Having shed the costumes from their new romantic dramedy, "Hope Springs," Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones still look every bit the part of married couple enjoying their retirement years. They sit together in a room of the Ritz-Carlton, Streep in a lilac button down blouse and cat glasses, Jones in a suit and tie that has matching purple flecks in it. You just expect him to casually lay his arm on Streep's shoulder at any moment, but these two Academy Award winners are the consummate professionals.
Since they play a couple struggling to regain the intimacy they lost in their parenting years, Streep and Jones handle their awkward love scenes – and the even more cringe-worthy questions about them – with aplomb.
"To make an analogy, think of a fight scene, or anything dangerous — you’re interested in the illusion of danger, you sure have no interest in the real thing," says Jones in his famously blunt Texan twang. "It’s the same thing with sex scenes. You’re interested in the illusion of passion, or the illusion of disappointment, the illusion of longing. The real things have no place; you shouldn’t bring them to the workplace."
Streep eagerly agrees, adding that the scenes in which their characters are in session with a marriage counselor (played by Steve Carrell) proved to be more challenging than intimate scenes – even one particularly amorous moment that takes place in a movie theater.
"Frankly, the things on the couch are just harder," she says. "The set up in the movie theater is essentially comic, heartbreaking, real. We have to always have it. But it wasn’t as hard as breaking the cement of your emotional resistance to admitting loneliness or having something really pierce you that your husband says about you."
Director David Frankel – who also helmed Streep's blockbuster film "The Devil Wears Prada" — had a more colorful anecdote to offer about that soon-to-be infamous movie theater scene.
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"We didn't catch it on film but my favorite moment was Meryl after six or seven takes in the movie theater going, 'Uh can I please get some knee pads?'" he explains. "That was hours into it. She was so committed that she was going to go method."