Some of the earliest memories filmmaker and artist Darren Le Gallo has of his time living in San Antonio include going to the cinema to watch Robert Altman's 1980 musical comedy Popeye and Steven Spielberg's 1981 adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark.
"I remember at a young age being completely in love with going to a theater and getting lost in another world," Le Gallo, 48, told the Current during a recent interview.
In his directorial feature debut Sam & Kate, Le Gallo — the husband of six-time Academy Award-nominated actress Amy Adams (Vice) — offers viewers a glimpse into an authentic and emotionally resonant world he created. Sam & Kate stars two-time Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) and Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter). Hoffman's real-life son, Jake Hoffman, plays his son Sam, while Spacek's real-life daughter, Schuyler Fisk, plays her daughter Kate. The film also features Alamo City native Henry Thomas (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).
"It was just a wild, serendipitous thing that happened," Le Gallo said about the casting.
In the movie, Sam and Kate meet-cute at a bookstore. After Kate initially rebuffs Sam's request for a date, he asks her out a few more times. Later, Sam's father Bill (Hoffman) and Kate's mother Tina (Spacek) begin to develop their own romance. Le Gallo said Sam & Kate was inspired by early Cameron Crowe and John Hughes films including Say Anything and The Breakfast Club.
"There's something about their films that encapsulated that time period when they were made," he said. "I thought, 'What if I tried to approach it the same way, but aged everybody up?' I wanted to take people who have real-world experiences and give them a second chance."
Born in Landstuhl, Germany, in 1974, Le Gallo was 4 years old when his family moved to San Antonio, his father's latest station while serving in the Air Force. Le Gallo graduated from Clark High School in 1992 and attended Abilene Christian University where he earned his bachelor's in painting. He moved to Los Angeles soon after to see if his art degree could land him a job in Hollywood.
Sam & Kate is currently available on VOD.
What were your plans when you moved to Los Angeles?
I knew I wanted to do art. I had a friend whose brother and sister-in-law were in the [entertainment] business, so we went to LA during spring break, and I got to visit sets and see things. That's when I realized [making movies] was a job. I hadn't ever considered it. After that trip, part of me was like, "Oh, maybe I could be an animator." I got an interview at DreamWorks right when the company was forming and saw how hard it was to be an animator. So, that led me to finding my way into acting. Since then, I've progressively started to gain knowledge behind the camera.
Where did you find inspiration for directing?
You know, I've been fortunate to travel with my wife, who works with incredible directors. I've had the chance to shadow a lot of them on sets and watch them work. I met [filmmaker] Spike Jonze when he worked with Amy [on the 2013 film Her]. I had a conversation with him, and we just sat and spoke about his process. I became friendly with [filmmaker] Joe Wright [who directed Adams in the 2021 film The Woman in the Window]. I watched [filmmaker] Paul Thomas Anderson [on the set of The Master] and learned from him. There are all these pearls of wisdom that I've taken with me.
Is it safe to assume that since you're a visual artist, you consider filmmaking an art form?
Totally. I feel like it's all connected. I'm so grateful that I've been able to work with such a talented crew and cast. It's challenged me to step up. It reminds me of when I was living in San Antonio. I used to play a lot of basketball on the playground. My goal was always to try playing with people who were way better than me. So, I'd have kids dunking on me, and I'd get my shot blocked, but it made me a better player through the years. In [this industry], I get to play with people who are legit and get to collaborate with them.
Now, I have to ask if you're a Spurs fan or if you switched over to the Lakers when you moved to LA.
I'm always a Spurs fan, but I do have a lot of love for the Lakers and the Clippers. Growing up, I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan. I love Michael Jordan. It was a great time in the NBA back then when you had players like Jordan and [David] Robinson. It was such a unique period in basketball history.
Would you want to direct Amy in a film?
Well, I'll say this: she's going to be the first one to read this scary film [I'm writing]. She's played some dark roles before, but I don't know where she'll be in her mind, or if she'll be in a place where it's something she'll want to do, but she'll read it. I think if the timing is right and if it was a character she was intrigued by, we would have a lot of fun.