Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson collaborate for the 1st time in ‘A Million Little Pieces’ since 'Nowhere Boy' | Inquirer Entertainment
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Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson collaborate for the 1st time in ‘A Million Little Pieces’ since ‘Nowhere Boy’

By: - Columnist
/ 12:45 AM August 30, 2019

Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson collaborate for the 1st time in ‘A Million Little Pieces’

Sam (left) and husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson, collaborators in art and real life. —PHOTO BY RUBEN V. NEPALES

LOS ANGELES—It has been 10 years since Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson fell in love on the set of “Nowhere Boy,” their John Lennon biopic.

The actor and filmmaker, then 18 and 42, respectively, married in 2012 and had two daughters.


Now, the couple, who changed their surname to Taylor-Johnson, are back collaborating together not only as actor and director but as writers of a screenplay in “A Million Little Pieces.”


In Aaron and Sam’s first time to write together, they decided to adapt to the screen the book of the same title by James Frey.

James’ book, which was chosen as Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club Selection in 2005 and landed on The New York Times Best Sellers list, is described by Wikipedia as “originally sold as a memoir and later marketed as a semifictional novel following accusations of literary forgery.”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Johnson, who are husband and wife in real life, collaborate in “A Million Little Pieces.” Both wrote the screenplay of the film in which he stars and she directs –MAKEREADY

Aaron plays James, an alcoholic and drug abuser, in the story which concentrates on how the latter coped with two months of agonizing rehabilitation in a treatment center. The drama also stars Charlie Hunnam, Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi and Billy Bob Thornton.

Interviewed separately, Aaron and Sam, now 29 and 52, respectively, posed together for photos in The London West Hollywood Hotel.

Aaron said his beard was for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” an action-drama-thriller in production, with Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine.

He revealed, “We started Chris Nolan’s film in Estonia, then I have more stuff out here in Los Angeles. The film is jumping around all different places like Mumbai, London and Amalfi Coast.”


Asked what nationality he plays, Aaron smiled as he said, “The beauty of Nolan’s film is that everything is under lock and key, and it’s all very secretive.”

The British actor spoke about taking time out from his busy career as an actor to pen the screenplay of “A Million Little Pieces” with Sam. “We wanted to fully commit to every part of the process, and the writing process took 18 months,” he said. “In that time, I didn’t take any jobs on and neither did she, so we could work fully committed on the script.”

“It felt like a natural collaboration,” Aaron described working with Sam on the film which they also produced. “As a filmmaker, she brings such a vision and great ideas to her job.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson — RUBEN V. NEPALES

“When it came to this, it was apparent that all I wanted to do was produce her version of this story and get behind her vision. But when we were writing it, it was a beautiful collaborative experience. That was the beauty in studying, researching and being on that journey together.

“We went to the treatment center with James Frey. We met his brother, friends and family. It was a very emotional, all-compassing experience, so it was great to do it together.”

As to who had the last word between the two of them, the actor who began working as early as when he was 6 in a London stage production of “Macbeth” replied with a laugh, “It’s very much Sam’s movie.

“You might think it’s biased that we have trust, but we have Billy Bob Thornton, Juliette Lewis, Charlie Hunnam, as well as a crew like Jeff Cronenweth (cinematographer) and Atticus Ross doing the score.

“You got such high-end seasoned actors and crew who want to work with someone like her, because she demands this beautiful security where there’s trust. In that trust, you have that freedom to explore and experiment. That’s when you get the best out of everyone.

“We shot it in 20 days, so we didn’t have time for rehearsals and big discussions. We had to be instinctive, and just go.”

He said he revels in the female energy around him, especially Sam’s. “I’ve had female role models in my life, from my mother, dance teacher to my agent—they’ve all been maternal figures. So, it’s bizarre how life then gives me four daughters (laughs). It’s lucky.” He is stepdad to Sam’s two daughters from her previous marriage.

“I love being able to bring up my kids in support of my wife. I like the idea that I can step back and support my wife in her ambitions and her job and be like, this is your year, your movie and we’re all on the road for you. It empowers me as a man and strengthens my masculinity in a sense of being able to support my wife in something.

Sam Taylor-Johnson — RUBEN V. NEPALES

“And my daughters look up and they see this woman, this role model in their life, and I see that I’m raising independently strong women, too, so I love that.”

Laughing again, Aaron stressed that he does not get jealous when Sam works with other handsome gents like Charlie Hunnam.

“The thing is, Charlie is such a beautiful human being. I love seeing Sam demanding on a set. When she’s a director, she is a leader for the crew and she’s good at it. She’s optimistic, calm and patient, and she can handle a lot of things thrown at her. I don’t get jealous—maybe with Billy Bob (laughs).”

Sam told us that Aaron was so committed to portraying James that at one point, he asked her if he should break his teeth. She said no.

“I had one of my teeth pulled out, actually, yeah,” Aaron shared. “But it definitely got me in the mindset (laughs).”

On how Sam has changed as a filmmaker since “Nowhere Boy,” Aaron said, “The beauty of what Sam brought to ‘Nowhere Boy’ was actually prior to that, she was an artist and it was her work.

“What I’ve seen is that she is almost sort of drilled in for people management along the years, because to be a director, you have to stay patient, confident and believe in your own voice and vision…

“She’s naturally optimistic, she thinks outside the box, she’s just incredible.”

“No break at all (laughs),” Sam said about her experience working again with her husband. “Because it was such a tight, crazy schedule. We’d finish shooting our day, then we’d have to plan everything out for the next day, and change things.

“The proof that we know each other so well is that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So, if something is overwhelming me, I can throw it at Aaron, and he can figure it out. Those are the pros.”

On the cons, Sam said: “I can’t go home and say, ‘Oh, massage my feet because I’m so tired (laughs).’ Because he’s like, ‘No massage! I’m tired, too!’”

“We’ve been looking for something to collaborate on,” Sam shared. “When this came around, it seemed like the perfect collaboration.

“And it was also practical, in the sense that our kids were little and we would work it out—one would work, the other would stay home.”

When I asked Sam the same question on who had the last word, she also laughed when she replied, “Oh, I’m the director. The good thing in this instance is that we had written the script together. We knew it so intimately. That was our blueprint.”

As to what surprised Sam in her writing collaboration with Aaron, she dished, “He’s so patient (laughs). We both learned things about each other. Also, I was astounded at the way he could construct things and understand how scripts are put together.

“Also, that he could sit eight to 10 hours, just drink pot after pot of coffee and where he was writing the script.

“I could see him becoming James. I could see that he was starting to have mannerisms, but also to write those things in as well. He has that almost obsessive quality that it takes to embody somebody.”

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E-mail [email protected]. Follow him at ruben nepales (@nepalesruben) | Twitter.

TAGS: A Million Little Pieces, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Sam Taylor-Johnson

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