A Million Little Pieces is playing in select theaters now

By Nigel Smith
December 18, 2019 01:59 PM
Dominik Bindl/Getty

Aaron, 29, and Sam Taylor-Johnson, 52, are no strangers to working together, having met making Sam’s directorial debut Nowhere Boy in 2009 — but adapting James Frey’s controversial 2003 book A Million Little Pieces marked challenging new territory for the married couple.

The film adaptation of Frey’s addiction memoir, which he later admitted to partly fabricating, sees Aaron go to some very dark places to play a young drug-addled writer as he undergoes a grueling two-month detox program.

Below are excepts from PEOPLE’s conversation with the pair, who wed in 2012 and have two daughters together now, in addition to two from Sam’s previous marriage.

On embarking on such a dark journey together as a couple

Sam: Knowing how much Aaron immerses himself into character and the characters that I’ve lived with, I was definitely had an awareness of, okay so we’re going to be going on this journey because it’s quite an intense one. So yeah, there was a moment where I was like, “Okay, big breath. We’re going on this journey.”

And especially because having lived through Aaron’s character, Ray in Nocturnal Animals, I knew that that was how deep he went into that role, and how intense that was. But there was never a moment where I thought, “No, I don’t want to do this,” because I thought it was such a fantastic role for him to immerse himself in and for us to work together on.

A Million Little Pieces
Momentum Pictures / Everett Collection

Aaron: And just to add, I mean it’s why Sam really fell in love with it. The ups and downs, the dark, the light — it’s a beautiful story, this road to redemption. James is completely broken and he puts himself back together again through this community of friends and other addicts. They go on this road to redemption and it’s full of hope. And if you know, Sam, she’s the optimist. She’s constantly the light.

How making it affected their dynamic

Sam: During the shoot time there was really no time to step out of the head space of what we were going through. Each night we would go back and there wasn’t a writer to be able to handle anything over to, we’d have to sit up and pretty late into the night work on the next days scenes and what we were shooting. So during the shoot times, we were locked into that head space. I mean it was a good thing in the sense because we were shooting so fast, we weren’t in the intensity of that space for too long, but it was also a good thing, for as filmmakers to be able to be in that.

Aaron: It’s enjoyable. We’re so fortunate, and so lucky to be making movies. We’re making magic every day, we’re pinching ourselves.

Aaron on baring it all in a film directed by his wife

Aaron: I’ve already done that for Tom Ford and Oliver Stone and many other filmmakers. I try and bare my soul when I’m in the presence of great filmmakers no matter what. That’s my job. I’m supposed to expose myself and be vulnerable. Do I feel more comfortable doing it with Sam? Well there is somewhat more comfort there obviously, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s still 13 other crew members in the room with me and background extras.

A Million Little Pieces is playing in select theaters now.