Susan Seidelman's work is part of The New York Woman, a Quad Cinema retrospective running now through July 19.
In a new interview with Vulture, she talks about her early career, how Smithereens came to be, and — of course — her signature smash, Desperately Seeking Susan ...
Stop and go, stop and go, over a period of a year. It was filmed in three different sections. I think we started filming — I might be a year off here, been a while — in 1980, in May or June. So it was warm weather. We shot for a week. We were filming in an old loft building, the lead actress was on the fire escape, and she fell off and broke her leg. It could have been a disaster — it was sad she broke her leg, but the irony was that we stopped filming for three months while she was in a cast. And that gave me a week’s worth of dailies to edit, and to see what was working, to see what wasn’t working, and we really reshaped the script to emphasize the good stuff and take away the stuff that that just didn’t work as well.
On how working with Madonna was like working with (Richard) Hell:
It was like working with Richard Hell in Smithereens. He was a musician, a downtown musician, who had a really interesting presence. And I thought I could get a good performance out of them by incorporating what was interesting about their persona, and layering that onto the character in the script. And it does involve acting, Richard Hell and Madonna were saying scripted lines, and they were acting. So when people say, Oh it’s just Madonna being Madonna, that’s not true. But I felt very comfortable looking at people, seeing what could work cinematically, and then trying to capture that onscreen.
On the Roseanne Barr she knew filming She-Devil vs. the one in the headlines today:
I liked her and I liked working with her. I thought she was really nice, I did not see any signs, I didn’t think she was a racist, we never had conversations about race. So those comments surprised me.
But the one thing I can say, in that I think it impacts what’s going on with her right now, is that she was unguarded. Some people have a natural sense of, just keep your mouth shut or don’t just say the first thing that pops into your head, whether you think it or not. She did have this quality of just blurting out, you know, how she went to the bathroom that morning! Or the sex she’d had with her boyfriend the night before, this was Tom Arnold at the time. Or whatever was going on in her head, there wasn’t a filter, she just blurted it out. For better or for worse.
More at Vulture.