Danner, who made her feature film debut more than 45 years ago, is pleased that she's finally playing the female lead in movies. "I had to wait until my 70s to capture all these gorgeous men," she said, laughing.
"I thought, 'Oh, thank God. Here we are in our 70s, and I finally get to work with 1/8John3/8."
Jones didn't write Ed and Ronnie for the two actors. "I don't really write for people," the director said. "I have characters of people that pop up in my head and then you try to find the most appropriate person in the world to make sense."
Lithgow was first cast as Ed, and it was his and Danner's mutual manager who suggested the actress.
"I have to be honest," said Jones. "I was a little too dumb to realize how brilliant a choice she would be. In my head and my mind's eye was someone a little more obvious."
"I don't know, maybe like a Kathy Bates from 'Misery.' That kind of overly quirky and odd. I'm so glad that didn't happen."
Danner said she watched the A&E reality series "Hoarders" to help get into Ronnie's mind-set. "Clearly, she was wounded. I think in her case, it was just deep, deep grief. There's one scene where I'm talking about my life to John in a restaurant. I thought it was funny, because he asks about my husband and I say, 'Oh, no. He's dead too,' just off the cuff.' I think grief shuts people down."
"Ninety% of love stories are about people much, much younger than the two of them," said Lithgow. "But they go through the same process of exploration. Exploration of each other and exploration of themselves."
Jones' script, noted Lithgow, was unique and surprising. "It sort of surprises the main characters themselves, and that's always a great thing. I just found these two people so intriguing and eccentric. And mysterious. I think it's also fascinating to set a love story against the background of two people's deep and genuine fears. Fears a lot of people share."
Particularly in the case of Ed, whom Lithgow notes, "can't stop thinking about the fact the world could end at any moment."
"Whether we admit it or not, all of us are facing those issues," he added. "I thought that was very daring of Noble Jones to go right ahead and put that into play in the course of the love story."
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