Exclusive Interview With Luke Kirby and Griffin Dunne on Mania Days

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Mania Days is an emotional look at mental health, telling the story of two characters who fall in love in an institution and try to maintain that relationship in the outside world. Starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, the film was one of the more memorable dramas of SXSW 2015. Griffin Dunne also has a role in the movie as Luke’s character’s father.

After the premiere we sat down with Luke and Griffin to talk about the film. We discussed why they got involved, the process of being in the heads of these characters and much more. Check out the full interview below!

WGTC: How’d you both get involved?

Kirby: I auditioned?

Dunne: Did you?

Kirby: Yeah, I still have to.

Dunne: I would’ve been thrilled to audition. I came through the agent, the normal way. But the script had such a realism about it. You can tell when something is incredibly personal to the author, and that was definitely the case with this. Just like several people involved with this movie and millions of people around, I have a family member with bipolar. It was an issue and a dilemma I was familiar with and care a lot about. It was something I looked forward to doing.

Luke, did you have a desire to do something about mental illness before this project?

Kirby: I wouldn’t say I had a desire, but like Griffin said, the script was palpable and felt personal. In that way it felt like there was something to hook into.

I felt like the scene where your character and Katie’s character are separated, during the manic episode, it just feels like two people who are misunderstood. It felt really human. How’d you retain the human aspect better than a lot of similar movies have? 

Kirby: Oh man I don’t know. That’s a compliment I think.

Yes, a compliment. I thought it was done well.

Kirby: Well that’s good! I don’t know. It was a lot of wrestling with Paul to try and hash out something and sometimes it took a long time to figure out where we were trying to get to. It was really frustrating a lot of the time, but in hindsight, it’s rare that you get that much time to work through something. To try to name something so elusive. Process of elimination essentially.

Dunne: From observing what Luke and Katie’s characters were doing, it was different. I’ve always seen mental illness in other movies portrayed as over-the-top, kind of kooky. This was all rooted. It’s just exaggerated passions and concerns. Everything’s at a heightened level. The way I’ve always seen it portrayed in other movies, it never really rang true to me. It was always straight jackets and people biting off their tongues.

You touched on it a bit, but with this being Paul’s first feature, how was it working with him?

Kirby: Great. It was complicated. In the beginning we were sort of sussing each other out. This was a really, really important story for Paul to tell. Very personal and at times very specific. A lot of the time it was very frustrating, but just having the opportunity to do that is very rare, so in retrospect I miss it at times. Which is sort of surprising. In a lot of ways Paul had a great deal of allowance with having an actor who’s kind of going crazy himself at times. I appreciate that.

Dunne: I was in a circumstance I really could relate to very strongly. I think he could tell that about me in the approach. Being a concerned parent, trying to do the right thing when you’re the parent of an adult who has their own life. You can’t even legally control them. But you love them and you’re watching them ruin their life. That was something as a parent I could relate to. My daughter’s fine, but I’ve had that experience where you worry about someone so much that it controls your own life. I think Paul just trusted what I was doing.

And your character has a son with mental illness and a wife with mental illness, that’s a heavy role to play. How’d you get ready for that?

Dunne: I just thought about all the girlfriends I’ve had. (Laughs) Yeah, I drew from that.

It was something I really could relate to. Families are such a rolling of the dice. They can go ass-end up so quickly. When you have a family member and you love people so strongly, it comes with worrying about them. It was a personal issue, I didn’t have to go too out with my imagination of it.

Luke, with your character, you’re in the head all day of someone who’s going through such a range, was that hard for you to set that aside?

Kirby: It felt that way. It’s really just in the land of make believe we’re living in. So really more than anything it was lucky and fun. But, it can keep you up at night. It’s hard to go home after a day of spinning out. Going to bed is not the first thing you’re going to do. It made for some nice long walks.

Do you guys have anything cool coming up?

Dunne: I’m in the early stages of maybe doing a series for Amazon. It’s one I developed and I would direct and produce. Not be in. So I’m pushing that up the hill. I’m doing a documentary about my aunt who’s a writer: Joan Didion. I’m still shooting it, but it should be done in about a year. There’s a Kickstarter campaign too. Even though it says we’ve hit our goal, you can still give money.

How long’s that going for?

Dunne: We’re going to do it again for another installment of money in about four months. So look out for that.

Kirby: I’m working on a television series called Rectify. We’re in our third season. It’s on Sundance TV. It’s good stuff.

That concludes the interview but we’d like to thank Luke and Griffin for taking the time to talk!