Jack Goes Boating and Desert Flower: The Middle East, Muscle Memory, and “Surrendering to Matt Weiner”

philipseymourhoffmanamyryandaphnerubinvegajohnortiz Jack Goes Boating and Desert Flower: The Middle East, Muscle Memory, and Surrendering to Matt WeinerBeautiful women bombarded The Observer this past week at the premiere for Jack Goes Boating (Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s directorial debut) and a screening of Desert Flower (which tells the story of Somalian model Waris Dirie), despite less-than-optimal weather at both screenings. Makeup guru Bobbi Brown came to Desert Flower prepared with tips for dressing in the schizophrenic September conditions: “Layer, layer, layer,” she advised. “Have a big scarf, and just layer things.” (Ms. Brown also recommended gel eyeliner.)

Also at Desert Flower, we happened upon Rula Jebreal, the gorgeous Palestinian journalist whose novel, Miral, was recently adapted into a Weinstein Company film directed by Julian Schnabel, who is also Ms. Jebreal’s boyfriend. The title character is played by Freida Pinto, who does look quite a bit like Ms. Jebreal up close. To prepare for the role, “Freida lived with me in the house,” Ms. Jebreal said. “Freida came three months before the start of the shooting, so we sent her everywhere to train her and she came back and she was not anymore Freida, she was Miral.”

We remarked that we’ve seen Miral described as “semi-autobiographical.” How much is true? “Everything is true. There’s no place for fiction in the Middle East,” Ms. Jebreal said — hard to argue with that. “Whatever you see is whatever you live, whatever you live is what you write about. It’s a true story, a totally true story.”

Jack Goes Boating, meanwhile, is not a true story — it’s a quirky, sweet little tale of New York romance’s beginnings and endings. In addition to directing the film (originally a 2007 play by Bob Glaudini), Mr. Hoffman stars in it, as a lovestruck limo driver. Mr. Hoffman says he sought guidance from some powerful friends for his first venture into film directing, in order to ward off unpleasant surprises. “I’ve been working in both mediums in one way or another for a long time — longer than I care to remember,” he told The Observer. “I was loaded up with experience and stories from the people who are directors who are my friends. So nothing really came up that was like, ‘Oh my God, that happens?!‘”

We also glimpsed Mad Men‘s Cara Buono, who plays psychologist Dr. Faye Miller, the most compelling Don Draper love interest since Rachel Menken. To hear Ms. Buono tell it, creator Matt Weiner‘s famed type-A personality means Mad Men doesn’t require a lot of research from its actors. “I researched for myself, but Matt Weiner gives you everything you need as a character. So I kind of did stuff on my own, but basically, you can just surrender yourself to the genius of Matt Weiner and he gives you what you need,” Ms. Buono said.

And when Susan Sarandon breezed by, we had to stop her to ask for Ping-Pong tips; she, of course, has been boning up on her skills since she began (allegedly!) dating Jonathan Bricklin, her thirtysomething business partner at SPiN, a hipster table-tennis club in the Flatiron district. How, for example, might we cure a wobbly backhand? “I think it’s all sense memory. I haven’t played in absolutely, like, six months or something, so I’m not really up to speed — but I would say it’s all just muscle memory, so the more hours you put in, the better you get,” Ms. Sarandon said, probably not-coincidentally making an excellent case for buying a SPiN membership.