Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, No Hard Feelings is the latest Jennifer Lawrence movie which sees the Oscar winner star as the out-of-luck character Maddie who ends up dating the 19-year-old Percy in order to save her home.
In No Hard Feelings, Andrew Barth Feldman plays the role of the quiet man whose parent’s scheme of hiring a random woman to date him before college forces him to come out of his shell with hilarious consequences. In the comedy movie, we see Feldman’s Percy undergo a spiritual journey, learn how to open up, and even witness him punch and pepper spray Jennifer Lawrence in the process.
It’s a wild time, and with No Hard Feelings racing to cinemas, The Digital Fix sat down with the star to discuss his big role. From discussions about his musical theatre past to in-depth explanations of age gaps and cringe comedy, no stone is left unturned in our interview with the No Hard Feelings star on the new movie.
The Digital Fix: First question, how did it feel punching an Oscar winner in the throat?
Andrew Barth Feldman: Really good. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. No, it was like there was no contact made in that scene [laughs]. It was honestly, the pressure was mostly like, ‘does it look real?’ And also, ‘Are we sure I’m not going to actually hit anybody’.
But our stunt coordinator was awesome. And obviously, Jennifer Lawrence’s cough reaction in the scene where I punch her throat, her whole thing is terrifying and hilarious. It was wonderful.
So, besides the punch, which is one of the funniest moments in this movie, what drew you to the script of No Hard Feelings?
Yeah, first of all, it’s so funny, like, so insanely funny. And from the very beginning, the first script I read, it was so funny. But it’s sort of uniquely truthful and emotional as well, in addition to all that, and this character was so real to me. And it’s, there’s a depth to Percy that we don’t see in a lot of comedies and a depth to Maddie as well.
So I think in how funny it was because these characters are so real. It’s even funnier and even more heartfelt, and we care even more. And I just knew this person. I knew Percy from the beginning. I understood him. And I felt as though the role was sort of made for me.
Yeah, he’s such an emotional character, Percy, and I know that you previously did the musical Dear Evan Hansen. Did that role actually prepare you for how emotionally taxing Percy can get?
In every way! Yeah, I think the biggest thing was that it prepared me to be okay with just being myself. And bringing myself to this character and trusting that I knew this person, I am this person. That was a big lesson I learned in Dear Evan Hansen. But also, the crying muscle came in. Like Gene, some days would just be like, ‘Okay, and can you do one more where you cry a little bit more?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I actually can.’
In my first few months in Dear Evan Hansen, I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t turn it on or off. And now it’s like, my body knows that sometimes I wanted to do that. And it learned how to do it.
So, you’ve become like a crying on-cue expert?
A little! Not an expert as much as it’s like in my wheelhouse of things now. Thank goodness. It did serve its purpose in this movie.
I also read that filming for No Hard Feelings took place just down the road from where you grew up.
Did that also help you get into the mindset of the character Percy who has his parents always hovering over his shoulder?
Exactly, absolutely. Yeah, I was sleeping in my childhood bed in my home when we were filming No Hard Feelings. It was so strange. And there’s just, like, wallpaper and the smell of a room it stores so many memories. I think it definitely informed a lot for Percy. Not that I was like taking him home with me as much as I was taking childhood me to work.
Like the version of me, that really felt stuck there and needed to be able to break out of the bubble to ever want to come back. You know, I really connected with that part of myself. And it was hard. But really informative for Percy.
Yeah, it sounds like it could be quite challenging. On that note, if I was in your shoes and I was working with Jennifer Lawrence, I’d feel very overwhelmed. But you guys had such good chemistry and comedic timing. And I wanted to know, what was it like working with her?
It was amazing. She’s remarkable, and like that chemistry, I think there’s just something very sort of symmetrical about the two of us. We really connected from the beginning, as like human beings, besides just having good chemistry on screen.
She’s a really close and important friend in my life. And that developed all while filming, so the intimidation of like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Jennifer Lawrence, ‘ washed away pretty quickly and turned into just the joy of getting to work with one of my best friends every day.
I mean, pepper spraying someone in the face is a pretty good icebreaker.
[laughs] That was literally our first day of filming! That scene where I Mace her eyes happened during the very first day. I was like, ‘I’m sorry.’ That was how it started.
You say that you and Jennifer Lawrence have become very close. Has she given you any advice for your acting career?
Yeah. First of all, she’s such a model of being kind and considerate to everybody on set and asking for what she needs but also like, knowing how hard everybody’s working and keeping that in mind constantly. And for somebody at her level to be doing that was an incredible example to set for me.
But also, yes, she gives me tons of advice. I think mostly about the actual ins and outs of the business, which is really helpful because I have no idea about any of this. I don’t think I could do this specific part of the journey without her. She’s amazing.
You mentioned the business side, but you are already familiar with the business side of musical theatre, and you have your own production company. Most people have seen you in Ratatouille: The Musical. I know that you have done a Star Wars musical too. Can we ever see a No Hard Feelings musical at some point?
I was just thinking about this last night as I was falling asleep. And I thought about it a lot on set too. I could totally see myself doing it for fun in like ten years. Because I think they sing.
The question of when you’re adapting a movie or a book to a musical is, ‘Does it sing? Do they sing?’ And I think, in this case, the answer is absolutely yes. I think it’d be really fun. But you know, can you see it? I don’t know. I think I see it in my head, though. We’ll see.
Yeah, because you do have a really good musical moment in No Hard Feelings already. Percy sings ‘Maneater’ on the piano, and we get to see your musical abilities shine. Was that moment always in the film? Or did Gene throw it in specially for you?
No, it was when I came on. The script was missing a moment for Percy to be seen differently and to sort of break out of his shell and come into his own in one action. And so that Maddie could see him differently and start to worry about her effect on this person. That Percy could see himself differently, and the audience could also see Percy differently.
And they didn’t know how they were going to do it. But when they brought me on, John Phillips, who wrote the movie with Gene, sent him a video of me singing and playing piano. And they came up with, I think, a pretty good idea to see Percy in the new light.
So again, I love this movie. But it got tons of attention when its trailer first came out, mainly because of the age gap between Percy and Maddie. So, I just wanted to ask for your opinion on that. And what would you tell fans who maybe misunderstand the dynamic between the two characters?
Percy’s an adult who can make his own decisions. And this is a movie about an adult who is able to make their own decisions, learning that lesson and learning that they can. And that’s something that I think is important for Percy. Otherwise, he’d be very stunted.
No Hard Feelings should make you a bit uncomfortable. It’s a cringe comedy. You know, you should cringe at this age gap that, in moments, may feel a bit weird or unsavory. The movie never condones it. It’s never saying that what Maddie is doing is a great idea. And everybody should go and do this. It’s a ridiculous situation that we’ve all found ourselves in.
So yeah, I hope it does make you a little uncomfortable and that you sit with that and laugh with that and find the joy in that. But all that said, Percy is an adult. He consents at every step of the journey.
No Hard Feelings hits cinemas in the UK on June 21 and the US on June 23. For more on the drama movie, be sure to check out our guide on how to watch No Hard Feelings, and our lists of the best movies and the best rom-coms of all time.