Who wouldn’t want the chance to spend more time with acting legends Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen? Book Club: The Next Chapter, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2018 film, lets us get to know the characters played by these award-winning powerhouses even more. In this film, we get an update of how the women of the book club got through the pandemic, and we follow the four best friends as they head to glorious Italy for the fun girls trip they wanted to take in the past but never were able to. Needless to say, it’s only a matter of time before things go off the rails for these four — secrets are revealed, new relationships formed, and their relaxing vacation turns into a once-in-a-lifetime cross-country adventure that teaches each of them new things about themselves and their priorities. The entertaining film also features fun performances by Craig T. Nelson, Giancarlo Giannini, Andy Garcia, and Don Johnson. Like the first film, Book Club: The Next Chapter is written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms and directed by Holderman. I enjoyed talking to Bill and Erin about the thrill of working with this crazy talented foursome.
Danny Miller: Great to talk with both of you. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed spending more time with these women! It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the first film. Were you ready to go with a sequel before the pandemic blew your plans out of the water?
Bill Holderman: The pandemic definitely delayed us. We were even going to start a year earlier during the pandemic but things got complicated for all sorts of reasons. As you can imagine, Italy was not the best place to be during the pandemic, it was pretty hard hit —so we were so thrilled to be able to go there safely at last!
Erin Simms: There was a moment where we were going to try to make the whole movie in L.A. and then do a second unit for a week in Italy. I’m so happy that that didn’t happen! When we realized we had to wait another year, we thought that was a disaster at the time but it turned into the best thing that ever happened to us.
I’m so glad you got to go to Italy! Those shots of all of you during the credits made it look like you had such a great time there.
It was fantastic!
I really appreciated how this film didn’t follow a typical rom-com structure. You’re faithful to the priorities of each character which is refreshing to see.
Bill: We built a strong foundation for them in the first film but it was so much fun to have the opportunity to expand their world and figure out who they are and where they go next after the first movie wrapped up everyone pretty neatly. We really weren’t planning on a sequel at all but we were very happy to revisit these characters. These women are so remarkable on so many levels and they breathed so much life into these characters that when it came time to figure out the new story, we had so much to work with to stay true to what they did in the first film.
Erin: Yeah, for each of them we tried to think of what would be happening in their lives five years after the first film and following a worldwide pandemic. It didn’t have to be something massive just for the sake of a plot, we challenged ourselves to look at these women as truthfully as possible.
This is probably horrible to say, but I like the sequel more than the first film which is not my usual reaction to sequels. I just enjoyed the fact that we’re past some of the issues in the first film like the kids of Diane Keaton’s character wanting to control their mother because of their worries about her getting older, and things like that. I was glad that that here they were all free to be three-dimensional characters and the major plotline wasn’t about them getting older.
Bill: Thank you, that’s great to hear! I’ll admit that we were pretty resistant to making a sequel and then the conversations that we had during the development phase were all about ways that we could make this better than the first movie and not just be derivative.
Erin: Yeah, we definitely did not want to do a watered-down version of the first movie, I’m so glad you liked this story more!
I know you’re used to working with them by now, but to hear these great talents saying your words, are you just pinching yourselves? Were you ever intimated when you thought of the fact that these women have been directed by some of the greatest directors in the history of the movies?
Bill: There’s no greater gift than having the opportunity to work with this caliber of actor, it’s such a privilege! If I would have thought about it at the time, I would have felt very intimidated! Now that we have a relationship with them, it’s easier. What’s so great about this group is how much they were invested in making this movie be the best it could possibly be — we were all pulling the train in the same direction!
Erin: And yes, when you hear them say the lines you’ve written, there are definitely some pinch-me moments. I have to admit I cried watching them perform some of the scenes. It’s so fantastic that they love these characters as much as we do.
Not to take any, anything away from your costume designer, but some of these women are also style icons in their own right. Did they have a big role in creating their character’s look?
Bill: A hundred percent. It was definitely an added benefit to have actors that come with their own personal iconography and to be able to use that for their characters. It certainly informed our costume department. The last thing you’re going to do is to get Diane, Jane, Candice, or Mary on screen in something they’re not happy with! So yes, you work with them very closely and make sure they’re comfortable. It was really fun to use their own personal styles when it made sense.
Erin: Our costume designer, Stefano De Nardis, created the most gorgeous sketches that he sent out for approval, and they all gave him lots of feedback. But also, not to tell tales out of school, I think in this film the women brought way more of their own wardrobes, too.
Bill: We made this movie on shoestring, and these women know what looks great on them! I remember Candice brought a huge suitcase of her stuff to Italy and there are a bunch of pieces her character wears that are from her personal collection.
Please tell me that the iconic outfit Diane Keaton wears in the film, that has a whole plotline around it, is now in her closet at home!
Bill: (Laughs.) I’m not sure, but if she doesn’t, she probably will eventually. I think it’s going to be making a tour around the country.
Erin: I’ve never seen anything more perfect on someone.
Now that I’ve seen this film, I want to see what the next chapter for them is going to be. And my hope is that the next film will incorporate even more of the fantastic actors of their generation who aren’t in nearly enough movies these days. I have a whole list of people I think you should consider!
Bill: Oh, that’s a great idea! Because of their long and amazing careers, it was fun to put them together with some of their former co-stars, like Candice and Giancarlo, and Mary and Craig. But, to your point, it would be amazing to continue the journey and see who else we can force into our little universe!
I say a new film every two years until they’re about 97.
Erin: We’re in!
Book Club: The Next Chapter is currently playing in theaters across the country.