Writer-director Trent Cooper crafted a film in Father of Invention that was close to his heart. Cooper tells us in our exclusive interview, that as a father himself, he was drawn to a story of a man who did everything he could to provide for his daughter, even if it was at the sacrifice of actual time with the family.
Kevin Spacey plays an inventor in Father of Invention who has reaped millions off of his inventions and unmatched work ethic. The only thing is that he is never home and available mentally when he is home for his daughter. The movie’s story begins as Spacey’s character is getting out of jail. It seems that one of his inventions hurt thousands of people and he had to pay the price of eight years in prison.
When he gets out, he finds his wife has divorced him and taken all his money. He soon realizes his only hope for a rebound lies in the adult daughter he never knew as a child.
Cooper was beside himself to work with a legend in Spacey, a man he calls “a mentor.” The Oscar winner is just one of an amazing cast in Father of Invention that Cooper scored including Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen, Heather Graham, Camilla Belle, Johnny Knoxville and John Stamos.
Movie Fanatic: As the writer-director, the creative force behind Father of Invention, when you got those yeses by that astounding cast, were you a little beside yourself?
Trent Cooper: [Laughs] I know, right! That is a great way to put it. It’s the greatest day of your life. We only offer it to people we’re a fan of. It’s the greatest day, but then immediately you’re like, “OK, now I've got to elevate my game. I got to be ready for this." So the excitement is followed by a tiny bit of pee in your pants [laughs]. But, you get it together and you go to work. But, I think that’s what this business is.
Movie Fanatic: In that way -- if having that talent in front of you causes you to raise your game -- is the whole process an experience in learning and growing as a filmmaker?
Trent Cooper: Yes, it is. I think Kevin, specifically, was a great mentor of mine. I was open to learn on this film. He was happy to share some of the great gifts he has with storytelling. It was a lot of 22 hour days. We worked super hard and I loved the concept -- I’m about to do it again -- of sneaking away and making a film in 22 to 25 days, under the radar, not a big flashy Hollywood type thing. Let’s just go tell a cool story. I love classical filmmaking. I’m very inspired by the Billy Wilders and Frank Capras of the world -- simple, clear stories about something that pure and meaningful. In this case, we got one of the greatest actors alive and immediately other people want to come play. We all checked egos at the door and went and had fun. We experimented a lot.
Movie Fanatic: Speaking of Spacey, the guy is an Oscar winner. One of our generation’s, if not all-time, greatest actors, and some of those opening moments of Father of Invention, he’s looking pretty haggard. Did you feel like you were putting a few kinks in that man’s armor?
Trent Cooper: [Laughs] That’s such a great question! Yeah, look, he’s game for everything. That’s what's so great about him. The whole reason he wanted to do the role is because he’s never done anything like it. He likes to push himself and do things differently. He’s not afraid to be exposed. I don’t know that anyone knows this about him. But, he comes from roots that are specifically stand-up comedy. He used to do stand-up as a young dude. He handles physical comedy really well. It was a joy to watch that. One of the things he and I share and have in common is a love for old silent movies. He’s a big Buster Keaton fan. You can see certain spots in this movie, [where] he’s totally channeling Buster. Buster used to let all this chaos happen around him. He would just stand perfectly still in the middle of it and just breathe. We do that a couple times in this movie and Kevin’s a throwback in that way.
Movie Fanatic: Where did this story come from?
Trent Cooper: Well, the original story was written by one of the producers, Jonathan Cain. It was written in the mid 1990s. It’s a great story that never got its chance. He got re-inspired to get this movie made. He brought in a bunch of writer-director types and I was lucky enough to win the job. I went away and did a re-write and put my stamp on it and made it mine. And what happened is what happens in indie film that you hope for, everybody starts talking about your script. Suddenly, you hit that vacuum. I’m not making movies that actors make money on; they don’t get paid a lot. They have to love the script. The script spoke to a lot of people.
Movie Fanatic: Before you put your stamp on it, what was it about the core story that spoke to you?
Trent Cooper: It’s something I deal with every day. You’re supposed to be passionate about what you do and what you love. You’re supposed to give it your all. It’s so hard to do. You put everything you have into it. And God help you if you’re successful [laughs]. Even on the way, how do you have enough time to stay connected to what’s really important? Your kids, your wife. I feel like it’s a battle, a daily battle, and it’s something that is constant -- finding that balance. How do you follow your dreams without having the other side of your life getting a little empty? It’s a theme that’s in almost every script I’ve ever written.