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JANUARY 6, 2021 | OSCAR PREVIEW

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD? DAVID FINCHER BRINGS THE BIG SCREEN TO US FOR HIS LATEST PICTURE. WITH A CAST LED BY GARY OLDMAN AND AMANDA SEYFRIED , IS MANK A LOVE LETTER TO CINEMA'S GOLDEN AGE OR AN INDICTMENT OF THE SHADIER SIDE OF THE MOVIE BUSINESS? SPIKE LEE DELIVERS HIS MAVERICK TWIST ON A VIETNAM WAR MOVIE STEVEN YEUN & LEE ISAAC CHUNG PAIR UP FOR MINARI PLUS:

JODIE FOSTER + MICHELLE PFEIFFER + ELISABETH MOSS + NICOLE BEHARIE + RACHEL BROSNAHAN


5-15

FIRST TAKE Spike Lee talks teaching, Trump, and the career that led to Da 5 Bloods Art of Craft: The skill of dressing a great pretender in Promising Young Woman Fresh Face: Sidney Flanigan wows as a brand new beginner in Never Rarely Sometimes Always Delayed effect: How 2020 awards show timing could affect SAG, Globes and Oscar nominations

18

COVER STORY David Fincher brings the movie theater to Netflix homes with Mank, starring Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried

30

THE DIALOGUE: ACTRESSES Jodie Foster Rachel Brosnahan Nicole Beharie Elisabeth Moss Michelle Pfeiffer

40

THE PARTNERSHIP Steven Yeun and Lee Isaac Chung recall the telling of an immigrant story very close to Chung’s heart in Minari ON THE COVER Gary Oldman photographed by Bertie Watson exclusively for Deadline ON THIS PAGE Nicole Beharie photographed by Sen Floyd


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Dressing a murderer

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| Fresh Face: Sidney Flanigan p. 12 | The belated SAG/Globes landscape

p. 14

Maverick Mission Spike Lee heads to war with Da 5 Bloods, his racially charged Vietnam adventure

I NV I S I ON /AP

BY DAMON WISE

4

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

PHOTOGRAPH BY

Evan Agostini


VIETNAM VETS From L to R: Jonathan Majors, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters and Delroy Lindo in a scene from Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods.

For Lee, it began in the early ’80s at

for Lee, who, when asked how this

films that are in black and white or films

we just felt it was time to tell the story.

that were made before they were born. I

We also loved the whole Treasure of the

tell this to my students: ‘Look, there was

Sierra Madre thing, and it was, ‘Let’s go.’”

great shit made before you were born.

Unlike many filmmakers who make

Movies, novels, plays, music—shit just

Vietnam movies, Lee wasn’t afraid to

didn’t start when you were born.’ That’s

reference a film classic close to his heart

what I tell them.”

(“I wasn’t a filmmaker when the war was

Released in the summer, during

going on,” he dryly notes). In fact, he was

NYU’s film school, where his classmates

moment might have affected his future

included Ernest Dickerson and Ang Lee,

as a filmmaker, reacts as if the question

the first locked-down months of the

getting ready to be a film student, doing

and where Jim Jarmusch, two years

shouldn’t need to be asked. “I teach!” he

coronavirus pandemic, Lee’s Da 5

an internship at Columbia Pictures, when

his senior, gave him the confidence to

yells. “I’m a teacher—a film professor for

Bloods reflects this awareness: when

he first saw Apocalypse Now in 1979 dur-

believe that his goals were achievable.

going on 20 years!”

the director first came across the script,

ing its 70mm run at the Cinerama Dome

in which four Vietnam veterans return

in LA. “That film has made such a big

It was in 1985, however, that he had an

The teaching began in 1991 at Har-

epiphany, when NYU old boy Martin

vard, then Lee returned to NYU shortly

to the country they fought, to lay the

impact,” he says. “You can’t talk about

Scorsese returned to his alma mater

after, taking over as artistic director of its

ghosts of the past and retrieve a hidden

films made about the Vietnam War

with a print of his new film After Hours.

film school in 2002, where he has tenure

cache of gold, he was acutely aware

without mentioning or respecting it—

“After the screening,” Lee recalls, “he

now. One of the conditions of him taking

that he needed to bring something

which I did.” Indeed, there are two nods

didn’t run out of the theater. He stayed

that position was that it accommodated

new to the screen. “It was in very good

in Da 5 Bloods: Lee shot at a surprisingly

around. I went up to him and told him my

his busy production schedule. “Usually

shape,” he recalls. “My co-writer Kevin

real nightclub named Apocalypse Now

name and what I wanted to do. In that

I shoot in the summer,” he says, “so it

Willmott and I liked the script a lot, but

and, equally on the nose, used Richard

very moment, Marty took an interest in

works out”.

we wanted to put a different spin on it.

Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” on

This was going to be another Vietnam

the score.

me as a filmmaker, and we’ve been very

For Lee, teaching is a way to connect

good friends since then. He could have

the past with the present and to find

film, and we wanted to tell it through the

easily blown me off. I was, like, the last

a path to the future. “It is the job of

eyes—specifically—of African American

regulars, whether it’s some of the main

person in line. He could have said, ‘Look,

filmmakers and professors to make

soldiers, who, during the high point of

players (Clarke Peters and Delroy Lindo),

man, I showed you my film, I’ve got to go.’

[film history] interesting to young film

the Vietnam War, were one-third of the

its composer (Terence Blanchard) or

But he stayed to speak to me. Engaged.”

students and young audiences,” he says.

fighting force, yet at the same time only

production designer Wynn Thomas, who

“They should not turn their noses up at

10% of the population back home. So,

Lee still hasn’t forgiven for spending the

It was clearly an important moment

6

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Da 5 Bloods also reflects Lee’s use of

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X

SPIKE LEE LOVES CINEMA AND HE LOVES MAKING MOVIES, but, perhaps more than either, he loves filmmakers who are willing to share that kind of love for the art and its craft.


laughs). “So independent cinema is alive. Streaming has opened up a whole different avenue for young filmmakers. I’m not going to deny that getting the money, especially, for first-time filmmakers, is hard. That’s always going to be hard. But I think there are many more opportunities for young filmmakers than when I was in film school.” Lee is also somewhat optimistic about America’s political future, after GROUP EFFORT The men bond on a night out; (below) Lee with the cast on location.

the recent election result—a direct reaction, he feels, to the years of “holy hell with Agent Orange” that began with President Trump’s anti-Obama birther campaign. How did he feel about the outcome? “Oh, I’m on Instagram popping a bottle of prosecco,” he laughs. “OK, it wasn’t champagne, it was handed to me. But it was a glorious day. It’s very sad that this guy is still saying

A TEAM IS COMFORT. A TEAM GIVES YOU THE LICENSE TO BE HONEST WITH ONE ANOTHER. THE REASON WHY YOU’RE BEING HONEST WITH EACH OTHER IS BECAUSE IT’S BASED UPON LOVE. ” —SPIKE LEE, DA 5 BLOODS

that he won and trying to dismantle democracy and his gangsters, coconspirators, won’t acknowledge it, a lot of them. I’d say [his presidency] was

gloomy. His hopes for the future? “That

going to be very kind to Agent Orange.”

the world becomes humane,” he muses.

It’s still too soon to be complacent,

takes the vaccine, and that we learn

thing. No matter how bad we talk

from all the mistakes that were made

about Agent Orange, it’s even a more

during this pandemic.” He’s also excited to get started on

as a country that 70 million people

his next project, a musical about Viagra,

voted for this guy. That’s a comment

how it was invented and how it came

She’s Gotta Have It. “A team is family,”

Lee was robbed of a future collabora-

on an America that is OK with the

to the marketplace. “It’s a great story,”

Lee reasons. “A team is comfort. A

tor when Chadwick Boseman died in

president saying all Mexicans are rap-

he enthuses. “I’ve been wanting to do

team gives you the license to be honest

August, aged just 43 (“I truly believe he

ists, murderers and drug dealers. That’s

a musical for a long time, I just didn’t

with one another. The reason why

felt that this was gonna be his last film.

70 million people who believe it’s OK if

have the idea, with the exception of

you’re being honest with each other

And he was like, ‘Yo, it’s the last one—

you separate mothers from their newly

making my second film School Daze into

is because it’s based upon love. So, if I

I’m going out like a motherfucker…”).

born sons and daughters, many still

a Broadway musical. So, when the script

say, ‘Why are you doing that?’ it’s not

And he’s not holding his breath for

breastfeeding. That’s one of the highest

was brought to my attention, it was the

because I’m trying to jump on your

another chance with Jonathan Majors

immoral acts: separating mother from

right script at the right time. I mean, I

ass—it’s love. We’re all on the same

either, after his name was added to

infant child. Who does that? Nazis?

know I’ve had musical elements—there’s

page and we’re all trying to do the best

the new Ant-Man movie. “I’d hope so,

Slave owners? That’s fuckin’ shameful.

a great musicality—in my films. I’m

we can.”

but you know what? I might not be

That’s a fuckin’ disgrace and that is a

talking about a straight-up all-singing

able to afford him after he does these

terrible mark on American democracy.”

all-dancing musical. God willing, that’s

character’s bed for his 1986 debut

But, as Lee proved with BlacK-

Of the younger cast in Da 5 Bloods,

what this next film is going to be.”

kKlansman, and its star-making turn by

new Marvel movies.” He laughs. “He

Even darker are Lee’s satirical

John David Washington, there’s always

might be like, ‘I love you man, but I’m

but nevertheless troublingly relevant

a place for new blood. “With everything

getting $20 million playing this Marvel

thoughts on Trump’s exit strategy. “This

porary Spike Lee joint, not something

I’ve done,” he says, “I’ve always tried

character. I’ll be the first in line to see

guy is still in office and he still has the

knowing, in-jokey and retro, although,

to get new talent in. In a lot of ways,

the movie, but you can’t afford me.’”

nuclear codes, and it’s highly conceiv-

having enjoyed David Fincher’s Mank,

I approach my casting as a general

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X

that’s the formula of success.”

“That everybody, those who want to,

though, he feels. “Look, here’s the

condemning comment on Americans whole production budget on the main

In reality, though, Lee isn’t really so

a goddamn shame and history is not

Lee may well lose Majors to the

It will also, of course, be a contem-

able that he’s going to start another

he isn’t averse to the idea of filmmakers

manager would in sports. It’s been my

tentpoles, but, even after 30 years in

war. This guy is not going to go out with

making films about filmmaking. “I did a

observation that great teams in sports

the business, he doesn’t fear for the

a whimper, he’s going to go out with

film like that—it’s called Bamboozled,”

are the teams where you have the

indie world. “I would just like to say that

a bang. I’m a realist. I just hope that

he chides gently. “It dealt with the racist

seasoned veterans with the youngsters.

there is still independent cinema,” he

the generals gave him a fake code.”

narrative of film and television. That’s

The youngsters give their energy, and

says, adding that one of his ex-students

He laughs uproariously. “Gave him

one of my films that slipped through the

when you get that mix between youth

is Chloé Zhao, director of the feted

the bogus, fugazi numbers. Gave him

cracks. You haven’t seen it?” He laughs.

and vitality and spirit with experience,

Nomadland (“She doesn’t call me

numbers he can remember, like, one,

“We’re in a pandemic, what else you

that’s a winning combination. For me,

Spike, she calls me Professor Lee,” he

two, three, four!”

doing? What else you got to do?!” ★

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

7


CHARTED TERRITORY

At press time, here is how Gold Derby’s experts ranked the Oscar chances in the Lead and Supporting Actress races. Get up-todate rankings and make your own predictions at GoldDerby.com

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Vibes of Silence Sound of Metal’s sound designer Nicolas Becker keys into the inner world of the hearing-impaired

ON DARIUS MARDER’S SOUND OF METAL, supervising sound editor Nicolas Becker sought to capture the sonic experience of Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a heavy-metal drummer whose life unravels as he starts to lose his hearing. The brief, from the director, was to craft a soundtrack that would be felt on a physical level, tapping into the “body sound” that is experienced more acutely as one’s hearing of the outside world recedes. “[When] it’s totally silent, you start to hear your tendons,” Becker explains. “You start to hear your heartbeat.” To capture the minute, vibrational sounds created by the blink of an eye or the twitch of a facial muscle—which the brain of the hearing-impaired reconfigures as sound—the artist engaged in an experimental foley process. This involved rigging incredibly sensitive microphones to Ahmed, to collaborator Heikki Kossi, and to himself. “I have mics that are maybe 200 times more [sensitive] than the human ear. So, if you go in a very quiet place, you can really get ridiculous sounds,” Becker says. “I have mics you can put in your mouth, so you can record breathing from inside.” To further round out the distorted, muffled world experienced by Ruben, he introduced composer Abraham Marder to “crazy metal instruments” known as Bachet structures, which produce a kind of strange, acoustic drone. “It’s a bit like an acoustic synthesizer, a bit like ghost music,” Becker says. “It’s a bit like what Ruben had inside of his head, you know? It’s a big mess.” — Matt Grobar

LOST IN SPACE

which accentuated the character’s

Editor Yorgos Lamprinos captures a subjective experience of dementia in The Father

The film was structured as a puzzle—

ODDS

1

Viola Davis Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

19/5

2

Frances McDormand Nomadland

39/10

3

Vanessa Kirby Pieces of a Woman

11/2

4

Kate Winslet Ammonite

10/1

5

Sophia Loren The Life Ahead

10/1

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

ODDS

1

Amanda Seyfriend Mank

39/10

2

Olivia Colman The Father

4/1

3

Ellen Burstyn Pieces of a Woman

5/1

4

Yuh-jung Youn Minari

5/1

5

Glenn Close Hillbilly Elegy

9/1

confused sense of time and space. one that viewers could ultimately solve to understand the big picture of Anthony’s life, even though he himself

On The Father, editor Yorgos

movie in my head,” Lamprinos says,

never could. “There are [non-linear]

Lamprinos went deep into the mind

“which is not exactly the film. But

films that you can put together, and

of the film’s aging protagonist,

that was where we needed to put

they become linear, but this film never

working to represent an experience

the audience.” In channeling Anthony

does,” the editor explains. “Because

of dementia, and how it agonizingly

(Anthony Hopkins)’s experience for

Anthony’s head works that way. He

distorts one’s worldview. “When

the viewer, two key tools were time

can never reassemble things.”

I read the script, I had a horror

loops and shifts in the point of view,

—Matt Grobar

8

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

LOST SOUL Anthony Hopkins portrays a man grappling with dementia in The Father.


F OR YOU R CONSIDERATION IN AL L CATEG OR IES INC LU DI NG :

BE ST AC T RE SS - Nicole B eha rie BE ST D IREC T OR - C ha nning G o dfrey Pe ople s


The Art of Craft

Carey Mulligan is dressed to kill in Promising Young Woman BY MATT GROBAR “Emerald [Fennell] wanted Cassie to look much more cheerful than she actually was. A character like that, you might think they would not be as perky—pastels, and colors, and flowers. And I loved that Emerald wanted to twist it up that way.”

— N A N CY ST E I N E R

1

In Promising Young

2

The darkly comic

3

By night, she

Woman, costume

revenge thriller’s

goes to bars

designer Nancy Steiner

protagonist is a kind of

in character,

crafted looks for Cassie

chameleon, constantly

pretending to be

(Carey Mulligan), a

tailoring her appearance

blackout drunk to

woman leading a double

to appeal to different

entrap would-be

life as she seeks justice

types of men.

sexual predators.

for her dead best friend.

4

5

By day however,

she’s also in disguise, wearing cheerful,

wearing a costume

vibrant clothes

created from scratch for

that belie her

Mulligan: a vinyl nurse/

deeply-depressed,

stripper outfit meant to

heartbroken mindset.

6

The nurse theme

In the final act, Cassie

exacts her revenge,

seduce a bachelor party.

7

Aside from this look,

8

In addition, a

also reflected Cassie’s

Cassie’s clothes were

rose-patterned dress

old life as a medical

sourced from Warner

was taken from the

student, from back

Bros. and Universal rental

fashion line of the

before her friend’s

houses in LA, and retailers

director’s sister,

tragic death, when she

including Urban Outfitters

Coco Fennell.

was still a “promising

and Uniqlo.

young woman”.

10

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

ILLUSTRATION BY BRYAN VALENZUELA


B E S T D O C U M E N TA R Y NOMINEE

IFP GOTHAM AWARDS

++++

“A RIVETING DOCUMENTARY.

ASTONISHINGLY CANDID.”

 ANN HORNADAY, THE WASHINGTON POST

“ONE OF THE GUTSIEST, BEST AND... MOST HOPEFUL [COVID19] DOCUMENTARIES.”  ALISSA WILKINSON, VOX

“A BRACINGLY IMMEDIATE

VIEW FROM THE FRONTLINES OF HISTORY.”  DAVID EHRLICH, INDIEWIRE

DIRECTED BY

HAO WU, WEIXI CHEN & ANONYMOUS 76daysfilm.com


Fresh Face BY A N TO N IA B LYTH

WHO Sidney Flanigan Age: 22 Hometown: Buffalo, New York

WHY

WHEN & WHERE

Flanigan credits her musicianship with giving her

thought of acting until she was cast in Eliza Hittman’s

the courage to perform on set for the first time.

Predictably, she’s been

Never Rarely Sometimes Always. But despite that lack

A stint as a backup dancer in an eighth-grade

snapped up on the back

of experience, Flanigan’s performance has an almost

production of Camp Rock “doesn’t count”, she says.

of this performance,

shocking depth and nuance, and has received much Oscar

“I’ve been a performing musician for a long time, so

signing on to star in

buzz—an experience Flanigan calls “extremely crazy and

I’ve already been used to making myself vulnerable

Matthew Kaundart’s

weird, but very exciting”. The film follows a teenager forced

in front of the crowd I guess.” In fact, Hittman was

psychological drama My

to travel out of state to get an abortion. Along the way,

an early fan of her music. “When I was 14,” Flanigan

Twin is Dead. And she’s

she and her cousin face disappointments, setbacks and

explains, “Eliza’s partner Scott was working on a

been sent a lot of scripts.

threats. It’s a story that resonated with Flanigan from the

film in Buffalo called Buffalo Juggalos. I was hanging

“I’m still figuring out what

first. “The issue of reproductive rights, how it’s taboo and

out at this house that they were shooting at

I like since this is still

there’s a stigma around it,” she says, “that’s something that

frequently, and I met Eliza there one day in passing.

very new to me. I think

I feel is looming over women all the time. It affects pretty

They followed me on Facebook over the years and

for the most part, the

much all women alike, so I was instantly drawn to it.”

watched videos that I posted in my bedroom of me

scripts that I really like

The raw expression of trauma didn’t intimidate Flanigan,

playing guitar.” Six years later, Hittman suggested

reading are mostly indies.

but she was a little nervous about nudity, she says. “There

she audition for this film, and friends encouraged

I guess I haven’t exactly

was one scene that didn’t even make it into the film, where

Flanigan to go for it. “It ended up being one of the

formulated the dream

I was in a bathtub. I felt nervous about shooting that day.”

greatest experiences in my life,” she says.

role in my head yet.”★

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FOC US FE AT U R ES / ST E VE N B ERG M A N / M EGA

WHAT Sidney Flanigan is a true beginner, having never even


LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

SCHITT’S CREEK

Will the Globes and SAG Shape the Oscar Race and out-do the Emmys? BY PETE HAMMOND

IF YOU ARE AN AWARDS PUNDIT LOOKING TO PAST HABITS TO PREDICT THE TRAJECTORY OF THIS AWARDS SEASON, THINK AGAIN. All bets are off as we are clearly, and rather obviously, in uncharted territory when trying to assess how voters, particularly the early ones at SAG and the Golden Globes will be leaning. Although on the TV side of things, which both groups celebrate in addition to the current Oscar season for movies, the big question will be how influential September’s pandemicaffected Emmy telecast will actually be? As for the way the winds are blowing on the movie side, that is really where all bets are off this year.

THE PROM

and all the major guilds, so some late-breaking contenders may factor. That said, this year could finally be the one that sees Netflix take the crown (and not just that much-talked-about British TV Series). The premier streamer is aggressively on the hunt for gold, and appears to be throwing every one of their best bets against the wall to see what sticks with voters, like the lavishly campaigned-to Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which will be handing out their Golden Globes on February 28, and SAG voters, whose televised show is also nearly two months later this year on Sunday March 14. The Globes NBC airdate could be particularly significant, since Oscar nomination voting will not even start until almost a week later on March 5, with ballots due on March 10. SAG nominations will also be a factor, even if final winners there will come in just one night before Oscar nominations are announced on March 15. So, with so much on the line, who is out front at this point at SAG and the Golden Globes? Since the Globes split their Best Film and lead acting categories between Drama and Comedy/Musical there will again be a wider field to look at. For the marquee Best Motion Picture Drama, Netflix has Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Globe favorite George Clooney’s

Let’s start with that because if anyone can tell you who is leading the

The Midnight Sky in the pole positions for one of those five Drama slots, with

Oscar race in this craziest of crazy years, they will first have to realize that all

longer shots at this point being Spike Lee’s earlier entry Da 5 Bloods, Ron

roads must probably go through SAG and the Golden Globes. Covid-19 has

Howard’s popular but critically-unacclaimed Hillbilly Elegy, and perhaps still-

ripped a hole through a season which has seen numerous projects sidelined

unseen late breaker Malcolm & Marie.

and moved to next year, leaving the field largely to streamers flooding the

Rival Amazon’s One Night In Miami from director Regina King is their big-

race with one hopeful after another, along with a few stragglers from the

gest bet and has been successful on the fest go-round. Sony Pictures Clas-

studios. How this affects the race is anyone’s guess, but it could mean the

sics will be pushing hard for the dementia drama The Father, while frequent

playing field is really levelled to a degree it never has been before.

awards champ Searchlight puts all their eggs in early fall fest critical favorite,

Both the Globes and SAG have proven in the past they often have the

Nomadland, which has been dominant on the circuit since winning Venice,

midas touch in predicting, maybe even influencing, the direction of Oscar

and seems certain for one of those slots. A24 has the minimalist First Cow,

voters. In terms of timing, both SAG and the Globes followed Oscar’s lead in

but its best shot at Globes is with the Korean/American Sundance winner,

extending their eligibility periods to the end of February, as did Critics’ Choice

Minari. Meanwhile, newbie Apple will be heavily pushing the Feb 26 release of

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On the Comedy series front, Emmy love for the final season of Schitt’s Creek, plus nominees like Ramy (a past Globe winner for its star), What We Do in the Shadows, Insecure, Dead to Me, and the final season of Globe home network NBC’s The Good Place, seem like good bets at both SAG and the

TENET

Globes. The latter will likely make a big deal about Apple’s newbie, Ted Lasso and its star Jason Sudeikis, Kaley Cuoco in HBO Max’s watercooler hit The Flight Attendant, and maybe such fresh possibilities as The Great, Pen15, Never Have I Ever, and Darren Star’s Emily in Paris. Still, expect Schitt’s Creek to be the “schitt” at SAG for sure and likely with the HFPA too. In the Limited Series/Movie lineups, Emmy nominees like Unorthodox, Mrs. America, Little Fires Everywhere, I Know This Much is True (at least for Emmy-winning star Mark Ruffalo), and Normal

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

People will land at Globes, SAG, or both in various races, but I

the Russo Brothers’ ’70s -style epic

the Rocks, with a good chance for

maybe at SAG too if it can get seen

expect post-Emmy new entries in

drama Cherry. The studio pres-

its stars, Bill Murray and Rashida

widely in time.

the TV-verse to hugely dominate

ence is record-thin, but Warners’

Jones too, while Hulu/NEON will

Christopher Nolan thriller Tenet

be pushing their Sundance sensa-

lags behind the Emmys, while the

frontrunners out of The Undoing

from late summer hopefully will not

tion Palm Springs. Sony Classics

Globes tend to get in front of what

from HBO with Nicole Kidman

be ignored, while Universal, with

has the quirky French Exit with

could end up being Emmy candi-

and Hugh Grant, and the beloved

their Christmas Day release of Paul

Michelle Pfeiffer, and Searchlight

dates. With that in mind, expect

Netflixer, Queen’s Gambit and its

Greengrass’ sublime western, News

has The Personal History of David

HBO’s buzzy Lovecraft Country and

star Anya Taylor-Joy (also making

Of The World starring Tom Hanks

Copperfield with Dev Patel, first

its stars Jonathan Majors and Jurn-

waves on the movie side in Emma)

could be the one great hope for

seen at Toronto 2019. HBO Max

ee Smollett to score at the Globes,

eating up most of the attention.

the majors. Paramount’s afore-

could score a first ever nomination

along with Sarah Paulson as the

Showtime’s The Comey Rule, with

mentioned Billie Holiday picture

for Let Them All Talk, which might

title character in Netflix’s Ratched.

sterling work from Jeff Daniels and

and STX’s Mauritanian are question

have its best shot in supporting for

Other newbies for Drama Series

Brendan Gleeson (as Trump), as

marks right now until they are more

Candice Bergen, since star Meryl

are HBO’s Perry Mason and its star

well as their new buzzy hit, Your

widely seen. NEON’s Ammonite

Streep is more likely for The Prom.

Matthew Rhys, along with that

Honor with Bryan Cranston, could

may have a tougher time breaking

Bleecker Street’s Irish charmer

same cable giant’s We Are Who We

be potential players, as well as

through, but could have its stron-

Wild Mountain Thyme could have

Are, and Industry making possible

Jude Law in HBO’s creepy thriller

gest appeal with the HFPA.

appeal for the foreign press, even

inroads into awards glory through

The Third Day, along with Hugh

On the Comedy/Musical front,

On the TV side, SAG usually

these Limited Series races, making

if some critics (certainly not me)

the Globes’ desire to be hip to the

Jackman in their Emmy-winning

Netflix’s Ryan Murphy adaptation

were underwhelmed. Focus has a

new. Of course, at both SAG and

Bad Education. FX could factor

of Broadway’s dazzling musical The

possibility with their period comedy

Globes, faves like The Crown, Ozark,

with the return of Fargo and new

Prom with its all-star cast led by

Emma, and certainly with critical

and The Mandalorian are likely to

star Chris Rock. Don’t discount

Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman

darling Promising Young Woman if

find love, with an outsider’s chance

Ethan Hawke’s The Good Lord

just screams Globes, and that

it is accepted here rather than as a

for The Outsider, and even ABC’s

Bird, Steve McQueen’s five-part

could include several nods for its

drama. Wherever it eventually lands,

midseason ratings hit Big Sky. SAG

Amazon group of films Small Axe,

cast members too. The strongest

star Carey Mulligan is a contender.

is likely to also look to older titles

or Michaela Coel’s critically ac-

competitor is Borat Subsequent

Netflix has yet another late breaker

like NBC’s venerable This Is Us, and

claimed I May Destroy You—all in

Moviefilm, with the incomparable

in its Virtual TIFF pickup, the dark

the Emmy-snubbed cast members

the mix in a category of talked-

Sacha Baron Cohen, who took a

comedy thriller I Care a Lot, that

of Better Call Saul, since the guild

about entries that may be the

Globe for Borat in 2007. Apple/A24

likely will land attention in this

likes to repeat its nominees once

year’s strongest at SAG and the

has Sofia Coppola’s delightful On

category for Rosamund Pike, and

they join the club.

Globes for TV or movies. ★

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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ix homes l f t e N s n r u t t opus, s e t a l s i h h ouses wit h e i v o m s rations of t s u r f d n into 1940 a es the life r o l p x e h c i wh iewicz... k n a M . J r Herman e t i r w n e e r c e’s s

R E H C N I F D I DAV , K N A M Citizen Kan

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

19


screenwriting—wrote the first drafts of Mank in the early ’90s, the idea of fake newsreels interfering

will become t a h w f o t f ra hrough the d t y a w s is h s ebut. With it d l ...as he work a ri o t c e ir seminal d ary Oldman, G y b it w ry ea icz’s world-w w ie k n a M h by Fincher’s bued wit o g im a le rs o r a e le y it 0 t more than 2 d e t f ra d t s ir script f ignites the re m il f e and from a h t 3, away in 200 d e s s a p o h w father Jack, Welles took m il f a f o ip the authorsh t u o b a e t a b de that besides; n a h t re o m t u But it is abo s, r. o f it d re c ovie busines sole m e h t f o s n tio the machina o t r e t t le e t a truth in the f o e d a a love and h ç a f e f th amination o x e ly e im t souls beaten d re a remarkably u t r o t f o timate study in n a d n a , insecurities. n news media w o ir e h t d an around them , ld r o w n e h a t m d l , O down by r e h meets Finc image of e h t s e t a it il b —who reha d e i r Seyf loser look!!! c a r o f & Amanda ies— v a D n o i r a socialite M actress and

’ s e l l e W n o s Or

I H C I T U JOE

with election results might have seemed like distant history. Now, says Fincher, “This is oddly prescient… if you ignore the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.” But in fact, none of these grand themes—even the ones that first drew Jack to the story, with a journalistic eye towards uncovering the truth behind Citizen Kane’s creation—were what moved the needle for David Fincher. “I’m still not interested in a posthumous credit arbitration,” he says. “I’m still not interested in the idea of the villainous position of Welles.” Instead, what drew him was the aspect of the story that was about change. “Mank could sign a contract,” Fincher says. “He was a grown man; he knew what he was doing. But he’d happily written and disappeared into the wings many, many times before, and on this one, he didn’t. That was interesting to me. I was fascinated by the notion of a guy who is on record so many times decrying the shallowness and hopelessness of cinema finally saying, ‘Wait a minute. I want this one on my headstone.’” Indeed, Mank did sign a contract that would give Welles sole credit for writing Citizen Kane. Yet, as he wrote, his relationship to the project clearly became

The DIRECTOR David Fincher’s Hollywood

more intimate. Mankiewicz had first original series House of Cards in 2013, to bring

been invited to the lavish dinners at San Simeon

the theater to us?

with William Randolph Hearst, which inspired

It is not just that Mank is in black-and-white,

Xanadu and Charles Foster Kane. He had come

or that despite shooting on 8K digital cinema

to know Marion Davies, whose position at

IN A YEAR OF UNPRECEDENTED disruption,

cameras, Fincher employed the moviemaking

Hearst’s side seemed to inform the character of

when the very survival of the theatrical experience

techniques of the 1940s on set, had his actors

Susan Alexander Kane, to the real Davies’ eternal

is just one of a myriad of anxieties plaguing the

deliver lines with the cadence of the time, added

detriment. He was a part of that world, though

film industry, perhaps it should have come as no

flecks of dust and reel-change marks in post,

never perhaps of that world, and Mank imagines

surprise that David Fincher would be the person

and mixed the sound to echo like it would in

what that closeness to his subject might have

to deliver an at-home experience that so cannily

a cavernous movie palace. Nor that all of this

done to deliver not just the brilliance and critical

replicated the trip to a cinema that few of us have

rigor would have made the film impossible to

insight of Citizen Kane’s writing, but also the need

been able to actually make. Irony, contradiction

finance anywhere other than Netflix (Fincher

to acknowledge an authorship of it.

and prescience, after all, are all in Fincher’s

calls these “barriers to entry” for the studios he

wheelhouse. This is the director that once

discussed Mank with in years past). It is also that

Others still have decried this description for

slipped Fight Club’s anti-corporate ideals past

Mank is a movie about movies. About a period

the way the film depicts the brutality and

Rupert Murdoch and woke the world up to the

of transition in Hollywood, and the frustrations

ruthlessness of the business side of Hollywood,

lawlessness of Silicon Valley’s club of billionaires

of the intersection between business and art,

through figures like Louis B. Mayer, who quips,

with The Social Network. Why shouldn’t he

both topics top of mind today. And when Jack

“This is a business where the buyer gets nothing

use Netflix, an outlet he’s become increasingly

Fincher—the director’s father, who had been

for his money but a memory. What he bought still

comfortable with since delivering the streamer’s

a journalist for Life magazine before turning to

belongs to the man who sold it. That’s the real

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Mank has been called a love letter to cinema.


Gary Oldman photographed by Bertie Watson exclusively for deadline

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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magic of the movies.” Of these diverging reads on his film, Fincher says, “Perfect. Those two things can co-exist. I have very conflicted feelings about Hollywood. I love the [Paramount] lot on Melrose. I love the [Sony] lot in Culver City. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to keep those places open, and I got no problem with that. When you have a system that’s set up to support this incredibly complicated endeavor that a handful of people are entrusted to hold in their heads as they lead the troops, if that wasn’t complicated, I don’t think we’d have as interesting an art form.” Indeed, the coexistence of two seemingly contradictory notions has come to define much of Fincher’s work and approach. As actors line up to tell of 100-take scenes in pursuit of perfection, his characters, too, seem to project the image of a man fascinated—even obsessed—with the drive for control. But he is also a filmmaker, perhaps the most perilous of all the art forms in which to maintain control. And he insists that the very unpredictability of the moviemaking process is precisely why cinema is the medium for him. “Predictability can be frustrating for those of us in the business of hopefully under-promising and overdelivering... And sometimes the opposite.” Movies reveal themselves, in fact; there is little scope for unadulterated control. “And the reality is there’s not a bad review written of a movie I’ve been involved with that I haven’t, to some extent, agreed with, depending on where I am in the process,” he says. “There are times when you look at something and go, ‘God, I felt we were working towards something that would be so much more profound and it’s not happening.’ Maybe I held the reins too tight, or maybe I didn’t hold them tight enough. But it doesn’t matter. It shakes out in the wash. A movie evolves, sometimes long after that first weekend.” It is Fincher who first turns the subject of our discussion toward—for want of a better expression— his reputation. The exacting standards he is known for are about something far more responsible, he insists. “I always get fed up with the idea of being controlling, because it’s not controlling. It’s being diligent when you’re taking responsibility for tens of millions of dollars in expenditure.” His sets move fast, so he can afford to go again if he needs to. He says he struggles, sometimes, to communicate his direction, so when he gives six notes and an actor hits four, that’s progress in the right direction. Let’s go again. It is not a process designed to wear his collaborators down. “I have total compassion for what it takes to make oneself entirely vulnerable to 50 or 60 people in a crowded, stinking soundstage,” he insists. “I’m not standing around with a taser going, ‘We’ve got a schedule to make.’ But at the same time, I expect you to show up, ready to throw down. And I’m lucky enough to work with people who all check their lives at the door. I don’t feel I’m deserving of that, but I’m incredibly appreciative of the people who will give me as much

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“I was fascin at is on record s ed by the notion of a guy o w and hopeless many times decrying the ho n ‘Wait a minu ess of cinema finally say shallowness in te. I want thi s one on my h g, eadstone.’”

of their attention. I want to maximize what can

who says, ‘Oh God, we must do something

be done in a 10- or 12-hour day; I’ve never been a

together,’ and then they try to manufacture

14-hour day guy.”

something, even if you’re not right for it.”

On the contrary, he says, it’s this approach

David Fincher is neither of those types of

that leads to the most fertile discoveries for a

director. “I’ve known David for over 20 years,”

finished film that shoots far beyond the one in

Oldman recalls. In fact, they first met when

his head at the start of a project. “I think the

Fincher was directing his debut feature, Alien3, for

greatest detriment ever foisted on cinematic

a part Oldman would eventually decline. But it

storytelling was this idea that you could build an

began a friendship that has endured to this day.

assembly line for it, beyond the purely mechanical

And over the years, Oldman had made peace with

functions of the unit; all of these minute decisions

the idea that the pair would probably never work

and risks that are taken on a minute-by-minute

together. “He might have cast me had something

basis. Those are all valid and necessary. But

come up that he felt I was right for, and so I pretty

the incredibly intimate and personal ways that

much left it at that, but I thought, maybe, that

different storytellers prioritize different aspects

Fincher would not be a box I would tick. Perhaps it

of any given moment is completely outside of

wasn’t meant to be.”

the Army Corps of Engineers aspect of making

When he finally did get an approach with

cinema, and it’s those two things, working in

Fincher’s name attached, through his longtime

conjunction and hopefully harmony, that is the

creative partner and manager Douglas Urbanski,

battle of art and commerce.”

Oldman says he couldn’t believe his luck. “And I’ve

So, he gets why Mank’s relationship with the

had more than my fair share of luck with roles,” he

screenplay he was writing changed as he was

laughs. “When I say a role like this doesn’t come

writing it. And he gets why Orson Welles was right

by very often, I have to think… Winston Churchill

to think Mankiewicz would want to honor his

[in Darkest Hour] was pretty good. And George

original contract. “I have as much loving contempt

Smiley [in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy] wasn’t bad.”

for all of my heroes in my movies as I do for the

But what he found in the pages of Jack

villains,” he laughs. “And I don’t like the idea of

Fincher’s screenplay for Mank sparked an

villains… I think if there’s anything we can glean

undeniable level of excitement in him. “A script

from Citizen Kane it’s that number one, Orson

this good, a terrific role, with a director you know is

Welles was a fucking genius. And number two, he

going to shoot it in glorious black-and-white and

had a good blueprint to start with.”

transport you to the ’40s. And a sort of honorarium to Hollywood, both in its glamor as well as its

The WRITER

cynicism and ugliness… I mean, it’s David Fincher,

THE WAY THEY WERE

(Above) Oldman as Mank; (left, from top to bottom) with Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies; a sick Mank is watched over by Tom Burke as Orson Welles; with Lily Collins as Mank's personal secretary Rita Alexander; on set with Oldman and director David Fincher.

we’re not just going to be waving the flag.” Oldman reveled in the idea of exploring these

Gary Oldman is Herman J. Mankiewicz

two conflicting images of the industry he operates

“THERE ARE TWO TYPES of directors that you

through as an actor himself in films like Sid and

meet along the way,” says Gary Oldman. “There

Nancy. It captured everything he had witnessed

are the ones that say, ‘I’m such a fan, we have

on his own path. “I’ve met really wonderful,

to work together,’ and then you never hear from

talented, creative people,” he says, “and I don’t

them again. And there’s the other kind of director

think it’s blasphemy to say I’ve also met some

within, albeit set 40 years before he would break

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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The crafts behind Mank’s recreation of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Cinematography

GOLDEN AGE

From left to right: Oldman is shot digitally with aged effects added later; Seyfried's platinum wig for the role of Marion Davies; a boom mike captures sound in a scene with Oldman with Tuppence Middleton as Mank's wife Sara; a driving scene, with Oldman and Sean Persaud as Tommy, is captured on a stage using LED screens, projecting a period-authentic backdrop.

To place viewers in the era of Mank, set during the creation of Citizen Kane, DP Erik Messerschmidt shot digitally, in native black and white. His greatest creative influence was Gregg Toland, the pioneering cinematographer behind the Orson

Sound Design

Welles masterpiece, who popularized deep focus photography. Messerschmidt also adopted a period technique for transitional scenes, setting up lighting cues on a computerized board, so that he could achieve theatrical fade-outs in-camera. Shooting in super high resolution, on the RED Helium Monochrome, allowed Fincher to degrade the image in post with complete control, adding grain and softness to each frame, befitting the era.

Makeup & Hair

Paralleling the visual degradation of the film, there was also a sonic degradation undertaken by Ren Klyce. The sound designer’s mission was to tailor the monaural soundtrack of a bygone era, tapping into its set of technical limitations. Characterized by hiss, noise, distortion and a limited set of mid-range frequencies, “mono” sound meant dialogue, music and effects all sat on one track. To recreate this vintage palette, Klyce engaged in an experimental process, compressing, and distressing, the sonic elements in every single frame. The second stage of the process involved playing the film back on a stage at Skywalker Sound, with 12 mics set up to capture reverb in the room. In this way, Klyce and Fincher accessed a secondary layer of “patina”—making Mank echo, as

As the hair and makeup artists behind Mank, Gigi Williams and Kimberley Spiteri had to completely retrain their eyes, in their CAP HEDpursuit HERE

of Old Hollywood glamor looks which would pop inFrom blacktop: and white.

Libusciet quia aspient In pre-production, the pair engaged in weeks of camera tests with optatius aut oditi consequiatur sequunt Messerschmidt, testing every actor’s look at different angles, and in otatisitatur maio. various lighting scenarios. Spiteri scrutinized every shade of hair for Velisquassi omnihil depth, texture and transparency, to see what wouldignimporror read properly on maximag nistiunt, ipsam, quident camera. Meanwhile, Williams tested 300 kinds of lipstick, narrowing dunt vitatur, sa paritis aut them down, in the end, to a set of eight. In designing looks Endanis for an millorit aut eseque. hil materials ipsum rectest, ensemble of historical characters, period-correct werecus aut quaest aut aborio con rero sourced, including Brylcreem and Clubman styling gel. The men were oditatquunt.Idi beatatioriti

given barber cuts, pronounced eyebrows, and mascara to create dark shadows around the eyes, while women’s eyebrows were made thinner, and old-school techniques like wet-setting employed.

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if it were a cinematic artifact, playing for an audience in an old-school revival house.

Visual Effects

The VFX in Mank pairs state-of-the-art technology with classical filmmaking techniques, like matte painting and rear projection, both of which date back to the early 1900s. Minimizing the budget necessary to assemble an authentic period piece, these VFX tools allowed Fincher to manipulate L.A. exteriors—or to avoid them completely—so that he could extend environments or create them from scratch. Driving scenes, like one on Wilshire Blvd., were accomplished by setting up a camera car on stage, surrounded by LED screens. The exteriors passing by outside Mank’s windows would be comprised of animated footage, modeled off of archival clips from his era. In contrast, with locations like the Glendale Train Station, Fincher started with real exteriors, seamlessly filling in the background with digitally composited mattes. —MATT GROBAR


very cynical and ugly people who work in the film

me out there, but it plays to those insecurities

different setups. 10 takes here, 15 takes there.

industry. Mank is a film made by a practitioner

even though I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I

You’re there even doing the performance off-

who is experienced in all aspects of the business,

still think I’m going to be the one that gets to set

camera because there are all those eye-lines. So,

but he still loves movies. He still loves cinema.”

and fucks it all up. That everyone else is going to

we shot it over five days and I don’t know, but I

be terrific and now I’ve arrived and it’s all going to

think it probably was 100-plus. And David doesn’t

Mankiewicz’s life and words, reading biographies

start going downhill. I do like to hide. So, I resisted.”

like to do pickups, so you do the scene from the

and collecting the many documented examples

No, he corrects himself. “Not resisted, but I was

Oldman set about digging deeper into Herman

top all the way through, every time.” Some of those shots, he concedes, go a take or

of his wit. It’s in the film, a telegram he would

anxious about it.” In the end, though, he was two

send to writers to persuade them to move West:

days into playing the role when he approached

two further than most directors. “He does like to

“Millions are to be grabbed out here, and your

Fincher again. “I said to him, ‘You know, you were

double-down,” Oldman says. “But he knows what

only competition is idiots.” But there were many

right. I don’t need all that. I don’t need the putty

he wants. It’s better to go into work and walk away

more bon mots Oldman delighted in and tried to

nose and the wig and all of that.’ It was liberating.”

at the end of the day knowing you’ve got it, than

persuade Fincher to include. “I managed it a little

Just as Fincher himself resists the image of

bit,” he chuckles. “But the thing David wanted to

him as a tough taskmaster, keeping his actors and

you’ve exhausted it, and you know he won’t walk

avoid was it becoming like his greatest hits. So, I’d

crew pushing through an enormous number of

away unless he’s satisfied.”

underline them, and take them to David during

takes on every scene, what Oldman found instead

rehearsal, and say, ‘Oh God, this is a killer line,’ and

in the director’s approach was a chance to let the

reputation” that comes with this fastidiousness

he’d go, ‘Yeah, no.’ But occasionally I’d get, ‘Oh, I

process breathe. There was a rehearsal period in

(for the record, the director insists that he does

like that one.’ I think I got at least two in.”

which the cast and Fincher worked through the

not), but for an actor attuned to it, it’s quite a gift.

to work for someone who settles. With David,

Fincher, he suspects, “quite enjoys the

In truth, though, what he found was that it was

material, itself a luxury on a film production, but

“You get a bigger bite at the apple,” Oldman says.

all there to begin with. “I was amazed at how Jack

made more luxurious by its length; more than a

“So, it’s a luxury to be able to come and really

Fincher had captured the real spirit and essence

month, ahead of a two-month shoot. “You do

work a scene. If he wants to do 60 takes, let him

of Mank, because what I was reading around

luxuriate in a Fincher,” says Oldman.

do 60 takes. If he wants to do 230 takes, he can

the script matched very much. What you usually

He laughs at Charles Dance’s description in

do 230 fucking takes. Life could be a lot bloody

find with real characters is they’re a lot more

an interview with Total Film magazine, of Oldman

worse than coming in and doing 100 takes on the

fascinating than they are on the page, but Jack

telling Fincher at one point, “David, I’ve done this

set of Mank.”

had done his homework, and I felt he really caught

scene a hundred fucking times,” and Fincher

the character.”

batting back, “Yeah, I know, but this is 101. Reset!”

deeper dive than usual into the mind of a man

Says Oldman: “Charles is a wonderful actor and a

whose own anxieties led him to alcohol and

meant slotting into Fincher’s ideas about

wonderful man, but there’s a bit of the raconteur

bitterness as he was writing one of the seminal

approach, which initially conflicted with

theatre luvvie about those anecdotes. It was far

works of the art form. Oldman wrote down a

Oldman’s own. It wasn’t so long ago that

from a moment of tension.”

quote from Mankiewicz, that he has kept with

Finding the confidence to play Mankiewicz

Ultimately, it all allowed him to take an even

him, which he found telling. “My critical faculty

Oldman won his first Oscar, for transforming

In fact, it was a complex sequence—a big

himself into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour

dinner party scene at San Simeon with a lot of

has prospered at the expense of my talent.” Says

after persuading make-up artist Kazu Hiro to

moving parts and angles to capture. “It isn’t 100

Oldman: “That, to me, feels like alcoholism. The

return to moviemaking to provide the necessary

takes to get the performance. He’s shooting

fear of failure because when you try to write that

prosthetics. This was Oldman’s path to building a character taken to its absolute zenith, disappearing into another man’s skin, almost literally. In Sid and Nancy, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, True Romance, The Fifth Element, Harry Potter, and countless other movies, the external appearance of his characters had been the Rosetta Stone he needed to play them. He hoped—perhaps assumed—he’d be able to follow the same process on Mank. “After all, I don’t look anything like Mankiewicz,” he says. “That didn’t matter to David. And I think it initially mattered to me.” Fincher told him, “I want you to be naked. I want you to be as naked as you’ve ever been. No veil between you and the audience.” “I’m thinking… what can I do?” Oldman recalls. “I’m playing a whiskey drinker; someone who’s very unhealthy. So, I said, ‘Can I go off and eat all the cannoli and do that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And then I started to think about those actorly things I

tive a e r c , d e t n e l a erful, t d n o w y l l a e r hemy p s a l b ’s t i “I’ve met k n i n’t th o d nd I a d l n a a c i , n e l y p c y r peo e some v t e m o s l stry. a u e d ’v n i m l i f e to say I h rk in t o w o is o h h w w r e e l n p o o i e t i p t c y l a ug y a pr b e d a m m , but l s i s f e a n i s s i u ’ b k e n h a t ‘M cts of e p s a l l a a.” n i m e d n e i c c n s e i e r v e o p l x l e e stil H . s e i v o m s e v he still lo

could do. ‘Could I shave or pluck my hairline?’ ‘No, I don’t want any of that.’” He describes his approach as “hiding” behind the roles he plays. “Of course, it’s still going to be D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

25


great novel or that great play, maybe you’ll find out that you can’t.” Oldman himself is 24 years sober. “But I still have that emotional muscle memory. I can still remember it. So, it struck a chord. You’ve got to get to the real cause of it, because the alcohol is something else. It’s the manifestation of what’s really going on. And once you’re in the grip of it, it’s hard trying to get off.” In Mank’s time, the image of an alcoholic was less broad than it is today. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, but Oldman suspects that a man capable of dragging himself through the writing of something as brilliant as Citizen Kane may not have recognized how it was destroying him. “A friend of his at lunch once said, ‘Why don’t you go home sober for a change?’ And he said, ‘What, and have Sara [Mankiewicz’s wife] throw me out as an imposter?’ He knew he had a problem, but then you look at the work…” Oldman takes a beat to reflect on all he learned as went through the process of playing Herman J. Mankiewicz. When he set out, he knew of Mank as the writer of Citizen Kane, and little more than that. But just as he’d done with Winston Churchill on Darkest Hour, diving into the research had given him new insight. It is what keeps him hungry to do his job still, even 40 years into his career as an actor. “You go off and you make this movie, and you find this new appreciation,” he says. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity.”

The STAR Amanda Seyfried is Marion Davies AMANDA SEYFRIED IS NOT one for expectations. “The only thing I expect is death,” she says, before apologizing for kicking off the conversation with such a morbid thought. But it was why she was pleasantly surprised to hear that David Fincher was interested in her for a role in Mank. “The idea that he even knew who I was, was something I was really shocked by, and I had to wrap my head around that. He doesn’t make mistakes; he’s very deliberate. So that made me feel great.” To any who have followed Seyfried’s career from the outside, though, it might have come as less of a shock. From her deft screen debut in Mean Girls, through the all-singing all-dancing expertise with which she delivered roles in musicals as diverse as Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, to the stirringly subtle performance she gave in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, Seyfried has demonstrated a remarkable range and adaptability that has fast turned her into a star. She has also turned her hand to producing and was on set for her upcoming feature A Mouthful of Air when her agent called with the offer for Mank, and gave her a day to read its hefty screenplay. “I

26

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arion M w e n k y l l a obody re n t a h t e l pt for b i e s c s x e , n o s r “It’s po e p nsional e m i And d . h e t i e r w h t d e k r as a o w and w erson e p n s i k h e t h e s v i e l g p o o t the pe rtunity o p p o n a er.” t h a h f o w s , t e i h t i g x u e o l h p It he com t w o h s o t d n new life a

had just been getting into the meat of this movie

health failed.

For as hard and mind-bending as it felt when I

“She had so much more depth than a lot of

was trying to remember seven notes at a time,

“It is about post-partum depression and post-

these people who were talking on the surface,”

and steam would be coming out of my head, it

birth psychosis, and it was intense. I had to read

Seyfried says. “They had agendas that she

was also just so fun, because it was like a puzzle to

this script in between shots, wondering how I was

didn’t have. It might have seemed to them like

work out all the pieces and have him come back

going to give it all the attention it deserves. And

they were smarter than her, but she was more

and be like, ‘Great. That was good.’”

then I wanted to read certain parts again, because

complex than that.”

that had been a passion project for me,” she says.

it was a lot to grasp.”

As for Susan Alexander? “That’s not Marion.

As the production neared its end, the schedule called for a reshoot of the scene

I believe Herman Mankiewicz when he says that.

in which Marion is introduced, tied to a pyre

Davies, who had been a chorus girl and was

But of course, it’s inspired by the perception of

on a movie set constructed on San Simeon’s

beginning a career as a star of the silent era

that relationship, and he was building on the

expansive grounds. “I was so upset, and

when she met William Randolph Hearst and

perception, not what he really knew of the person.

we were all kind of confused by the fact we

became his mistress, was a complexity that was

That was way more interesting for the movie, but

had to reshoot,” Seyfried recalls. “I never

instantly intriguing to Seyfried. It went beyond

unfortunately it backfired for her.”

completely understood why until David said

What she found in the character of Marion

the headline knowledge of her: that she may

Like Oldman, Seyfried dove into research,

in a Q&A the other day that things weren’t

have inspired the character of Susan Alexander

reading Davies’ autobiography and watching her

Kane in Citizen Kane, a portrayal that did Davies

movies. She took hints from the films about how

no favors and attached itself to her reputation

to approach the part, and it offered a point of

movie, before production wrapped in the nick of

for the rest of her life. She died in 1961 with

connection. “She was right in front of me for hours

time for the Coronavirus lockdowns that came in

only a posthumously released autobiography—

and hours,” Seyfried says. But she was cautious

March. Watching the scene now, Fincher’s words

and Orson Welles’ eventual admission in its

not to bring over too much of Davies’ acting

ring true. “It was like I was a different person by

introduction that she and the character were

style, which would not have reflected the real her.

then. I had played Marion for three months and I

not associated—to set the record straight.

And the interview material she found of Davies

was just so comfortable. That scene felt like it was

came from much later in her life, after her voice

alive like it would if you were doing it on stage for

as a three-dimensional person, except for the

had been battered by cigarettes and alcohol. “If I

the 30th time. I had all the space in the world to

people she knew and worked with,” says Seyfried.

didn’t have any of it, I think I would have been fine,

find this Marion, and it’s rare to have that.”

“And I thought, what an opportunity to give this

because the Marion in the script was the Marion

person new life and to show the complexities of

I wanted to play, but it would have been trickier

she says, to work even harder on the next role.

her. I saw her as someone who was unabashedly

without that connection.”

She had fallen in love with the Marion Davies she

“It’s possible that nobody really knew Marion

honest and always looking for the truth.”

Also like Oldman, Seyfried found Fincher’s

feeling right with it.” The reshoot was the last thing filmed on the

It was important for Seyfried, and it taught her,

found in the pages of Jack Fincher’s script, and

approach to continuing to shoot, and the

in the archival material she uncovered, and felt a

Davies as a person much more in control of

dedicated rehearsal time he set aside, “luxurious”,

responsibility to rehabilitate the image of her. In

her own mind than people might have cared

though it took some getting used to. “It can be

the end, she thinks the film succeeds in that, even

to believe, and that the social attitudes of her

frustrating at times, because you feel you’re

if she’s too modest to take any personal credit

day would have allowed of a woman in her

finding your moments a little sooner than he’s

for it. “This film will go down in history for sure,”

position. She and Hearst never married—Hearst’s

finding what he wants,” she says. “But I think it’s

she says. “I knew that before I was even cast. But

estranged wife refused to grant him a divorce—

also amazing that there’s no pressure to do a

what surprises me is the feedback from people

but Davies stayed by his side until his last days,

flawless take start to finish. You know he’s going

has been insane. It’s the best thing that’s ever

cutting her career short to care for him as his

to find his moments, taking pieces here and there.

happened to me in my career, hands down.” ★

What comes across in Mank is a vision of

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The B est O f 2020 | Act resses

Elisabeth Moss The star of Shirley ventures into new creative territory B Y M AT T G R O B A R

A busy 2020 for Elisabeth Moss kicked off at Sundance with Josephine Decker’s Shirley, in which she stars as seminal horror writer Shirley Jackson. Next, the actress saw blockbuster success with The Invisible Man, a modern adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic. Launching her own production company in July, she then returned to the set of her Hulu smash The Handmaid’s Tale, where she directed for the first time. For the Emmy winner, each of these moves reflects a singular desire—to take charge of her own voice and career, while bringing searingly authentic work to the screen.

Why was Shirley Jackson a

how honest she was sometimes, and

people being professional, and being

first historical figure you’ve

character you had to take on?

I loved how she didn’t take anybody’s

good at their job—being able to walk

ever played, and I know you got

I think it was just a super rare,

shit. She expected the people around

in and follow the material, and being

to meet her son, Laurence, at

female character. We all have

her to be smart, and expected

able to deliver.

Sundance. That must have been

antiheroes in mind, or characters

people around her to be able to keep

who are these mad geniuses, who

up with her.

pretty surreal. While Jackson was a real person,

Yeah, absolutely. It was really cool.

your portrayal of her was rooted

He came up to me and tapped me

to people, or speak their mind in a

a little kinder and less abrasive

in fiction. Do you think it’s the

on the shoulder, and he goes, “Hey,

way that is considered abrupt, or

[laughs]. I don’t think anyone would

responsibility of the filmmaker to

mom.” And I was like, “Excuse me?”

offensive. But they’re rarely written

want to work with me if I was too

present historical fiction as such,

I was at this really loud party. You

for women, even though these

much like that. But I do think there

with a kind of disclaimer?

know fucking Sundance parties, they

women do exist. So, it was just really

are honorable qualities about who

I mean, yes and no, I guess. Our

make you want to kill yourself. Or any

cool, and unusual, and exciting to

she is, and I think those are in her

story is based on a fictional book.

party makes me want to kill myself.

see that kind of character, that I

honesty, and her intelligence.

We never said we were making a

It was really crowded and hot, and I

maybe sometimes aren’t very nice

I think that in my life, I’m probably

actually love watching so much be

biopic about Shirley Jackson, and

turned around and was like, “Hello?”

What did your preparation for

any assumption about that was

There’s this older gentleman calling

Shirley look like? How did you

completely on the part of the person

me mom. But then, he introduced

You’ve said you identify with

work with Josephine Decker to

who made the assumption. You

himself, and I got to talk to him for

Shirley, in some respects.

find your way through the story?

know, we’ve always called it “the

45 minutes, which was awesome. I

Over the past few years, as I have

It was a little slapdash, in the sense

anti-biopic”, and knew that it was

grabbed Michael and brought him

fully ascended into adulthood, and

that none of us had met. I had met

highly fictionalized because it was

over, and we talked, and since then,

also been producing a lot more, and

Michael [Stuhlbarg] before, just at

based on a previous work. I’m also

we’ve had an email communication,

taking more of an ownership and

an award show or whatever, but

very much on the side of, “I don’t

here and there.

a leadership role in my work, and

we never really had spent any time

know, it’s a movie. Everybody relax a

reached a place where I have more of

together. None of us had worked

bit.” I think art is art, and I think it’s

about the fact that we completely

a voice, I suppose, that is listened to,

together, and some of us hadn’t even

dangerous to put any kind of rules or

changed his mother’s life, and cut

I definitely felt like there were parts

met until a week before we started.

limitations on an art form.

him and his brothers and sisters out

of her personality that I loved. I loved

So, at that time, you really rely on

Interestingly, Shirley is the

of the story completely. He was very

done by a woman.

30 WA 6 D DE EAADDLLI INNEE. .CCOOMM // AA W A RR DDSSLLI INNEE

He’s been extremely generous


generous about that, and very kind

Over the summer, you launched

different. I think that’s the only thing

about it.

your production company, Love

that we try to do, is make sure we’re

& Squalor, and you already have

not making two of the same thing.

You’ve said recently you’ve seen films getting smarter, to keep up with the era of prestige TV. I think anytime something is elevated, whether it’s film or television, everyone else has to catch up, right? For me, there’s nothing like the experience of going and seeing a movie in a theater. That’s something that’s completely different, and I’m not even saying big movies. I’m not talking about Wonder Woman or Christopher Nolan films; I’m talking about independent films. I think there’s something to seeing Shirley in the theater. It’s visually really beautiful, and there’s sound design that’s beautiful, and all of that. I think COU RT ESY OF N EO N

there’s nothing like it, seeing a movie in a theater. But at the same time, people can see stuff at home, and they don’t have to go out now. I think

It’s a movie. Everybody relax a bit. I think art is art, and I think it’s dangerous to put any kind of rules or limitations on an art form.

a ton of projects in development. I think ultimately, my producing

Is there one particular project

partner, Lindsay [McManus] and

you’re really excited about?

I just want to continue to be able

It’s really hard for me to pick

to tell good stories that we’d love

favorites, because we really try

to watch, whether it’s a film or a

not to take anything on where we

television show. We also like to do

don’t believe we can carry that ball

different things. We don’t have a

all the way. We’re very hands-on

set agenda of, “We are going to tell

producers, so we have to love

these kinds of stories.” We want to

everything we do. We have to feel

tell all kinds of stories, involving all

like, “No one else can make this,

kinds of people, from all walks of life,

we have to make it, and we’ll die

and all genders and races. That’s

trying.” I would say Shining Girls

really important to us, and one of

is something for Apple that we’re

the things that we want to do is

getting into next, and that I’m

have things that aren’t just about

really excited about. We’re getting

me being in it. There are several

into the casting and crewing up of

things, of course, that I’m in, but

that. That’s going to be really cool.

we’re also developing things that

We’re doing something called Mrs.

I’m not in, and shouldn’t be in, or

March—which we’ve partnered with

have no place in.

Blumhouse on—that I really, really

We’re pretty much 50-50, film

love, and it’s completely different

anytime good work is put out there, it

and television right now. We’re very

from Shining Girls, which is cool. It’s

does make you try harder in whatever

non-discriminatory in that way, and

a feature, and very dark and twisty,

field, whatever medium it is.

every single one of our projects is

and hopefully scary. ★

NE E .. C CO E E 31 DDEEAADDLLII N OM M//AAW WAARRDDS SL LI NI N 6


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Act re ss es

Jodie Foster Righting the injustice of Guantanamo Bay through the story of a detainee held without charge, and the woman who helped free him B Y J O E U T I C H I

At this point in your career, you

he would be the right director for

me in my life, and obviously it was a

Did you meet Mohamedou?

are incredibly selective with the

this particular movie, in terms of

particular moment for anybody who

Yes, he came to set during the

projects you take on. How did

the almost documentary feeling he

lived through it. I think this film deals

shoot. We didn’t actually think

The Mauritanian enter your life?

brings; his non-judgmental sense,

with, obliquely, the residual effect of

he was going to be able to come

As an actor, sometimes it’s as sim-

but also the way that he navigates

what 9/11 meant to Americans and

to South Africa, where we shot,

ple as somebody sends you a script

as a filmmaker. And then Benedict

what it made us become. It’s a way

because after he was released by

and it’s amazing and it opens up a

Cumberbatch, of course, was the

to process this weird transformation

the U.S. government, they retained

world to you that you didn’t know

first person aboard and he was

our country went through at this

his passport. He wasn’t able to leave

anything about, and that’s really

already aboard, so that made it

particular moment in time, when

Mauritania, even to go to Germany

what happened in this case with

pretty easy.

we went from being very innocent

to visit his newborn son. Even the

But also, I’m an American and I

about our effect abroad to this

child wasn’t able to get a passport,

First of all, there’s the prov-

was around, obviously, during 9/11.

tragic moment that would lead to

so he wasn’t able to meet his son

enance, of course, of Kevin Mac-

I remember I was pregnant at the

the War on Terror, and this idea of a

for two years almost. That’s only

donald, who was already signed

time. I was on bed rest, and I was due

political war that we waged against

recently changed.

on, and somebody that I’ve always

to have the baby maybe 10 days later.

whoever we determined was going

wanted to work with. I really thought

It was a very particular moment for

to threaten us.

The Mauritanian.

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So, we had many Skype calls and Zoom calls, and he would check

COU RT ESY OF STX E NT E RTA I N M EN T

Though she has starred in some of the most indelible movies in cinema history—Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs, The Accused—and won two Oscars for doing so, Jodie Foster’s output has slowed in recent years. And it is not due to a paucity of roles, she says, but rather a decision to become more selective about what she takes on. For Kevin Macdonald’s The Mauritanian, based on the true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a terror suspect held for 15 years in Guantanamo Bay without charge, that choice was undeniable. Foster plays Nancy Hollander, the lawyer determined to give him a full defense.


You play Nancy Hollander,

bit alike, the real Nancy is a lot nicer

Mohamedou’s lawyer. In 2010

than my Nancy. No, way nicer [laughs].

she wrote a piece for the New York Times in which she spelled out why she saw it as her duty to defend individuals accused of terrorism. She talked about the right to a defense for all accused, and she had faced tremendous criticism for helping inmates like Mohamedou preserve that right. She came up as a person interested in civil rights. A defense is guaranteed in the Constitution, and the right to challenge the government is built into our foundation. In order for the justice system to work, it needs to be challenged. She would often say, “Look, if you have the evidence to prove my client’s guilt, great. We’ll all have a trial, and they will get whatever sentence they deserve.” But in Mohamedou’s case, she had a client who was held for 15 years without a single charge ever being laid against him. Guantanamo Bay is not a prison; it’s a detention center. And honestly, the real terrorists— the toughest terrorists—weren’t even in Guantanamo, they were

Nancy will tell you that what she

I've been [acting] for a very long time, and I'm very picky about what I choose to spend my time on. As powerful as the art form is, I only want to do it when it feels meaningful.

does is all in service of Mohamedou. She wanted it to be clear that this movie was his story; that what she did was only about giving him a vehicle to be liberated. Was that part of the attraction to the film? The idea of sharing a story with real meaning with a wider audience. To me, it’s the only point for acting now. I’ve been doing it for a very long time, and I’m very picky about what I choose to spend my time on because I’m older and there are many other things in life that I want to be spending time on. As powerful as the art form is, I only want to do it when it feels meaningful. You separated the real Nancy from your Nancy. Is that a necessary step when playing a character based on someone real? This is only the second time I’ve ever played a real character. I tend not to want to, honestly, because

being held in black sites, many of

I feel like there are things I want to

them we have no idea about. Guan-

change and you can feel stymied by

tanamo detainees—maybe 85% of

real characters because you can’t

them—were just people who had

make them do things they wouldn’t

been turned in by people in their

normally do. The only other real

communities who had responded to

person that I played [Anna in Andy

an ad from the U.S. government that

Tennant's Anna and the King] had

said, “Hey if you suspect anyone of

been dead for 250 years and she

in with us. Kevin had been able to

terrorism, call this number.” That’s it,

was a total liar, so it was really easy

travel to Mauritania, which is really

that’s all they had.

to fabricate who she was [laughs].

hard to get into, to meet him. Then,

I’m not sure if this is true of the

In Nancy’s case, there was a real

by some miracle, the South African

real Nancy, but my Nancy in the

responsibility, and at the same time

government was like, “OK, we’ll get

movie, she’s wary, and she’s like, “A

I said to her, “Look, I could do an

you a visa.” He just showed up, and

lot of my clients are guilty and I’m

imitation of you, but I don’t think

we didn’t know until maybe a couple

still going to defend them, but I’m

that’s interesting.” I think it’s more

of days before he got there.

going to dig for whatever’s under the

interesting to present the facts

woodwork.” She’s guarded in terms

about her that were important to

Africa, and Nancy, who I play in the

of her personal connections with

the story, but I think Nancy’s role

film, was able to be there with him,

her clients, because she knows she’s

is really to support Mohamedou’s

so she came and the two of them

there for a very specific mission. But

story. There are things that aren’t

were like an old married couple.

this case is a special case for her, the

included about Nancy that are

They played tourist around Cape

case she’ll never forget. And listen, I

absolutely fascinating about who

Town, and we got to have dinners

always say, even though I dress like

she is, and they could be great for

with them. It was really lovely.

her in the movie, and we look a little

another movie, but not this one. ★

He had an amazing time in South

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

33


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Act re ss es

Rachel Brosnahan The comedic TV star takes a turn into new territory with dark ’70s crime drama I’m Your Woman B Y A N T H O N Y D 'A L E S S A N D R O

After playing a housewife-turned-comedienne breaking 1960s ceilings in Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Rachel Brosnahan takes on the role of a young wife forced to go on the lam in Julia Hart’s feature I’m Your Woman. Holding tight to the baby her missing gangster husband had mysteriously given her, the previously clueless Jean becomes a resourceful, gutsy self-starter—a trajectory reminiscent of the much-loved Mrs. Maisel in fact. With hues of John Cassavetes’ Gloria and Michael Mann’s Thief, Brosnahan continues to shine playing complex characters who refuse to be damsels in distress in testosterone-laden worlds.

I’m Your Woman takes place at

silence, and who don’t feel like there’s

many people, and it’s not something

getting those moments where they

an interesting time, that of the

anyone that they can talk to, and

that we talk about very much, and

were scripted, but we still ended

Women’s Movement of the 1970s.

don’t know, even, that other women

it’s so key to who Jean is. There are

up with some of these magical

One of the things I appreciate so

have gone through the same thing.

layers and layers of trauma that are

moments that we never could’ve

much about this story is that it is

And it feels important, and radical in

being explored throughout this film,

imagined. It was immensely chal-

a story about an ordinary woman

a way that, arguably, it shouldn’t any-

and we watched the film Thief from

lenging, having a baby in every close-

who’s thrust into extraordinary cir-

more, to center a woman like that in a

Michael Mann. It was an inspiration

up alongside me, one of the hardest

cumstances that she never wanted.

story like this, particularly in this crime

for them in making this film, inspired

things I’ve ever done, but also forced

She has no desire, necessarily, for

drama, [a genre] that is so often cen-

the title, and there’s a brilliant scene

us to remain improvisational, and to

this kind of confidence and libera-

tered around men.

in a diner between Tuesday Weld

keep flexible.

tion. Jean is a true woman of the

So much of the preparation for

’70s. She had a dream for herself

Jean was about remaining in con-

and James Caan that was really

at the time, which she says in the

versation with Julia. Julia and Jordan

opening monologue. She wanted to

[Horowitz] spent a number of years

hours of conversation with Julia,

ible moment when Jean and Harry

get married, she wanted to have a

creating this world and this charac-

figuring out what makes Jean, and

are hiding in the closet, and he fell

house, she wanted to have a baby,

ter. We talked a lot about who Jean

what’s happening inside her mind

asleep in my arms. And we got into

and she got a handful of those

was before we met her, and made

while she’s saying very little.

the closet together, and I’m hold-

things, and then the dream stalled.

some decisions about what her life

There are so few women who

informative. It was just hours and hours and

You know, we all just kind of bent our knees and rode the wave together. I mean, there’s an incred-

ing my breath, because I know if

with her husband Eddie would have

How was working with the twin

the baby wakes up, we’ll never get

come out of the womb wanting to

been like, and what she wanted, and

babies who played Harry? How

another take, and it added this

change the world, and their stories

where and how the trauma occurred,

did you capture those moments?

layer of urgency. And actually, in the

are equally as important and equally

and how that changes her by the

They were six months when we

scene, he wakes up for a split sec-

as valuable. We talked a lot in the

time we meet her. Many people

started. There were a lot of beauti-

ond. I held my breath, and then he

preparation of this film about quiet

don’t know that having a miscar-

ful moments that Julia and Jordan

fell back asleep on camera. It was

women, and how many women there

riage, or especially having multiple

scripted between Jean and Harry,

unbelievable. And there was another

are, particularly women who have

miscarriages, finding out that you’re

but you know, babies haven’t read

moment like that later on in the film,

had experiences like Jean’s, with mis-

unable to have children, can lead

the script. They don’t know they’re

where Jean put Baby Harry on Paul’s

carriages and infertility, who suffer in

to PTSD. It’s highly traumatic for so

in a movie. We so rarely ended up

lap in the car. And you know, we’d

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


done a couple takes, and they had

because we were actually, at that

Is the upcoming fourth season of

had enough, and he started to cry,

point, shooting the third season of

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in pro-

and then sweet De’Mauri Parks, who

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. So, Julia

duction yet?

plays Paul, loved the babies so much,

and Jordan were in Pittsburgh with

Not yet. I’m actually speaking to you

our local casting directors, who

from a car on the way home from a

brought a number of babies our

wig and hat and shoe fitting. We are

way. Initially, we all looked through

in pre-production, and hoping to go

pictures of the babies. They nar-

back in January.

and was so good with them, and sort of looked over at him and smiled, and the baby stopped crying, and turned around and looked at him, and wasn’t crying anymore. I mean, it

rowed down, based on the pictures alone, who Julia felt had the most

Since you started your career in

interesting faces. And then met with

2009, do you feel there are more

a handful of babies. It’s so important

good parts for women?

to meet the baby’s parents, because

We still have a lot of work to do.

obviously they play a huge role in

It’s definitely better than it was out

the production as well. And also, it

there for women in the industry.

feels important to see how babies’

I think the television industry has

temperaments change under differ-

provided a lot of opportunities for

ent circumstances. I would think it’s

women, in front of and behind the

really important for the parents to

camera, and it feels like that’s where

leave the room, to see how babies

the meatiest roles for women are

react to that, because they react

right now. There has definitely been

very differently. We’ve cast a number

a movement in film. Awareness is

of sets of twins on Maisel and the

key. We’re having these discussions

only disappointing part about this

on a large scale about the need for

was that I didn’t get a chance to

more women in all of the positions

meet the babies for our rehearsals.

of leadership, and we are seeing the

baby casting before, I definitely had

It's important if we’re going to be in

fruits of those conversations come

a hand in baby casting from afar,

every scene together, that we test.

to life, finally. ★

was amazing. Babies are amazing. And there's a really magical moment when the baby turns his head toward you on the bed, did that just happen organically? That just happened. He nearly rolled off the bed in the take before that, I want to say. Thankfully, his mother Kaitlin, who was a godsend on this COU RT ESY OF A M AZO N ST U D I OS

It was just hours and hours of conversations with Julia, figuring out what makes Jean, and what's happening inside her mind.

entire project, we couldn’t have done it without their mother, she was hiding on the other side of the bed to make sure he didn’t roll off. That moment just stuck out. It was so incredibly beautiful. Having had some experience with

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

35


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Act re ss es

Love and vulnerability proved vital to a tough single mom role in Miss Juneteenth B Y A M A N D A N ’ D U K A

What drew you to this project? We read scripts, we see material, and there are types or stereotypes or certain archetypes we see for women all the time. But with this one, I felt like there was a lot of heart. The relationships made sense to me, and they were multidimensional. I

In Miss Juneteenth, from first-time director Channing Godfrey Peoples, Nicole Beharie plays Turquoise Jones, a young, hard-working single mother and ex-beauty queen who enters her teenage daughter in the Miss Juneteenth pageant in hopes of preventing her from making the same mistakes she herself once made. The pageant is part of a larger celebration of the Juneteenth holiday on June 19th, which commemorates the official end of slavery in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Here, Beharie reflects upon how she connected to her character and on the timeliness of the film’s release in the wake of the nationwide protest against racial injustice. 36

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

got a script and auditioned and sent a self-tape in. There was no offer. In fact, Channing wasn’t really sold I think on my first tape. She thought I was too young. So I took some notes and made a change to my read, which is something to all the actors out there: don’t get offended when

COU RT ESY OF V ERT I CA L E NT E RTA I N M EN T

Nicole Beharie


somebody has notes. It’s an oppor-

of the best teachers in Georgia. She

this movie came out when we’re

tunity to try something new. And

is fantastic and is teaching other

having these heightened conver-

it ended up working out. And then

teachers how to teach. Her jour-

sations about representation,

once we had a conversation about

ney really influenced my desire to

diversity and the marginalization

her vision, and who these people

work on Turquoise. Because people

were, I was like, “Oh, yeah. I’m totally

underestimate you, or they say, “Oh,

on board for that.”

you had that one window of opportunity in your life, and if you don’t

What were your initial thoughts

walk through the door at that point,

about who Turquoise is?

then you’re nothing.” Especially

My first thought was “tough”. This

for underrepresented people. This

is a confession: oftentimes, it’s easy

story presses up against all of those

for me to be like other people write

norms—social class, gender, race

things, and they make it a certain

norms—and asks the questions in a

kind of way. They see Black women

really subtle way.

in a certain way. But I read it and I took it off the page and thought, Oh,

Were you already familiar with

she’s been in the hood, she’s done

Juneteenth when you came to

this, she did that. I lived in Atlanta,

the film?

and South Carolina, and parts of

I had heard about it, maybe in col-

Georgia and in the rural South. So,

lege and school, working on a play or

I imagined some of the women in

something, but it just wasn’t in the

those spaces and went with my esti-

collective American consciousness in

mation of that. And then I realized

the way that I think it’s growing now.

that there was an opportunity to still

The reason why a director and

have that grip, but to also do some-

writer like Channing would want to

thing more tender with it.

tell the story about this woman, it’s

So, the development of the char-

not about this woman, it’s about

We were all in our homes witnessing what had been going on for hundreds of years. Collectively, everyone saw that. Everyone, even internationally, had their responses to it.

of Black people? I mean, it would be nice if the conversations were unnecessary. But sometimes we hit an alignment. Unfortunately, we were all in our homes witnessing what had been going on for hundreds of years. Collectively, everyone saw that. Everyone, even internationally, had their responses to it and could no longer ignore it. I felt like, just having even the smallest tipping of the hat to the ancestors, and to Juneteenth, to the freedom that came late. It was definitely a huge moment in American history—that was the official ending of slavery. It’s definitely something we need to commemorate. We saw a lot of studios and networks get on board with Black Lives Matter, and recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday. Do you have faith that we are actually going to see meaningful

acter is a really interesting thing. It

the community. Like so many of the

can start one way in read and then

actors I’m working with, the people

you realize, wouldn’t it be more inter-

that you see on the screen are locals.

esting if she was vulnerable? She

To pay homage to communities that

on two projects since [the corona-

doesn’t have to be crying all over

support us, and that rear us, and

virus pandemic] came to our door-

the place, but if you could feel her

that teach us all of these values,

step, and I’ve noticed a shift in the

tenderness, and how much she loves

good or bad, antiquated or not. But

way that they are hiring behind the

her daughter. So, if someone is rep-

they are the thing that you really

camera and in front. I hope that it

rimanding you, it’s not the same as

have. One of the things that I took

lasts and that it benefits all people.

a naggy mom reprimanding you. It’s

from this piece was seeing my direc-

It’s nice to see Asian Americans and

her heart, if you could feel her fuck-

tor being supported by the com-

to see trans people, a little bit of

ing heart because she really loves

munity in creating this. And as the

everything. This feels like a represen-

Kai. Then, it just hits different. It just

character, realizing that there was

tation of the planet that I live on.

feels different. That was something

such a strong root system and foun-

that Channing was very supportive

dation, whether it was the Jenkins

with the innovation in technology, for

of, and even started to encourage

committee or HBCU, those strong

example, we got a film, which wasn’t

once we were working. I just knew

foundations of history and the shoul-

necessarily going to be in a ton of

that it went from me seeing her as

ders that you’re standing on.

theaters, but probably got more eyes

just tough and unstoppable and just

changes in the industry? I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve worked

What’s exciting, as well, is that

on it because of streaming. People

pushing through, to, “Ah, there’s an

This film came out, not only com-

opportunity for a lot of tenderness

memorating the 155th anniver-

I’m seeing all this material come

and humanity here other than that.”

sary of Juneteenth, but also at

out that’s bold and interesting. And

My sister was a young, single mom

a time following the murder of

they’re taking the opportunities,

and there were people that were

George Floyd, and the mobiliza-

taking the bull by the horns, running

like, she could have done this and

tion of the Black Lives Matter

with it, and also speaking about the

that. And she still went ahead and

moment once again. What does

ways they’re not being adequately

became a teacher, and is now one

it mean for you personally, that

paid. So, I am optimistic.★

from all kinds of walks of life.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

37


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Act re ss es

In French Exit, the actress leaned into her character’s fragility and contradictions B Y S T E V I E W O N G

ing about watching your character take on the world. Was it as fun for you to play? You know, it’s interesting because I think it’s what I was most attracted to, her take-no-prisoners attitude. I think there’s something really admi-

Michelle Pfeiffer has played an array of iconic characters—from a heartbroken Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons to the beehived, conniving antics of Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray—but none of her previous work forewarned us of the wonderfully aloof eccentricity she displays as newly-impoverished socialite widow Frances Price in Azazel Jacobs' French Exit. Pfeiffer admits to not fully understanding her character in the film, but she more than happily accepted the challenge of infusing Price with a memorable soul, much as she’s done with all the performances in her four-decade-long career. 38

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

rable about how honest and frank she is. And it’s fun and very liberating to play. I know she comes off as rude and curt at times, but I spend so much of my real time trying to be nice and polite and not offending people, and it’s exhausting. Of

COU RT ESY OF SO N Y P I CT UR ES CL ASS I CS

Michelle Pfeiffer

There’s something very satisfy-


course, underneath all of that there’s

subtle color than red, but no. A lot of

You’ve had so many memorable

a fragility there. I don’t think she has

it is trying to hold on to youth.

roles, but there’s a huge group of Grease 2 fans that would love to

the coping skills with where she finds herself at the beginning of the film.

It’s interesting that you brought

I think for her entire life, money and

up youth, because when I see

all its accessories has been how she

Frances, I don’t see her scared of

has defined herself and when all of

her age at all.

that falls away, she’s just lost.

I think, more importantly, it’s how you grow old. I get the sense from

The film is so quirky and loose.

her that she has to work very hard at

Did that extend to how Frances

staying grounded, and there’s a fine

was written on the page and did

line between a rich, eccentric, older

it take you a bit to fully under-

woman and a poor nut job. I think

stand her?

that with money and wealth, you’re

My first question was, “What’s the

able to camouflage a lot of flaws and

deal with this talking cat?” I was

I think that people are much more

very curious about the tone of this

forgiving. I think she’s very smart and

film, but it’s also what I loved so

she realizes this. Plus, money is her

much about it. It walks this very fine

coping skill, and I think she’s smart

line of comedy and zaniness and

enough to know that without it, it’s

melancholy and drama. There were

not a future that she will ever be

also things that I honestly didn’t

happy in.

understand of Frances at the time, and then as I delved deeper into it, I

And yet she sheds what’s left of

began to understand her more. But

her money with too much ease.

there are things where I don’t know if

You can say the writing is on the

I’ll ever understand. It’s like there are

wall. She realizes her attachment to

things that people do, that just seem

money, and until it’s gone, she’s not

completely nuts to everyone else,

able to get on with her plan. But the

and it’s just so outside our wheel-

truth is, I don’t know that we could

house of logic; I even think there is an

really understand why she behaves

element of mental illness there.

that way.

I had to just build a story around

Fabulous Baker Boys is one of the performances that doesn't make me cringe... Actually Jeff and I have been torturing Steve about doing a sequel. It could be fun.

see you don your Pink Lady jacket and redo “Cool Rider”. Oh my God, that would be so pathetic if I tried to do that. I will not get on top of the ladder and try to sing “Cool Rider”. That is the very last time I will humiliate myself [laughs]. So I’m assuming you showcasing your Catwoman whip skills again would be a “no” too? That is so funny that you asked, I did this interview recently, and the journalist out of nowhere said, “Do you have the whip?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I have it here somewhere.” I realized it was in the closet right behind me. So I go and open the closet and it is hanging in the closet on a rod and it just looks so staged. Plus it’s just so phallic and looks so wrong. And before you ask, I will also not get on top of a piano and try to sing like Susie Diamond either. That being said, can you look back to the Fabulous Baker Boys days and admire that Michelle Pfeiffer performance? It is one of the performances that

all of that and hope that some of it

What about the gaze that Fran-

doesn’t make me cringe. I was ter-

comes through. But you know what?

ces gives to people that wrong

rified to do that singing and it was

If it doesn’t totally come through,

her? It’s a look I’d never want to

a lot of hard work, and I have such

that’s OK too, because that’s really

be in the crosshairs of.

fond memories working with those

how we experience people; we don’t

You know what? It’s just a scary part

Bridges boys [Jeff and Beau] and

really understand them completely.

of me that I tap into. I don’t even

with [director] Steve Kloves. I had

know where it comes from. My dad

read that script five years prior, but

Did the physical look of Fran-

used to give me that look every now

nobody wanted to make it with me,

ces help you with the character

and then, and it is pretty terrifying.

and somehow it came back to me.

development too?

And so it meant a lot to me for so

For sure. I typically start from the

I’ve heard about how you never

many reasons. Actually Jeff and I

outside in, though I know a lot of

watch your films because you’re

have been torturing Steve about

actors work the other way around.

too critical, is that still true after

doing a sequel. It could be fun.

I usually have a visual on this per-

all these years?

son and can hear their voice and

It’s so hard on my directors because

Would you ever want to go back

rhythms, and then I’m always work-

they so want me to be happy. And

to TV?

ing toward understanding how that

it’s very challenging for me. I have

I’d love that. In fact, there are a few

came to be. For the hair color, I

moments where I go, “Oh, that was

things at the moment that I’m look-

thought, this is a woman who likes to

a nice moment,” when I’m not cring-

ing at. Doing a limited series gives

bring attention to herself, and thus

ing. It’s just very hard for me to really

you an opportunity to really go much

she has this very vibrant, fiery red.

watch myself and I probably will

deeper into story and character,

She could have done a much more

never see this movie again.

which would be very interesting. ★

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

39


No. 6

STEVEN YEUN & LEE ISAAC CHUNG

The

Partnership CREATIVE TEAM Steven Yeun and Lee Issac Chung on the set of Minari.

In Minari, writer/director Lee Isaac Chung and Steven Yeun tell the story of a Korean immigrant family risking everything in pursuit of the American dream. Jacob (Yeun) uproots his family from 1980s Los Angeles, determined to start a farm in Arkansas, while his wife Monica (Yeri Han) grows weary of his optimism in the face of isolation and dwindling funds. Meanwhile, their young son David (Alan S. Kim) bonds with Monica’s feisty mother (Yuh-jung Youn), as she distracts him from the family’s hardships and his parents’ fraying marriage. Premiering at Sundance, the film, based on Chung’s own childhood, won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. In conversation with Dino-Ray Ramos, Chung and Yeun discuss Minari’s knifesharp portrayal of an immigrant experience beset by fear, regret and devastating setbacks, but tempered by the rewards of resilience, and what rises up when we plant the seeds of hope.


How long was the story for Minari in your head

anything larger in regards to Isaac’s personal story. I

difficult time making a film,” or something like that.

before you realized you needed to tell it?

think he really left a lot of space for us to imbue our

But I think Isaac has a very honest eye. I think he

Lee Isaac Chung: Well, for this one, I just knew that

own things. Also, I think Isaac is wise enough—I’m

can read people, see people for who they are, and

I would probably get to it at some point, even when I

putting words in your mouth, so I apologize—to know

he’s gracious that way. I think the people that he

was starting to get into filmmaking. Many filmmakers

that something like this has other pressures involved

brought together were perfect, so when we did come

start off with an autobiographical film from child-

beyond the truth of his specific story. At least those

together it didn’t feel like this overwrought, “We have

hood, and that’s kind of what I was thinking I would

are the pressures that I reacted to.

to immerse ourselves. Let’s pretend to be a family,” or

do, but other projects would just present themselves

I appreciated that Isaac didn’t really express to me his worry about it. If anything, he really always

to become a father myself and to live some life and

supported me through my fears about approaching a

the bat. With Yeri and I, we traded stories about our

to go through ups and downs, some failures and

character [when] I think a lot of Asian Americans and

perspectives about who Jacob and Monica were,

various things, so that I could get to a point where I

specifically Korean Americans have an idea of what

supplemented with also how we have lived through

could write about what it was like for my parents to

is on their minds. So yeah, I wasn’t too worried about

our own relationships. And I think the way that we left

come to this country and the things that my dad was

Isaac’s script. I was more worried about servicing

space for each other to explain and educate each

wrestling with, especially when I was the age that my

Jacob correctly.

other about ourselves really lent a truthful perspec-

daughter is now. In other words, for me to understand

p

something like that.

naturally in the beginning. I think I needed that time

The dynamic really worked pretty much right off

tive, too, to just the way that Monica and Jacob miss

what it’s like to be a dad of a child that age as I’m try-

Isaac, what was it about Steven that embodied

each other, as well. And I think in that way, it allowed a

ing to pursue my own career.

the story you wanted to tell?

nice duality for both those characters, because you’re

Chung: I felt like Jacob is someone who is charting

not looking at one person being objectively bad or

When did you start to put the story on paper?

his own course, and someone who’s leaving behind all

good. It’s just they’re trying and it’s very difficult.

Chung: It wasn’t until 2018 that it felt like the time

these different structures, ideas and categories that

And then when you think about Youn Yuh-jung

was right. I had taken a break from working on proj-

he’s been placed into—whether that’s in Korea as a

and her playing Soonja, that was so perfect, because

ects and I was really inspired by this book I read by

Korean man, or in California as this new immigrant.

YJ, she comes with a lot of power already. I remember

Willa Cather, called My Ántonia. She talked about how

He’s had all this pressure on him and now he’s trying

the first time I met her, I went outside with her and

her work really began when she stopped admiring

for the first time to do something that’s completely

just chatted with her for a little bit. And I was just like,

and she started remembering. She stopped trying to

different and completely himself. I felt like Steven

“It’s really wonderful to have you here. It’s an honor to

emulate other writers and to do what is considered

could understand this to the core, just based on how

be able to work with you,” and she expressed really

to be good work as a writer and she started to just

he’s grown up, who he is as a person and the sorts of

nice things to me about prior work that she’s seen me

simply remember and write from her experiences.

things that he thinks about. Even noticing the types of

do. I think Soonja represents the eyes of Korea, and

And I thought, I haven’t done that and I need to do

work that he’s drawn to as an actor, as a performer. I

maybe the seeming sense of validation that maybe

that with this. Otherwise, maybe I won’t even have

just felt like there’s something about that in which he

Jacob also wants to hold, which is, some weird,

a chance to make another film. So, this is the one

understands this person very intuitively.

prodigal son sense of, “I went and did this and I made

where I need to just get it out, get it done and hope for the best with it.

And there was also another side to it where I just

myself, can you see me now?” And that energy also

knew that what Jacob is doing is almost… laughable.

felt real for me as an actor to YJ. You want validation

It can be something that you really judge harshly

from one of the greats. And then the kids, they’re just

Did you feel apprehensive or vulnerable telling

for what he’s doing to his family. With the way that

so pure and so present and so talented.

such a personal story?

Steven was doing it, I felt confidence that the audi-

Chung: I’ve got to say, Steven did quite a lot in bridg-

Chung: Strangely, I felt a lot of apprehension about

ence would be there with him and understand him.

ing a lot of gaps on the set because I felt there was

whether I was doing some kind of injustice to my par-

They would still trust him and know that there’s some

a lot demanded of him. We have actors coming in

ents, because I know the feeling of somebody telling

deeper reason for why he’s doing these things. And

from Korea and there is a certain type of style and

a story with you as a character in it. It’s like I’m trying

again, I think that’s just something that’s within him,

training there, and then we also have very seasoned

to tell their story in a way, but they’re not really telling

where we just want to be with him and be along-

American actors, like Will Patton. Then we have these

it with their own voice. It’s me. It’s my perspective, so

side him for that ride and cheer for him in a way. I

kids who’ve never acted before. I was just amazed

that made me really nervous. Other than that, I tried

just thought, “Okay, he’s perfect for this,” and also

because Steven’s worked in all of those settings in

to keep some distance from reality and what actually

I thought it was great because he’s in between the

one way or another, and he’s really great with improvi-

happened so that I don’t have to try to make it so

idea of being Korean and being American in the way

sation. So, he had to be a glue in some ways and keep

exact to what actually happened, but just to make a

that I am—in the way that I feel I am between David

this really held together in such a deep way. So, yeah,

story and to make it entertaining. It was important for

and Jacob as well. I felt like it added this layer in which

I’m very grateful for that.

me to try to figure out a way to let the audience have

I can really trust him to carry this film and that I can

a good time while watching the film. I actually enjoyed

continue to, as much as I can as a filmmaker, express

Telling this story from a father’s perspective and

writing those parts, knowing that they are from my

myself through this film. That I would be able to do

a child’s perspective seems quite demanding.

real life, but that they’re not exactly from my real life.

that very collaboratively with Steven.

Did you feel like you were being pulled in differ-

Steven, because it was based on Isaac’s real life

Steven, what was the process in forming this

Chung: it was pretty odd to make this film. I was on

and his experience, did that responsibility and

bond to create this sense of family, especially an

set one time and I was trying to correct my produc-

pressure weigh on you?

immigrant family?

tion designer, Yong Ok Lee with something she had

Steven Yeun: I think Isaac, especially in the way that

Yeun: I think it’s really kind of a testament to Isaac,

done. I said, “Well, you know, in my family, in my real

he wrote it, created so much space. When I first read

first and foremost. I think he really, really brought

life, it didn’t look like this.” I felt like that’s the trump

it, it didn’t feel sparse and it didn’t feel overwritten.

together the right people. I think that’s the mark of

card. I can play that card and she has to listen to me,

It felt very true. It felt very honest. And because of

how great of a director he is. What is that adage?

but she just turned to me and said, “You know this is

that, I think it didn’t feel like I was having to service

“Directing is 95% casting, and then 5% is the crazy

not your family. This is the Yi family. This is completely

COU RT ESY OF A 24

ent directions?

PHOTOGRAPH BY

Melissa Lukenbaugh

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

41


different.” And something about that really shook me

This is a film led by an Asian cast and the com-

Do you think the American dream and an immi-

and woke me up. From then on, I had that voice in my

munity has been behind it. And it’s another nar-

grant story are one and the same?

head: “This is not your family anymore. This is the Yi

rative to further the fact that the Asian culture

Yeun: I heard this really cool quote from another

family and you have to service that vision.” So that

is not a monolith. Steven, how did you find the

interview where someone said that all immigrants are

distance was good throughout the whole film to have.

synergy with Jacob, given your particular iden-

artists, and that was very profound to me because

tity and experience?

I realize how true that is—to make something from

Steven, are you familiar with rural life, like the

Yeun: I think it felt refreshing. When I wake up I don’t

nothing. America is the land of immigrants. It is an

one the Yi family experiences, or are you more of

juxtapose myself to whiteness ever really, until I’m

immigrant nation. The initial outset was to leave a sys-

a city boy?

outside and I’m reminded at times. It felt nice to be

tem behind to create something brand new. We find

Yeun: Both my parents are from farming families in

able to express myself in a way that I feel naturally on

ourselves a couple hundred years into this and trying

Korea. So, farming felt natural genetically, but I was

the daily. So, for Jacob, the realization that, in some

to shake ourselves awake from the way that perhaps

raised in the suburbs of Michigan, so it’s not like I got

ways, I am him or I am my father, or I can relate to

the larger section of the country has rooted itself—in

to touch too much. I got to touch a lot of nature, but I

that on a human level was deeply fulfilling because

its comfort in generations, in some way—and then you

didn’t get to touch too much farming per se. But yeah,

oftentimes Asian American actors don’t get to ac-

have these beautiful images and examples of people

I think farming was really cool, because my parents

cess things like that. Usually they’re there to fulfill the

that are doing it now.

are really obsessed with farming now. They’ve turned

narrative and sometimes, even worse, they’re there to

their backyard into this giant garden where they’re

fulfill a quota.

growing fresh produce and sending it over to us. Their

To be able to tell a story about the inner life of

I feel like that’s ultimately what makes America beautiful. I don’t know if there’s an intrinsic difference. There are a lot of nuances between those. I don’t

grandkids get to eat fresh cucumbers and zucchinis

who we are is, to me, amazing. That’s the dream of an

know if I can make a statement like that. I think on a

and things like that. I think there was a generational

actor, to fill their body with intention and purposeful-

larger note, it feels like the story of Minari, the story of

connection there that was really fulfilling, to want

ness and reality and truth, instead of doing the men-

Jacob—that desire to make a life for themselves dic-

and have the same desires that my father once did.

tal and physical gymnastics, like a circus mimicry of

tated by our own terms—that’s the beauty of America.

Subsequently, the metaphor of doing physical labor

how we perceive the world and literally talk about the

It’s what a lot of us, if not all of us, are hoping for: to

to the earth, and just the submission to the chaotic

world. With Jacob, I got to access him on why he does

just make your own life. Whether you have those op-

nature of whether you’ll succeed or not is profound.

this thing. What he’s after and who he’s wrestling

portunities or not is a different story.

I think that this movie was special that way. There’s

with. I got to access him through those touch points,

Chung: I definitely echo all of that. It’s interesting. I

something really wonderful about that.

as opposed to, what is an Asian man in America.

think we just have to be mindful of what that defini-

How did you navigate a story about an Asian im-

From The Walking Dead to Okja to Sorry to Bother

a lot of definitions of that that are, frankly, unhealthy. I

migrant family living in a traditionally conserva-

You, you’ve been in a diverse array of films and

feel we see them crumbling right now in this country,

tive town without it falling into racially-charged

TV, Steven. But how do you think the character

letting people down in a way. I like the way Steven

tropes and traps?

of Jacob fits into where you are at right now

says it. In a way, we’re all immigrants here, and we’re all

Chung: I definitely knew if I didn’t address the topic,

with your career?

trying to create a new reality, and there’s a good way

that somehow that would seem irresponsible or that

Yeun: I think he’s a part of a personal journey that

to do that. There are ways that are only going to disap-

would seem strange or neglectful in some way. So, in

I’m on. In some ways I have to recognize the massive

point us, and hopefully that’s something that Minari is

my mind, this was really a film about a family trying to

privilege that I have, that I get to find myself through

talking about.

make it on the frontier, and that’s a more classic story,

this medium this way. Who gets to do that? Not

Yeun: I’ve been thinking a lot about how Asian Ameri-

in that way. It was intentional on my part that it’s not

many people.

cans in the past have been required to define them-

tion of an American dream is. I think we are faced with

new immigrants, but that this is a family that’s actu-

I almost cried when Isaac told you about why

selves. It’s always the best version of how we define

ally been in the U.S. for a few years, so that already

he cast me, because I hadn’t heard that before and

ourselves happens to be that we’re caught between

creates a certain separation from it being strictly an

it’s so deeply in line with how I feel. It just makes me

two places. While that is in some ways true, it feels this

immigrant story. And I wanted to make sure that by

respect your eye so much more, Isaac. I think all of

generation and on is really more about the space that

doing this story, we’re not just telling a story that is

us want to be seen—not just be seen by others, but

we occupy ourselves, and less about being trapped

meant to explain who we are to white people basi-

also see ourselves a little bit clearer. For me, the work

by anything. Really, we’re just in our own thing. We’re

cally; that it shouldn’t just be a film that is meant to

has really just been finding and mining deeper and

in our own unique culture. There are things about the

communicate to a “white audience” and to say, “This

deeper who I am. How I do that is I get to work in

motherland that we can’t touch in the same ways and

is the struggle we went through,” or, “These are the

these films that really access an individual character.

they’ll remind you of that, whenever you go back there.

ways in which we’ve been hurt and wronged.”

It’s not always in service of this larger dynamic. It’s

If you spend more than two weeks there, they’ll be like,

I’m not discounting any of those things or any

always in service to the story, which is great, but I’m

“Hey, you’re an American.” Then you come here, and

of those realities, but I just felt like this story is more

really attracted to characters that are isolated, that

you’re made to perform your culture so that you can

about this family and what they are going through,

are their own thing. It’s fulfilling to me as an actor to

justify why you’re here. I think there’s something about

their perspective, and we need to be in that perspec-

find those things.

this generation that there’s a lot of power in that, and

tive. For them, they’re not thinking about racism all

Jacob feels different. I think for me, I’m really at-

I’m glad to have been part of this film. I’m so glad that

the time. Do they encounter it? Yes, they do. And

tracted to something that I might be thinking about

Isaac wrote this so honestly and truthfully, because

when they encounter it, it’s brief and there’s a certain

or working through. And then I magically, wonderfully

we’re not trying to ignore our culture, or where we

way that it happens in their lives. But I wanted the film

get a script out of thin air where it’s like, “Here’s one,”

came from, or who we are now, but rather just to plant

to shift away from those ideas and to be more about

and I’m like, “Oh, that’s the one. I’ve got to do that

a flag in some way, at least for me, about where we’re

themselves and the barriers that they have within

one.” That’s where I feel so lucky. So, moving forward,

at now and what we are now. There’s something really

their own families, the assimilation that they need to

I think it’s that. The goal is to really see myself a little

beautiful about that. So, I’ve been really happy to see

do within their own family. It’s not assimilation to the

bit clearer, just so that I can play my part a little bit

Asian American cinema and art, in general, really start

culture, but to each other, in a way.

better in this life.

to flourish. That’s been really wonderful.

42

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


ON THE FARM Chung gives direction to Yeun and co-star Will Patton; (below, L to R) Alan S. Kim, Yeun, Noel Cho and Yeri Han as the Yi Family; (below left) Patton and Yeun in action.

How has the meaning of this movie changed for both of you from when you were filming it, to

tality that was starting to cook under the surface. As we cascade into now, into all of 2020, to me,

[Tsiakals] who I got to meet a week before I started. She owns a vintage shop in LA called Please and

when it premiered at Sundance, to now, when

Minari is more profound than ever. It feels more

Thank You and she’s helped us source so much for

the world is going through major changes?

real than ever. Because in some ways, everybody’s

Minari in [terms of] its authenticity and its cloth-

Yeun: I’d love to hear Isaac’s perspective about this

barn has burned down and all that’s really left is the

ing. When I think about all those things, this movie

too, but when we were in the middle of shooting it, it

people that are around you—the ones that helped

really just brought the best of us all together. I get

just felt beautiful. It felt really wonderful. It felt like we

you make all of this together.

to speak about it during the press tour, but then I

were all coming together for something, and there was

The way it continues to cascade for me is that I

look back and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m standing on

no way of knowing how it was going to go, but it just

came to at least this understanding of the lessons

a bunch of people, an entire set of people helped

kept going. If we could compile all the stories of the

that Jacob needs to learn in the midst of his story.

realize this thing.”

beautiful nature by which films realize themselves, the

But even as we talk about this movie on a press tour,

Chung: Yeah. I mean on that note, I hope that it

people that get involved, the people in the periphery

it’s focused on a certain select few individuals, name-

offers some kind of hope or something to have after

that sometimes don’t get seen ultimately in the end,

ly myself. There’s something about getting out of the

everything that’s happened this year. It’s so easy

but they’re so integral to the process. So many things

way too, and stepping aside, and really talking about

to be trite about everything that’s happened, but I

like that happened. So many magical moments that

all the people that got to make this—not just the cast

think this film is born of a true pain, in a way, that I

were kismet, but also created because everybody was

and the crew and Isaac’s wonderful direction, but all

feel I’ve wrestled with in my own life, but then also

focused on making something great.

the people in Oklahoma that came to make this and

a lot of joy, and a lot of hope that I feel I’ve been

did it respectfully, in a way that infused them into the

blessed with on the other side of that. I watched

crazy. The first night of our premiere was the same

project, as opposed to othering themselves, because

the film again, for our HD master check-through in

day that Kobe [Bryant] died. Isaac and I talked about

they didn’t feel part of the culture. They were just

the middle of this entire virus thing, and there’s a

it and he put it the best way. He was like, “There’s a

connecting to it on a human level.

shot towards the end of the movie with the family

There was that, but when it premiered, that was

mortality to it.” The stakes felt heightened because

And then we had this woman named Stephanie

sleeping on the floor together. It felt so poetic and

someone as large as that in life had perished in such a

who just appeared out of thin air in some ways with

almost a prayer when I saw it. That’s what I want for

crazy way. And then, further, to have the rumblings of

YJ, and helped us navigate so many cultural language

all of us. That we’re all there and we’ve all survived.

coronavirus… there just was this deep sense of mor-

things. And then we had this woman named Jenny

We’re together. ★ D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

43


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