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Q&A With ‘CODA’ Creators About Joni Mitchell and More Print-ready version

The singer-songwriter's classic tune

by Mia Galuppo
The Hollywood Reporter
October 19, 2021

When deciding what song would complement the climactic moment in her film CODA, director Sian Heder was unsure if her her production should tackle a Joni Mitchell classic. "I was like, 'God can we take on that song? I don't know,'" said the filmmaker during a Q&A that followed a THR Presents screening of the movie at The Ross House on Saturday.

Ultimately, though, the creators chose to use Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" for its thematic relevance to the story and the film's main character, Ruby. CODA, which stands for Children of Deaf Adults, follows the Rossis, a blue-collar fishing family in Gloucester, Massachusetts, as their hearing daughter, Ruby (played by Emilia Jones), who also acts as the family interpreter, is considering attending music school. "Both Sides Now" plays a pivotal role in the Sundance stand-out-turned-awards contender, with Ruby performing the song for her audition into the Berklee College of Music.

"I discovered this song in this whole other way and there was no other song it could be," said Heder. "CODAs live in two worlds. CODAs are constantly looking at this world from the deaf perspective and the hearing perspective and navigating what that means."

Mitchell has seen the movie, according to Heder, who was accompanied at The Ross House by stars Marlee Matlin and Emilia Jones, as well as composer Marius de Vries and music producer Nick Baxter. "She was very happy with the use of the song and I was so relieved," Heder noted, to which Jones responded: "That is crazy. I'm fan-girling."

For the scene where she performs "Both Sides Now," Jones worked with Baxter and de Vries to perfect their rendition of the song and also consulted with the film's American Sign Language Masters on the scene's signed performance. "That was probably the hardest scene for me," says Jones. "I knew I had to make sure I was tonally where I needed to be acting-wise. We recorded the vocals live on set, so I wanted to make sure I was in tune, and making sure my signs were correct."

Adds Matlin, who watched Jones perform live on set: "I kept watching her from up in the balcony, and we were there all day, and her energy did not decrease. And then suddenly watching her hands come to life was one of the most powerful things I have ever seen. I've never seen this in a film before."

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Added to Library on October 20, 2021. (650)

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