Stars of ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ talk how this ode to “B movies” is a wild ride

Drive-Away Dolls
Wilson Webb / Working Title / Focus Features

In Ethan Cohen’s latest film, he partnered up with his real life partner and past film editor, Trisha Cooke, to bring to life the witty, wild and lesbian-led ride that is ‘Drive-Away Dolls.’ The story follows Jamie (Margaret Qualley) who is stewing after a break-up with her girlfriend, Sukie (Beanie Feldstein), and decides to enlist her best friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) to take a road trip from Philadelphia to Tallahassee. Along the way, they end up meeting a cast of characters after a suitcase is found in the truck of their rental car, which was accidentally rented to them.

Ahead of their new film, Qualley, Viswanathan, and Feldstein sat down to discuss working with Cohen, Cooke and a bevvy of hilarious cameos (think Miley Cyrus, Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal), plus just how fun it was to step into this world of queer hilarity.

Drive-Away Dolls
Beanie Feldstein stars as Sukie in ‘Drive Away Dolls.’Wilson Webb / Working Title / Focus Features

What was it about this project that made you want to sign on?

Qualley: Ethan Cohen— he’s a bucket list director [for me], and just one of the greatest of all time. Before I’d even read the script I was super, super excited to hear that there was one. And then, yeah, it was just awesome. I just was knocking at the door.

Viswanathan: A bit of a no-brainer for me too, I think the Ethan Cohen of it all and Trisha Cooke, who’s edited so many of their iconic movies…It’s rare that you get this caliber of people on such a cool script and a story with queer characters at the center. It’s really just a fun, wild ride. I think it’s so unique and quite singular, so I think there was every reason to be drawn to it. 

Feldstein: We’re all playing something we’ve never been given the opportunity to play before. I should speak for myself, Sukie, is very far from any character I’ve ever played before… And just to get to be unapologetically aggressive and abrasive and intense and to get to be a cop with a Cohen film, specifically Ethan and Trisha’s version of a lesbian cop who just takes no sh*t was really a dream.

When I’ve read about the Cohen brothers’ films, specifically with Ethan too, he’s always mentioned collaborating with whom he works with. For this film, did you feel that way with Tricia and Ethan—that you could collaborate and bounce ideas off of each other? 

Qualley: The script is so perfect, you don’t want to change a word at all. You know what I mean? It’s perfect. So I wanted to make sure to be perfect and treat it like a play because it’s that caliber of writing. But, I feel like Ethan and Trish both gave us agency, and we had a lot of freedom within the confinement in a good way. I think the best directors always assemble their team with the best and brightest in the sense that you’ve got Peggy (Schnitzer) on costumes who’s extraordinary and you’ve got Lori (Guidroz) doing hair—all department heads were just the best in their game.

Viswanathan: And a lot of people from the start have been working with Ethan since ‘Blood Simple.’ So it really was like this team and well-oiled machine.

Feldstein: I think it’s rare with someone of that caliber—you expect people to do what they want out of fear, but Ethan doesn’t operate from a place like that. He’s so respectful and caring and collaborative towards every crew member and every cast member. It was such a relaxed set because he and Trish were leading with that energy of respect and relaxation.

Drive-Away Dolls
(From left) Writer/ producer Tricia Cooke, director/ writer/ producer Ethan Coen, actor Margaret Qualley, and actor Geraldine Viswanathan are pictured.Wilson Webb / Working Title / Focus Features

Qualley: It really pops holes in the theories of genius artists, you know what I mean? I feel like so many people are written off for their bad behavior by being like, well, it’s a genius artist. But you can be a genius artist and a really good person and you can have fun on set. It can be a good hang, and nothing has to go sideways.

Feldstein: They also fully had every frame in their heads between the two of them. That movie was made and edited and we were like their dolls essentially living out their full complete vision. The vision was so complete that when we were filming it, it was like they just knew exactly the coverage that they needed. Nothing was gratuitous or, oh, let me try this. It was so specific that you knew you were in the best hands.

‘Drive-Away Dolls’ is set in 1999 and it truly is a tale of its times from the music, to the fashion, to the ode of East Coast lesbian bars. Is there a moment that stands out to you from the film that is quintessential to that? 

Viswanathan: I think the lesbian bars, like the She Shed or that place we were at with [Matt] Damon. Those environments just felt so Cohen-esque and queer as heck.

Feldstein: Our final scene in the movie when I show up and no spoilers, but stuff happens with the three of us, and while that scene’s going on, there were just two amazing background artists, girls, just making out for 10 hours behind us. That to me was just like, oh, this is ‘Drive-Away Dolls’, this energy…this insane comedy action, female-driven energy, but then there’s super queer surroundings and it takes place in such a queer world, which is something you just don’t see that often.

With this film I keep seeing that it’s also an ode to “B movies”, but what makes a movie a “B” to you and how did ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ emulate that? 

Qualley: Some of those signals or the cutaways, and the way that they would do the back of the car or the effects of those cuts where it’s very intentional and kind of has a style to it. That was all scripted. So I think the pace is an indicator of that and the cutting style and maybe that it’s a bit heightened.

Feldstein: Yeah, the intentionality of it.

Viswanathan: I remember we were filming the basement scene, and I remember Ethan being like, yeah, this is a B movie. And I was like, what do you mean, this is high art where we’re getting an Oscar. And he was like, no, no…this is a B movie. But I think that’s so fun. Those are the types of movies that I enjoy watching, self-aware and successful. I think with comedies, we have to not take ourselves too seriously.

Drive-Away Dolls
Matt Damon stars as Senator Gary Channel in ‘Drive Away Dolls.’Wilson Webb / Working Title / Focus Features

And finally, with so many amazing cameos in the film, who stands out to you?

Qualley: I love Miley [Cyrus]. I didn’t get to meet her so I’m hoping that she comes to the premiere.

Viswanathan: I met her briefly, and I think that was the most starstruck I’ve ever been.

Feldstein: And we had our Matt Damon day. He has major girl dad energy, and so with the three of us, he just was so warm. He was so sweet and just himself and so kind. It was a real joy. You don’t know what to expect of someone at that level, and he was just so game.

Catch ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ in theaters Feb. 23.