On paper, the life of sixtysomething Doris seems quite tragic. Her mom just died and she continues to live in their Staten Island house that’s full of crap with sentimental value. She has an unrequited crush on her thirtysomething co-worker. She’s out of place in her career, where her desk job is really a result of the current company keeping leftovers from the old regime. But despite these setbacks she remains as hopeful and delusional as possible. In Michael Showalter’s feature, Hello, My Name Is Doris, co-written with Laura Terruso and based on Terruso’s original short, Sally Field plays Doris. We witness her romantic fantasies about her newest co-worker John (Max Greenfield), her envy toward his girlfriend Brooklyn (Beth Behr), her infiltration into the world of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and her romantic ambitions to do whatever it takes to be closer to John.
I met with Michael Showalter, Max Greenfield, and Beth Behr to talk about the creation of Doris, filming with Sally Field, and what the films has to say about love and the generational divide.
The Evolution of Doris
Michael Showalter: In the short, essentially, she is kind of a kooky older woman who falls in love with a 19-year-old intern. She has some of the mischievous qualities, some of the contradictory behavior — she’s this old lady who does mischievous stuff and is sort of unpredictable. That’s what attracted me to her as a character to write a movie about.
Max Greenfield: As time progressed the movie really started changing shape and I think as [Showalter] got closer and closer to sending it to Sally the tone of the film really changed. I want to say the right word would be matured and a lot of the obvious written jokes had found their way out of the script. It became this really natural progression of this woman’s life and her relationship to [my character] John and her relationship to her family.
Showalter: We added the hoarding, we added the intense costumery, the fashionista quality of her, the brother-in-law, the mother dying, the whole hipster thing, the whole idea that she becomes this Emperor’s New Clothes figure within the hipster subculture. We took the tiny little seed of this archetypal character and what would happen to her if she fell in love with someone younger.
Greenfield: Michael’s tone is always so specific and wonderful and different. Then Sally came out and did what she did with it and you’re like, oh okay, this is cool, this is something I have not seen before that is different and it feels fresh in a way.
Showalter: I had always thought of [Doris] as some combination of the Edie character from Grey Gardens and Iris Apfel. Those were my two strongest images in my mind of how I imagined her. And I’d say the difference between those two characters is what you see in Doris. Edie is just wearing clothes, it’s like she’s wearing a Dior shirt and then some sweatpants. There’s no logic to it. Iris Apfel, it’s all curated fashion, it’s all very thought out. So Doris is in-between that.
Beth Behr: There is a little bit of parallel between [Iris Apfel] and Doris. [Apfel] said something that I thought was so refreshing, because she’s in the fashion industry, and they ask her the question, “Well what do you think of people who put on weird outfits?” and she was like, “If you’re happy and you feel beautiful I think every outfit is stunning no matter if I would wear it or not.” If you are who you are and you know who you are and you know what makes you happy then I don’t think age is an obstacle.
Showalter: I do think that Doris, in the movie, is very much how I hoped that she would look. It’s like cool but it’s old, it’s not granny but it’s antique feeling and yet wanting to feel chic in its own way.