff gearing up for a release, it would be like phoners to death, just on and on and on.”
After nearly three decades in the rock world, Phair finds herself in Hollywood for the first time, penning “Dotted Line,” the closing track for Alex Kurtzman’s “People Like Us.” Writing for a movie was new territory for Phair — and that’s just how she likes it.
“I felt like I’d stumbled into something where I was out of my depth, which is my favorite thing,” she says. “I throw myself into the deep end of the pool all the time, but it’s always scary.”
Kurtzman approached Phair early on in the process.
“Alex called me in almost a year and half before it was finished,”?she says. “He said that he’d been listening to my music when he was trying to write the character of Frankie [played by Elizabeth Banks], and that my rock persona helped him get into her. And damned if he didn’t hit every one of my issues in the film.”
Phair says seeing an earlier version of the movie at a Dreamworks screening room was a monumental event.
“I bawled my eyes out in a dark room with these two men who were completely unmoved — they were like, ‘We should start this shot sooner,’” she says. “Not like kind of weeping at the end of a nice movie, I mean like wracking sobs. And I’m repressing like you would a cough in the opera. I was terrified when they turned the lights on because I was out of tissues, and they were going to turn around and be like, ‘What the f– happened to her?’”
Beautiful and broken
“People Like Us” follows two adults (Banks and Chris Pine) as they discover that they are half-siblings after their father, a successful rock producer, passes away. And that character, who looms over the story without actually being in it, is a familiar one to Phair.
“There are so many broken people in music, but they’re doing something beautiful with that brokenness,” she says. “Sometimes my life is so straight and clean that I like that I’m part of that tribe and I get to go and dip in and be bad and dirty. Sometimes I take a lot of pride in that, but I think at the essence you’re dealing with artists. I mean, I wonder what the life expectancy is for musicians. I’d like to put it against cops and firemen. People die, it’s not a joke to a lot of people. And I think to make a song out of your pain or to do something like that, it’s kind of noble. Music is littered with broken people, but who isn’t slightly broken? And not everyone makes something out of it.”