AFI FEST’s Special Screenings are CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (DIR Olivier Assayas); STILL ALICE (DIR Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland).
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA – Actress Maria (Juliette Binoche) struggles to return to the stage play that made her famous 20 years earlier, but this time in a different role, and opposite a rising young starlet. DIR Olivier Assayas. SCR Olivier Assayas. CAST Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger. Switzerland, Germany, France.
STILL ALICE – Julianne Moore gives a heartbreaking performance as a linguistics professor facing early onset Alzheimer’s disease in this festival favorite. DIR Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland. SCR Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland. CAST Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish. USA.
The AFI Film Festival runs from 6 November - 13 November.
Read more on the festival, venues and how to get tickets here.
AnoopSimon I'm happy that i am getting private messages and praise all day today, since fans have been getting a chance to watch "CampXray". As one of the only real Military Iraqi War Veteran who was an actor in this film, I am proud with what Dir.Peter Sattler accomplished. Especially with the respect and honor that Kristen has for our Armed forces and the rest of the cast. Peyman's performance was amazing as well... The movie is not to sympathize with the terrorists but for the innocent who were wrongly accused and labeled as such. Heck i served my nation and fought the fight to bring the bad guys to justice so out of all, I know that there is evil and then there are those who are wrongly labeled. Definitely watch it, research the topic, and see the message that we were trying to portray.
It is playing in select theaters and is on Video on Demand, so check with your local cable providers for showtimes ... I am so blessed that i got chance to work with the amazing cast and crew, all of who became colleagues and friends now.
How does someone who’s lesser known in Hollywood go about establishing themselves in an industry predicated on name and prestige?
It’s a huge challenge. That’s why I got out of film school. If you look at my IMDB page, I worked every job under the sun. I was a grip, I was a key grip, I was a PA, I was a graphic designer in the art department. I did everything because I love films, but it takes a while for a writer to mature and to write something that is powerful and grown-up. So for the last ten or twelve years, I was doing mostly re-writes for the studios. So I got a little toe-hole in some of that. Really, the film happened for two very important reasons. One is that a very good friend of mine, David Gordon Green, an amazing filmmaker who I’ve known since school, really championed me in getting this made. The other was that the script really resonated with Kristen. And once Kristen comes in, all of a sudden we’re in. Once Kristen says, “I believe in this guy. He’s a first-time director, but I believe in his vision” then everyone else rallies around and we start to work within a budget.
Where did the idea for her character come from?
I realized one story that hasn’t been told about Gitmo is about the poor soldiers who have to clean up the mess. You know? Like, these grunts on the ground who actually have to deal with the decisions that are being made in Washington. I felt such sympathy for them, given what they go through and how impossible the mission the army has given them down there is.
Why did you choose to make your first movie a war film?
It’s not that I wanted to make a war movie, so much as I wanted to make a movie about something that mattered. In the movie, when someone asks Kristen’s character why she came down there, why she joined the army, she responds with, “I wanted to do something important.” I feel the same way. That’s why I want to make movies and make art. I love popcorn movies and all, but if I’m going to put my heart and soul into a project, it has to be something that matters.
You set up this very claustrophobic environment, accentuated all the more by the acting and the music. What were some of the struggles you faced with staging and making each shot interesting within the confines of such a small space?
You put your finger right on the nose of it. Directorially, you have a film where half of it takes place between two characters who, for the most part, can’t move; there’s very little blocking that can be done, and on top of it, all their interactions take place between a four or five inch window in the same room over and over again. So you’re right, the challenge is how you make that interesting and convey the monotony of that situation without boring your audience. Me and my cinematographer James Laxton talked very carefully beforehand about how each scene evolves because we wanted to make something austere that’s not too flashy. One specific point I can talk about is when the camera breaks the wall and goes inside someone’s cell. You may not notice while you’re watching, but subconsciously all of a sudden you’re inside [one of the detainee’s] cells on the other side of the glass. That occurs when we start to feel more sympathy for him. Towards the end, we do this thing where we swing the camera totally around and now it’s Kristen’s character who feels trapped behind the door. It was not an easy thing to do, but everyone involved in the movie were interested in taking challenges.
What was it like working with Kristen?
Kristen’s amazing. The first thing to know about her is how down-to-earth, passionate, and intelligent she is. The way she approached the character was so thorough, and because she’s so creative, she’ll invent moments for you. It’s so helpful. She’s also very different from Peyman [Moaadi]; you have to direct both in very different ways. Peyman is very used to long rehearsals, and that’s because he’s a writer and director himself and comes to it with the eyes of an author wanting to get every shot right. For Kristen, it’s much more about capturing the raw emotion. It was very interesting working with both of them and all three of us had a very enjoyable collaboration.
I’m really excited for this film, since we get to see a new side to Kristen Stewart.
It’s a really remarkable role for her and I’m excited for people to see this side of her. You know, everyone knows her from these fun…movies that she’s done, but she’s really a remarkable actress capable of an incredible amount of subtlety and nuance, which is really what this role thrives on. So, I’m excited to be a part of this transitioning and redefining of what people expect from her.
I read that you read and directed this film. What was the inspiration for the film?
Peter Sattler: You know, I’d always been interested in Guantanamo Bay, but it started when I’d seen a documentary and started to see what it was like now. And I saw now that, basically, these detainees and soldiers are just walking around. They’re stuck there and they just kind of start to talk to each other. Just seeing that kind of dramatic setup, with these two people stuck in a room together, being at the tip of both of these sharp and political forces aiming at each other, but at the end of the day, they’re just these two everyday people–they’re just these two poor schmucks stuck down there–that strange dramatic relationship fascinated me and that was the impetus for the whole film…The whole thing came to me in a flash.
[I thought] “What a perfect little film.” It’s character-based, it’s a very small, contained and personal way to touch on a much larger subject that is fraught with such intellectual and political minefields, but to me, this was just the perfect way to address it and to brush across it without making the movie all about Guantanamo and all about one political message. That’s not what the movie is about. It’s about people.
I also read that you’d changed the main character from male to female. What was the impetus for that decision?
Peter Sattler: You know, that was very early on when I was thinking about the film. I was thinking about [it focusing on] two guys and…actually writing it more, I was struck by first, in my research, that a lot of women are down there. There are a lot of women guards down there, so that inspired some of the reality behind it because also…in a film, you want to have as much conflict between characters as possible.
[Having a male character and female character] made these characters so different, especially given the very complicated relationship that a Muslim needs to have with a woman and the various taboos that exist in there. It’s so fascinating, and on top of that, being a woman in the army. That’s intense. I mean, it’s a very honorable and great thing, but there are pressures. There are sexual pressures, there sexism, there’s all these things that all factor in to affect that relationship and, at the end of the day, put so much pressure on these characters[.]
How was it directing the cast, especially Stewart? How was it to see the actors embody your characters?
It was really amazing and really remarkable because the movie lives and dies by these two characters[.] I had a vision in my head and on the page of what they were, and at the end of the day, it’s all about seeing those characters come to life. And the remarkable thing is that Kristen and Peyman aren’t just actors, but they’re remarkable artists in their own right. They love to create their own art. Peyman has written and directed numerous Iranian films and Kristen writes and plays music and all these things, so as a director, it’s great.
I can tell these actors what to do all day long, sure, but it’s so much better when you have someone to collaborate with and they give you ideas. All you have to do as a director is filter that and channel that energy and say, “I love your ideas, and of those five ideas, this is the one that’s right for the movie.” They can just throw them at me and I can be the filter them and suggest and help channel and help steer that energy. It’s so much easier when someone’s coming at you with this force and throwing things at you instead of having to try and get it off its feet…With some scenes and some actors, is to just make it feel real and to just have something on screen.
When you have actors like Kristen and Peyman, [just] based on cold reads from them, it’s amazing because they’re inventing stuff. They’re doing things on screen. They’re filling every moment with nuances and idiosyncrasies. Then it’s easier, because as a director, all we need to talk about now is how do we shape and choose and decide the exact path this film is going to take.
What do you hope audiences take away from “Camp X-Ray”?
You know…there’s a feeling that I love in art and movies that…we all as humans–and this sounds cheesy–are connected. There’s this shared bond and there’s this communal experience that we all have. That’s what the film is all about. There are these two people and everyone’s telling them that they’re enemies and they’re set up in this position to be enemies, but they find a way to look at each other not as cardboard cutouts of a soldier or of a quote-unquote terrorist, but as human beings. To me, that’s one of the most powerful emotions on the earth. I love when movies make me feel connected to everyone else, especially in the modern age. We’re all so isolated and we’re inundated with quick black-and-white answers. So, when you can feel that connection to another human being, it’s the most powerful thing in the world.
Read Peter's full interview at the source: Shockya
There’s a great line in the film where Sgt. Cole says that “I wanted to do something with my life,” which is how she ended up in Guantanamo since she came from a small town. Coming from Indiana, was that your way into writing that character?
Absolutely. With a film like this one, it’s a very intimate film about very deep personal things and as a writer, you have to write from a place that you know. So there are pieces of me in Kristen’s character, there’s a lot of me in Peyman’s character and people I know are mixed into that. But you’re right, I came from a small town and I remember very consciously having the feeling when I was in the middle of high school this desire to do something important with my life. I didn’t want to just get a regular job and get married and have some kids. I don’t know how to describe it, but I know other people have the same feelings and they just verbalize it in different ways, so that’s something I wanted to put in there because I enjoyed illustrating the irony of that.
This girl really wants to do something important and she goes out and takes this big adventure, joins the army to get out of her comfort zone and is proud of the big step that she’s taking to leave her small town roots and maybe go see the world, then she ends up in a place where the purpose is very muddled. I really love that irony because that’s a very universal thing that everyone encounters in life. We all kind of look towards the future and look outside of ourselves and say “You know what, if I just get to go do that, then that will make me happy and that will be it,” but when Kristen’s character basically gets what she asks for, she realizes it wasn’t the way she imagined it.
It’s something I’ve always been very conscious of. I also like the unspoken idea of, [which is] very subtly dropped in the movie, that these detainees wanted to do something important as well. They wanted to fight for a cause and you can argue to say that cause is extremely flawed and that’s not what the movie’s about, but there is a commonality between soldiers on both sides of war.
I’ve heard at one point, you were talking to Peyman about his character and he actually changed your mind about a certain trait of his. Would your ideas about what you were making as you were filming?
Anytime you make a piece of art that is as large an undertaking of so many different moving pieces and so many other collaborators having their fingerprints on it, a film evolves and it grows. It’s like raising a child. You can guide it in the right direction, but there’s a point where it will just take on its own life. You can say that’s a bad thing that you lose control, but I think it’s a great thing because you discover things along the way. That happened a lot with Peyman and Kristen in terms of really shaping and molding these characters through rehearsal and then through filming because they’re amazing actors, but Peyman and Kristen are also very interesting and intelligent human beings and you’d be a fool not to let them have a say in what these characters are going to be.
So I thrived on those discussions when Kristen or Peyman would come up and try to argue with me that something should be different. It was great because ultimately, as the director you’re just the gatekeeper. If Kristen can come up or Peyman can come up and say “Hey, I just thought about something, I think we should do this,” then it’s like “Hey, let’s take it to trial and I’ll hear it out” and run the pros and cons of everything that I know about the film, then if it wins, I’m like “Great, you won, we get to add this new thing to the movie.”
But to go back to your question about Kristen’s character was going through, I think as an artist you want to do one big piece of work that will live beyond your years. After I made the movie, I realized some girl in Kansas may watch this movie 10 years from now and it’s going to move her. That’s all I ever wanted out of film because I adore it as an art form, as a piece of entertainment, as everything — I just wanted to add to that conversation. I wanted to make a film that I could drop into the bucket of all these amazing other films in as much as I remember when I was younger and you first see some film and it changes your life. I wanted to hopefully create something that would have that experience on someone else.
Peter Sattler didn't know much about Guantanamo Bay before he started writing his directorial debut, "Camp X-Ray." Like most Americans, he had the stark facts: torture, dubiously tried detainees, and a big political quagmire. But what interested him more than ideology was the humanity of the place."I wanted to capture the emotional zeitgeist of Guantanamo Bay," Sattler said. "What does it feel like to be down there?" After conducting intense research and making contact with ex-guards, Sattler found a discrepancy between the reality of the detention camp and its overblown media image. "We have this image of Guantanamo Bay as this very heightened, intense place, with barbed wire and torture," he explained. "But when I looked at what's actually going on there, it's very mundane! Yes, it's punctuated by these moments of violence and insanity, but a lot of it is this very banal stuff."
Did he still want to make the movie? Absolutely. "I'm drawn to very small stories inside of big situations," said Sattler. "I love films that have a very relatable, very everyday quality, but are wrapped up in an extraordinary shell." "Camp-X-Ray" was clearly borne of this sentiment; the film is predicated on a thick layer of dramatic tension, but the most compelling scenes are the subtle windows into what constitutes "normalcy" at Guantanamo. "As an ex-soldier who'd been stationed down there once told me," Sattler said, "you have 90% boredom, 10% insanity. How do you convey that monotony without boring an audience?"
For Sattler, the answer was to distill the political tension into two diametrically opposed characters. "Soldiers aren't supposed to talk to detainees," he said. "I felt like the detainees must want to talk to the soldiers. How crazy would it be to have someone ignore you for an entire day? So, as a writer and a dramatist, I was so curious as to what these two people's conversations would be like." To heighten the dichotomy, Sattler wrote the detainee (Peyman Moaadi) as gregarious and emotionally erratic, while the soldier (Kristen Stewart) is tightly-wound and difficult to read. He also created an age gap in order to explore universal themes like the pursuit of a meaningful life. "I was really fascinated by the ages of these soldiers down there. They're so young! So I started thinking about the film in terms of a 'quarter life crisis' film. What would it be like for a young girl? You're worried you're never gonna do anything that matters with your life. So I transposed that onto this girl. And this desire to go find herself in the army." Ultimately, this theme is the nexus of the soldier-detainee relationship. "I think everyone craves purpose in life. Whether you're a militant terrorist or a soldier, humans crave purpose. That's what drives us."
The character's interactions evolve from a lurid game of cat-and-mouse to meaningful attempts at connection, and Sattler chronicles them with an understated emphasis on emotion as opposed to diatribe. "What's on the page doesn't matter. What matters is what you're capturing on the camera," Sattler said.
While filming, Sattler encouraged the cast to rewrite their own lines in order to enhance authenticity. "Ultimately, it has to work for the actors," he said. "In saying it, and in reading it, Peyman or Kristen understood what that beat was about. And they understood it so well that they could experience it on their face. We cut a lot of monologues because we realized we didn't even need the rest of the line. A lot of it is learning that you can do so much with so little." But prioritizing subtletly didn't have to come at the cost of confronting some of Guantanamo's harshest realities. The film tackles suicide, various methods of torture, and heavy existential themes to boot. "You can't just be cavalier about it," said Sattler. "You're shooting some really intense stuff and you have to create an environment that fosters that intensity from your actors."
It's every first-time indie director's dream to write a hot-button script, cast a famous actor with an established fan base in the lead role, direct the film yourself, and premiere it at Sundance. This was Sattler's reality.
"When you're just starting out, you have no currency," he said. "The only currency you can really create in Hollywood is a hot script." But even an absorbing script about a hot-button issue like Guantanamo isn't guaranteed to secure financing. What it did do, however, was attract Kristen Stewart.
"Kristen read it, and she loved it," Sattler said. "It's just as simple as that. She told me she hadn't done a movie for two years. And when she sat down she said, 'You know, I was waiting for something to grab me."
"Having Kristen attached helped everything," Sattler said. It was not only the vote of confidence the film needed to get financed, but it also attracted other seasoned cast members to the project, such as Peyman Moaadi and John Carroll Lynch. "You can call someone and say, 'I'm making an indie film about Gitmo,' and they'll say, 'And?' But if you call and say, 'I'm making an independent film. It's about Guantanamo Bay. It stars Kristen Stewart,' they're like, 'Oh, really!'"
Sattler can't sing Kristen's praises highly enough: "She took a real leap of faith jumping into this role. It's a very challenging role for anyone to master." "Camp X-Ray" also bolstered Kristen's career by helping to diversify her public image. "Based on the reviews she's been getting, people have been really surprised that she pulled off this nuanced and internalized role," said Sattler. "I'm extremely proud that people are starting to look at her in a different way. There's been this great renaissance in the way people think about Kristen. And that's all to her credit, because she made a very conscious choice to make some bold, aggressive moves in the movies she was doing. I'm super excited to be the first film in this new chapter of Kristen Stewart."
Clouds of Sils Maria just screened at the New York Film Festival and it was great, have you seen that yet?
No, I still haven’t seen it cause Kristen won’t show me all these movies she’s been doing. I’ve also been busy, so I’ll just have to bug her to send me a copy.
You need to see it! And I’m only bringing it up because other than Adventureland and Into the Wild, everyone pretty much just associates Kristen with Twilight.
What about The Runaways, man? Don’t forget Runaways! That movie is amazing! That’s the one that I saw and I was like “whoa, this girl can act!”, cause she’s also in Panic Room and has small parts in some cool movies but when I saw Runaways I thought “she’s for real!”. I saw it years ago, but from that point on I was like “Twilight is just an aberration, this girl is cool, there’s something about her that’s really rad!”
In The Runaways though she’s really explosive, while in Camp X-Ray you have her hide inside this shell of sorts…
One of the things that Kristen’s really great at is, she has this great toughness to her but she’s also very vulnerable, and it’s that mixture of things that made me think I couldn’t not have her in the movie, because it’s perfect for this soldier that she’s playing. She has to have this tough facade because she’s a soldier, she’s surrounded by these aggressive dudes all the time so she has to keep this thick skin, but underneath it all there has to be this wound, this vulnerable child. Kristen can express that in a perfect way. She’s also an amazing actress when she doesn’t have lines, she can do so much without saying a single word. In this film she barely has any lines and all the emotion comes from her face and it’s so powerful and raw. When you catch Kristen and she’s really feeling a moment and you capture that on film it is the most magical thing on earth. It is like capturing lightning in a bottle!
I don’t know much about the army to be honest, but I found it interesting that the film is basically about a young woman who doesn’t know what to do with her life, so she decides to hide in the army, it gives her the perfect place where she doesn’t have to “be”...
That’s exactly right! I was talking about this with Kristen the other day, I think of Camp X-Ray as a quarter life crisis movie, when you’re at that stage in life when you’re getting out of college and go from being a child into becoming an adult. Many people look at the grown up world and realize things aren’t black and white, so people need to find some dogma to believe in, something to cling to, so you’re exactly right, I think this character is trying to escape herself and literally put on this soldier costume. She’s uncomfortable in her own skin so she tries another skin on. Of course in the end she realizes she needs to open up her inside and actually deal with what she’s feeling.
The film is also about globalization in a way, cause we have these two characters from opposite sides of the world, who meet by chance. How did you come up with the idea of putting these two people together?
For me the model was always movies like The Defiant Ones or Hell in the Pacific, because I love situations in which you have these two antagonistic characters that because of the environments they’re in, have to find a way to work together. The film started when I did some research and realized that these soldiers and detainees are just stuck there and they coexist in this world. Having the model of the films I mentioned, I thought this would be a perfect way to tell the story of these characters. These camps must be so weird, these people are different culturally, they’re pitted against each other, everyone is being told they should hate each other, but somehow they’re all stuck here. Both of the characters in my film are utterly lonely for some reason and so, they find this unlikely connection which saves both of them.
You also highlight how boring life in the army can be…
I’m obsessed with institutional mundanities. I also love the small idiosyncrasies of life and things like that, first of all because doing the research I realized this was real, a soldier actually told me I’d captured the 90% boredom, 10% insanity of being in the army. But we also have this image of Guantanamo Bay as being this action packed world, but in reality it’s probably just a lot of boredom and waiting around. To me this was both fascinating and relatable because in many ways this was just a crappy job, and that’s something we can all relate to, even if you haven’t been in the army.
Your use of space in the film is fascinating, would you say your career in art direction had anything to do with this?
I was a graphic designer yeah, I’ve done every below the line job in movies, from PA, to grip...but I love film because it’s a mixture of every artform under the sun. I love graphic arts and I was doing art for movies for years and it’s definitely always influenced my eye. I adore Stanley Kubrick, he’s like my god, there’s always this balance in his work which was useful to me because my film is set in an institution and the walls need to reflect this rigidity. To do this we used handheld outside and then locked up, tight, graphically balanced shots inside just to convey the strictness of the space. Also the exploration of that space was really important, and we did some conscious things to reflect that, for example we always kept the axis on the same place, she’s always looking one way, he’s always looking the other way...we also needed for this space to feel familiar. I like movies where I understand the space where I’m in, the geography is important to me. When you walk in a room you can determine the size instantly, but in a movie sometimes you don’t know. Some action movies drive me crazy because I don’t understand what’s happening, it messes with my mind, I’m anal about that stuff. So in my movie I wanted for people to have a sense of this space, which I did by having Kristen’s character push a book cart through the whole set.
Speaking of love, it’s interesting that you didn’t feel the need to create a platonic romantic relationship between the two characters in your film.
This movie isn’t about romantic love, I wanted it to be something deeper. And in movies once two characters have sex, the conflict’s gone, and I always think the courting was so much cooler and exciting. In a movie essentially you’re stirring together a recipe for emotion, one of my favorite recipes is bittersweet. I don’t trust happiness to some degree, if you give something a sweet happy ending it doesn’t resonate with the real world.
But there is a lot of chemistry between Kristen and Peyman! Since you shot the movie in 21 days, how did you have time to develop this chemistry?
We had a couple weeks of rehearsal which was good, but mostly those two had an instant chemistry. Since they’re both such good actors and they’re so intelligent about film in general, not just as actors, but like filmmakers, we talked about the characters and we would hang out a lot. We built a circle of trust at the beginning. I wanted to create a cool crew where everyone trusted each other and would make the actors feel comfortable when they were doing their emotional scenes.
Going back to the military for a second, since you pretty much went through every single possible job within the hierarchy of filmmaking, I was wondering if you saw any parallels between that and the army structure?
Oh my god, yeah! That’s why I’m fascinated with both of these worlds. Trying to do anything in this world takes military precision, all the army is trying to do is make something happen. Armies aren’t about killing people, they’re about achieving goals. If your goal is to occupy a hill, they come up with a plan. And film is the same, that’s why so many assistant directors come out of the military. Our AD and one of our associate producers were in the military. Also, you’re all going on this journey together, trying to slay this beast...and yeah, with this ranking, I think when you set out to make your first film it’s interesting to have experienced what it’s like to be in all those other jobs. You learn things and when you’re in the director chair, you know how to to command this people. It’s like being a conductor too, if you know how to play everyone’s instrument, they’ll all sound better.
You’ve been doing a lot of cool work, especially in the last two or three years. What has it been like for you winning the actors lottery? Because you’re one of the few people who have really won the actor’s lottery in terms of different types of performances and the directors you get to work with. What’s that like for you from the inside?
HOULT: I think you just – either it’s very cold in here or you gave me chills by saying that.
But it’s very true though.
HOULT: Because I do feel very lucky and fortunate whereby, even in this year or in the last twelve months, you can go from doing X-Men, which is a franchise I grew up watching I was a kid and suddenly you’re in the corridors of Cerebro with Hugh Jackman thinking how did this happen? Then I can do a little indie film like Kill Your Friends, which is like this satire comedy playing another interesting character. That’s the main thing, looking for interesting characters, good directors, and experiences where you’re growing and learning. Yeah, I can do that, and go do an action car-chase film, and then go and do this last film I’ve just finished called Equals, which is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a film. So you sit there and you’re just like…very lucky. I love acting.
He has presence on screen and you buy into what he’s selling. It just feels authentic when he’s doing stuff. Let’s talk about Equals, because I love Drake’s work. I think he’s a really talented director. For people that don’t know, tell people what it’s about and the fact that you got to film all over the place.
HOULT: Yeah, we filmed all over Japan and Singapore. You know from Drake’s work, he’s all about love stories, he’s all about connection, humans…just that, he’s all about that. It’s honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a film. I felt really inspired working with him and Kristen each day. I’d sit down and I’d be like, “Wow.” His style of filmmaking, I love. There’s so much soul in it. I’ve seen little clips of that film now and it evokes so much emotion and he evokes so much on set. I felt as though – I haven’t seen it, I don’t know – but in terms of my acting, it felt like the best experience in terms of him guiding me and just wanting…it’s simple what he asks for. He wants you to be vulnerable and he wants you to be honest. He’s like, “You don’t have to portray anything. Don’t say anything if it doesn’t feel real to you. Just be honest.” This is the first time he’s worked with a script, but there would also be a fair bit of improvisation and…yeah, sorry [laughs].
The film’s about this kind of futuristic world where humans destroyed the world, and then they’ve kind of made this collective where everyone works for space travel and all that stuff, but because human emotion was essentially what caused us to destroy the world, now when you’re kids you get genetically modified essentially so that you don’t feel and you don’t feel love. You’re not like an autobot, you can still create and you can still work. It’s all still there, but the soul’s kind of been taken out of you. Then my character starts to see things in this world, it all starts to unravel around him, and he starts noticing Kristen Stewart’s character and he’s like, “Hang on a minute, there’s more here going on and I’m starting to feel things,” and then the movie takes off from there.
So basically the modification maybe has failed a little bit.
HOULT: Yeah, so basically there’s this thing called “SOS”, which is Switched On Syndrome, and it’s
a utopian world, but if you get this disease you’re taken to “the den”, which is this horrible place where essentially you end up dying and it’s all over. Yeah, feeling is not what they do. So then it was amazing because you’re playing this character who has never experienced or felt all these things before, so you’re doing all these things, which is kind of similar in some ways to the character I played in Warm Bodies where its that thing of awakening and then feeling too much, not being able to handle it, and wanting to try and get away from it – we’ve all been there. You know what? I just can’t wait for people to see that film. I can’t wait to see it.
I can’t wait either. Especially when it’s filmed around the world like that, because it adds so much production value to something when you’re filming on location in real places, and maybe places that are off the beaten path.
HOULT: Yeah, and it’s also the look of it. The look of it and the music. Drake created this thirty song playlist for me, which before going up to do the movie I’d listen to it pretty much every day and walk around and just hear this music. On set I’d be playing it the whole time in my ears, and he’d play it on set as well for kind of the mute stuff where me and Kristen are doing scenes but the sound’s not going to be used, he’d have the music playing. I called him Dream Flare, Dream Flare Doremus [laughs]. He loves a bit of flare in his movies. It’s shot beautifully.
I would expect nothing less. Whiplash was shot and wrapped in October and then they premiered at Sundance. Has he mentioned to you that maybe he’s going to try or is it too soon?
HOULT: He’s already in the edit. I don’t think it would be ready for Sundance, I think he probably needs more time with it – not needs more time with it, but you know.
Are you doing anything before X-Men or do you need to take some time to decompress and enjoy that buzz of Equals?
HOULT: Yeah, at the moment that was kind of a sign that I don’t want to work for a little bit. It’s kind of changed what I want to do. It’s changed my perspective on acting a fair bit.
You take it home with you.
HOULT: Yeah, which was nice to then go on to Equals. Because it’s like this serene utopian world where you feel nothing. They’re the perfect antidote to each other where they couldn’t be more different. And then Kill Your Friends is this kind of music industry film in the ’90s where I play an A&R manager called Stephen Stelfox who’s basically driven by fear of everything and a bit of a psychopath.
Are you allowed to skateboard while you’re filming? Because I have a friend who’s broken a few things.
HOULT: Yeah, I got told off on Equals because I did come off one day and then the next day Drake saw me with a massive bruise all down my arm. He was like, “How did you get that?” I was like, “I fell over.” He was like, “Have you been skateboarding again?” “Yeah” “Nick…” I was like, “I’m done. Stopping.”
[Laughs] Did you just turn white from nervousness?
HOULT: It was just one of those things where the disappointment was like reeking out of him and I was like, “Oh no, I was an idiot. I’m sorry Drake. The movie means more.”