Julia Louis-Dreyfus is an icon. If you do a quick look at her IMDb, her credits really speak for themselves. In fact, over the course of her TV career, she's earned eight Emmy Awards, tying Cloris Leachman for the most acting Primetime Emmy wins of all time. From Elaine on Seinfeld to Christine on The New Adventures of Old Christine to her more-recent turn as Selina Meyer on Veep, there isn't a corner of comedy she hasn't left her mark on.
Most recently, she's joined the biggest movie franchise in the world, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a role she describes as something she loves to "sink [her] teeth into." Now, Julia's re-teamed with the incredible writer-director Nicole Holofcener on You Hurt My Feelings, a movie about what happens when the little lies we tell the people we love finally catch up to us. It paints a hilarious and honest look at marriage and family, and is already earning critical praise after its premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
So, to celebrate You Hurt My Feelings, Julia sat down with BuzzFeed to discuss bringing this movie to life. She shared her favorite behind-the-scenes memories of working with Tobias Menzies and reuniting with Michaela Watkins, and we even found time to look back at some of her other iconic TV roles.
Here's everything we chatted about:
THEN: You've played a lot of iconic characters over the years, but is there one you desperately miss and would love to play again? Or are you someone who kind of boxes them up and just moves on to the next character?
I'm not gonna lie, I loved playing Selina Meyer, and I do miss her. She was such a venal person, and it was just delightful to sink my teeth into that horrible woman.
NOW: You Hurt My Feelings marks your second collaboration with director and writer Nicole Holofcener after Enough Said in 2013. How was it working with Nicole again?
Oh my god. It was like a huge, tall glass of lemonade on a really super hot day and you haven't had anything to drink all day. It was fantastic. A sorely needed reunion for both of us, I think.
How was it producing this time around as well?
It was great. I really enjoy producing the work that I'm in. Just because you can get your hands deeper in the dough, as it were. You get to really help and offer your experiences and skills to the project as a whole. I'm always delighted to be a part of that.
Like Enough Said, You Hurt My Feelings balances comedy and drama very well. How is it working on a project like this where you get to do some really funny scenes, but also more serious ones?
I mean, that's Nicole's skill set. Being able to, in her writing, straddle both the comedy and the drama. I'm drawn to that kind of writing because not a lot of people can do it as expertly, and as evenly, as Nicole can. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of it.
THEN: Obviously, Seinfeld has remained a beloved comedy series all these years later. Are you surprised it has remained such a constant topic of conversation? Especially now, Elaine has become such an icon as well.
I'm stunned at the hold this show has on people. But, looking back, I'm not surprised the hold this show has on our culture. I mean, it keeps gaining different audiences all over the place. It's amazing. It's cool to see people connect with Elaine all these years later, too. It's fun. It's like you've got a shared joke with everybody when people come up and tell you about their favorite scenes and moments.
I have to tell you. Growing up, my dad always joked that I danced like Elaine, and before I watched the show, I thought it was a very high compliment. And then I realized he was just making fun of me for YEARS.
[Laughing] That's really funny. [Laughing].
NOW: You Hurt My Feelings has such an amazing ensemble cast. What was it like casting this movie and, for starters, working with Tobias Menzies?
It was great. We put a lot of thought and care into the casting process. Tobias is, obviously, an incredibly talented actor and a very intelligent person, and I think that's why he seems very authentic as a therapist. It was fun with him to talk through the dynamics of all of these moments. I enjoyed it tremendously. He's gobs of fun. We had a number of good laughs on set.
Beth and Don's relationship is very important to the film, how was it working with Tobias to get their comfortable married life down and then shift their relationship?
It was very important to Tobias and myself, and Nicole, that we demonstrated a relationship that has a lot of age to it, and at the same time, is working well, without being too saccharine. That was critical to me. I wanted it to be believable. If a couple is married for, you know, 25 years, then they have a way of being together, in a relationship that is working, that's quite different than a newly married couple. We wanted to make sure to characterize that honestly. So, we worked hard on that.
It's a very human story. It almost makes it feel like a play, in a sense.
Yes! I loved it. To be honest, these are the kind of movies I like to see. I am this movie's audience. So, to be part of it was just...it felt very, sort of, correct.
THEN: In the last few years, you've joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. How has it been working with Marvel? What are you most excited for coming up?
Really fun! I'm about to start shooting Thunderbolts. I'm really looking forward to it. It's been fun, but I've been playing sort of small bits here and there in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Black Widow, and Wakanda Forever. Those were all sort of, I came in, I did my thing, and I left. So, I'm looking forward to this next project because it's a lot of material to sink my teeth into, which I'm looking forward to.
I always think about the video you shared of how they snuck you onto the set of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier under a hooded cloak.
There's so much security on these sets. People are desperate to get any information they can.
NOW: Alongside Tobias, you share most of your scenes with Michaela Watkins, who plays your sister Sarah in You Hurt My Feelings. How was it reuniting with Michaela and working with her again?
I've worked with [her] many times in my career. Our paths have crossed many times. We've always loved working with one another. Originally in the film, as it was written, Beth and Sarah were not sisters, they were just best friends. Then, when Michaela came up, Nicole said, "Why don't I just make you guys sisters because you look so much alike?" We know each other super well, and we both come from families with lots of sisters. So, we understood that very unique and special dynamic of the sister relationship.
I didn't realize how similar you looked until you were presented as sisters in this movie. Was it different playing family this time around?
We had more of an opportunity to sort of roll around in the mud with these characters, and that was a very pleasurable adventure. I hope to do it again with her. I really do think we could take these sisters on the road, as it were.
THEN: The New Adventures of Old Christine was such a funny show, but really was an underdog TV series at the time. How has it been seeing this show still be talked about today?
That show was just such a happy experience. I loved working on it. I'm so happy that people are enjoying it and finding it even as we speak today. Like you said, it seems to be finding a new fanbase. It was a show that kind of had a small following at the time, so I'm glad new people are finding it.
Looking back, do you have a favorite guest star from New Adventures of Old Christine?
There were so many great people that came to play on that show with us. I loved working with Eric McCormack. I loved working with Michaela, for god's sakes, that was just incredible. She was super funny on it.
NOW: Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes memory from filming You Hurt My Feelings?
We were on a very tight budget. For example, when we were shooting outdoors on location, we couldn't buy the street. Often, when you've got a big budget, you can afford to block off that entire street while filming. We didn't have that luxury. So, we were dodging people in NYC. I remember somebody walked through this scene and was giving us the finger. Also, I'll add, a lot of people were still wearing masks on the street when we filmed. So, we had to try and keep people wearing them out of the shot.
THEN: Have you ever taken a prop home after filming wrapped? If so, what have you taken?
I've kept a lot of wardrobe. I have a lot of wardrobe from past projects that I've kept over the years.
NOW: Since You Hurt My Feelings is such a "slice of life" type of movie, did you get to improv any moments at all? Or did you really stick to Nicole's script?
Actually, another benefit of working with Nicole is there's always room for improvisation. We did a lot of improv. If it works, then it gets folded into the picture. There's a whole scene with Jeannie Berlin and a Playbill. That was all improvised.
And finally, Jeannie Berlin is a legend. How was it working with her and having her play your mom in the movie?
Oh my god. She's just such an icon. We all felt very honored to be on a set with her. She's a consummate professional and ready to roll with whatever. She's very skilled at improvising herself, so it was just a complete gas and a half.
Do you have a favorite scene you got to do with Jeannie?
I really like the scene between me and Michaela and Jeannie, when we go to our mom's house for lunch. I feel like it had many layers to it. I liked that scene because it revealed a lot about the dynamics within their family and about the inner emotional life. It gave some insight into the inner workings of the character that I played. I think that was really a very exciting scene to play as a result.