Phone interview with Joel Hopkins, director of “Love Punch”
Ron Salfen, for the Presbyterian Outlook: First of all, I really enjoyed this film!
Joel Hopkins: Thanks so much, that’s a great way to start. I’m relaxed now!
Outlook: Did you write the script with Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson in mind?
Joel Hopkins: Yes, I did. And I was fortunate enough to have worked with Emma before, in “Last Chance Harvey,” and in that instance she sent the script directly to Dustin Hoffman, and here she sent it directly to Pierce Brosnan. And we were able to bypass the agents and so forth.
Outlook: Ah, that gave you a great inroad into the casting!
Joel Hopkins: Yes, and everyone wants to work with Emma.
Outlook: And this role was such a great contrast with her previous one in “Saving Mr. Banks,” where she plays the curmudgeon.
Joel Hopkins: Yes, and in this one she’s gorgeous and in that one, made out to be frumpy, which she’s not, of course. But we slowed down the release of this one in order for the other one to sort of run its course.
Outlook: Oh, so that’s why the delayed distribution?
Joel Hopkins: Yes, the actors don’t really like competing against themselves, you know.
Outlook: Understandably. You were both writer and director on this one. That seems like such a different skill set to me: the writer sits in an empty room in front of his bland computer screen and works by himself. The director is in charge of this great company of very different people, laboring frantically on a limited budget and in a proscribed time period. How do you do both, and is your writer persona pleased with how your director persona has performed, and vice versa?
Joel Hopkins: That’s a very good question. Yes, those are two very different things, and when I’m writing, I start going a little stir-crazy and wish sometimes that I could talk to somebody, anybody, but I’m trying so hard to be focused. And then, as you say, the directing is so chaotic, and I can’t say I enjoy it, because there’s so many things to juggle at once. But the part I like the most, actually, is the editing. When you’re all done with the shooting, and the characters have put to life the words you have put on the page, then you get to sit and craft it into something that’s appealing to you, and to take your time at it. It’s actually quite rewarding, and worth every bit of the effort spent to get there.
Outlook: Well, speaking for my own demographic, I can say that I really enjoyed all of it, including the aging jokes like the backaches and the bunions. And that bit about Pierce Brosnan crossing his arm in front of him while holding the gun, in the old James Bond pose, that was hilarious!
Joel Hopkins: Yes, well, I’m glad you caught that. We asked if he would, sort of like a tribute to his most familiar movie roles, and he was a good sport about it.
Outlook: And the old romantic in me was just rooting for the renewed relationship here.
Joel Hopkins: In the most recent screening, I was sitting near some teenage girls, and they seemed to be enjoying it, as well.
Outlook: Yes, they could identify with the daughter off to college and the uncertain bride, but the real impact is with Pierce and Emma. Really good casting.
Joel Hopkins: Thanks, it’s good to hear that.
Outlook: Well, is the editor persona pleased with what the writer persona and the director persona turned out?
Joel Hopkins: You know, I think this one worked, but for something different next time, I would like to perhaps write a script and someone else direct, or else direct a script that someone else has written. I think that would be interesting.
Outlook: I trust you will have that opportunity, and when you do, I will look forward to seeing it!
Joel Hopkins: Thank you!
Outlook: Thank you for your time.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.