Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Exclusive: Clip From Sundance Film 'Appropriate Behavior,' Writer/Director/Star Desiree Akhavan Talks Sex Scenes & More

Photo of Katie Walsh By Katie Walsh | The Playlist January 15, 2014 at 4:02PM

One of the filmmakers making their debut at Sundance this January is Desiree Akhavan, a New York writer/director/actor who pulls triple duty in her feature film, “Appropriate Behavior.” Chronicling the romantic (and otherwise) misadventures of Shireen, a bisexual Iranian-American Brooklyn twentysomething in the wake of a devastating breakup, “Appropriate Behavior” is a funny and poignant look at this world through the eyes of a very specific perspective. We chatted with Akhavan before Sundance kicks off, and also have an exclusive clip from the film to check out before its debut.
1
Appropriate Behavior

One of the filmmakers making their debut at Sundance this January is Desiree Akhavan, a New York writer/director/actor who pulls triple duty in her feature film, “Appropriate Behavior.” Chronicling the romantic (and otherwise) misadventures of Shireen, a bisexual Iranian-American Brooklyn twentysomething in the wake of a devastating breakup, “Appropriate Behavior” is a funny and poignant look at this world through the eyes of a very specific perspective. We chatted with Akhavan before Sundance kicks off, and also have an exclusive clip from the film to check out before its debut.

Akhavan cites many different influences on the development of her comedic voice, including Noah Baumbach, Mel Brooks, and Louis C.K., whose TV show she says leaves her feeling “full of joy and sadness.” As for the writing process on “Appropriate Behavior,” she says that on the first pass, “I wrote the first script of the film in a month, and I was heavily influenced by ‘Scenes from a Marriage,’ and I just really wanted to show the rise and fall of a relationship.” However, the film in its current form is intricately structured with flashbacks, which was influenced by the structure of the classic New York rom com “Annie Hall.” After the structure was in place, for Akhavan, “it was about finding the voice and the tone of this particular story, which clearly wasn’t Woody Allen. For me, the writing was in the rewriting.”

Akhavan wrote this specific role for herself, after co-starring and co-directing in a web series, and that for this project, “it felt like the right time and the right story. I always knew I wanted to direct, that was a non-negotiable.” As for balancing both the roles of star and director, she “found that one job really enabled the other, once you get in the groove of it, it was kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. You’re kind of like, 'Oh it’s working, I figured it out.' There are some growing pains for sure, you know, because it’s multi-tasking at its worst.” But while a balancing act was required, inhabiting both roles, “was such a great way to get closer to my actors,” Akhavan says, and she was able to say to her co-stars, “Here’s how far I’m willing to go, come with me.”

Many of Shireen’s experiences will ring true for anyone who’s been through the trials and tribulations of being a young adult in a big city, and Akhavan did draw from her own life in the writing process. “A lot of things were inspired by experiences I had, I was going through a breakup and coming out to my family right before I started writing this. So it was what I was grappling with ... I wouldn’t say the stories were lifted from memories, I would just say that they were inspired by where my life was at the point I was writing it.”

The film also features some incredibly honest sex scenes, which are funny and authentic, something that was important for Akhavan to capture, as she says “it’s rare to see depictions of sex in film that I relate to… they’re either incredibly awkward and uncomfortable and beginner style or they’re too smooth and silky, in front of a fireplace … I felt there had to be some kind of in between. It can be both.” Ultimately, the most important thing for her to express about Shireen’s sexuality was the character, “owning her desire 110% and wanting what she wanted.”  

After Sundance, Akhavan has some projects lined up, including an animated web series, that will continue to draw on her personal life experiences, though she does say that in the future, she hopes, “I grow and change for different stories to come in.” There’s no doubt that her voice is a fresh and welcome one in film, and we’re sure to see more of her soon.

Check out the clip from “Appropriate Behavior” below, featuring Akhavan and Halley Feiffer as her best friend Crystal, engaging in some lingerie retail therapy.  

This article is related to: Appropriate Behavior, Sundance Film Festival, Desiree Akhavan


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates