Lea Thompson made her name as one of the most popular and talented young Hollywood actresses of the 80s, with her performances in films such as BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) and its two sequels, JAWS 3-D (1983), ALL THE RIGHT MOVES (1983), THE WILD LIFE (1984), SPACE CAMP (1986), HOWARD THE DUCK (1986), and SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (1987). She has continued to work successfully as an actress in film and on TV (most notably as the lead in Caroline in the City and Switched at Birth), whilst also breaking out as a director of episodic television and TV movies (the Jane Doe films). This year sees the release of her feature debut as a director, the comedy drama THE YEAR OF SPECTACULAR MEN, which also sees her collaborating with her daughters Madelyn and Zoey Deutch. In the second part of my three-part interview with Lea about her career, I spoke to her about HOWARD THE DUCK, and her experiences making the TV shows Caroline in the City and Switched at Birth. 

Parts one and two

You went from one big budget Spielberg production to a big budget George Lucas production, HOWARD THE DUCK. You must have expected similar success. How did you cope with the disappointment in how it was received? 
It was devastating. But I never felt it was going to be as big as BACK TO THE FUTURE. The script just wasn't as good. I felt it was a funny script though. I always appreciate puns, and maybe its a more British style of humor. Americans either don't understand puns or just don't like them. I do feel proud to have been in the first Marvel movie and be the first Marvel Princess. I think I did a good job holding myself together.

There must have been a moment where you thought ''Man, this is surreal.'' You're singing rock songs, acting with a guy in a duck suit and you even have a love scene with the duck. 
Oh yeah, every day I thought that. Everybody knew that literally and figuratively the duck didn't work. For a great deal of filming there was a 7 year old boy in that suit. It was brutal. I felt like I was torturing a child. It was so hot in that suit. Then they got a 19 year old boy to take over.

It's a big cult movie now. Many fans love it. 
I know. They're bringing it out on Blu-ray. They don't do that unless there's an audience. I haven't seen the film in years. My kids still haven't seen it completely. They turned it off once I was in bed with the duck! I actually think it's a lovely movie about an underdog, or 'underduck', and I love the iconoclasts who like the movie.

I think Howard the Underduck would make a great title. 
Marvel are gearing up to make a Howard the Duck movie. He was in both GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies. He looks a lot better than our Howard. As Lucas has said, if we had made the film now they could have made Howard look so much better.

What was Lucas like to work with? 
He was lovely. He worked on the music when I had the rock group scenes. He was around a lot then. Singing those songs was a scary experience.

I really enjoyed your performance in Jim Hemphill's THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH. 
I really love that movie. It's magic. Sometimes that happens. It was another low-budget movie where we had all these locations that we had to figure out. I love how Jim made the film work. He made it almost like a thriller where you are on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen. You get so invested in the characters and you don't want to see them do the wrong thing. Jim has such discipline as a storyteller and a writer. It's one of the movies that I have made that I adore and I hope it continues to find its own little special audience.

What was the most challenging aspect of making it? 
There was a massive amount of dialogue. It's two people talking a lot of the time, and we would do 14-minute takes. There'd be 10 or 11 pages of dialogue every single take. Most scenes in movies are one or two pages long! It's very different kind of work. You have to rely on the acting and not on the cuts.

You've worked in two long-running shows – the sitcom CAROLINE IN THE CITY and the melodrama SWITCHED AT BIRTH. What is it like playing the same character over such a long period of time? 
Those two shows are super different animals. I did a hundred episodes of each, and they are a major part of your life, like five years. It's fun to have continuity of character. My dream now is to be part of the creative team of a show that lasts that long. It's really fun to create a story that can keep going and going and be part of a community you're used to being creative with. Sitcoms are really hard. They really require a lot of courage and concentration. It's a lot of pressure and I have respect for actors who appear in them.

How do you keep it fresh playing the same character? 
In a sitcom it's not hard to keep it fresh because there's an audience there and you barely know your lines and you're terrified of screwing up the jokes. On a drama it's a matter of being professional and staying grateful that you have a job!

It must feel like a big part of your life has ended when shows like these end. 
Yeah, it's so sad when you watch them tear down the set for the last time. The set had literally become your own living room for a long time. It's like that feeling when you move out of a house nad you look back at the empty house as you close the door. It's very bittersweet. Now I'm building a career as a director for TV where I go and do an episode and then I leave, and that's a weird feeling too. 

THE YEAR OF SPECTACULAR MEN will be released in US theaters in November 2017. 

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.

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