With mobile phones, computers and the Internet, the opportunities for a young person to reach out and connect to another person seem endless. So too, do the opportunities for harm, as seen in David Schwimmer's new film, Trust. Starring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener and Viola Davis, Trust is a story about a young girl who is raped after meeting a stranger from the Internet.
I spoke with Schwimmer a few days ago to find out a little bit more about his first foray into directing dramatic material, why he chose to work with such a difficult subject, and what's next for Schwimmer himself.
I know this movie, Trust, is about a subject that is very close to your heart and I would like to start by having you talk about what that is and why you got involved.
Sure, I started working with this organization [in Los Angeles] I guess about twelve or thirteen years ago called the Rape Foundation and it directly supports the work of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica UCLA Hospital. I first got involved by acting in and directing some of the public service announcements for NBC, The More You Know, about rape drugs and date rape. But it was this woman, the director of the center, Gail Abarbanel--I was just kind of completely inspired and amazed by her. And after meeting with her several times I joined the advisory board and ultimately, the board of directors. I think [it was] for personal reasons and because I feel like the issue of rape, especially when it's a crime against a child, just affects me greater than a lot of other issues.
For personal reasons, I had a long-term ex girlfriend of mine who had been a victim of child sexual abuse and then also date rape. And I don't know, I just thought it was an area that I really wanted to get involved with, [to] try to bring more awareness to men about the issue. I'm just proud to be supporting the organization.
So tell me a little bit about the story behind Trust.
Well, it's inspired by a lot of the young victims I've met through the work at the rape treatment center--a lot of kids. I met a lot of boys and girls--mostly girls but a couple of boys--twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old who were rape victims. And in particular, the story of one girl and the father of one girl who spoke at our fundraiser. We have an annual brunch that he spoke at-and he just talked about his experience of what it was like to go through the trauma of his 14 year old girl being brutally raped and trying to put his life back together and his relationship with her. I was just blown away by it and I thought, "I've never seen this dramatized before--this story about a father and a daughter." I just thought, "I wanna [tell this story]," so that was really it.
And you worked on this as a director and producer on this project, not as an actor. What's it like to step behind the camera for you?
I love directing. It's something I started doing in theatre when I was in university in Chicago and I started a theatre company right out of college and was directing for many years. I've always loved it and I had the opportunity to direct about ten episodes of Friends. And I did a movie with Simon Pegg here in the UK, Run Fatboy Run, but I've always had it on my mind that one day I'd like to do more dramatic material. I've been thinking about and developing this [screenplay] for about seven years and it just seemed like a natural thing for me to. I think I had enough directing under my belt and had the confidence to work with actors like Clive [Owen] and [Catherine] Keener and Viola [Davis].
What was the process like on set?
It was really a great process. I think each of them responded to the script. You know, we had no money. It was a low-budget independent and it's definitely kind of a risk [for the actors] having worked with much, much greater directors than myself. They took a risk, I think because they knew how personal it was to me, and because of the material. I think they were drawn to the material because what they were going through in their own lives--you know, Clive with two daughters and Keener as a mom. I think they just feel that the material's really relevant. I think that they had a hook into the characters before we started but we spent a lot of time before filming rehearsing and going through the scenes and rewriting. My goal was to get the script in the best shape possible because I knew we would have very little time on set to do on-set rewriting. So we rehearsed and rewrote before we hit the ground running.
And now you're taking it to TIFF, which is where it premieres. What are your hopes for the film from here forward?
Well, I hope we get a release (Laughs). That'd be great. I think we're sold everywhere else in the world but we've been holding off till Toronto and I hope--you know, whatever you'd expect. This is the toughest kind of movie to release these days. We all knew that going into it and it was a passion project for all of us. I hope it's received well critically, I hope audiences dig it and I hope we get a distributor. That's the most I can ask for.
So, what's next for you in terms of work? Are you going back into acting or are you going to do more directing and producing?
I don't really know. I'd love to continue directing. There area couple things I'm developing, but also I'm missing acting. This one film was two year straight and aside from a little cameo on Entourage and a play I did in Chicago with my group last year, I'm really dying to do more acting. So, I don't know man; honestly, I'll see what comes.
Yeah, I saw your cameo on Entourage. It was an interesting cameo because it was so different. Why did you decide to play such a different kind of David Schwimmer?
Well, I think it's because Doug Ellin, the creator of Entourage, and I go way back and-- (Laughs). He knows me really well. We both came to LA after college. We're the same age and he came from Tulane, I came from Northwestern. We met in LA when he was a directing grad student at AFI and I did his first three short films when he was learning how to direct and then I did his first feature film, Kissing a Fool. So we've just known each other forever and he called me up and said, "Hey, do you wanna do an hour's work?" "Like sure!" (Laughs.) But he's great and I love him and he's really talented so, I'm just really happy for his success.
But was there any truth to that side of David Schwimmer?
There used to be, you know, maybe a little more like that... But you know, I'm engaged now and you know how it is. I did a similar thing on Curb Your Enthusiasm but may be not as dark. It's fun to play darker characters and there is a side to me that few people know, but close friends like Doug do know and it's fun. (Laughs).
Trust premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival tomorrow, September 10.