The premise of Palm Springs isn't wholly original: it's a time-loop movie, set at a wedding. But while the premise might feel familiar, the direction the movie goes, the relationships between the characters and the dark humour laced through are surprisingly, and refreshingly, unique.
Ahead of the movie’s in the UK, Digital Spy caught up with Palm Springs’ stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti to talk about what drew them to the story, how they built their characters, and more.
Sarah has her own stamina throughout the film, and isn't just being led along by Nyles. How much of that did you envision for yourself in this role, and how much of that was already on the page?
Cristin Milioti: That was one of the things that excited me when I first read it. It's something I've really been trying to focus on in the last couple of years: I don't want to play the accessory to a man's story. Sarah really struck me as a full-blooded human. Also, she wasn't leaning into the trope that has now become a thing of this Strong Female Lead, that sort of, at its centre, is a bit hollow.
She was a human. And that's all I've ever wanted to play. And I think the things she goes through are all quite specific to her. I certainly related to them when I read it; so much of that was on the page.
I think that one of the things that is very affecting with Sarah, that I felt when I read it, was that she refuses to take responsibility. She is always the victim. That was something that I found very moving. I was excited to explore it.
You empathise with Nyles too; how much of his development was already there for you, and what did you bring?
Andy Samberg: When I came onto the movie, you know, I worked with the writer, Andy Siara, a lot to bring certain moments more into my wheelhouse. And then Cristin and I together, especially in terms of the way they interact with each other, which was so important for the movie working – we worked that stuff out together as well to make sure that it felt like…
You know, the whole sell is: they genuinely enjoy each other's company, and are having fun together. That is a really hard thing, sometimes, to create. In my experience, if you're trying to convince an audience that there's a couple that enjoys each other's company, it really tends to help if they do enjoy each other's company.
Especially when you're stuck in a time loop with that person.
AS: Exactly, exactly. And you want them to— you're rooting for them, hopefully, to take that leap at the end, and it has to feel real for anyone to really actually care. I think the answer is sort of all of the above. And along the way, we kept pushing that forward, and hopefully, it works.
We enjoyed that it's never really explained how the time loop works because the characters don't know either. But did you ever want to know?
CM: There used to be a scene where I explain everything. It was a pages-long monologue about the physics of it. They consulted with an actual quantum physics professor. He's in the movie
There was a two-page monologue of me explaining exactly what the time loop was, how we got stuck in it, and how we possibly were going to get out of it. It was an actual, thoroughly researched theory for it.
Andy told me later when they were doing friends and family screenings to get notes on it, people said that by that point they didn't care. They were like, "It's beyond that." You're so invested in the feeling of the film and these people that it sort of becomes superfluous.
What was the most challenging moment for you as Nyles? What was hardest for you to tap into with him?
AS: I'm not sure. I think, just from a performance perspective, I haven't done a tonne of being angry on camera. I certainly get angry in my own life. I've worked a lot in comedy, so oftentimes when I've tried to stretch into that realm, it doesn't really play, and I feel abrasive.
It's not like I'm some rager in this movie, but even in the moments where it's slightly heated, that was something I was apprehensive about, and we toyed a lot with the levels and the tone of that. I think eventually we got it to a place that everyone was happy with.
Is that something you want to explore more in other roles?
AS: I mean, just generally doing more dramatic acting is exciting and interesting to me. It's just like with comedy where I love comedy, but there's a million comedies that I wouldn't want to do because I don't think I'm right for them. It's no different with drama. I'm always just looking for a part, or trying to create a part, that I feel like I actually connect with and can pull off.
Do you feel like you're in a position where you can be picky about those roles now?
AS: I would say at this moment, I can, yeah.
Something I've been trying to do a lot more of, and that I've been really lucky to be able to do, is drive my own projects more. A big part of being able to do that is producing, which comes with a tonne of extra work, but it allows me to feel a lot more of a safety net.
But I sort of have the same approach no matter what the genre is. It has to be something I would want to watch, and that I don't think I would not want to see myself in.
Obviously now there are themes in Palm Spring that resonate with lockdown, but that wasn't on your minds when you were making the film. What were those themes?
CM: One of the things that Andy Siara said in an interview was that this film for him was always an allegory for depression.
I felt like that when I read it. I think at one point or another, all of us have experienced the overwhelming urge to escape ourselves. That's why there are bars [laughs]. That's why there are any number of things that allow us to escape ourselves. That's why there's so much content. Well, there's all this stuff.
And I do think that, yeah, when you get in these loops, you tell yourself these storylines about yourself over and over and over and over. And they become your reality.
Not only does she have to physically break free, she has to mentally break free as well.
It was shot over a very short span of time; was there anything in particular that that pressure-cooker type situation led to that was unexpected or exciting?
CM: This movie felt like being shot out of a cannon. I think that a little bit of that energy made its way into the final cut, too. You can kind of tell. It felt full throttle every day, and that movie is full throttle.
I think that it made me trust myself more than I usually do. You've done the work. And you know all the things. And you know this character. You have to get out of your own way.
You know, listen, I was able to do that to varying degrees of success. I would say that that was one of the positive takes.
Did you have a lot of time before you started filming to prepare who Sarah was beyond what was on the page?
CM: I believe I had two-and-a-half months. So yes. I did a tonne of prep work on my own, and then we had five days of dance rehearsals and discussions about certain scenes. But we never put them on their feet. The four of us sat and really chewed on each of these bigger scenes. And then it was time to start.
We were very collaborative as a group. I really wanted to make sure that [Sarah’s] pain and shame were honoured. I felt that if that wasn't grounded, it would be too wink-y at the audience. Do you know what I mean? You have to really feel for this woman, and understand how she got trapped in the worst day of her life.
It is a unique story in part because of its characters, that's built on a familiar premise.
CM: I felt the same way, you know, when I read it. I had never read anything like it. I was familiar with the sort of mechanism of a time loop, but it felt really singular to me. It really kept me on my toes. Every time there was a twist in it, I would never have seen it coming. I loved it.
Palm Springs is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from April 9
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