Kieran and Michele Mulroney on Sundance, Sherlock, and Paper Man


In Paper Man, Jeff Daniels plays Richard Dunne, a washed-up novelist attempting to write a new book while working through his relationships with three important people: his dissatisfied wife (Lisa Kudrow), his life-long imaginary friend (Ryan Reynolds), and a local teenager (Emma Stone) he hires to babysit a child he does not have. The surreal story was initially created six years ago by  husband-and-wife writing team Kieran and Michele Mulroney. After a long development process, a few stints at the Sundance Institute, and a twenty-five day shoot, the film will finally be released this Friday. We spoke to the Mulroneys about their partnership, their time in Utah, and their work on the upcoming Sherlock Holmes sequel.

INTERVIEW: You did a lot of work on Paper Man through the Sundance Labs–both the Screenwriters Lab and the Directors Lab. Can you explain that process a bit?

MICHELE MULRONEY: The Screenwriters Lab is a five-day period where you are mentored by, sort of, all the great screenwriters and novelists that you can possibly dream of being mentored by. And they sit with you for hours and hours and hours and you work through your script, very, very intensively, and they give you thoughts and notes and ideas, and you just kind of workshop it.  And you go away and sort of improve and re-write, and this goes on for five days, and by the end of it, your head explodes, but you’ve really examined your screenplay in a way that you never could have on your own, so it was an incredibly valuable experience. And we were fortunate enough to be mentored by some incredibly valuable people. And then, you know, the Directors Lab is like a mini-movie studio up there. You go up to Utah for five weeks and you have a cast and a crew, and you have producers, and you have–standing behind your camera when you’re shooting scenes for your movie–Robert Redford, Ed Harris, Stanley Tucci, and the best cinematographers there are, and the best editors, and you make pieces of your movie, which you edit, you score, and then you screen up there. And then they tear you apart up there and critique you and tell you how you should have done everything.

KIERAN MULRONEY: And after that they give you a nice glass of wine and feed you and send you off to bed.

MICHELE: It’s incredible, intense, and–I sort of hate to say, because it sounds so dramatic–but sort of life-changing, in that it really makes you take a look at what you do and gives you permission to sort of take yourself a bit more seriously and dig a bit deeper and work a bit harder.

INTERVIEW: The two of you wrote this together, and you’ve done other projects together before. What’s it like working with your spouse so closely?

MICHELE: Well, we’ve been writing together for a very long time, and we have a very fluid process.  A part of that is just to keep thing interesting for us. You know, Paper Man was one where we really, truly wrote it sitting in the same room, elbow-to-elbow, every day, cranking it out, fighting over the keyboard. There are other times where we write parts of a project together, other parts of it we write separately and apart, and we swap pages and we’ll edit one another and discuss one another’s material. Over enough years of writing with one another, we’ve been able to perfect writing in the same voice, so really, truly no one ever knows who wrote which scene or who wrote which page. We don’t really make rules for ourselves, it’s just kind of whatever presents itself and makes sense to us, given whatever story we’re involved in. So, I’m actually very glad no one looks behind the curtain and sees the writing process, because it can often be pretty chaotic and things come together in very weird ways. The only rule we have is there are no rules. If one of us is inspired to write a certain sequence, go do it.  If the other person feels strongly about something, and has strong notes too, then change something.  Whoever has the most conviction or the best idea wins.

KIERAN: Which is kind of how we directed as well.

INTERVIEW: That sounds very healthy.

KIERAN: Yeah, well, sometimes when it breaks it, can be ugly!

INTERVIEW: And the two of you are currently working on the new Sherlock Holmes movie?

MICHELE & KIERAN: Yeah! We are!

INTERVIEW: How is that going?

MICHELE: Going good, it’s, um–

KIERAN: That’s a big question.

MICHELE: No, it’s going good–we’re in the script process right now. We’re working really closely with the whole team from the first movie, we’re thrilled to say. Everybody–Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey and Jude Law and everybody, are all back, and we’re just all kind of working together to get a great story going.

KIERAN: It’s going gangbusters–everybody’s hoping to get this thing into production pretty soon.

INTERVIEW: So that’s your primary project right now?

KIERAN: That’s our primary one, yeah.

MICHELE: We’ve got a couple of things going on. We’re doing something that we’re very fond of with Ron Howard–a story we’ve been working on for about five years, with Ron developing . We’re finally writing a screenplay for Ron, and we’ve got our Sherlock script and Paper Man out, so we’re very lucky!