At the time Ethan Hawke sent Richard Linklater a one-act play he'd read called TAPE, the actor and director had been talking about the possibility of adapting another play to film. "It's wonderful the way the timing worked out," recalls Linklater. "Like Ethan, I was attracted to the many layers of the piece, both in the characters and the story. I felt it was about the process of memory and how over time people can choose to play a different role in relation to an event than perhaps they did at the time of the event. I thought it was also an excellent exploration of what an official apology means today. "
With Hawke set to play the role of Vince in the three-character drama, there remained only two roles to cast: that of his former high school classmates John, a budding filmmaker, and Amy, now an Assistant District Attorney. "I think Ethan had in mind Uma all along but didn't want to seem like he was telling me who to cast. Thinking she'd be great for Amy, I naturally asked if Uma might want to be in it. He was like, 'She would be great, wouldn't she? And I don't think she's doing another production at the moment. '"
After a quick run-through of contemplating other actors for the role of John, once Robert Sean Leonard was mentioned, it was clear to everyone involved that he would be John. "Ethan and I have worked together before, the first time on Dead Poet's Society," recalls Leonard. "Another interesting aspect of the project for us was that Ethan and I actually once shared a girlfriend many years ago," Leonard adds with a hint of a smile. "So in this case our personal history also fed the dramatic situation. "
"The first thing that struck me about the piece is that everybody's trying to do the best they can," says Leonard. "The premise is quite simple, yet the script is very complex. The thing I liked best about it, though, is that Belber's characters are so well written and without judgment. John struck me as an interesting character to play. He's well-meaning, but whether that's because he genuinely means well or just wants people to judge him as well-meaning is another question. "
After an intensive two-week rehearsal period to craft the performances and experiment with the pacing of the project, the film was shot in six days in New York City. As Robert Sean Leonard notes, "Most filmmakers try to shoot as much of a film in sequence as they can, but it's inevitable that the technical demands conflict with that, so our being able to shoot all of TAPE in sequence felt like a real luxury. "
"I liked the challenge of the restrictions of the locations and time frame. Most of my films have very fixed, constricted time periods, like 18 or 24 hours, and I've often said I'd like to attempt to make a picture that unfolds in real time. This was my opportunity to do that, and the fact that it all takes place in one location demands that every note work. You can't just cut a scene because it didn't turn out as well as you'd like or to speed up the tempo of the piece. It all had to be worked out in advance. "