Crazed raccoons run amok in Seattle — at least at the movies
An interview with Jacob Aaron Estes, who wrote and directed "The Details," a filmed-in-Seattle comedy based on his experiences with raccoons in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
Special to The Seattle Times
'The Details'Opens Friday, Nov. 9, and also available now through on-demand cable. Rated R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief violence. For a review, pick up the Nov. 9 MovieTimes or, on Nov. 8, go to www.seattletimes.com/movies.
"I think every homeowner in America has raccoon issues in their lives. They're everywhere."
So claims Jacob Aaron Estes, who wrote and directed "The Details," a filmed-in-Seattle movie based on his experiences with the tricky creatures in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
But he hesitates to call the edgy comedy strictly autobiographical.
"My main character (a porn-addicted obstetrician played by Tobey Maguire) does horrible things I've never done and never plan to do," said Estes, when he brought the movie to the Seattle International Film Festival a few months ago.
"But I did have a neighbor who was a little odd (Laura Linney signed up for the role), and ... I did have raccoons in my backyard, tearing up my sod."
The situation inspired Estes to turn philosophical in the script he was preparing.
"I started thinking about the little things I had done in my life, or that I had observed other adults doing in their lives that were weird or funny," he said. "I tried to be as honest as I could be about how bizarre adult life can be."
Estes chose to set his story in Seattle because of its Everycity vibe. As producer Hagai Shaham said during the 2009 filming in the Montlake neighborhood, Seattle is "like America, it's not New York, it's not Los Angeles." A number of locals were hired as crew members.
Filming did not go entirely smoothly, however. The production rented a Montlake house to use as a set, damaged it in the course of filming — and then ran into financial problems before it could be fixed back up. For some weeks, the local owner of the home was left in limbo.
But in true Hollywood fashion, obstacles were overcome, and work on the movie continued — with a shipment of trained raccoons brought up from California. Relations between the filmmakers and the homeowner were patched up, as was the house.
"The Details" isn't Estes' first film. His 2004 debut, "Mean Creek," won the John Cassavetes award at the Sundance Film Festival, but it was a tough sell.
"I wrote it when I was pretty young — 24 — and right after Columbine happened. It was an R-rated movie about a kid killed by another kid, and it had all these challenges in the marketplace."
He ran into other kinds of problems with a different project about a philanthropist who gave away his organs to save people.
"True story," said Estes. "And we were stymied by the man's wife, who didn't want the movie to be made." He estimates he spent two-and-a-half years on the script before giving up.
"Finally, I just sat down and wrote 'The Details.' Actors responded to the material and wanted to be part of it. If it hadn't been for that (positive response), it would have been a much-harder movie to make."
Maguire was Estes' first choice, but delays initially made that option impossible. "James McAvoy was supposed to do it, but then he was unavailable when the picture started, and Tobey was interested in trying it again."
In addition to Montlake, filming in the Northwest included stops in Redmond, Kirkland and a Lake Union boat party. After shooting was completed, Estes spent nearly a year in the editing room. He also worked with a famous collaborator.
"There were things about how to resolve this movie that were challenging for me and my collaborators. Harvey Weinstein bought it at Sundance 2011, and then we spent some time together thinking about whether we could improve it."
The movie opens here on Nov. 2 and is already available on demand.
John Hartl: email@example.com
The Seattle opening date of "The Details" is now Nov. 9. The date changed after this article was originally published.