When William Louis-Dreyfus decided to sell his fabulous, idiosyncratic art collection of more than 3,000 pieces, including works by such modern masters as Gaugin and Kandinsky, his daughter the actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus was shocked. Not so much by the sale, but by what her mega-successful dad planned to do with the proceeds: create an endowment for the Harlem Children’s Zone. This fascinating film, which began as a home movie by the star’s husband, producer and director Brad Hall, morphed into something more when Hall put the generous father-in-law and his famous daughter together on camera.
Was William’s art collection a big part of Julia’s life?
Julia had no idea that her father’s collection was this extensive nor that he had such intimate connections with so many of the artists. Her memories of this art are hilarious: the Dubuffet sculpture her sister ran into on her bike, the Giacometti sculpture that terrified her as a kid. But, though much is familiar, much more of the art in the collection is new to her — and she’s crazy about all of it.
Where does Julia fit into the story?
The film really is about Julia’s discovery of her father’s dual passions: art and justice. Originally I just wanted Julia to chat a little bit with a few of the living artists in the collection, and with an art critic or two, and then show a bunch of photos of the art. As soon as we started making the film, however, Julia’s relationship with her dad — complicated, funny, touching, affectionate —became the heart of the thing. That relationship became the vehicle for exploring how art can be transformed into education for these amazing kids in Harlem. At the beginning of the film Julia says that she wants to learn more about the art and artists in the collection, about the Harlem Children’s zone, and “…maybe even a little bit about my dad.” In the end, I think that’s what happened, and it’s what we caught on film.