In the Hannah Marks-directed film Don’t Make Me Leave, John Cho and Mia Isaac play a father-daughter duo, Max and Wally, traveling across the United States in search of their estranged mother. When Max is diagnosed with an almost inoperable brain tumor, he strives to teach Wally life in the time that he has left.
“Don’t Make Me Leave” by Prime Video is Marx’s third feature film after “After Everything” in 2018 and “Mark, Mary and Other People” in 2021. As an actor, Marx starred in such films as “The New Spider-Man”, “Banana Split” and “Dinner in America”.
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Screen Rant interviewed Marx about the filming of “Don’t Make Me Leave” and how the story of the film resonates with her.
Screen Rant: Obviously, you are just starting your directorial career, so what attracted you to this project?
Hannah Marks: I liked that this is a father-daughter story. For some reason, this is quite rare to see on the screen. It doesn’t really make sense to me, I mean it’s such an important relationship, such a universal dynamic and such universal themes. I thought it was very, very beautiful.
Considering that the story of Don’t Make Me Go is a journey across America, how did you choose different places for this?
Hannah Marks: We actually shot in New Zealand, so we shot in Auckland in the winter, which was pretty crazy for an American summer travel movie. Fortunately, as an American, I felt that I was well versed in what these parts of the country looked like, and we tried to reproduce them as best as possible. But sometimes it was a little sad not to shoot the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand, because they didn’t look like America. So in that sense it was a bit difficult, but I think we did it, and we had an incredible local cast and crew that really helped us.
The first full-length film you made, “After Everything,” is also about personal relationships and an incurable disease. What have you learned from working on such poignant stories based on reality?
Hannah Marks: I think the highest stakes in the movie is life or death, so I’m really attracted to what’s emotionally manifested between the characters, but it’s also something we all face. My father had cancer, I had health problems. I am very close to my parents, and I was close to my grandparents when they were alive. So it just seemed really resonant and important to share.
John and Mia were so impressive in this father-daughter dynamic. What was it like to see them develop their relationship in front of the camera?
Hannah Marks: It was so beautiful. They were completely in love and felt like a real father and daughter to me on set. They really, really brought it and made an effort to get closer, and they did it perfectly. Mia is incredibly dedicated and focused. I was so impressed, and she was only 16 when we shot. John is such an experienced veteran and an amazing actor, so they worked really well together, and he helped her a lot in her first film.
This is a movie with a big heart. How would you describe his general message?
Hannah Marks: I think even though there are some heartbreaking aspects to this movie, I really think it’s ultimately hopeful and optimistic, and it encourages people to follow their dreams and strive for what makes them happy.
Summary of the book “Don’t make me leave”
When single father Max (John Cho) discovers that he has an incurable disease, he decides to try to squeeze all the years of love and support he will miss with his teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) into the time he left with her. Promising long-awaited driving lessons, he convinces Wally to accompany him on a trip from California to New Orleans for his 20th college meeting, where he secretly hopes to reunite her with her mother, who left them long ago.
A completely original and emotional journey, “Don’t Make Me Go,” explores the unbreakable, eternal bond between father and daughter on both sides of the generational divide with heart and humor along the way.
Check out our other interview with Don’t Make Me Go stars John Cho and Mia Isaac, as well as our previous interview with Hannah Marks for Mark, Mary & Some Other People.