The Space Between, which is directed by Rachel Winter from a screenplay by Will Aldis, stars Kelsey Grammer as a washed-up rocker named Micky Adams that is being chased by Charlie Porter (played by Jackson White) to be bought out of his recording deal. The film is now available everywhere you rent films and features an inspired performance by Grammer. ComingSoon recently got the chance to speak to Winter about her feature film debut.
Check out ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese’s chat with Winter about getting to work with Kelsey Grammer, getting Rivers Cuomo on board, and more.
Tyler Treese: The Space Between was your directorial debut. Did anything about the filming process come as a surprise in this different role for you?
Rachel Winter: I would say that, yeah, I have a really specific answer because I remember that specific moment where I was like, “Holy shit, I’m standing in completely different shoes for the first time.” It was the first day of shooting, and I’ve been on sets for super long, right? A lot of years, a lot of different projects. It was that moment where all of a sudden, the [assistant director] is doing the ramp-up, and sort of like all of a sudden I had this flash of like, “Oh my God, when do I say action?” It was the small things that were the differences because as a producer, you were standing by. The machine is working, but as a director, you’re totally in the mix in a different way that as a producer, you take for granted knowing precisely [what is going on] … but it was okay. It all worked out.
Kelsey Grammer is so phenomenal in his role. How did he get attached to the project?
I have been working with Mary Vernieu and Betty Mae Casting for years. They had actually helped me cast two other of Will Aldis, the writer of The Space Between, I had as a producer done two of his other films. I just worked with Betty Mae Casting over the years, and I think they just said, you know, what about Kelsey Grammer? Somebody came up with the amazing idea and I was such a fan of him just generally. We had lunch together and legit within two minutes, my knees started bouncing around and I was like, “This is the guy, this is, this is Micky.” I can’t even, I was just thrilled.
Did you know he had such a good singing voice?
My [knowledge] of Kelsey Grammer’s singing and piano playing abilities basically was just “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs” from Frasier. That’s him playing and singing. Probably in the back of my mind, remembered that he had been on Broadway, but I certainly have never thought of him in that way. I think it was one of those things that casting was like, “Oh, you know, he plays piano and can sing.” I was like, “Okay, great,” but yeah, it really transformed, which I think is one of the best parts of the movie that it’s surprising and wonderful.
His performance is great. How do you direct Kelsey Grammer to get buck naked and go on an acid trip like that?
That was the thing is that he’s so unflinching and unafraid, and also the depth and the weight of his talent as an actor, they go side by side with his life experience. I think after everything that has happened in his life and what he maybe brings to his performances, I don’t know how often he’s had the ability to bring that stuff. Immediately, I was very calm about [directing him] … he seemed committed, but committed to just going all the way. He didn’t seem to be blinking an eye at what was on the page. He never said, “Hey, we need to talk about the way this is,” [or] “What, you know, I’m Kelsey Grammer and I can’t do that.” Never said anything like that. I think I started asking him. I was like, “Hey, are you okay? You know with this, this, this,” [and] he just was totally down. He never hesitated and he left nothing on the table. I’m just so blown away by how he did such a great job. He never balked for a second.
Jackson White is so great as Charlie Porter in the film and he and Kelsey have just great chemistry. When did you know you had something special with those two together?
I’d like to think there was some epiphany moment, but I think they were more the individuals. I had the benefit of something like this, where it had to be sort of, and I’m making this word up of course, but like anti-chemistry where these two characters are at odds. So it kind of just felt like I needed to find the kind of Charlie that has that wonderful vulnerability that a lot of people running around in the 90s trying to find their footing had. Like driving a car we can’t afford, living in a shithole apartment. That kind of thing, but trying to make it. Jackson just had this sort of like kind of old-fashioned quality to him that I thought would read as quite timeless. So I knew pretty quickly that Jackson was the one as well.
I was really blown away by all the musical numbers in the film. So I waited around for the credits and I saw Rivers Cuomo of Weezer wrote the songs. How did that come to be?
Yeah, that was a little bit like, “Oh my God, pinch me.” Again, being a producer and sticking with projects. I’m not great about balancing art and commerce. So it’s not the best move in the world to take 15 years to make a movie because it’s not very cost-effective for my bottom line, but that effect is that I was able to assess this situation for so many years. Like what would be the best thing for a movie like this and came up with this idea: What if the fake singer-songwriter of Micky Adams wasn’t, God bless him, James Taylor, who was an actual singer-songwriter from that era. This is a movie set in the 90s, what if we had an iconic 90s singer-songwriter who looked back at his or her inspiration to create the music for Micky Adams, and that ended up being exactly the right recipe.
I think because singer-songwriters always get their inspiration in the moment. You know, they’re not born, and then five minutes later, they have their inspiration. They are drawing from their own educations as musicians and what originally inspired them. So it was kind of held onto that concept and the fact that Tricia Halloran, our ridiculously phasing music supervisor, was able to help us get to Rivers. That was, I blew my mind. I still can’t believe that. He’s the nicest guy, such an amazing collaborator, and a genius with conversation. He was able with me, based on the script, based on lyrics I had just popped in there, create that music. I just don’t even know what to say about him.
That’s so awesome. I also wanted to get your thoughts, what drove you to get behind the director’s chair for this? What made you really want to bring this project to life so bad that you directed?
This is kind of a unique scenario, but I’m excited to do it again if I should get so lucky. I think for me it always comes down to the script, and I’m not saying that just because I’m married to a writer. I’m really, in terms of movie magic, really about the script and the story. If you read something and you are still thinking about it in the night, two weeks later, two years later, 10 years later, that’s just telling you that that story is supposed to be made into the medium we love. So I loved Will Aldis’ script. I share that experience with Steve Samuels who bought the script early on, and Michael Roiff, the other producers who just loved it, believed in it. We all sort of said, “we’re going to die trying to get this movie made.” I think I had been shooting it in my head for so long that I think one day, 15 years later, I just said, “Oh God, you know what? I think I’m supposed to direct this. This thing is not getting made with any other directors for whatever reason. And I know it so well. I’ve been watching it in my head for years. I think I can do this.” So it really is very organic.