Helen Hunt talks filmmaking in Austin

( AP ) - Helen Hunt is an Oscar winner (for "As Good As It Gets") and a four-time Emmy winner (for "Mad About You"). Now she has a new title to add to her esteemed collection: filmmaker.

Hunt directed her first feature, "Then She Found Me," which played at the South by Southwest film festival ahead of its April 25 theatrical release. She also co-wrote and stars in the romantic comedy as a New York schoolteacher whose adoptive mother dies just as her birth mother (Bette Midler) shows up out of nowhere. At the same time, her husband (Matthew Broderick) leaves her as she falls for the father (Colin Firth) of one of her students.

The 44-year-old sat down with The Associated Press in front of an audience to discuss the challenges of this new role. Some excerpts:

AP: So when we were waiting to come out here in the filmmakers' lounge, a gentleman approached you and was just effusively praising your movie. What's it like to get that kind of reaction from other filmmakers?

Hunt: It's the best compliment because they, you (to the audience), are the people who know how ridiculously hard it is to get a movie made, much less to finish it, much less to be treated like this. It takes a lot of perseverance.

AP: The movie premiered at Toronto, now it's playing here. What's the experience been like for you to take the movie to film festivals and share it with people?

Hunt: Well in Toronto, we didn't have a distributor, so after close to 10 years of trying to get it made, I thought it was ... I heard so many no's, different kinds of no's over the 10 years: polite no's, rude no's, big no's, little no's. And I thought it was possible, even probable, that it would screen in Toronto and I'd fly home and say, "I did it." And it was uncharacteristic for this movie, a Cinderella night where ThinkFilm, which for me was the dream place to have it, bought it that night at 2:30 in the morning. So this is really the fun part, to get to have other filmmakers see your movie.

AP: You had directed several episodes of "Mad About You," including the series finale. What told you back then that you wanted to be a director?

Hunt: I wasn't sure that I did. I knew that it would take a story I felt very personally connected to. Who would want that job unless you really cared about the story? That's not true - some people just want to direct. I, over the long process of rewriting this movie, became more and more married to it, created characters that were me all over the place. Then it started to be true that it would be more tiring to explain to another director what I wanted than to direct it myself. And people have asked, "What was it like to be acting and directing?" For this movie, it all felt like one thing, one big birth.

AP: Certainly you've been on film sets your whole life, but having to wear that hat, how did you know that you could do it?

Hunt: I did not (laughter). How could you know? I know as I was working on movies, many times I thought, "If I ever direct, I'm going to remember that" or "I'm not going to do that." So I certainly had a lot of different kinds of directors to think about when I was deciding how I wanted to be during these 27 days.

AP: And who influenced you?

Hunt: God, so many people. Jim Brooks - he holds a big place in my psyche about the kinds of movies that move me. Funny movies about difficult things appeal to me. That's a cocktail that works for me, and this movie is, hopefully, a funny movie about betrayal, basically. It looks like it's about adoption or it looks like it's about wanting a baby or falling in love or getting your heart broken. But for me, I had to come up with - and this is something I think I learned from Jim Brooks - that you have to have the one sentence that you hang onto when you make a movie, and everything falls in line behind that. For me it was: You can't really fall in love until you've made peace with betrayal. ...

And there are other directors who shall remain nameless that I remember feeling like, "That's a mistake." I worked with somebody once who, the camera operator - who arguably knows more than anybody - gave a suggestion and this director shot him down. And I remember, just, that's it, you don't get a second shot at getting someone from the crew to give you their point of view. You either create an environment where people feel welcome to give you their opinions or you don't. So I knew that I wanted to be prepared enough that I would be brave enough to hear people's ideas. And I did.

AP: How did you respond when people came to you with ideas?

Hunt: Just shot 'em down (laughter).

AP: As well you should ...

Hunt: It's my movie! No, as - whatever - stressed or tired as I was, I was never too stressed or tired to hear somebody's idea, 'cause I was very alone, to tell you the truth. I did not have, you know, the Coen brothers have the other Coen brother (laughter). I didn't have anybody. I was just me, hoping this all made sense.

AP: I'm glad that you mentioned Jim Brooks because there are a lot of lines and a lot of the tone in your film that reminded me of "As Good As It Gets," in terms of a really poignant moment that's also sweet but doesn't go all the way into maudlin. How do you achieve that?

Hunt: I mean, that's writing and then hiring good actors, and if you're making a movie that's funny, there's just an ear. People either have an ear to do eight pages of rapid-fire dialogue or they don't and (Midler) just has the best ear of anybody.

AP: It's a very interesting cast, though, besides Bette Midler. I love that you chose Salman Rushdie as your gynecologist. Where did that come from?

Hunt: He really is my gynecologist (laughter). That's the weird thing.

Sunflower imports down in Georgia
Sunflower imports down in Georgia
Industrial enterprises to be put into operation in Iran’s Tehran Province
Industrial enterprises to be put into operation in Iran’s Tehran Province
Azerbaijani Economy Ministry announces winner of tender on assessment of feasibility study
Azerbaijani Economy Ministry announces winner of tender on assessment of feasibility study
Loading Bars
Poll shows 60% of Japanese want Games cancelled
Ministry discloses number of ships received by big port in southern Turkey in 1Q2021
Brazil reports 1,024 more deaths from COVID-19
UN Security Council to discuss East Jerusalem tensions on Monday
Gaza militants fire 2 rockets at southern Israel: military
Saudi Arabia to hold Hajj ritual under COVID-19 measures
Hamilton overtakes Verstappen to win F1 Spanish GP
UK records another 1,770 coronavirus cases, 2 deaths
EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June - Commissioner
Emirates to fly medical aid to India for free
WHO records over 786,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 worldwide
Azerbaijan marks 98th birthday anniversary of National Leader Heydar Aliyev
Kazakhstan becomes main importer of Uzbek cars
Iran, India discuss expansion of trade relations
Turkey's COVID-19 cases maintain downward trend amid lockdown
Georgian NCDC Deputy Head hopes for better epidsituation in summer if cases do not surge in May
Enmity with Turks is catastrophe not only for Armenia, but for entire region - Pashinyan
Lukashenko, Putin agree to meet soon
President Ilham Aliyev makes Facebook post on 98th anniversary of national leader Heydar Aliyev (PHOTO)
Egypt to start producing Chinese Sinovac coronavirus vaccine in June: Health minister
South Sudan president dissolves parliament in line with peace deal
Israeli gov't approves aid plan for leading airlines
Belarus president signs decree on transition of powers in case of emergency
Progress achieved under Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev paved way for liberation of occupied lands in 2020 – Sobhani
Sunflower imports down in Georgia
Kyrgyz FM to visit China
Expert consultations continue in Vienna between Iran
New COVID-19 cases in Turkey lowest since March
Israeli gov't approves aid plan for leading airlines
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on May 10
Turkey discloses number of ships received by Zonguldak port in 1Q2021
National Gymnastics Arena in Baku has best conditions - Сoach of Egyptian team
Emotions after competition are positive - bronze medalists of World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijani team
Azerbaijan Army holds several events on occasion of 76th anniversary of Victory (PHOTO)
Uzbekistan increases export of textile products
Georgian President to visit North Macedonia on May 10
MasterCard intends to work with Turkmenistan to improve level of electronic payments
Gazelli Group congratulates Second World War veterans in its own unique way (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens for May 9
Azerbaijan reports 660 new COVID-19 cases, 1,539 recoveries
Azerbaijani ombudsman appeals to international organizations
Bulgarian team takes first place at World Cup in Baku in group exercises with three hoops and two pairs of clubs
Discussions underway to resume Tabriz-Baku flights - Iranian official
Awarding ceremony held within Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku (PHOTO)
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for May 9
Turkey discloses volume of cargo transshipped through Aliaga port
Bulgarian gymnast grabs gold in exercise with ribbon at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
76th anniversary of Victory in Great Patriotic War celebrated in Shusha (PHOTO)
Israeli gymnast grabs gold in exercise with clubs at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Leadership of Azerbaijani MoD paid tribute to memory of compatriots, who died in Great Patriotic War (PHOTO)
Baku holds award ceremony of winners and prize-winners of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup at National Gymnastics Arena (PHOTO)
Italian gymnast grabs gold in exercise with ball at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Israeli gymnast grabs gold in exercise with hoop at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Azerbaijani team grabs bronze in exercise with 5 balls at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Final day of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup starts in Baku - Azerbaijani graces competing for medals (PHOTO)
Industrial enterprises to be put into operation in Iran’s Tehran Province
Azerbaijani Economy Ministry announces winner of tender on assessment of feasibility study
Turkey discloses number of ships received by Bandirma port from Jan. through March 2021
Azerbaijani president, first lady pay tribute to Azerbaijanis who made unparalleled contribution to victory over fascism (PHOTO/VİDEO)
EU and India agree to resume trade talks at virtual summit
Azerbaijan strongly condemns attempts to distort truth about WW2, justify fascism - MFA
First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva makes Instagram post on Victory Day over fascism (PHOTO)
India's COVID-19 tally surpasses 22 mln with over 400,000 new cases
China’s Long March-5B carrier rocket’s last stage enters atmosphere
Brazil sees 2,202 more COVID-19 deaths
Red Cross to hand over Georgia 100 thousand Sinopharm vaccine shots
Russia's 2M2021 import of Turkish cars grows in value
Turkey reports 18,052 new COVID-19 cases, 5,016,141 in total
“Covo-Pasteur”, “Barakat” vaccine to hit market soon: Rouhani
Daily COVID-19 case count at 2,350 in Kazakhstan
China reports 12 new COVID-19 cases vs seven a day earlier
Chile reports third consecutive day of over 6,000 daily COVID-19 cases
UN remembers the dead of WWII
2 people, including child, shot in NYC Times Square
Attack on Syrian government forces repelled in Idlib, at least ten militants killed
WHO records over 817,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 worldwide
Iraq decides to quarantine evacuees from India for 14 days as total cases hit 1,108,558
UK records another 2,047 coronavirus cases, 5 deaths
Azerbaijan marks Day of Victory in Great Patriotic War
Iranian trucks do not transport goods to Karabakh - Iranian embassy
NCDC: Georgia to receive extra half a million Sinopharm vaccine doses in June
Iran may extend cooperation on inspections with IAEA
Consumers must protect IoT devices - Fortinet
Azerbaijan’s Baku city has beautiful National Gymnastics Arena – Russian gymnast
Baku holds awarding ceremony of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani team reaches finals in group exercises as part of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup (PHOTO)
WB plans to issue loan to finance another road project in Azerbaijan
Any attempt to glorify fascism is disgusting - Russian expert
Group team competitions underway in Baku as part of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani ADA University sсreens film timed to Day of Victory in WWII (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan names finalists in exercise with clubs as part of gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Azerbaijani gymnast reaches finals in exercise with ribbon as part of World Cup in Baku
Iran providing much needed mechanization for farmers in Qazvin Province
Germany’s import of steel from Turkey up
Azerbaijani president allocates funds for construction of new school in Shusha
Funds allocated for construction, repairs of educational institutions in Baku
Uzbekistan interested in co-op with French pharmaceutical company
Funds allocated for creation of heat supply system in Azerbaijan’s Shusha
France’s import of steel from Turkey up
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on May 9
All news