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Noah Baumbach is trying to predict hipster trends

The 'While We're Young' director on Brooklyn, screwball comedies and NYC locations

Noah Baumbach's latest film, "While We're Young," follows a documentary filmmaker in his 40s (Ben Stiller) and his wife (Naomi Watts) as they go down the Brooklyn hipster rabbit hole with a couple of Bushwick artist-types (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). But in creating an authentically ridiculous hipster world, Baumbach had to be careful not to ape current trends for fear they'd be passé by the time the movie came out. The solution? Predict what the kids will be into next.

My first question, I guess, is f—ing hipsters, right?
(laughs) Yeah, f—ing hipsters. From the time I started writing this script to when we shot it, the notion of hipsters in Brooklyn had already morphed and grown, and things had changed from even when I first started writing it, so I kind of was aware of the fact that to parody this specifically, I was always going to be behind it no matter what. So in a way I kind of made up my own version of it while also using tropes and things that we're all familiar with. The way we went about it was to make it interesting to us. I wasn't sure if people were on Rollerblades again yet, but I was like, "Let's just do it and I'm sure somebody's on them."

You could accidentally be setting the new trends.
Yeah, exactly. "What you all should be doing is rollerblading." (laughs)

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With Adam Driver's character, you have a remarkable portrait of a charlatan, a con artist type. How much of that is in the casting?
There's always going to be that balance, because on the one hand Ben falling in love with this guy is funny from the beginning even if you don't suspect he's something other than he claims. But definitely casting Adam broadened the opportunity with that guy in that he's so compelling and he's such a physical presence and he's so charismatic and interesting. So it allowed for a lot of flexibility.

This feels very much in the vein of classic screwball comedies, in that it's about a couple re-learning how to be together.
Yeah, comedies of re-marriage. I wanted to do something consciously in a more traditional comic structure, and I was thinking of movies that Mike Nichols made like "Working Girl," or Sydney Pollack with "Tootsie," Jim Brooks with "Broadcast News." These kinds of movies that felt like they were character comedies and relationship comedies, but there was a kind of gloss — and I mean that as a positive thing — to them. They had a structure, and they were sort of that era's version of these screwball comedies, which I also love, all those movies. So I was aware of that. I wanted to do my version of that.

Not to nitpick about New York locations, but you pass off the inside of the Time Warner Center as being in Lincoln Center in this. Are you worried eagle-eyed New Yorkers might call you out on it?
Right, that's faked. The thing is that room, I've been to some events there and it is really beautifully. And Lincoln Center, what they have wouldn't read on film. It would feel sort of unclear. You're right to point that out, because I do take that very seriously, the anthropology of New York in my movies. I guess I'm asking for a bit of a pass on that. I wish it was different, but … .

You know, I don't think anyone will really notice.
After they read this they will. (laughs)

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick

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