“In a world connected by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Miley Cyrus stars as a teen girl navigating through the peer pressures of high school romance and friendship, while dodging her protective mother (Demi Moore) in Lionsgate’s LOL.
An authentic story that perfectly captures coming of age in today’s digital world, LOL is a remake of the hugely popular 2008 French film LOL (Laughing Out Loud)®. Starting a new year of high school, Lola (Cyrus), (or “Lol,” as her friends call her), works to find the right balance between family, school, friends and romance. Broken-hearted by her ex, Lol’s world is soon turned upside down when she is surprised to find her best friend, Kyle (Douglas Booth), a musician in an up and coming rock band, could possibly be the love of her life. In her quest towards independence, self-identity and young adulthood, Lol discovers that while Facebook “status” is easy to change; true relationships are worth the effort.” —Official Lionsgate Synopsis
Check out a detailed interview about the film’s development, casting, and experience with Lisa Azuelos, the director of LOL, and some quotes from Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore about working on the film behind the cut!
LOL: The Origin Story
Lisa Azuelos both wrote and directed the first incarnation, LOL (Laughing Out Loud)®, the French film starring Sophie Marceau, after realizing that movies based on teen life in her home country of France were almost entirely missing.
She remembers a film in the ‘80s called La Boum (The Boom), which was basically The Breakfast Club of her generation, also starring Sophie Marceau. She describes it as a huge generation movie that young people were able to identify with during her time. Much to her dismay, she could not find a movie that the current adolescent generation, such as her own daughter, could relate to in this way. She would often times see her daughter go to the theatre to watch either an American teen movie or a horror film. Her daughter was turning sixteen years old and she felt that nobody in the movie business was reaching out to this pubescent generation. “Nobody’s describing their lives. Nobody’s doing anything,” she explains as she thinks back to how no movie has been made until LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® about the generation of today.
So Azuelos set out to change that. She wanted to create the kind of original story for the adolescent set which addressed the many complexities, pitfalls, perils and dilemmas of modern youth in their quest towards independence, self-identity and adulthood.
There was one moment in particular that incited her to write the story. Her daughter was throwing her first party, a birthday party, at their home. She didn’t want her mom to be seen, so Lisa stayed behind closed doors listening to the songs that she listened to when she was sixteen. While dancing and simply enjoying herself, she suddenly was hit with the realization that she was the mother behind that door—the mother of a daughter who, herself, was dancing and enjoying herself to the songs of her own youth. “It grabbed me by my throat and I began to cry,” Azuelos explains. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, something’s happening here. I’m a mother, she’s a daughter, and things are changing. She’s not a baby anymore. What’s happening here?’ So when I’m [in] those kinds of situations, I write, and that’s it.”
Azuelos drew her principal characters from subjects close to her heart. Using her middle name, Anne, and her daughter’s middle name, Lola, Azuelos scripted a mother-daughter relationship much like her own. “It’s like they want to go away but they want you very near,” she says, as she describes the everyday teenage child. She wanted to “tell the teenagers, the daughters in particular, we know who you are.” Not only did Azuelos set out to tell the story of these teens, she also wanted to do this movie for all the mothers out there that had the same questions she did. “I was talking to a lot of parents who had teenagers and they were like, ‘What did I do wrong for my child to behave so weird? For my child to say this to me? For my child to want to go out? Not want to study? Want to have fun? I thought I was a great parent and suddenly I discover she hates me.’” Azuelos wanted to ensure them that they are not doing anything wrong and there is no need to feel guilty. “It’s just that their child is not a child anymore and that’s the process, the normal process, of saying to your mother, ‘I’m your child but I don’t want you anymore.’” She then adds, “But the funny thing is, with teenagers, you have to be there as soon as they call you.”
LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® was a massive hit in France. “Everybody who was seeing the movie, even American people, were telling me, ‘Wow, that’s so great. It’s the first time I related to a French movie that much,’” says Azuelos. Though it had a crossover appeal for American audiences, Azuelos knew that there was definitely a challenge for a French movie to be seen by the large American audience. “So I said, ‘Well then, I’m going to do the remake!’ and everybody laughed at me.” People would tell her that nobody does their own remake and that there’s no way she would make it. Regardless of these doubts, she met with Roeg Sutherland and Maha Dakhil of CAA and immediately had a great connection with them. She could see that they loved the movie and believed in it. From that moment on, it was off to a start and the American remake, LOL, found its home at Mandate Pictures.
Azuelos was really excited at the opportunity to do a remake. “It’s like my second chance,” she explains. “It’s very funny because in life, you do things and now you’re like, ‘Oh, I should have done that…’ And, well, life is done. You can’t redo something.” But for Azuelos, doing the remake was the chance to what she describes as a second life. “It’s so great because I love the French movie very much and I tried to do better because I have this second chance.”
The filmmakers at Mandate and Double Feature Films were just as excited to begin the journey with her. Producer Stacey Sher of Double Feature Films recalls her first introduction with Azuelos and how it all began. “When I first saw the French film, I fell in love with it. Michael [Shamberg] and I absolutely fell in love with it.” She continues, “We saw the film [and] we thought it would be a perfect American remake and we said to her we would love to do this but only if you direct the American version. And she said, ‘Yes,’ and we were off to the races.”
While the original was filmed in Paris, France, LOL was shot in Chicago, Illinois.. The producers decided to adjust the movie from Paris to Chicago because “Chicago is a very sophisticated city and it’s very typical of United States,” says Michael Shamberg of Double Feature Films. Sher elaborates that Chicago “is a completely cosmopolitan American city without being rarified,” in the same way Paris is in France. And given that many successful adolescent films in the U.S., including the famous John Hughes films, American Pie and Mean Girls were set in Chicago, they were confident that this location was relatable to the American audience. The film was also shot in Detroit, doubling for Chicago, which the producers felt was a very interesting city. “It’s a city undergoing great transition and we were shooting in Downtown Detroit, as opposed to Anne Arbor or any of the sort of cushy suburbs. So we were all sort of together on this island, the island in Downtown, Detroit,” Sher describes the location. And to wrap, the last few days of shoot were filmed on location in Paris, France.
Being on set was unanimously described as ‘so much fun.’ With LOL being the first feature film for many of the young cast members, Sher expresses that they brought passion, excitement and an “un-jaded quality to filmmaking that makes it always fun to be around.” For Azuelos, casting these young thespians were one of the most enjoyable moments in the making of the film. In fact, she describes the casting of a movie as the main part of her job. “When I cast a movie, I’ve done ninety-five percent of my job. After, all I have to say is ‘Action.’”
The process of casting was purely by instinct for Azuelos. “It’s very unfair,” she confesses, “because a person enters the room and I know if he’s going to do the movie or not. In one second, it’s intuitive. So I chose them by heart.” Azuelos continues, “They enter the room, I love them, and I ask them to do the movie. And when they say, ‘Yes,’ it’s great.”
Azuelos was especially ardent about casting Demi Moore as Anne, the mother. As a matter of fact, she only wanted Demi Moore. “I wouldn’t have done it with any other actress. I didn’t want to do the remake to just do the remake. I said, ‘If I do the remake, it’s Demi Moore, otherwise I’m not interested because I’ve already done the movie.’ The only person I want to see as the mother is her,” she reiterates.
However, it wasn’t until her first day of shoot that Azuelos was firmly convinced of why it had to be Moore. “The first day she arrived, she increased joy at least twice as much as I did. And she’s a joy increaser too. She loves to invite people… We’re like the same type of women.” Given that both women had gone through a divorce and experienced what it was like to raise teenage children alone, there was nothing more for Azuelos to explain for Moore to capture that character on-screen. It simply came down to the question, “How can we make so many people relate to our story?” Not only did they never argue, but the two had matching working styles. Azuelos insists that working with her was “just pure pleasure.”
Moore made a big impression on the producers. “She’s fun. She is smart. She is relentless in her pursuit of excellence and the truth and what’s best for the movie, not just for her character and she’s great fun to be around. She is inspiring to everybody. She will make any call just to help the film and she’s completely committed to telling the truth of the story, the fun of the story and the emotion of the story,” adds Shamberg. He further explains that “Demi Moore is perfect for the role of Anne because, like Sophie Marceau in the original French film, Demi was a big star when she was young and she’s a big star now and with children of her own. So the idea that she’s still attractive, actually beautiful, and has children—she’s wonderful for the part.”
Working with Miley Cyrus was just as much of a pleasure. While on set, she was always so happy and always smiling. “I’ve been so lucky because with this American version I really found the same breed of women,” Azuelos exclaims, “It’s like we’re the same blood. We like that the work goes quick, fast and clever. No doubt, no arguing, no problem. We just think of it intuitively and it’s always right. Shoot it. Let’s do it. That’s it,” she says. Cyrus was also very professional and a great example on set. She was known to always be the first one there and ready to go.(OP note: as an extra, I can attest to that. Miley was on set when they told her she didn’t have to be [this was a 15-hour day btw]. She wasn’t being filmed for most of the day, the other actors were somewhere else because they weren’t being filmed, but she mingled with the extras, interacted with the cast who was being filmed & the crew, studied her script, etc) She knew her lines, she was on top of her game, and she took her craft very seriously.
Furthermore, Cyrus impressed her director with a natural talent and an infectiously endearing personality. “I just love Miley so much,” says Azuelos. “First of all, she’s so gifted… Naturally, if she’s where she is today it’s not because she’s been lucky. It’s because she’s pure energy: heart and joy. I think that people love her for good reason. She brings love to people. And people really love her in return. I’m not sure I had it that much in the French movie, but here I have chemistry between Demi and Miley that is absolutely out of control. And I didn’t create that. The two of them act like they’ve been in the same room since Miley was born. Although Miley and Demi don’t really look alike physically, they look alike in the same room. They’re like mother and daughter. I’ve been so lucky that both of them did the movie.”
In casting the males, Azuelos found that besides physical beauty being a common denominator, each actor brought a unique element to the total picture.
Austin Nichols (Mr. Collins), who plays Wrigley High’s dreamy math teacher, was an auspicious start. Azuelos oozes that she had great looking men because “I like very much great-looking men. But they’re very different. When I first saw Austin, I cast him on the spot. It was the first day of casting and I said, ‘Wow. Who’s this guy?’ And I felt this guy was just pure light in the casting room. So I said, ‘Whatever happens, I want this guy in my movie.’ He was so cute and so nice and gentle. He was a great improv guy too. So I was really happy.” (OP note: I don’t blame her tbh all the girls on set were in luv with him. he’s v. dreamy irl)
Though the work of Thomas Jane (Allen), Anne’s ex-husband, was unfamiliar to Azuelos, she found him to be exactly what she was looking for. Azuelos confesses that since Jane’s TV show HUNG is not in France, she was unfamiliar with him as an actor. But the day she met him, she said to herself, “I want this guy in my movie.” Then she explains that she saw HUNG and thought, “Well, I’m so glad he wants to do my movie, because he’s great as the character.” For the role of Allen, he had to be “the ex-husband but still you can feel that something’s going on with Demi and him and they’re still attracted. He had to be good-looking but annoying and nice all at the same time. And Thomas has those things in him. He can be annoying and he can be the best guy and I needed both for this particular part,” Azuelos says.
For Jay Hernandez’s (James) character, a Chicago cop who becomes Anne’s love interest, Azuelos wanted someone who could play a cop, but also move deeper into the character. “He happens to be a cop but that’s not the story. He’s a man that Anne meets and at first thinks, ‘I’m not going to date a cop. I can’t do that,’” says Azuelos. Then when she saw Hernandez and Moore together, there was no doubt that they had the same energy and she knew that he was right for the part.
The rest of Lola’s gang includes Ashley Hinshaw (Emily), Lina Esco (Janice), Douglas Booth (Kyle), George Finn (Chad); Adam Sevani (Wen), Tanz Watson (Lloyd) and Ashley Greene (Ashley). This young group grew close on-set, traveling as a pack and hanging out as buddies. Sher describes how fortunate it was to have such a cast. “Movies take on the personality of what [the cast] is about. And this movie was about bonding and about community and finding—making your own family of friends. It’s such a nice group of people and such an enthusiastic group of people that just came naturally to everybody.” Shamberg adds, “We have a really good group of actors who are both real and attractive and heartbreaking so we just have a great cast.”
Leads on LOL: Anne and Lola
When Cyrus met with Azuelos at Demi Moore’s home, Cyrus said, “Before heading there I read the script and I immediately said to myself, ‘I am going in there and signing whatever contract they need me to sign. Whatever they want.’” Cyrus continues, “I read it. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with Demi. Everything about this movie touched my heart. I knew it was like the perfect thing for me. And Lisa’s amazing.”
Miley Cyrus (Lola) sees herself in her character. Her relationship with Azuelos and Moore helped to create a realistically family-like environment in which to develop. Says Cyrus, “I’ve always had a really good relationship with my mom. But it’s good when you can also have another woman in your life that you can go to and talk to, as well—one that is like a mother figure, but also just a friend with no expectations. And you can just say whatever like. That’s what Demi and Lisa are for me. On random days I’ll get a text from Demi when I may be down. And I’ll get a text like, ‘Your second mom loves you.’ And that’ll just turn your day around.”
Demi Moore (Anne) was enamored with her character, and the film as a whole, from the start. Having seen the French version, Moore had the luxury of seeing the story already told. “I fell in love with it. I thought it was magical, unique and very honest,” she says. “It has unique aspects and a level of honesty that Lisa Azuleos captured that you don’t get to see very often between a mother and a daughter on screen.”
The American version of LOL presented a challenge to the actors, to make it their own. Says Moore, “It’s a very interesting experience because you don’t want to paint a picture that’s already been painted. And yet you need not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are things that worked in the original that I think are working here, but we also needed to find the elements that were culturally honest and unique to us as Americans.”
Moore describes her character as a kind of super mom, totally committed, even if at times, also totally overwhelmed. “Anne is a recently divorced mother of three, dealing in particular with the trials and tribulations of her teenaged daughter, Lola,” says Moore. “I think that she’s an extremely present, caring mother. Very normal. And I think that a lot of people will really relate to her challenges. What’s interesting in this is that, as somebody who has been divorced for a year, she hasn’t yet found her way back to romance.”
“Both mother and daughter are each on their own path of self discovery. For the daughter (Lola), it’s her first time really discovering love. And for Anne, in an odd way it’s her first time as well. Even though she’s been married and has kids, she’s having to rediscover herself and love. That’s something that we haven’t really seen on film.”
Moore was inspired in working with Azuelos for the first time, saying, “She’s incredible. Passionate, smart, funny and deeply authentic. She’s a light that uplifts everybody every day. We are two Scorpio women with great intensity and childlike playful spirits; it was like reuniting with a kindred soul. We both share a big picture scope but gratefully, she is less of a perfectionist than I am. She helped me to let go and I made sure we didn’t let go too far!”
Moore was affectionately considered the mother on set. And the young cast loved to spend time with her. “On one hand,” she notes, “we’re dealing with professional actors and on the other, I’m looking at them as I do my own kids. There’s a feeling that someone needs to look out for, protect and take care of them. I think that’s been a role that both Lisa and I have taken. Mothering is in both our natures.”
She saw both in her character and in her own experience as a mother, the reality that relationships worth having don’t come automatically. “Being a mother of only daughters, I find that the foundation that you create from when they are young is selfishly out of a desire to want them to choose to be around you when they’re older. And it’s an ongoing effort that has to be made to have that kind of bond. A bond is something you earn. It’s not something that you can just have.”
She says that a parent’s most important job “is to help your children be good decision-makers because if they’re good decision-makers they have a foundation of trust and they know that they have a place to fall back on, and there isn’t anything that they can’t handle.”