‘90s rom-com reunion you’ve been waiting for
IT'S been 21 years but all those My Best Friend's Wedding fans who were robbed of their happily ever after are about to be vindicated, sort of.
Julia Roberts' character Julianne and Dermot Mulroney's character Michael may not have ended up together in the classic '90s rom-com, but in Roberts' new TV series, Homecoming, the two actors reunite on-screen as couple Heidi and Anthony.
Now, we're not saying they're going to be a lovey-dovey pair, making swoony eyes and serenading each other with "The Way You Look Tonight". Homecoming is a paranoid, psychological thriller where no one is happy so you should prepare yourself.
Asked if casting Mulroney in Homecoming was fan service to My Best Friend's Wedding obsessives, Roberts tells news.com.au over the phone: "That was just making (Homecoming director) Sam's (Esmail) dreams come true, that's what that was.
"He's the fan we were serving!"
Jumping in on the call, Esmail adds: "It's one of my favourite movies of all time. When I read the scenes between Heidi and Anthony, reuniting these two was just too good of an opportunity to pass.
"Even now, they're actually good friends in real life, to the point that Dermot calls her Jules - which blew my mind when I first heard that. I'm very proud I was able to get these two reunited."
Roberts says the decision was "brilliant" and "inspired".
"People know the backstory about me and Dermot, so it's pretty fun casting. I think Dermot absolutely brought everything playing Anthony. I have to take my hat off to Sam for that. It's always fun to act with friends."
Fans will remember Roberts and Mulroney also reunited on screen in August: Osage County but their characters were not romantically involved.
Homecoming, debuting this Friday on Amazon Prime Video, is Robert's first regular TV role - another A-lister attracted by the shiny allure of a medium that's increasingly seen as prestige.
Based off a scripted fictional podcast created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, every episode of the 10-part series is directed by Mr Robot creator Esmail, which gives the show a cohesive visual style, and from a director who is very deliberate with his approach.
Homecoming is the story of a counsellor named Heidi working for a private contractor which runs a mysterious "transition" program for returning war veterans. The series is a thriller, imbued with paranoia and suspicion - for good reason, there is conspiracy afoot. It's very much a show of our dark times.
"I think technology has a lot to do with it but there is this weird surveillance state we live under," Esmail says. "And it's not necessarily government but corporations as well. We keep hearing about it on the news. So the paranoia is there and it's palpable. But, as Julia says, is it really changing our behavior or is it just having a creepy dread (hanging over us)?
"Regardless, it makes for a really good story."
Roberts says since meeting Esmail, she's changed "quite a few things about my life", including now only texting through encrypted platforms. And if you've ever seen Mr Robot, you'll definitely tape over your webcam.
It's clear from speaking to them, Roberts and Esmail have a deep bond - they actually finish each other's sentences at one point.
"It's unexpected, because on paper, we -," Esmail starts, with Roberts finishing, "- don't make sense."
"Our first meeting was over Facetime and I was so nervous calling him," Roberts said. "I was going from room to room in my house with my iPad, wondering where should I put this thing, what's behind me?
"Then we started chatting and it's like we've been friends forever."
Esmail adds: "Julia and I hit it off and we were on the same page from the get-go - my brain is wired very similar to Julia. And from there it was talking about reference points and by chance she had the same ideas and tone, the throwback to the Hitchcock thrillers."
Hitchcock was a significant influence on the series - at one point there is a shot of a stairwell that is a direct reference to Vertigo, which samples part of Bernard Herrmann's iconic score from that film.
"It's not like Vertigo, it is Vertigo," Esmail explains. "The music was at the crux and I didn't want to have a composer ape that stuff, I really wanted to just use the actual score. That was the touchstone of the tone of what we were trying to do - Hitchcock, (Alan J.) Pakula, (Brian) de Palma, the opening (Pino) Donaggio score from Dressed To Kill.
"In the second episode you'll hear music from Michael Small. The music is a reference guide to what inspires us."
Roberts adds with pride: "Also, to have a show where you get to have part of the score from Carrie and Sissy Spacek (who plays Heidi's mother), it's pretty cool."
As a parting gift, Esmail, who's known for laying in subtle clues to the overall mystery in his shows, says viewers should sit through the end credits on every episode where the scene keeps playing as the names come up - "We do it intentionally. It has a lingering effect but it might also tell you a few things."
Homecoming is available on Amazon Prime Video from today.
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