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January 2017

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 14 POST JANUARY 2017 he multifaceted Mike Mills isn't just an acclaimed writer/director who's best known for his independent films, Beginners (2011) and Thumbsucker (2005); he also works as a graphic de- signer and artist whose exhibitions at the Alleged Gallery were documented in the book, exhibition and film Beautiful Losers. He's designed album covers for Sonic Youth's Washing Machine, Beastie Boys' Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, Wild Flag and Air's Moon Safar, the book cover for Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You, for many years all graphic design for Kim Gordon and Daisy Von Furth's clothing companies and X-Girl, and so much more, including music vid- eos for such artists as Air, Moby, Blonde Redhead, Yoko Ono and Pulp. It's his role as a filmmaker that's gotten him the most attention. His last film, Beginners, won an Oscar for Christopher Plummer, Best Film and Best Ensemble Cast at the Gotham Awards and was nominated for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor by the Independent Spirit Awards. If his semi-autobiographical Beginners was a love letter to his father, then his latest film, 20 th Century Women, is a love letter to his mother. A multilayered, funny and poignant celebration of the complexities of women and family set in Santa Barbara. The film follows Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a determined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie (new- comer Lucas Jade Zumann) at a mo- ment brimming with cultural change and rebellion. Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women in Jamie's upbringing — via Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spir- ited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields' home, and Julie (Elle Fanning), a savvy and provocative teenage neighbor. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Mills talks about making the awards-buzzy film (it's already scooped up two Golden Globe nominations) and his love of post. This is another semi-autobiographical film. What was the genesis of the project? "I always write from memories and about real people, and my scripts don't follow all the usual script formulas. I like to deal in real emotions and real moments in people's lives, their humor, sadness and their triumphs and regrets. I set it at the end of the '70s in Santa Barbara, where I grew up, because it was this time when so much change was just around the corner, but people didn't really know. It was a sort of innocent time compared with what came right after in the '80s — AIDS, all the greed, the start of the Internet and so on. In a way it's a story about the Greatest Generation meeting Generation X — as my mom was born in the '20s and I was born in the late '60s, and it's also a sort of love story between a mother and son, a love story that is deep and meaningful but one that also examines just how fleeting those moments are when you feel a really true connection with someone you love. So there were all these different ideas at play, and it took me three long years to write, and to get it right." Did you view it as a companion piece to Beginners, which was based on your father and the revelation that, at the age of 75, he decided to finally embrace the fact that he was gay? "In one sense, yes, but I was always far closer to my mother. She was a very strong woman — and this story was inspired by that very real person and a very real place. My father was present and yet not when I was growing up, and most of my childhood was actually spent with my mom and my two sisters. They were a very big influence on my life, and I've always gravitated toward women — even when I didn't under- stand them." How much of your real mother is in Dorothea? "Quite a bit, as she was a huge Humphrey Bogart fan and loved all his movies, and she really did work at a company where she was the only woman, and she really did want to be a pilot and fly planes." What did Annette Bening bring to the role? "Everything. She's so smart and has this amazing ability to hold these contra- dictions in her face, and she's so free and brave on camera. I tried to write a very complex character, and Annette brought to life everything I was trying to do." MIKE MILLS: 20TH CENTURY WOMEN THE WRITER/ DIRECTOR'S LOVE LETTER TO HIS MOTHER BY IAIN BLAIR T The film was shot over 35 days, much in Santa Barbara.

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