Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Why She Identified with Her 'Devastated' Character in 'You Hurt My Feelings' (Exclusive)

The Seinfeld and Veep star says her character suffers a betrayal "worse than infidelity" in her new film

Chelsea Lauren/Shutterstock
Chelsea Lauren/Shutterstock

In You Hurt My Feelings (out May 26), Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, a New York City writer who is devastated when she finds out her husband Don (Tobias Menzies) has been lying to her for months. But he wasn't covering up an affair or financial troubles — she overhears him telling a friend that he secretly hates the book Beth has been working on.

"This causes quite the rupture in their relationship and their marriage… I immediately related to that as a creative person–it feels like a betrayal, almost worse than infidelity," says Louis-Dreyfus, 62, who has been married to actor-producer husband Brad Hall for 36 years. "I would be utterly devastated if I found out [Brad] hadn't been telling me the truth. And I think he would feel the same."

Jeong Park
Jeong Park

Director Nicole Holofcener, who previously teamed up with Louis-Dreyfus for 2013's Enough Said, wrote the part with the star in mind. "She could relate to it, and I think that's why women our age will go see it because it's about us," says the director, 63. "It's about aging and a lasting relationship and parenting adult children and the mistakes we've made."

A quieter endeavor for sure than most big-screen offerings these days, but that's exactly what drew the former Seinfeld and Veep star to the project. "Nobody writes female characters like Nicole Holofcener," says Louis-Dreyfus, who is also an executive producer on the film. "There are no tropes. I would say that her writing goal is not to write female characters in all caps. Her goal is to write human beings who happen to be female. And I think that's a distinction."

Related:Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall's Relationship Timeline

And so while You Hurt My Feelings centers on Beth's turmoil, it also touches on the lives of others in her orbit, including her sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins), who is dealing with career ennui and propping up her recently-fired husband, and her and Beth's difficult mother Georgia (Jeannie Berlin). "[We have] that shorthand that sisters have, the way you just share a history that is so funny," says Watkins, 51, who first worked with Louis-Dreyfus on The New Adventures of Old Christine and also appeared on Veep and Enough Said. "From day one, it just felt like a very lived-in relationship to me."

The naturalistic feel of their relationship is emblematic of the film itself — and that realism is something that Louis-Dreyfus and Holofcener prioritized. "This movie is so much about human relationships and the minutiae of human relationships and human behavior," says Louis-Dreyfus.

Jeong Park
Jeong Park

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Adds Holofcener about the dearth of juicy roles for women over 50. "Nobody wants to look at a 60-year-old woman, or they think they don't and that's what's really sad. It seems like there's either broad ones like Book Club — filled with celebrities, wonderful actors, but you know it's a huge budget. Or I guess smaller ones like mine that I wish more people would see. And I wish I could go to movies and see things like this myself."

You Hurt My Feelings is in theaters May 26.

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