By Tim Kenneally
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) – Just because a movie deals with the grim topic of breast cancer doesn’t mean that it can’t include a few laughs along the way. Just ask Marta Kauffman.
The “Friends” creator was among the participants in the Lifetime Networks’ panel for the upcoming movie “Five” at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton on Friday.
Kauffman promised that the Lifetime original movie — which comprises five short films about breast cancer directed by five different directors — isn’t without its chuckles.
“When we’re in the most extreme circumstances, we tend to do one of two things: we either completely freak out, or go to humor,” Kauffman posited. “And when you raise the stakes enough, the results can be funny. It can be funny when a woman who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer still has to deal with her mother.”
Kauffman added, “We were always given the freedom to make it as funny as we wanted to.”
A project of ambitious scope, the “Five” anthology is co-directed by Kauffman’s former “Friends” colleague Jennifer Aniston, singer Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, “Monster” director Patty Jenkins, and Penelope Spheeris, director of the 1979 punk-rock documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization.”
The expansive cast includes Patricia Clarkson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Tony Shalhoub, Jeffrey Tambor and “Big Love” star Jeanne Tripplehorn, whose character, “Pearl,” provides a common thread through the five segments.
Though the five segments share the commonality of breast cancer, Kauffman insisted that “Five” won’t be about the disease itself, but rather about how the characters react to it.
“The idea was to do something that uses breast cancer as a backdrop,” Kauffman offered. “It’s not about breast cancer; we’ve already seen that.”
So how did Aniston handle her duties behind the camera? According to “Shutter Island” actress Patricia Clarkson, who stars in Aniston’s segment “Mia,” the “Horrible Bosses” actresses turned out to be not so terrible to work under.
“She mixed the light and the dark, on camera and off,” Clarkson recalled. “It was so brutal for me at times, and I’d look at her, and there was such compassion. I wouldn’t want to have done this with anyone else directing.”
And despite the claims of levity around the project, Clarkson says that the very serious business of raising awareness about the disease is very much a goal of the project.
“We have to keep the dialogue going,” Clarkson said. “It’s in all of our lives — men, women and children. It’s rare to have someone who hasn’t been affected by the disease.”
“Five” premieres on Lifetime on October 10.