Toronto 2007 Q&A

Helen Hunt: As Good As It Gets

Long out of the limelight, the Oscar winner caught up with EW.com at the Toronto Film Festival to describe how it feels to have her directorial debut ''Then She Found Me'' -- 10 years in the making -- leaving Canada with a distribution deal

HELEN HUNT ON CASTING HERSELF ''I had no money, so I was like a desperate woman, and the one thing I could control was the…
Image credit: Evan Agostini/Getty Images
HELEN HUNT ON CASTING HERSELF ''I had no money, so I was like a desperate woman, and the one thing I could control was the lead actress — I could make her do whatever I said''

Wondering why you haven't seen much of Helen Hunt lately? For the past 10 years, the Academy Award-winning actress has been fighting to get her directorial debut, Then She Found Me, off the ground. Co-adapted by Hunt from a 1990 novel by Elinor Lipman, and featuring her as a woman eager to have a child just as her own birth mother (Bette Midler) enters her life for the first time, Then She Found Me premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on Friday. By Saturday it was the subject of the biggest acquisition news out of the festival: ThinkFilm and a Canadian distributor picked it up in a reported $2.5 million-to-$3 million deal.

Over the weekend, EW.com talked to Hunt about what took her so long to get Then She Found Me done, the movies that inspired her as a filmmaker, and why she kind of wishes she were a kangaroo.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on your distribution deal. Was there crazy deal making going on behind the scenes?
HELEN HUNT: For me, most of the night was about the premiere, 1,500 people standing up at the end. Oh my God, that was one of the big moments of my career, mostly because the audience seemed to be responding to these weird thoughts I have and things I care about. So that was the biggest part of it, and then I went to bed not knowing [if we had distribution], and I woke up to congratulations.

Why did it take you 10 years to make this movie?
Writing it took forever, because [the Lipman novel] was one of the pieces of material that was better than most things, but not yet really ready to go. It's easy when the [source] novel is lousy, but there were characters in [this] novel that I ''loved'', but I had to execute and replace them. And the character has no wish for a baby in the novel, so it took me a long time to get there, to figure out what the movie was about. That took an embarrassingly long period of time, and then it took forever to finance it. And there were a couple of years that I acted in a lot of films. But this movie just walked along next to me and kept my attention.

Did you always know you'd star in it?
No. That was the toughest decision I made for the entire time. I just thought it was every actor's rookie mistake, to put themselves in their movie, but I hadn't seen myself play this part. And I also needed someone who would work 24 hours a day, who would change their clothes in the street, would go to Bette Midler's apartment when she snapped her fingers to rehearse. I had no money, so I was like a desperate woman, and the one thing I could control was the lead actress — I could make her do whatever I said.

NEXT PAGE: ''If I read a movie that's pretty good, that in my 20s I would've said, ''Yeah, I'll jump on a plane and go to Utah for three months,'' it's just not the same now.''

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