Besties on screen and off

Actresses Toni Collette (far left) and Drew Barrymore are the leads in a new film, Miss You Already.
Actresses Toni Collette (far left) and Drew Barrymore are the leads in a new film, Miss You Already.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • There is something old-fashioned about Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore's friendship.

It started after Collette wrote to Barrymore, who had just given birth to her second child, imploring her to co-star in Miss You Already. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the movie, opening in Singapore tomorrow, tells of lifelong besties, the wild-child Milly (Collette) and the stable Jess (Barrymore), as they face Milly's cancer diagnosis.

The actresses became fast friends during production last year and their affection is not evident just on screen. In an interview, they sat side by side, fingers intertwined, and talked about the label "chick flick" and the Catch-22 of the "Ask Her More" red carpet campaign urging journalists to pose better questions. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

This story drives home the importance of female friendships.

Collette: The potential strength of female friendship and the bonds that can be formed, especially over a lifelong relationship, is very profound. In a lot of films, forever it's been boy-meets-girl, and thank God for films like Frozen. I was so excited for my daughter to be able to watch a love story between two sisters, instead of some stupid prince.

Barrymore: A very long-running female friendship is as profound as a relationship with your children and your spouse, and yet it's really given third credit. Friends can throw down with each other in the most amazing way and recover in a different way than lovers.

In popular culture, there's often this dismissive description: "It's a chick flick".

Barrymore: There're not enough things for women and, yet, things get reduced to a chick flick. You can't have it both ways. If people are trying to make movies for women, don't reduce them and have the next question be, why aren't there enough films for women? This one's about women, for women, made by women. But I don't like talking down to the male sex, disincluding them or bashing them.

Collette: The fact that it's about two women doesn't mean it's just for women.

Barrymore: I do think it will be a film predominantly for women. But that has to be okay. Don't tell me at the end of the day that now it's not enough for men. There needs to be different types of genres, different scopes of films, different budgets. I think this is not a chick flick. It's surprising and full of grace. Men love this movie when they see it. Will they go in droves to see it?

Collette: When their girlfriends drag them.

Toni, you were presented first with the script. Did you know you wanted to do it immediately?

Collette: I was offered the part of Jess and a few different Millys kept coming in. Nobody was sticking. I was really frustrated because I was desperate to get it made.

A friend had just watched me in The Realistic Joneses on Broadway, where I'm playing this capable person holding everybody's world together. She said: "Why don't you play the other part? Why don't you be the hot mess?"

So I called Catherine, who was on by then, and Chris Simon, our producer, and we all just went, "Of course it has to be Drew." She emanates warmth.

And it was a miracle because she just had her second baby and wasn't really interested in working.

We didn't know each other before. We met a couple of times, but we got on like a house on fire.

Barrymore: It was totally lucky. You cannot fake friendship chemistry. In a genre of woman-to-man movies, it is so much easier to fake in love because you can pull out a bunch of tricks.

Collette: I think when I wrote you that letter, I was like, "People will expect you to play Milly and me to play Jess."

Barrymore: That was a major turn-on for both of us because I was at the place in my life where I'm very much more like Jess. I used to be a lot more like Milly. I'm usually a lot more hyper. Timing is everything.

Collette: Timing and hormones.

Barrymore: I was hormonal. I'd just had my second kid.


• Miss You Already opens in Singapore tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Besties on screen and off'. Print Edition | Subscribe