Angus MacLachlan calls the shots on Goodbye to All That

Angus MacLachlan, the noted poet, playwright, screenwriter, stage actor, stage director and, lest we forget, graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), made his big-screen mark with Junebug (2005) and Stone (2010).

Now, with Goodbye to All That, MacLachlan has made the transition to director.

The film, which he also wrote and was the executive producer, is currently in release and will open Friday at A/perture Cinema in Winston-Salem (see review, Page 30). MacLachlan will be on hand after each of the five screenings that day for a question-andanswer session with audiences. (The film is also available from Amazon, iTunes and VOD.)

The film stars Paul Schneider, himself a UNCSA graduate (and recipient of the RiverRun International Film Festival’s Emerging Master award in 2012), as Otto Wall, whose comfortable life is unexpectedly thrown into chaos when his wife Annie (Melanie Lynskey, who received RiverRun’s Emerging Master award last April) announces she wants a divorce.

Otto tries to maintain his relationship with his daughter (Audrey P. Scott) while re-entering the dating scene – a scene that has changed much in the 21 st century. Otto enjoys dalliances with a variety of women (including Heather Graham, Anna Camp and Ashley Hinshaw) but finds a potentially deeper emotional connection with Lara (Heather Lawless), an old friend from summer camp.

The film, shot in Winston-Salem, also stars Amy Sedaris, Michael Chernus and Celia Weston, a veteran of Junebug and also an alumnus of UNCSA (as well as Salem College). For an independent film by a first-time director, Goodbye to All That boasts something of an all-star cast.

“We actually did not have any difficulty getting the wonderful cast that we got,” MacLachlan says. “Many people know Junebug, were willing to read the script, liked it, and wanted to be a part (of it). I never write with an actor in mind, as I think it’s sort of hubris to think that something I wrote will be produced, much less written for a known actor. Paul was someone (casting director) Mark Bennett brought up, as he had with Amy Adams, and in both cases it was a real gift.”

Junebug, which catapulted Adams to stardom (and her first Oscar nomination), marked the feature directorial debut of Phil Morrison, himself a Winston-Salem native. The film earned Adams an Independent Spirit Award as Best Supporting Actress and MacLachlan a nomination for Best First Screenplay.

Initially, MacLachlan had hoped to reunite with Morrison to make Goodbye to All That, but Morrison instead suggested he do the honors.

“He said ‘Angus, I think the central emotional component is the father/daughter relationship,’” MacLachlan recalls. “‘I don’t have children and you do, you should direct it.’” MacLachlan recalls the sentiment expressed by playwright Kenneth Lonergan when he tackled his first film, You Can Count on Me (2000): “‘Besides being miserable and terrified all the time, I loved directing.’ “I wasn’t miserable, but I was certainly terrified,” MacLachlan confesses. “However, my terror was only at night, when I would worry. When I was on the set, I never once felt overwhelmed or panicky. I’d been an actor, a visual artist, I’d directed on the stage, and I’d been a parent – and all of those experiences prepared me very well to be a film director.”

MacLachlan doesn’t take the film’s critical success for granted.

“I was very, very lucky with this film – lucky that I got it made it all, that I got the cast I got, and that it got distribution,” MacLachlan says. “And I got to make the film I wanted to make, which is not that common. We’ve had some really great (audience) reactions, and it was wonderful that Paul Schneider won the Best Actor award at the Tribeca Film Festival – because I think he deserved it.”

Looking back on the pair of previous screen adaptations of his work, “Junebug was a wonderful experience, mainly because of the generosity and talent of Phil,” MacLachlan states. “One of the things that I saw on that film, which I tried to emulate on Goodbye to All That, was that you don’t have to be a jerk to get good work out of people. Phil was so positive and enthusiastic, so I used that as a paradigm. And he and I shared a similar view of the material. It was one of the first times I’d felt that someone directed my work the way I’d intended.”

The second time wasn’t so much a charm. The psychological drama Stone boasted a high-caliber cast in Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich and Frances Conroy, but reviews were mixed.

“Stone was frustrating because the script was changed without my knowledge, and the final film did not reflect my intentions fully. But … that’s show-biz. Junebug certainly opened a lot of doors for me; many people have great affection for that film. Stone wasn’t widely seen, although I still think it’s kind of cool that I wrote a film that starred Robert De Niro. It sounds cool, anyway.”

A third feature based on MacLachlan’s screenplay, director William Olsson’s Swedish drama Fortroligheten (Reliance) was released in some territories in 2013. Although it won three awards at that year’s Shanghai Film Festival including the Grand Jury prize and Best Screenplay for MacLachlan, the film has not yet found a U.S. distributor.

“I was very involved in the film and went to Sweden twice, and I was there for its premiere last summer,” notes MacLachlan.

Having tested the directorial waters and come up with an acclaimed, award-winning film, MacLachlan wants to continue his adventures in the screen trade. “I have two projects, one that I wrote and Phil is going to direct, and another original script that I want to direct. So that’s where my hopes lie.” !