When actress Toni Collette was cast in Miss You Already, she knew there was only one actress who could play her best friend: Drew Barrymore. The trouble was, Collette didn't know Barrymore personally. So instead of the filmmakers going though the usual route of making an offer to Barrymore, then waiting and hoping she would accept, Collette took matters into her own hands.
"I knew Drew was the ultimate dreamy best friend. I basically sent her a love letter trying to convince her to come and do it," says Collette.
For Barrymore, getting that letter meant everything. "I respect Toni so much, I just love and appreciate what she does. I read the script and it really moved me. I just had my second daughter but I had to go. When I showed up, I told Toni up and down, left and right, that I was there to 100 percent be her support system, which I felt was very fitting for our characters. Things just took off and we got along so well, which behooved the movie because these girls just have great chemistry. We tried to tackle a tough subject in a unique way that was told in a very lifelike tone."
That tough subject is breast cancer. While dealing with an illness may make you think this is a depressing film, think again. The movie is full of humor, romance, even reenactments of scenes from Bronte's Wuthering Heights on actual Moors. The characters are alive and vibrant, even as one faces death.
Collette said the story was very personal to her, but not just because she's known women with breast cancer. "It's a story ultimately about female friendship and love between two women." In other words, a powerful story rarely shared on the silver screen to which all women can relate.
"My girlfriends really are my original family," says Barrymore, adding, "I loved the idea of doing a total love story between two women. Women love each other in a way that is so profound and honest and humorous. You're just yourself with your girlfriends. You disarm in a way that you don’t with anyone else in the world, even a spouse. It's just different. I also think you kick each other’s asses and you can hear things from a girlfriend differently than you can't from other people. You laugh together and you’re strong together. Girlfriends make you stronger."
Collette agrees. "For some reason, your friendships take a back seat when you have a spouse and kids, and that's understandable, but it doesn't make your relationships with your friends any less profound. I'm so thankful for my girlfriends! To be able to be completely yourself and be accepted, when you're at your worst and when you're at your best, is a very special thing."
In the film, Collette's character, Millie, is forced to undergo a double mastectomy, filling her with both physical and mental anguish. Like many women, much of her identity is wrapped up in her physical appearance. Unable to deal with the enormity of the situation, she acts out by cheating on her husband. But Collette says she can't judge her character's actions.
"Millie's very narcissistic and she's got her priorities all wrong, but I would never judge a person who’s had their breasts removed. She really counts on and relies upon attention from men to make her feel however she wants to feel. Not that it justifies her behavior, but when she stops getting it from her husband, you really understand why she's seeking that kind of attention and comfort elsewhere."
Barrymore put it more pointedly, "When you're facing your own mortality, all bets are off. When you think you might not have much time left on this planet, you might go a little crazy, trying to live every moment that you can."
According to Barrymore, this film is different than other movies about cancer because, "It's really about people being strong, not weak. It uses humor to deal with this heavy subject and it really makes you appreciate what you have in life and you want to tell the people close to you that you love them while you have the chance. It lacks a depressing nature and that's a beautiful thing."
Collette adds, "It's more about the celebration of life."
Miss You Already opens in theaters Nov. 6.
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