Longeran introduced the 12 cast members who also joined him at the screening including Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, J. Smith-Cameron did, Jake O'Connor, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Kevin Geer (the cops that Lisa Cohen deals with over her deposition) and Carlo Alban (Ramon's son), who briefly appears to console Joan (Smith-Cameron) at a wake (Anna Paquin couldn't attend due to her "True Blood" schedule). "What inspired this film was a story that happened to a girl in high school who actually went through this traumatic bus accident," said Lonergan. "It cropped up in various things I was writing all the years. It first cropped up in the early 90s. It just seemed the idea of something that big happening to someone that young; having to deal with something that adult so young." The idea floated around Lonergan's head since high school, "but now I'm 49, so you do the math."
"We had a lot of cuts. We did a lot of screenings," said Lonergan. "This is the cut we ended up with that got released. I think as far as the normal editing process you go through, you try to make it shorter or you try to make it longer. Going through that editing process, a lot's been written about it and it's not accurate. I don't want to duck the question too much, but I'd rather talk about the content of the film and script and all that. It's just more in the nature of movies and conversion. It's just in this case the version that got released was the version completed in 2008. I think it's wonderful and I'm very proud of it."
Lonergan came back in to further describe what the intent of making Lisa such a reactionary was: "What I was trying to do was take a look at that interesting phenomena when you're that age and you become aware of the world and all the horrible, interesting things that you've never noticed before. And come up against the reason they're still there after 25,000 years and 2,000 years. Only a teenager can have that effect on the world, which is really very true and also very sad. When you get to be like most of us, you get tired," he said.
Later, Lonergan was asked about why he choose the poem "Spring And Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, to serve as the central theme to his film. "That's one of the three poems that I know," said Longeran. "I don't remember exactly why I had associated it with the script. But it is essentially what the script is about. I remember being very young--ninth or tenth grade--and there was a girl that I liked. A little sparrow flew against the window and killed itself. I remember feeling horrible this sparrow died and she goes, 'Yeah.' I felt terrible for the sparrow. Now? I can walk past a dozen dead sparrows without blinking an eye. It's not that I have anything against them, I just don't care."
The point being that the poem takes such care with a woman who is moved by a dying tree that Longergan felt it expressed the territory he wanted to explore with "Margaret," a film decidedly set in post 9/11 Manhattan, designed to further the idea that the character of Lisa had such overwhelming problems, within a city that itself was still grieving. And the subject has certainly resonated, with a fanbase growing around the film that resulted in a powerful grassroots campaign, spearheaded by Slant Magazine's Jamie Christley to give the film more attention (and wider expansion in theaters) than it initially received. In fact, this Film Comment Select Series screening is a testament to just how far it has come.