Time travel novels are all the rage these days. From the film by Rachel McAdams About time to the hit anime your name to the 2022 streaming adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife (which had previously been adapted into a film starring…Rachel McAdams), this sci-fi subgenre of modern romantic comedy has captivated an audience that no longer craves smoking vampires or loving wizards.
Press PLAY is the latest addition to the growing genre, a lo-fi entry that places more emphasis on music and emotional connections than the logistics of going back and forth in time. This is due to the sensitive direction of first director Greg Björkman and a committed lead performance by Danish actress Clara Rugaard. In a chat with Digital Trends, Björkman and Rugaard talk about the fun of filming in Hawaii and the songs that would feature on their time-traveling mixtape.
Digital Trends: Greg, what inspired you to write and direct a love story involving time travel and mixtapes?
Greg Bjorkman: There’s a movie you’ve probably seen called About time, and it’s a really well-done emotional story. And I think of it that way because the emotions are all there, but it’s also a time travel movie that I sometimes forget about because the emotions are so good.
One of the things I thought about when we wrote this was that it had to be both emotionally healthy and time travel had to be meaningful. The story itself was inspired by a relationship I had at the time. When we go through relationships, they inevitably end. And this one in particular, I didn’t want it to end. Thus, the film became the challenge of someone who abandons a relationship that must end.
What was the most difficult thing you encountered during filming?
Bjorkman: You have to excuse me because it’s been a while since we’ve been there. But on. The most challenging was probably our tight production schedule. We wanted more time to be there in Hawaii.
Getting your crew and cast together at the start of the movie is probably the most important thing for a director. Also, choose the right people when you have a really good script. If you have a really good team and a really strong story and cast, you usually know where you’re going to end up.
I didn’t feel like there was anything seriously wrong or challenging because I had been doing what I wanted to do for 10 years. I had dreamed of being a director and here I am in Hawaii shooting a film. It was amazing.
Clara Rugaard (actress): I would probably say the sci-fi element made it pretty difficult for me as an actor. It’s time travel, so there’s quite a bit of back and forth. You have to follow the timeline to fully capture the emotions of the scene. And because my character goes back in time to the same moment the audience saw before, the stakes are totally different than they were before.
What was your favorite scene to film?
Rugger: There are so many good times. I mean, all the surf scenes were great fun.
Clara, did you know how to surf before?
Rugger: No, I had never surfed before the shooting Press PLAY. Lewis and I took lessons when we were there on the weekends. We were a little spoiled as the best paddling instructor taught us those soft, warm Waikiki waves. It was just idyllic and so much fun shooting those scenes.
Bjorkman: There is a scene that James [the screenwriter] and I wrote at the last minute. It’s the scene between Laura and Cooper in the record store where Cooper talks about his wife. It’s such a simple scene, but the emotions behind this scene make it a very powerful moment for Danny Glover’s character, Cooper.
The song that is in this scene is “Oh My Love” by Katyna Ranieri and Riz Ortolani. This song is the song I played for Danny on set before filming this scene. And he listened to it three times before shooting. And so he really understood the emotional weight of that scene. I told him that the singers of the song had never met before recording this song. And then they were married for about 60 years, I believe. In our film, it’s a very powerful scene because it’s a wake-up call for Laura and it’s a warm trip down memory lane for Cooper.
Greg, what was it like working not only with Danny Glover, but also with Clara and Lewis Pullman?
Bjorkman: Oh, man, I can’t imagine anyone else in those roles. When I first met Clara, there was a twinkle in her eyes. She knew exactly who this character was supposed to be. And I saw the same thing with Lewis. He was determined to know as much information as I could give him about who Harrison was.
When we cast Danny, his character’s purpose was to be a mentor and someone who has been through a lot of life already. I grew up watching it in Operation Dumbo Drop and Outfield Angels, so seeing him in this role was just a dream because I’ve known this actor all my life and now I’m going to meet him. And that was great because he’s exactly what you think he is. He is so warm.
Rugger: I was just in awe of him the whole time I filmed with him. And he’s such a kind and loving soul and had so many great stories, and it was just an absolute honor to be in his presence and watch him at work.
What songs would be on your time travel mixtape?
Bjorkman: Oh man. You know, I’d probably take “Oh My Love” from Danny’s scene. I collect vinyl records. I love 60s and 50s stuff, but I also have streaming services that regularly recommend songs to me. So it’s nice to find new things that way. I’m pretty happy with the mixtape we made for our movie, which has both old songs and new ones from bands like Japanese Breakfast.
Rugger: “Thank you” by Bonnie Raitt because I’m a little obsessed with it. “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel because it makes me so happy. I also had a real obsession while we were filming Press PLAY with “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. It was actually Greg [the director] who introduced me to it. We rehearsed it and I found it so beautiful.
Press PLAY is currently in theaters and is available on digital platforms.
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