‘Drive-Away Dolls’: An Interview with Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan and Beanie Feldstein

From left, Geraldine Viswanathan as Marian, Margaret Qualley as Jamie and Beanie Feldstein as Sukie in director Ethan Coen's ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ a Focus Features release. (Photo: Wilson Webb/ Working Title/Focus Features)

“Drive-Away Dolls” is a fabulously queer comic thriller opening Feb. 23 in area theaters. The film, directed by Ethan Coen, who co-wrote it with his wife, Tricia Cooke, opens in Philadelphia, 1999, with a man known as “The Collector” (Pedro Pascal) being violently relieved of a briefcase that needs to be delivered to Tallahassee. 

Coincidentally, Jamie (Margaret Qualley), who has just ended things with Sukie (Beanie Feldstein), is headed to Tallahassee with her best friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan). The young women don’t know that the aforementioned briefcase (along with another questionable box) is in the trunk of the car they are delivering one-way. Moreover, Jamie is less concerned with arriving in Florida on time; her mission is to help Marian “loosen up,” as it has been several years since she last had sex with a woman. (Jamie, in contrast, has sex with a woman almost every day; hence the breakup with Sukie). 

Meanwhile, the Chief (out Philly native Colman Domingo) has two Goons (Joey Slotick and C.J. Wilson) chasing after the women and the suitcase. Suffice it to say: Sex, mayhem and comedy ensue.  

“Drive-Away Dolls” is tremendous fun with jokes, sex toys (including a dildo attached to a wall), as well as fists and bullets flying fast and furiously. PGN met with Qualley, Viswanathan and Feldstein at Tattooed Mom (where else?) to talk about their new film.

PGN: “Drive-Away Dolls” is likely to become a lesbian classic. What did you think of this film when you read it and were offered it?
MQ: I loved it. I was so excited to read it and get my hands on an Ethan Coen/Trisha Cooke script. I couldn’t be a bigger fan.

GV: When I heard there was an Ethan Coen movie going around, I thought, “Oh, my God. It’s such a dream come true.” It felt so out of the realm of possibility. The script was unique and interesting. They are such brilliant writers.

BF: We all auditioned, and it was a wild ride. My eyes were getting bigger and bigger but it is so rooted in their relationship of true love and connection and humor and populated by these Ethan and Trish characters — the goons, and the cop, and the boss — and the fact that I get to play one of those true character side roles the Coens are famous for and then this being an Ethan/Trish version of that and a lesbian hard-ass cop, I was kind of mind blown.

PGN: What can you say about the female camaraderie in the film? The women are all very supportive of each other — although Sukie, who is mad at Jamie, may be the sole exception. I also appreciated the emphasis on female pleasure. The film not only talks about that. It shows it in several scenes. Can you talk about that? 
MQ: It disheartens me the generations of women that didn’t have that or get to talk about it but here I am saying that because I’m conditioned to…

BF: It’s OK. We’re working towards something. There is progress…

MQ: It was super fucking fun.

GV: It kind of just makes you want to do movies where you are hanging out with girls all the time.

MQ: A thousand percent! It was such a good vibe. It was just a good hang.

BF: That’s kind of all I like. That’s my main joy.

GV: The men in the movie are all fumbling fools.

MQ: All the good parts are girls!

PGN: As they should be!
You said it!

From left, Margaret Qualley as Jamie and Geraldine Viswanathan as Marian in director Ethan Coen’s ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ a Focus Features release. (Photo: Working Title/Focus Features)

PGN: Geraldine and Margaret, can you talk about finding your characters through the way they speak and dress. It is very amusing to see how they express themselves verbally and visually. I found Jamie sultry and irresistible, and I loved Geraldine’s reaction to a guy who says, “Anyhoo….”
MQ: For me, I am a straight girl in life so when I check out another woman, it’s usually a quick [makes noise] — you look up and down to see what the girl is wearing. It was fun to luxuriate in it. Jamie is such a hound dog at any moment in the bar. If she can creep around and catch a woman’s butt walking by, she will — which is a fun position to be in. Women don’t usually check out men that way, so to ogle is a fun thing to do. A lot of my character was figuring out ogling and enjoying ogling.

GV: [dryly] Oh my God, that is so fun.

BF: And you nailed it. 

MQ: She’s ogling…

BF: When you put your arm up on the wall…

MQ: I was going for Tom Cruise in “Magnolia”…

PGN: I would think of someone more like Barbara Stanwyck…
MQ: Yes! Let’s go with that!

PGN: What about you Geraldine? How did you find the verbal and visual clues because your character, Marian, is rather — well — uptight. 
GV: In the script, she is written as “zipped up.” The costume really helped with that. She’s buttoned up to the very top in the first outfit in the bar watching Jamie on stage. Couldn’t be more conservative. That helped inform the character. 

PGN: She gets looser…
GV: The costumes track that after she gets laid. She’s suddenly in a sundress.

PGN: The language is also so precise. I love how she tangles with all the characters…
GV: She has a deep appreciation for literature and words. She is old school. Not a lot of young women turn to Henry James’ “The Europeans.”

PGN: Did you read it?
GV: Some of it. It’s a big book. I would listen to it on audio. 

BF: She prayed to the God of Henry James.

GV: I would have needed a year to finish the book.

BF: The Gods were kind.

GV: Have you read it? 

PGN: No, but I have read Henry James. Beanie, can you talk about your action scenes? You are badass.
BF: It was amazing. Our stunt coordinator was a woman of my height, and her assistant was a six-five big, built guy. It was perfect. They would show us what to do and we would emulate it. It was amazing to be led by a female stunt coordinator. It’s not that common. It was fun to be taken seriously, and Suki is really taken seriously — people are scared of her in some ways. That was a real empowering moment for me. C.J. [Wilson] was wearing a contraption so I could actually kick him. It was really practical; we were actually doing it which made it all the more visceral and fun, which was something I’d never done before. 

Beanie Feldstein stars as "Sukie" in director Ethan Coen's ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ a Focus Features release. (Photo: Wilson Webb/Working Title/Focus Features)
Beanie Feldstein stars as “Sukie” in director Ethan Coen’s ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ a Focus Features release. (Photo: Wilson Webb/Working Title/Focus Features)

PGN: Can you each tell me about a road trip mishap you’ve had? 
MQ: I rented an RV with some friends in Los Angeles, and we drove to Montana. It took two days to get there, and three days on the return. We ran into some moose. I was driving on the way home and there were sirens behind me, and I realize I don’t have my license on me. My dear friend, who is a model, was in the passenger’s seat and she swoops under me and takes my seat. She took all the blame and because she did the right thing, the Gods were kind to her. When she opened the RV door, the cops were taken aback. She had the boobs out, and her blond hair, she was stunning. She is British. The cops were all hubbada hubbada hubbada. She was, “I’m so sorry, was I speeding?” and they were like, “No, it’s fine actually.” She carried on the driving, and I sat there stunned. She was such a good friend!

GV: Oh my gosh, how am I going to top that?

PGN: Make it up!
GV: I could make it up! I was driving cross country — and it was crazy!!!… No. Actually, I feel very Marian about this. I was on a holiday in Hawaii, with my friends, and we did that drive through the mountains in Maui. I was so carsick in the back seat while they were having a blast in the front. That’s all I can think of…

MQ: “One time, I got carsick…” is your story?

GV: That’s Marian!

BF: My wife and I were invited to the Hanukkah Party at the — this sounds so stupid and silly — The White House. We drive from New York to Washington, and literally as we cross from Maryland into DC proper, she turns to me and says, “I don’t have my passport with me!” She’s not American. They wouldn’t let her into the White House because she only had her British driver’s license, and the Secret Service “Didn’t feel comfortable with that.” My wife came up with a whole song about how the Secret Service is uncomfortable with her, and we sing it to this day. That was our road trip mishap.

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