The illegal drug Ecstasy has gained Hollywood currency lately, showing up in Groove and Go. But in The Anniversary Party, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and opens in the United States in June, the drug actually fuels the film's last third.
A behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood types, Party was co-written, co-produced, and co-directed by co-stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming (the villain in the recent hit Spy Kids), who met when they were in the Broadway revival of Cabaret a few years back. They filmed on digital video and cast many of their friends, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline, and Jennifer Beals.
"We wanted the Ecstasy there to loosen inhibitions and get their characters to say things they wouldn't otherwise say," explained Cumming about the filming of the party scene during which the characters are all supposed to be high on the drug. "During pre-production, I realized people had the wrong idea, people who had never taken it or whatever."
So, as Leigh reveals, "Alan had an Ecstasy workshop because it's terrible to see things where people overact. He talked about what really happens [when you take the drug]: Your jaw gets tighter and everything feels really nice on your skin, so people would have a sense of what it's really like. Some people [had already] done it." But she wouldn't say who.
"One of the things I think is so good is that Ecstasy is thought of as this hippy dippy, super love drug," said John Benjamin Hickey, another Cabaret veteran. "But it will take you where you're on your way to already. You're not guaranteed a loving time. The movie exposes these nerves." Adds Leigh, "And all these truths come out that might not necessarily this night."
And no, no one was actually on Ecstasy for the party scene. That's why they call it acting, yo.