Q&A with Mike Mills, director of ‘Beginners’

The loss of a parent is a tragic twist of fate, but it’s made even more complicated when your 70-year-old father comes out of the closet around the same time. In his new film “Beginners,” Mills takes a look back at this unusual (and true) time in his life, as well as his father’s renewed sense of life as an outspoken homosexual in his later years. Mills’ film, a humorous and emotional retelling of his and his father’s story, shows us that it is never too late to realize what you want from life and begin again.

Mills spoke with The State Press about everything from his new movie to his love of music and art.

The State Press: What’s the story behind the title of the film, “Beginners”?

Mike Mills: I was writing people letters to gain support for the movie. I was explaining to them that the movie is not an ending but a beginning. A beginning of willingness to let go and start again. It’s meant to be a positive message.

SP: What made you want to do a film about your father?

MM: I like filmmakers [who] are trying to figure something out when the stakes are high. It’s a personal story that I wanted to tell. I did not want to make it some serious film, I feel it’s a story with an uplifting tone to it.

SP: What would you say is your favorite scene in the movie? What are you most proud of?

MM: I’m very happy with how the history scenes where I compare the different generations came out. They’re adventurous scenes that no one seems to mind. I studied art in college and not film so for me that’s my own artistic touch to this film.

SP: This is your second feature film but you’ve been involved in numerous shorts, independent films and music projects. Are you interested in doing more feature-films or more independent/music oriented work?

MM: I try to do more personal projects if I can. I don’t think I could do something like western movie because I’m not immersed in that. It’d a lot easier for me to do things that come from the heart. I spent five years from start to finish on this film and it’s the hardest job I could have picked but I love it.

SP: You seem to be very involved/interested in music and especially art. Are you involved with those parts of your film as well?

MM: It’s all one big stew to me. Everything from the soundtrack, to the poster designs, it’s all one piece. I see it as different sides of the same building. It’s fun to design it; it’s like your own city. I love how dense the whole project is.

SP: You’re kind of a renaissance man with all your projects. Any other endeavors on the horizon?

MM: I have a company called “Humans” that produces a lot of posters and shirts which I’m very involved with. I still do art shows from time to time and actually just did the album cover for the new Beastie Boys album. This film, with McGregor portraying me as an album artist, got me back into that. It’s a funny thing but I still enjoy it.

SP: Is it odd seeing your own personal story played out on screen?

MM: No, not really. It is a personal film but it’s a collage of different kinds of things. When I’m watching it, I’m not thinking “Oh, that’s me and my dad up there” because it’s not. I see Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plumber acting out a story. It is so different living it than directing it. It’s a story about a real thing I’ve lived through. Being a little removed from it onscreen isn’t such a bad thing.

“Beginners,” starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plumber, will open in theaters Friday, June 3.

Reach the reporter at jgwynn@asu.edu