Even before she reads the script for her new movie Tammy always diesAmy Jo Johnson was very familiar with the protagonist.
The Toronto-born actress became a filmmaker and directed the comedy drama starring Felicity Huffman as a self-destructive alcoholic mother and Canadian actress Anastasia Phillips as her angry daughter in a working class in Hamilton.
"I grew up in a very similar situation to the movie, and my dad was a dysfunctional alcoholic at the time," said Johnson, whose cast also includes honor Flash point. bliss and the Power Rangers Franchise (she was the pink power ranger).
"He's Tammy, so I connected to this script on a kernel level."
Tammy always dies Kathy, who made her world premiere on Thursday at the Toronto International Film Festival, follows her as she constantly rescues her mother while engaging in her own drama.
When Tammy drinks too much, Kathy goes with her to the local diner to sober up. When Tammy often stands on the edge of her church's main bridge, halfheartedly threatening to jump off, Kathy is there to persuade her.
And when Tammy is diagnosed with cancer, Kathy is back for her. That is, until Kathy is offered the opportunity to sensationalize her life story for money on a TV tabloid talk show.
Joanne Sarazen has written the film, which addresses issues of addiction, mental health, interdependence, how society deals with people in poverty and the transition from a difficult relationship.
"In the last two years, I've really figured out how to let go because I can not change it and how I can still love it from a distance, but not be in the middle of it or directly influence me." Johnson told of her father, who also suffers from depression and lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she grew up.
"That took a long time. I really do not mind talking about it because I found my way into the door to find out and tell the story and find the absurd humor in it. "
Johnson's father, who is in his 70s and arrives home by phone, confirms he is struggling with alcohol.
Johnson had another tragic emotional connection to the film's script: her own mother died from cancer almost 20 years ago.
"That was another reason I had in the door (to the screenplay) just watching your mother die, basically getting sick," Johnson said.
After her mother's death, Johnson's father had to raise her.
"He was a functioning alcoholic for most of his life, and after my mother's death, he got out of control," she said.
This is Johnson's second directorial work after 2017 The place between, In the same year, she came to the new project after watching Sarazen read the script in an authoring lab at the Canadian Film Center, where Johnson studied directing.
"I just remember sitting there watching it hysterically and laughing," Johnson said. "It was just such an absurd, nice, funny, sad screenplay. When it was done, I was so moved to the core.
"I went outside and Joanne was out there and it's so silly, but I just hugged her and cried," I understand. I totally understand that. "
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But Johnson said she did not have the courage to ask Sarazen if she could direct it.
"I did not even want to touch it, it was so good," she said. "But I could not let it go for two or three months."
She sent the script to Jessica Adams, who produced her first feature film. Adams said to her, "This is your next project."
They shot the film in 19 days in Hamilton last November, with Sarazen providing support on the set.
Huffman "showed 150 percent character," Johnson said, noting that the American actress absorbed the Canadian accent by listening to voice recordings of the girlfriend of the director's mother, who lives in Niagara Falls, Ont.
"She had all her teeth yellowed and her shades of gray grown," Johnson said. "Tammy is an intimidating human being, so I feel like I did not really meet Felicity until the end of our dinner and thought, 'Oh, that's a really nice, cool woman! Because this lady on the set was scary! "
Huffman is one of several parents who recently pleaded guilty to participating in a university admissions bribery program south of the border. Asked if the news is affecting the commercialization of her film, Johnson said she was grateful for Huffman's "wonderful" performance and added, "We're all human and all make our own mistakes, I can not judge."
The cast of Tammy always dies These include Clark Johnson, Aaron Ashmore, Kristian Bruun and Jessica Greco.
Johnson plans to further explore her relationship with her parents in her next feature film, the comedy drama "Crazier Than You," in which she will also perform as her mother. She wrote the first draft in 2012 and just finished her second round.
The story will focus on her parents' "crazy relationship" as her mother joined a religious cult for 12 years and how she freed herself from it.
"Any project I would like to do at this point in my life, I would like to accept the sad topics," Johnson said, "the hard things we have to go through to find the humor in them, and only human, honest tell stories that people can identify with, maybe to laugh a bit about the pain. "