For all the accolades that have been bestowed on “CODA” this awards season, writer-director Sian Heder and her cast give full credit to the pre-shooting preparations – including two weeks spent on fishing boats in Gloucester, Massachusetts, learning the ropes with grizzled fishermen.
“We literally went to sea together before we started filming,” Heder said during TheWrap’s Awards Screening Series panel on Thursday, where she was joined by SAG Award-winning actors Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant. .
“The way Troy, Daniel and Emilia introduced themselves was to work together. OK, let’s see how to tie that knot and pull that net, sort that stuff out,” Heder told TheWrap. “We were all going back to shore and it felt like we were going through something major. And it was a first intense bonding experience.
Once the cameras started rolling, an armada of small tankers and speedboats followed their ship and tried to transfer the cameras and crew jumping between the boats as five-foot waves crashed around them . It was not easy.
“I suspect Sian was smart because it was a way to reunite us while being stuck out at sea on the boat. We had no place to escape to, no escape route,” added Kotsur, who is a nominee. Oscars for Best Supporting Actor “We grew up together that way, so good, Sian.”
Jones recalls Kotsur making jokes or dropping an ice cover in the water, causing the film’s speedboat crew to circle around to retrieve it, while Heder recalls Jones giving her on-screen brother “s—” about not being able to tie a knot, just like a sister. could. Durant and Kotsur had to learn to sign while wearing massive fishing gloves and figure out how a deaf family in that situation would develop their own shorthand ASL. Kotsur also learned an important lesson about one of the worst superstitions from his fishing mentors.
“Never bring a banana on board,” he said. “I was chewing it, he grabbed it out of my hand and said, ‘Troy! Never bring a banana on board. It will bring us bad luck.
But most of all, Kotsur, Jones, and Durant had to prove to the fishermen — and to themselves — that they could actually cut it on a fishing boat, and Jones didn’t disappoint when she learned how to gut a fish. “Emilia didn’t bat an eyelid, she grabbed the fish, cut off the head, threw the guts over her shoulder,” Heder said. “I remember these hardcore anglers in Gloucester looking at me and saying, ‘That girl is a badass! Where did you find that person? She’s completely fearless.
Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, meanwhile, joked that she was lucky enough to sleep during the boat trips, but she really embraced being a mom and regularly cooked meals for her family. on the screen. “CODA” is the story of a deaf family and their child of deaf adults who aspires to become a singer in their school choir, but the film has a universal quality that has connected with families around the world, partly because of the bond that unites all the actors. shape.
“I was a little nervous to meet Marlee, Troy and Daniel, because I was very aware that this story is very much dependent on this family and their relationship, and I learned ASL, but I still had a lot to learn,” Jones said. “[Daniel] was always ready to give and help me. Troy was telling me stories and I had to pick things up and then I got them. And Marlee was like a mother figure. She always cooked for all of us at the weekend… They are all lovely people and so easy to be around. It was lucky, but we also hung out a lot and we knew how important it was to have that connection and bond.
Durant has spoken highly of his on-screen family. “Emilia, she has such an open heart. She was so ready to learn the signs, to learn our culture, and Troy, he’s such a great teacher, he was making ASL jokes to her, she was laughing and learning, and she learned ASL so quickly.” , did he declare. “Marlee took over the house and she cooked for us, and I just want you to know, she’s an amazing cook, I always miss your cooking Marlee.”
“CODA” has had a remarkable journey since Sundance 2021 when it won four of Sundance’s Best Awards, and it has now culminated more than a year later with three Oscar nominations and a win for Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. .
Matlin, of course, is the only person who’s ever been on this journey, having won his Oscar for “Children of a Lesser God” over 30 years ago. But she admits it’s still “pretty rare” for a cast like this to be so close and connected through it all. “Each person here had their own moments, and it all comes together in this nice little package,” Matlin said. “You can’t ask for anything better than this, and at the end of the day, it was a labor of love.”
Watch TheWrap’s Full Conversation with the Cast and Director of ‘CODA’ here.