Whit Stillman has done a barrage of press for his new comedy Damsels in Distress, and while he was pretty tame when speaking with BlackBook (he only called out the New York theater audiences for their despicable and rude tendencies to cheer and clap during Broadway musicals), it seems he rifled some feathers last week and alienated some old and new friends. In an interview with Gothamist that ran on Thursday, Stillman was pretty blunt when it came to the other current press darling, Lena Dunham, who tapped one of Stillman’s regulars, Chris Eigeman, for a small part in her new HBO comedy, Girls.
When asked why Eigeman wasn’t featured in the film, Stillman replied that Eigeman turned down the part seemingly either because it was too small or that he was taking a break from acting. But when Stillman discovered that Eigeman was going to be on Girls, he took offense (especially since Dunham had also turned down a role in Damsels in lieu of her HBO show).
Well that’s one of the things he told me, that he was feeling really bad about acting, he was really down on acting. He’s been trying to get a film off the ground. But then I see that the other person who no-showed on my production was that Lena Dunham girl. She then cast him in her TV show so the two people who no-showed to our film are collaborating together, acting. What ingrates and traitors.
The stars aligned last week, bringing Stillman, Dunham, and Eigeman together for a screening of Stillman’s brilliant Last Days of Disco at a Dunham-curated week of female-fronted films at BAM. Gothamist reports that things were clearly heated at the Q&A following the film when Dunham openly admitted that there was tension between the trio. (She tweeted later that evening, "Sh%t got pretty real…") Eigeman followed up with Gothamist on Friday, filling them in on what really went down:
"I’m not a big fan of having my loyalty called into question," Eigeman says, "Particularly by Whit Stillman, whom clearly I have been deeply loyal to." According to Eigeman, both he and Dunham confronted Stillman and asked if he was joking when he called them ingrates and traitors, and Stillman said "I’m not joking."
The Playlist was also in attendence on Thursday night, and details the interaction between Dunham and Stillman:
Dunham responded by reciting from memory a bruised letter she’d received from Stillman at the time and had since framed. “How could you decline to be in my film which will be seen worldwide for decades to come in exchange for the utter ephemera of a TV pilot?” The pilot in question was Dunham’s own series in which she is the star as well as writer and director of many of the episodes, which had forced her to pass on Damsels. Stillman’s deadpan demeanor made it difficult to gauge the degree in which he was only joking but he closed the sore subject by saying, “these people are great talents and I hope to work with them someday.”
Rich white people fighting at BAM! (That’s probably not an uncommon occurrence, actually.) It seems like the three have made up, which is a blessing if only because it’d be nice to see Eigeman show up in Stillman’s next feature as another insufferable, pompous preppy. You know, if Stillman manages to get it made sometime in the next decade!
Photo by Instagram user curleyburly, via Gothamist.