destroyer trailer

When you work with someone as big of a star as Nicole Kidman, do you consider what that star power brings to a role, like, how an audience’s relationship to her work will influence how they look at Erin Bell? 

I actually said the other day, “Who knows what the other iterations of this movie could be?” The movie is what it is because of Nicole, and with Nicole in it, but I wonder what it means that she culturally is beloved, and that we see her fall down a path of her own making and ultimately pay the ultimate price?

I mean, really, truly go to a place that a lot of characters particularly women aren’t sort of granted the completeness of, which is both their life and their death, not a sort of lazy assignment of one or the other to a character who barely speaks, or has anything interesting to say, nor is she just a victim who dies at the hand of a crazed killer and it’s just another body to sort of like art direct, to set decorate the frame. But in fact, she is a total human, who lives and dies with her obsessions and loses a lot. But is there something about having a relationship to a movie star onscreen that informs a deeper emotional connection to that? It’s a really interesting question.

Because an audience loves an actor, maybe they’ll have more empathy for that character. 

Totally, or maybe they’ll love her more in some interesting way, because she reveals so much it would appear.

When actors make a transformation like Nicole Kidman does, or even Logan Marshall-Green and Michelle Rodriguez, how involved do you want to be in the early stages of that transformation? Do you give them a lot of freedom in how they transform themselves or, in a way, do you want to completely sculpt it yourself? 

If there were other art forms that I would be interested in, it would definitely be something hands on. Like so you use the word sculpt, and I’m always jus like, “Someday I’m gonna take a ceramics class.” I definitely feel I need to be a part of how we get there, and it’s just a question of giving enough space to an actor that they feel they still have agency and some degree of control over the character they’re playing within the story.

But I hope part of what I bring, it’s just another kind of mirror. So they can look into their own mirror, but then I can hold up a different mirror and say, “Well, what about how we see it in this context or that context?” And so, I hope I’m there to be a benevolent guide to the process for an actor, because in the end, hopefully, I hire that actor, because I already something about what I know they can do, or where I think they can go.

The Invitation seemed like an ideal situation for a director: you make a great movie, and people embrace it right away. After a success like that, how did you feel going into Destroyer?

Thank you for the question. I appreciate it. I’m just more and more realizing that the films that I’ve gotten to make on my own terms have been films I’m really happy with. How they’re received out in the world, what the process is to get there, might still be difficult, or unwelcome, but in the end, the films … it’s as basic as just saying the films in which I’ve had final cut have felt personally successful.

And when I say that I just mean, I did what I set out to do within the sort of parameters I was given. And so, what it tells me is I need to keep making movies that way, not because I’m so sure I’m some bona fide auteur. I actually just think I … When I feel safe creatively, I’m a better collaborator, and there is something about film that is so inevitably a collaborative medium. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, or delusional. And so, I think it’s important for me to find my best path toward being the best collaborator, and I’m really realizing it’s just having creative autonomy and control.

It’s been really nice to see how time has been kind to Jennifer’s Body and just how much that movie continues to mean to people. What’s been most rewarding about that movie’s journey since its release? 

You know what’s really interesting is that I think we always knew we were making a movie about girls by girls, for girls, and that was attempting to be a complex investigation into … not to get too heady, but into the effects of a patriarchal system on girls and their relationships with other girls, and that while you could claim there is something monstrous in the patriarchal system, what makes it particularly pungent and rotten is that it in infects girls’ lives as well. So the notion of femaleness and femininity gets infected with the same ideas that afflict men in that system.

And so, we always knew that was the story we were telling. I mean, I always knew when I got the job, I was always like, “This is what this movie is about.” And everybody was in agreement. And then it just sort of devolved into a kind of whole different marketing plan. And so, it’s really cool to see that the movie is now simply being seen for what it is, as opposed to being packaged, or branded, or marketed for what it isn’t.

I hope what people might consider as they reassess the film, or discover it for the first time, is who quickly our brain allows itself to be marketed to, and how many films there might be out there, or how many artistic statements, or musical artists, or painters, or politicians, who might actually be trying to speak a very valid truth, and the messaging is getting in the way. And so, I’m hopeful that maybe that’s part of what could be happening in this reassessment of the movie, because the movie is the same. It’s the same as it was nine years ago. So I’m hopeful that maybe people could say, “Why does this happen to movies?”

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Destroyer is now playing in limited release and goes wide January 25.

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