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21 Things We Learned From The Rules of Attraction Commentary

By  · Published on June 8th, 2015

I usually try to theme these Commentary Commentary posts to a new release hitting theaters by selecting an older movie sharing the same actors or filmmakers, and when that fails I simply choose an interesting film that’s making its home video release. This week though my choice has been triggered by two separate conversations I had on Twitter.

The first involved a friend and I discussing a sci-fi screenplay we jokingly (?) decided to write centered on an alternate dimension where Earth was populated only by multiple Shannyn Sossamons. Don’t ask why, just support us when it hits theaters in 2018. The second conversation involved a different friend inexplicably failing to understand Sossamon’s appeal ‐ worse, he’s a film critic ‐ and our collective attempts to correct his error. We discovered he had only seen A Knight’s Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights, and in an effort to steer him towards her best work the film most frequently mentioned was Roger Avary’s funny, devastating, thrilling and flat-out brilliant The Rules of Attraction.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for The Rules of Attraction… with Shannyn Sossamon and three other actors who are not Shannyn Sossamon.

The Rules of Attraction (2002)

Commentators: Shannyn Sossamon, Thersa Weyman, Kip Pardue and Clifton Collins Jr.

1. Sossamon says she finds doing voice-over to be very difficult for some reason.

2. The music we hear during Sossamon’s opening close-ups was actually added after the fact, and Avery let Sossamon play some music of her choosing while filming it. She recalls shifting between Stereolab and Bjork.

3. “That’s funny,” says Sossamon as Lara (Jessica Biel) dances her way into the dorm room to make sexy time with the entire football team. Biel and Kip Pardue were late-comers to set as their parts were filmed well after the start of production, but she says the cast made an effort to help them fit in since the rest of them were already having so much fun.

4. “This is a scene that we filmed on September 11th [2001].” They still went to work that day, and Sossamon recalls everyone arriving late for obvious reasons. “Half the set was pissed and wanted to go home,” she says, “understandably, but Roger [Avery] wanted to keep going which made a lot of sense as well.”

5. Sossamon watched her character’s rape scene for the first time in a strip club across from where they were filming. Avery had been editing the film on his laptop during dinner and brought it with him to the club along with a few members of the cast. She tried watching it with headphones inside but eventually exited to the alley where she finally saw it as strippers took their smoke breaks on either side of her. She was clearly taken aback by it and found herself concerned with what her family and friends might think. She also recalls that the scene has been trimmed somewhat from how it was shot. “The way Roger really wanted it was a lot harsher.”

6. Sossamon points out Jay Baruchel’s brief appearance. “Totally adorable” she says. “So, so precious.” He was only on set a few days and she says he’s a lot younger than her (by four years), but she developed a crush on him all the same.

7. The role came to Sossamon far quicker than most jobs do, and she recalls going from first hearing about the script to reading it that night and meeting with Avery the following day. She hadn’t worked for over nine months but was incredibly intrigued by the script. “It just made me feel strange.”

8. Wayman recalls her introduction as the cafeteria worker being her most difficult scene to shoot. “I just realized that acting normally, having to do subtle little things,” she says, “was sometimes a lot harder than being able to just let go and like express yourself in a more extreme way.”

9. Rupert’s (Collins) little karate moves were created on the spot as an alternative to simply walking across the room.

10. Collins recalls being frustrated during his first scene as he tried but failed to intimidate James Van Der Beek. “He stayed in character which was good,” he says. “At one point I went up to Rog, and Rog was like ‘Well what do you want to do?’ and I said ‘I just can’t scare the guy. I’m really, really pissed. If I had a real bullet in this I’d probably pull the trigger.’” They agreed he just pistol-whip Van Der Beek instead.



11. Wayman’s first day of filming was during the “Edge of the World Party” scene that found her character a background player by design. She immediately found herself connecting with the exact point of the character. “It was hard not to feel like kind of overlooked,” she says. “Right away I kind of adopted different mannerisms. I didn’t even really realize it, just feeling more insecure.”

12. Sossamon says her couch scene with Eric Stoltz was awkward for her but fun for him. They knew where the scene had to end ‐ with her head in his lap ‐ but they had pretty free reign on the way there. “That’s so funny, him feeling me up in between two shirts,” she says, laughing. Once her head goes below frame she laughs again. “Oookay. Yeah I was just down there doing my thing. It’s funny to try to like fake, you’re not even on camera but to like, you know that like maybe your back will show or something and you want it to be realistic, but to fake doing something even though no one’s seeing you fake doing it? That’s funny.”



13. Wayman was living with Sossamon in 2001 and was at the house during Avery’s visit. Sossamon actually introduced her to the director and suggested that she should play the food service girl. Avery agreed and called her in a few months later.

14. Sossamon went on an audition during this film’s pre-production and bombed it. “It was crappy, and I was just horrible because I’m horrible at all of my auditions.” She asked Avery if she could sit in on this film’s additional casting sessions to see the process from the other side, and he said yes. She learned that the people on this side of the table aren’t nearly as adversarial as she always assumed. She also recalls being there for Russell Sams’ audition for the role of Richard ‐ he did a variation on the restaurant scene and they all agreed that he was perfectly odd.

15. The photo of Lauren (Sossamon) and the food service girl that Sean (Van Der Beek) stares at while screwing Lara (Biel) actually belonged to Sossamon. It hung in the house they shared before being incorporated into the film.

16. Wayman has a lot to say about her character’s suicide scene. She reflects on her emotional struggle and performance, the wardrobe department’s attempts to cover her breasts and Avery’s expression once the scene was completed, and she speaks with real beauty about the whole experience.

17. Pardue joins the commentary around the 82 minute-mark and brings a special guest with him. It’s Avery! “Yeah, this is probably the only bit of an audio commentary that I’ll do,” says the writer/director. When he asked Pardue to take the role Avery explained that he would need complete access to the European trip segment ‐ that Pardue would step on the plane in character and not let it go until the trip was over. They both marvel at how easily Avery disappeared into the background or turned invisible in order to capture the footage. “We would meet these people,” says Pardue, “and they would say ‘Who is that guy following you with the camera?’ and that would be it. No one would ever comment on Roger again.” They shot constantly while looking for random encounters and visuals, and then a producer would run in behind them to have people sign release forms. Avery recalls shooting footage at a Ford model party with his camera up to his face for hours, “and I remember the guy from Simply Red looking at me and going ‘Fucking paparazzi!’”

18. Avary ended up with 70 hours of footage from the European trip, and he and Pardue made plans to adapt a follow-up novel by Bret Easton Ellis called Glamorama which actually focuses entirely on the character of Victor. In addition to the brief scenes we see in this film Avary also cut together a 90 minute film from the footage titled Glitterati meant as a bridge between The Rules of Attraction and Glamorama. It’s never been shown commercially for various reasons, and seeing as the follow-up film never came to fruition I’d guess it never will.

19. Pardue recalls the scene where Lauren comes knocking on Victor’s door only to find him getting naughty with Lara, and he says people frequently ask him what that is on his mouth when he opens the door. “Jessica [Biel] was brushing her teeth,” he explains, “and I asked her to give me a little of her spit.” Mystery solved! He also points out that while you can’t see it he’s actually not wearing pants in this scene per Sossamon’s request. “I was kind of into it.”

20. Apparently Marilyn Manson’s favorite part of the film is the note on Victor’s door saying “the test came back positive, be careful!” He liked it because Pardue used to date Manson’s ex-girlfriend. “But anyway, Manson and I have become friends, and he’s a big fan of the movie as he should be because it’s brilliant.”

21. Sossamon’s self-deprecating streak ‐ she previously said she’s bad at auditions and acting ‐ continues as she admits she’s horrible at ADR (additional dialogue recording). Her final scene required it because the snow machine drowned out their dialogue. “I just hate it,” she says, “because it’s hard for me to believe that you have to be good at recreating something that was so special or spontaneous.” In the same scene she questions why she bundles up and then separates her feet. She has no idea why she would do that… but I do! Someone tell her it’s because the last shot in that scene is running backwards ‐ the snow is visibly rising ‐ meaning she’s actually putting her feet together.

Best in Commentary

Final Thoughts

I guess the 22nd thing we learned from this commentary is that it’s not a very good commentary. The biggest issue here, obviously, is that Sossamon has to share the track at all. But seriously, the actors are recorded separately, each talking for a chunk of time before it switches to the next person. Worse, they have an apparent inability to fill the time with actual commentary, and there are long gaps of silence left either by the speakers or the disc’s producers during editing. It’s not a total lost cause though as we do get Avary’s brief appearance and some real insight from Wayman who provides deep and engaging observations on her experience.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.