Having an open discussion about sex and sexuality in our society is a hard task. No matter how old you get, the topic continues to be repressed up until you reach a certain age and then the topic becomes downright taboo. Director and co-writer Bill Holderman, alongside co-writer Erin Simms, attempt to take on the taboo topic of people of a certain age remaining sexually active in their latest film, Book Club. Their weapons of choice? The “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy and comedy. We talked with Holderman and Simms about the origin story behind the film, the film’s important mission, the inspiration behind the characters and more.
“50 Shades of Grey” was the perfect book for this film because it helped highlight an intersection that isn’t talked about enough in society: people of a certain age and active sex lives. Was there any other book in contention originally?
Bill Holderman: No, there wasn’t. The original idea came because I was sending the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy to my mother for Mother’s Day in 2012.
That’s absolutely perfect.
BH: Yeah, it was right after they came out and were starting to catch the zeitgeist and having a cultural impact. The idea formulated from that moment. Erin caught me sending the book and said it was crazy inappropriate. Then she sent it to her mother and step-mother as well.
Erin Simms: There’s a comedic layer to the “50 Shades of Grey” books. I’ve heard people complain about the book choice saying, “Why didn’t you pick this book or that one?” There’s a place of comedy that you can already get started with “50 Shades” that was essential.
BH: It tapped into a taboo. Women of a certain age and sex is a sort of taboo in this culture also. Those dueling taboos were fun to play with.
ES: The books are also very pornographic and I just saw it as a great place to start for a comedy.
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BH: Here’s the irony. I sent the books to my mom and she loved them but did not read the scripts or see the movie until the premiere a few days ago.
ES: And now she’s in love with Andy Garcia.
BH: So much so that I got a text this morning saying that, “For this Mother’s Day, I would like Andy Garcia.”
ES: I sent them to my mother and step-mother as well. All of these women are of a certain age and have very different outlooks on dating, men, and sex. That started a conversation. A very inappropriate conversation with our mothers about sex. The next day we had the idea for the film. I think it’s very interesting how some women, totally aside from looks, can shut down or completely remain confident.
BH: I think that happens to men also. At a certain point, there’s just so much cultural ageism and pressure to keep looking younger. As people get older, they start to feel irrelevant because society is telling them that they’re irrelevant, and we wanted to combat that.
Were any of the four lead female characters based on either of your mothers or other strong females in your life?
BH: All loosely, for sure. You write what you know. We were inspired by our mothers and other people in our lives. No matter what, those things always find a way of making it to the screen. Whether conscious or not, it just happens. If my mother sees herself in Jane Fonda, perhaps that’s how it ended up being written.
ES: Truly loosely based on them though, since that was the original kernel that started the conversation. We ended up rewriting the Jane Fonda character and went through various iterations because we couldn’t quite crack that character. Then we finally got it, and I said to myself, “I’m not going to say anything to Bill, but he’s writing his mother.” You don’t want to tell him that’s what’s happening, but you have to realize it.
BH: Yeah… Well, you write what you know.