EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Andy Fickman on New Romance Film ONE TRUE LOVES

This One True Loves interview has been edited for clarity.

One True Loves is an upcoming romance film directed and produced by Andy Fickman, best known to young millennials for his work directing She’s The Man.

One True Loves is adapted from the Taylor Jenkins Reid novel of the same name. The film adaptation stars Phillipa Soo as Emma, the woman torn between deciding whether to stay with her long-lost, thought-to-be-dead husband Jesse (Luke Bracey), or her new fiancé Sam (Simu Liu).

Emma (Phillipa Soo) and Jesse (Luke Bracey)

LadyJenevia: I have to say that when I was looking through April releases and trying to figure out what I should send requests for, who should I try to interview, I saw this movie, I hadn’t heard of it but there was one name [that caught my attention] and it was yours. I went, ‘I know this name. Why do I know this name?’ You directed She’s The Man!

Andy Fickman: I directed She’s The Man! [points at a giant, autographed She’s The Man poster behind him] That’s it, right there! I directed that!

LadyJenevia: It’s one of my all-time favourite teen films so I was like, ‘I need to make an attempt to speak to this man.’

Andy: I am honoured beyond belief. Thank you so much.

LadyJenevia: That, in turn, made me go look up behind-the-scenes things from the making of that movie and one of the things that I heard some of the talent from that film say, was that you really allow your actors to play creatively. I was wondering if that’s your general approach across all your movies, as opposed to that one being a comedy which leaves more room for things like improv.

Andy: I come out of theatre and still do theatre. One of the things in theatre is, we have a stage that’s empty and we have our actors, and that’s about it. Some props, some chairs… so I always want the actors to explore that space and that’s what what keeps characters alive. I find if we’re too specific… sometimes you have to be, for a stunt or a special effect to work, you really have to be, ‘No don’t move, turn your head that way… stop!’ But for everything else, you want it to feel alive. I always want to work with great actors [to whom] we can say, ‘Here’s the script, here’s the book, here’s the source material.’ This is sort of an area where I’ll feel the scene.

I’ll usually work with them on some rough blocking. Sometimes it’s locked a little bit because the sun is dropping over there or I have to hide an ugly trash can that’s off on the corner so [they’ll] have from here to here to play. But a lot of times, the more in rehearsal I can talk with the actors and get a sense of what they’re thinking, then they can really explore.

Having these opportunities in this film where you had so many great actors, sometimes I’d just sit at Video Village and smile. Whether they were breaking my heart or making me laugh or just challenging me as an audience member, I was just on the edge of my seat thinking, ‘What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do?’ even if I knew what they were gonna do.

Emma (Phillipa Soo)

LadyJenevia: You mentioned that you have experience directing musicals. I was wondering if that created any sort of shorthand for you to be directing Phillipa Soo?

Andy: Probably just in our initial conversation. During the pandemic, I had met so many amazing actresses for the role and Phillipa was the last one I met. I was a massive fan of Hamilton and every time you meet an actor, you’re like, ‘Oh, they could do this, that…’ Phillipa was the first one that I met that I was able to email everybody back and said, ‘I just did a zoom with Emma’ and that made me know I was home.

In our initial conversations, to be able to talk, we had mutual friends between Hamilton and Heathers and that conversation at least gets you into a language skill. We’d certainly, in between takes, sometimes find ourselves talking about that.

What was also great was Simu is just musically wildly talented. Online right now, he is playing his guitar with Riley Keough doing a duet with Daisy [Jones] & The Six so it’s Taylor Jenkins Reid worlds collide. Daisy [Jones & The Six] and One True Loves all together in one place.

It certainly helps finding a place where you can go. I’m always looking for some common ground. First time I talked to Simu, we were talking about the casting director. Our casting director for One True Loves, Sarah Finn, who had done Shang-Chi also did She’s The Man. We were able to make those comparative conversations and I’m always looking for some way to connect with an actor. Hopefully from there, you’re able to create new moments.

Emma (Phillipa Soo) and Jesse (Luke Bracey)

LadyJenevia: One True Loves, in the film, it has a very non-linear approach to sharing its timeline. Was that always the vision or did it perhaps change in the editing process?

Andy: No, it was always… I think it started with Taylor’s book [which] I just loved. Taylor wanted to write the screenplay along with her husband Alex who’s a brilliant writer and we really wanted to stick closely with her storytelling. There was a lot in the book that’s really in Emma’s mind. How to bring that information forward, it was really trusting Taylor and Alex with how they wanted to lay it out.

Once we got into editorial, we’re pretty close to what it was in the script. Every once in a while you move a scene around or you think, ‘I don’t want to give that information away just yet’ or ‘You know what? The audience probably needs this’ but we definitely stuck pretty close to our structure.

Emma (Phillipa Soo) and Jesse (Luke Bracey)

LadyJenevia: When we finally get to see what Jesse experienced while he was away, it’s him out in the water. For you as the director, where are you when that’s being filmed? Are you in the water or are you on a boat that’s nearby? How does all of that work?

Andy: A little bit of everything. Luke is from Australia, he was born in the water, I think his dad would get in the water still to this day and swim. We had a crew that was very aquatic. We had divers on our crew so we could really circle and get in there. We tended to be just off on the beat side where we were getting remote. Sometimes when you’re further out, we didn’t want to disturb with having an extra boat and all of that so we had all of our safety divers there. They would film and then come back in, to the beach where we were. We would look handheld at the footage and be like, ‘Great! Try this, do that, try that.’

LadyJenevia: I was seeing that and going, ‘That doesn’t look like green screen or blue screen.’ I know a lot of productions will do that to control the elements. I was going, ‘I think they’re really out on the water!’

Andy: We were really out on the water. Greg Gardiner who also shot She’s The Man, my DP [whom] I love, Greg is a huge diver. [He] really had gone up and down the coast by Wilmington so we could find the perfect place to do that. You’re really always looking for the right amount of water where you can walk in safely, where you can swim safely, and also where there’s no real landscape. You’re not trying to paint out like, ‘Oh, there’s a massive home development over on that side.’ We spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect place and we were really happy when we found it.

LadyJenevia: Were you filming it on the East Coast, or…?

Andy: We filmed it all in North Carolina, all in Wilmington, we filmed some of it in Acton, Massachusetts where the book takes place. [Where] we filmed the lighthouse was about a five hour drive up the coast in North Carolina.

Emma (Phillipa Soo) and Sam (Simu Liu)

LadyJenevia: I was looking through the press kit and you gave this really long beautiful statement about how this story is very personal to you. Would you like to share maybe an expedited version of that personal connection you have to the material?

Andy: When my grandfather died, my grandmother never dated anyone else. She felt she had one true love. When my father died, I was 16 and my mom didn’t go on any dates. She certainly could have, [as] a beautiful woman still, she was in her late 40s. When he passed away, she took the same approach as her mom which is one true love. When she 70, she let my brothers and I know she went on a date. That was literally two and a half decades of not dating and all of a sudden, she met a man who was lovely. They went and played tennis and then he proposed eventually.

We all had different feelings. You want your mom to be happy but we had never seen her date. What does that mean about her feelings about my father? What is any of that? When he proposed, he not only spoke to my older brother for permission but he took my mom to the graveside where my father was buried and asked for my father’s permission. From that moment on, I just knew my mom could have two great loves in her life.

Richard became an amazing part of our family. He passed way not too long ago and my mom is still with us. My dad’s birthday was the other day. He would have been 98. My mom and I were talking and she was just going on and on with all the wonderful things about what that marriage was and what their life was. I know her time with Richard did not step on her time with my dad.

I think that’s what got me about the book which is, we meet so many different people at a certain point in our life. I think Taylor was really smart in that the approach of the book was not necessarily about who Emma should choose but where Emma is at this point in her life.

We all look back and think about people we’ve dated, maybe in the past, and thought, ‘I can’t believed I dated that person’ but probably in [those] periods, that was amazing. I think that’s what makes the movie and the book so universal. That exploration may not be for everyone, but you can have more than one true love in your life and it doesn’t take away from the previous love at all.

Emma (Phillipa Soo) and Sam (Simu Liu)

LadyJenevia: I wasn’t familiar with the source material when watching the film for the first time so I really didn’t know who she was going to choose. I would have chosen the other way but you know it’s not my movie. I’m not the main character. [laughs]

Andy: You know what? I’ll be honest, that’s what I sort of love is that, there have been lots of ‘Team Sam’ / ‘Team Jesse’ and the notion of, every step of the way we kept saying, “If we ended the movie right now, if that was it, we could argue, ‘Oh I know who she’s going to choose.'” It really had to go in the manner it went journey-wise but every day there were cast, there were crew who would be like, ‘I just want it to be very clear, I am Team _____’ and we’re like, ‘Got it. I understand who you’re rooting for’ and I appreciate that as well.

LadyJenevia: I think that sometimes romance as a genre or as a subplot within a story from a different genre, it’s sometimes looked down upon. Do you have any thoughts about why that might be? I love a good romance but it has to be done well. I get picky if I think it’s just put in to be put in. Every James Cameron movie is a love story; it’s a romance. Even though he’s known as ‘the action director’ and I’m going, “That’s objectively not the first thing you should say. He’s a romance director.”

Andy: I think it’s such a valid point to be made. I think that in general, it’s all subjective. Everyone that watches, whether watching with a critical eye or just a fan eye, or ‘I just caught this, didn’t know what it was so I thought I’d watch it,’ we all put our own personal spin on everything we watch. There are people who watch a James Cameron movie and probably don’t see the romance at all. They’re just like “And then that blew up and then that blew up and then that blew up… then they kissed, and then that blew up!”

Our job is to try to tell whatever story we’re telling as honest and true as we can. With She’s The Man, we were telling Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. We wanted those characters Shakespeare created, people needed to understand why Viola is falling in love with Duke. At the same time, when Viola is with Olivia, people get why there is this connection that feels so strong. At the end of the movie, when all of the reveals take place, we have a lot of people whose feelings are hurt because they feel they have been lied to or betrayed. Emotionally, our job is to wrap that up.

Here, I want audiences to go on this journey with Emma and be like, ‘What would I do?’ I’m a sucker for a good romance but like you, I really want to come away from it being like, ‘I did not think I would find myself crying but there I was, crying, and I’m not going to talk about this ever again to anybody.’

Sometimes I also know I have probably watched a romantic movie and I’ve been in a bad place, not liking romance at that moment or I just had a fight with my significant other or just broke up. Then the last thing I wanted to see were two people being like, “We can make it work.” I’m like, “No, you can’t. You absolutely cannot make it work and I’m going to leave right now. I need a movie in which breakups just happen.”

I appreciate everybody who’s willing to go on the journey.

Jesse (Luke Bracey) and Emma (Phillipa Soo)

LadyJenevia: I also appreciate that you put the same amount of effort in as a director even if it’s a smaller, more indie budget film. Obviously, you watch this and you think, ‘I know they don’t have 300 million dollars to make this movie,’ but you know there’s effort being put in.

Andy: It’s our job. I come out of theatre so, in theatre sometimes you get four chairs and a table and that’s the biggest expense ever. By the time you start doing television and film, and they’re like, ‘Do you want some soup on the table?’ I’m like, ‘I can have actual soup on the table? Hmmm, I would love soup on the table!’

I feel our job as storytellers is, whatever our canvas is, to tell it as best as we possibly can.

Amanda Bynes (Viola) and Channing Tatum (Duke) in “She’s The Man”

LadyJenevia: One final question, if you will allow me to indulge my inner child.

Andy: Do it!

LadyJenevia: Looking back on She’s The Man across your larger filmography, what stands out the most to you about why that film is so unique and why people still after all these years, we love it as much as we do?

Andy: I think sometimes it’s all about the perfect stew. We had an amazing cast that have all continued and shown all the various levels of their talent. We had amazing adult actors coming in. Our amazing Kiwi and Karen who wrote the script did such a brilliant job and they’ve written so many other comedies. Shakespeare, that guy kind of knew what he was doing. Whether it was a guy or a girl or whoever Shakespeare was, Shakespeare wrote a remarkable story that is so well-crafted.

As a matter of fact, when we first got to rehearsal in Vancouver, the first thing we did was focus on Twelfth Night. Everyone had that script. We watched Twelfth Night movies. We embraced Twelfth Night before we even started working on She’s The Man.

We’re so blessed and honoured every time fans continue to quote the movie. I think it’s just the other day, I think we came out 18 years ago. People have found it and quote those lines to us. The best gift you can ever hope for as a filmmaker is that something you did impacted somebody. I know as a kid, for me, movies like Animal House and Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark, those movies were it for me so if I can stay a little bit in your head, I will forever be grateful and thankful that you let me in.

One True Loves will be available to watch this month.

IN THEATERS: April 7, 2023

ON DIGITAL: April 14, 2023

ON DEMAND: April 28, 2023

Watch the full interview with Andy Fickman here: