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ANGELS OF JUSTICE HOW EMERALD FENNELL AND CAREY MULLIGAN CUT A KNIFE-SHARP TRUTH INTO THE POP-BUBBLEGUM VENGEANCE THRILL OF PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN SOPHIA LOREN THE GOLDEN AGE ICON RETURNS TO OUR SCREENS ANDY SAMBERG DELVES INTO HIS FILM AND TV FAVORITES PLUS:

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FIRST TAKE Screen icon Sophia Loren returns to cinema in The Life Ahead, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti Rounding up the runners and riders in the International and Documentary races Andy Samberg shares his film and television favorites

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ON THE COVER How Emerald Fennell and Carey Mulligan put a sting in the tail of their popbubblegum vengeance thriller Promising Young Woman

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THE DIALOGUE: ACTORS Riz Ahmed Delroy Lindo Daniel Kaluuya Tahar Rahim Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

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Costuming a crooner

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An Icon Returns

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

Sophia Loren’s first feature film in more than a decade turns Romain Gary’s Madame Rosa into an Italian woman rehabilitated by her love for a Senegalese Muslim orphan boy in The Life Ahead, directed by Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti BY JOE UTICHI

6

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

PHOTOGRAPH BY

Greta De Lazzaris


SPECIAL BOND Loren as Madame Rosa with Iosif Diego Pirvu as Iosif in The Life Ahead.

named Momo. A Holocaust survivor and

dream about wonderful stories in my life.

former prostitute, Madame Rosa’s well

Finding the things that I never saw and

of emotion is deep, but her patience is

never did live, because my early life was

not to be tested, and though she and

marked by war. My childhood was a very

Momo start off at odds, their relation-

difficult thing to live; very difficult.

ship becomes transformational for the pair of them. Sitting together in the family home in

Was acting an escape, then, from that life?

Geneva, Loren and Ponti reflect not only

Loren: It wasn’t an escape, but at the

on their collaboration for The Life Ahead,

moment, I felt like it was an escape. It

and the deft way Ponti’s reimagining

was something I wanted to do badly,

of the setting offers a window on the

because then I would be surrounded by

migrant crisis raging in Southern Italy,

wonderful people and wonderful things

but also on Loren’s legacy, and their

in my life, which I never had because

entire history together, as mother and

of the war. My family was a wonderful

son, actress and director.

family, and they loved us a lot, me and my sister, but it was a very difficult life

Sophia, your career started when

during the war.

you were just 15. What did acting mean to you back then?

What you subsequently found was

Sophia Loren: In my life at the time,

a career path that you, still today,

there was nothing better to think about

express so much love for. Would you

It took her son, Edoardo, to coax her

Loren. Ponti’s adaptation relocates the

than what I was living with my mother

say that you found your calling?

back to the screen this season for

novel to Bari, not far from Naples in

and my sister. But when I met this friend

Loren: Acting was what I was able to do,

The Life Ahead, a new adaptation of

Southern Italy where Loren grew up, and

of mine, Vittorio De Sica, on set, that

I was going to do, I really was dreaming

Romain Gary’s The Life Before Us, and

reimagines the book’s central character

was what really inflamed my wanting

to do. If you dream about something,

toward a performance that is sure to

Madame Rosa as a Neapolitan woman

to be an actress. Wanting to just follow

maybe sometimes you think you won’t

remind everyone of the power of Sophia

who meets a Senegalese orphan boy

the desire to be able to be on a set and

get it, but it’s always in your mind. There

8

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

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X

IT HAS BEEN 11 YEARS SINCE SOPHIA LOREN, the great Italian star and one of the only surviving icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, last graced the screen. And longer still since she last took a leading role. After her Oscarwinning heyday in the ’50s and ’60s, Loren turned to the only passion that could match her love for cinema—motherhood—and focused her attention on raising first her two sons, Carlo, a classical music conductor, and Edoardo Ponti, a filmmaker, and then her grandchildren. The actress, whose co-stars have included Cary Grant, Clark Cable and Marcello Mastroianni, to name only a few, had never retired, and her love for performance never dimmed; simply, her priorities changed.


P RO DU C E D BY

G A R Y G O E T Z M A N p.g.a.

G A I L M U T R U X p.g.a.

G R E G O R Y G O O D M A N p.g.a.

BEST DIRECTOR

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P AU L G R E E N G R A S S

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VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISORS

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BEST SOUND

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A N DY M O R L E Y

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BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

SUPERVISING SOUND EDITOR/DESIGNER

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SOUND DESIGNER

KEY HAIRSTYLIST

MICHAEL FENTUM

K E LV I N T R A H A N

“A TOWERING PIECE OF MOVIEMAKING.” – D E A D L I N E


FAMILY AFFAIR Loren discusses shooting on the set of The Life Ahead with her director son, Ponti.

was never a day I didn’t want to be on

And it still is because it’s something that

that way, and around our dinner table

the screen, didn’t want to be an actress,

comes from inside; it grows within you

we talked more about stories and craft

and didn’t want to be with the people

each time you have a new opportunity,

than about Hollywood. We didn’t talk

that would talk to you about the para-

and new things to explore.

MY MOTHER’S SO PASSIONATE ABOUT HER WORK, TRULY. SHE APPROACHES EVERY MOVIE LIKE IT WAS HER VERY FIRST. THERE’S NOT ONE JADED BONE IN HER BODY.”

about the celebrity trappings, say, of

—EDOARDO PONTI

he was around eight years old, he

this kind of success that my parents

the picture. Life on set was something I

Edoardo, you grew up with two of

never had before.

Italy’s most iconic figures of cinema;

Edoardo Ponti: My mother’s so

your father was the renowned

passionate about her work, truly. She

producer Carlo Ponti. Was there a

approaches every movie like it was her

moment when you came to realize

very first. There’s not one jaded bone in

that your mother and father were

her body. Not one moment where she

these beloved characters, or did

doesn’t tackle a scene with the same

that happen gradually?

excitement as if it was the first time she

Ponti: When you’re born into this reality,

acted. And I think that’s why people

you never really don’t realize it, but you

connect so deeply with her work. She

grow into it. There’s a slow understand-

doesn’t take shortcuts. She handles the

ing of what it is that you’re living, or what

scene with the same depth, enthusiasm

your family’s living. Both my mother and

and passion as if it were her first time,

my father have contributed greatly to

I remember being four years old, and

despite the fact that it’s 71 years that

an industry, and for us it happened to

as he was playing on his piano I was on

she’s been doing this.

be the industry of filmmaking. But it’s

the ground, using his music to score my

Loren: Each time is the first time…

interesting, because my parents never

little Lego figurines. I remember I would

Something new that is happening inside

brought the spotlight of their success

walk into my room, and if I didn’t like the

of you with every character. That was

into our home. It was never about that

lighting scheme, I would change it to suit

the big thing that opened my eyes to

glamor. It was never about Hollywood, or

the atmosphere. So, it’s never not been

being an actress, was being involved

dinner parties, or premieres. It was never

this for me. It’s always been this.

with so many characters. So many won-

about those things.

derful worlds to live in. It was paradise.

10

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

So, we lived quite sheltered lives in

had. Even though I realized quite early on that my parents were successful in this craft, the repercussions of knowing that weren’t really about the glamor but rather the craft of storytelling. Was that where your interest in filmmaking came from? Ponti: It was, but it was also always there. My brother is an orchestra conductor and a concert pianist. When would practice piano in the living room.

At five or six, we got our first video player; not VHS but Betamax. I would

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X

dise you might live while you’re doing


®

FROM THE

ACADEMY AWARD WINNING DIRECTOR O F F O R Y O U R C O N S I D E R AT I O N I N A L L C AT E G O R I E S I N C LU D I N G

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE “ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ‘ THE DISSIDENT,’ I HOPE THAT YOU WILL”

“‘ THE DISSIDENT’ IS AS IMPORTANT AND CAPTIVATING AS ONLY A TRUE STORY CAN BE”

HILLARY CLINTON

GARRY K A S PA ROV

“ RIVETING. TRAGIC AND POIGNANT”

“ CHILLING. VISUAL AND DRAMATIC”

T H E H O L LY W O O D R E P O RT E R

THE WASHINGTON POST

T H E U N TO L D S TO RY O F T H E M U R D E R T H AT S H O O K T H E W O R L D


LA DOLCE VITA Left: Loren as Madame Rosa, with Ibrahima Gueye as Momo; above, with Abril Zamora as Lola.

watch endless movies. The same movie

I always knew could be very special.

version of Sophia Loren than they’re

years with this person and then remind

10 times over. You can’t manufacture

You start there; you start from what

used to. But a more authentic version.

her of certain things, because I know her

a passion like this; you either have the

makes you comfortable as a filmmaker.

Loren: Do you want to change that

so well.

passion or you don’t. And if you have the

And what made me comfortable was

answer?

passion, then you’re willing to commit

working with this amazing actress—this

Ponti: No, I don’t want to change it

when my mother’s upset, and wherever

your entire life to it without thinking

amazing woman—who happens to be

[laughs].

she is, whether she’s at a table or in her

about a plan B. Plan A is the one, and

my mother. We always had a shorthand.

then if it doesn’t happen, then… well, it’s

And from the very beginning of my life,

Sophia, I saw you looking suspi-

she’s ranting and she’s tidying up at the

a disaster [laughs].

we’ve also had a chemistry because

ciously at him.

same time. These are the things that

Loren: I knew it and I felt it with Edoardo

we’re so similar in our passions. We have

Loren: I was waiting for the end of it

maybe in a scene I’ll suggest her to do.

from very early on. We would be watch-

a connection.

[laughs]. No, but of course, he’s my son.

Because I know this is something she

I’ve known him since he was born.

actually does… And she’s embarrassed

So, it was very natural for me to

bedroom, she will start tidying up. So,

the story, and how the scene was edited,

combine my passion for telling stories

Ponti: Since before I was born.

now I’ve said that.

and what he’d change about it, what

with this rapport I have with my mother.

Loren: Even before he was born. It’s

Loren: I feel completely nude [laughs].

he didn’t like. He always had something

And, especially with The Life Ahead, this

something I always look for, because

Edoardo knows everything about me, so

that was wrong to talk about, and he

desire I have to present my mother in

it’s like being at home. You can be open

even when he sees me dressed up, he

knew he was the only one who could

the way that I know her… As Sophia,

to what you have inside, you don’t have

sees right through it, you know?

fix it.

as mamma, in her most authentic, her

to hide anymore. You can be who you

Ponti: The x-ray.

most stripped down, and in a way, her

are. With him, I’m always what I am and

Loren: It’s an x-ray, yes. I live always with

most exposed.

what I can be, and so this gives me a

this x-ray turned on me.

strength in what I’m playing that I could

Ponti: But how wonderful it is, for a direc-

The Life Ahead is not the first time you’ve worked together. Was that

I love doing that with her, because of

always destined?

the iconography associated to Sophia

never have if I was directed by some-

tor and for an actor, to have this kind of

Ponti: When you’re a director, you draw

Loren. I love to disrupt that. To surround

body that doesn’t know me so well.

relationship, because then you can bring

from what you know, and from what you

her with these wonderful characters.

Ponti: What’s also wonderful is that

those things to the screen. Usually, when

love, and obviously in my home I had

To have her speak Neapolitan in the

our life together… I’m 47, so it has been

a director really starts to get to know an

one of the greatest actors of all time.

deepest sense of what that means. And

a 47-year study of a person that, when

actor well, the movie is over. Here, we

And I knew my mother, I knew how to

I think people respond to it because

we work together, I can take a treasure

start with that. So, we can really start

speak with her. We have a rapport that

they’re presented with a different

trove of the experiences over those 47

working like that from day one.

12

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

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

ing television and he’d be talking about

Very specific things, like, for example,


Momo] is a wonderful boy who gave me the time and was open and willing to find this relationship inside of him. And it was wonderful to see him experience the making of the film, because he really came to know himself, I think, during the shooting. He’s had a tough life, and he was really in a corner, but now he asks, “What will I do tomorrow?” Tomorrow didn’t have meaning for him before. Now, it can be anything. Ponti: I think the reason my mother can speak the way she does about Ibra is because she recognizes her own story in elements of his life. When she was growing up, tomorrow meant nothing. She was raised in an era when there was no tomorrow; you had to fight for today. And when she says that Momo was in a corner, she understands what this means in a way that I cannot, because IN THE FRAME Ponti and his mother Loren prepare an outdoor scene.

she felt it too at his age. It was so beautiful to watch these two people who are so far apart in terms of generation find this thing that unites them.

We all deserve to have our tomorLoren: It’s true. I had that too when I was

could be done through me as Madame

mother, of course, didn’t go through

row, and I think what makes it so

working with De Sica. He was a wonder-

Rosa, and with Edoardo directing. It was

the Holocaust, but she experienced

universal is that it is not only Madame

ful director who had this kind of manner

a wonderful feeling.

the Second World War. She tasted

Rosa who’s helping and saving Momo,

what it was to be under the bombs,

but it’s Momo who’s helping and saving

talking about the scene that you had to

A moment of revelation?

the hunger, seeing dead bodies in the

Madame Rosa. It is a true exchange

do, and he, too, could really see through

Loren: Yes, and there are not many

streets. All these are things that will

of sensibilities, of strength, of courage,

you. But not in a manner of being very

writers that write like Romain Gary.

mark you forever, especially when you

because these two people are both

strong and forceful about it, because he

Ponti: There are certain characters that

see them at such a young age. I felt

survivors, so they help each other.

wanted to find a free way to talk about

hit a frequency that aligns itself with my

my mother would be not just the best,

That’s really what makes it so special.

performance, and so it became simple

mother’s. So, when I started reading this

but the only person to play this role.

And they both teach each other about

and easy.

character, her voice came in immediately.

love. They both teach each other about

For most directors, they don’t want to

You changed the setting of the

strength. They both bring the other to

Does that push you further in a

hear an actor’s voice in their head when

novel from Paris to Bari, in southern

the place where they need to be.

performance?

they’re reading, when they’re writing,

Italy. It seems to fit so well, because

Loren: Working with him was simplicity

Loren: No, it’s not even a question of

because then they might not get them.

the notion of Madame Rosa being

itself. It was my idea that we should all

being pushed further; it’s a question of

But in this case, when I was hearing my

this woman with just a tremendous

live together during the filming, so we

feeling that you have it inside, and then

mother’s voice, I thought, Well, at least I

well of love, but also a certain sense

did, and Ibra and his family became

you can just do it and be happy about

know I can get her on the phone. I mean,

of a formidable nature, feels like a

part of our own family. And this feeling

it. It is something that should come

it was no guarantee she would do the

very Italian thing.

of family and watching him experience

naturally. Otherwise, people can see that

movie, because Sophia Loren didn’t build

Ponti: What’s amazing about Italian

this work that he had never done before,

you’re faking.

her success by saying yes to everybody

culture is that love is not something

it was really wonderful. And it was a

that called. But I knew at least I could get

you switch on or off. You should not be

wonderful school for him, but for me as

her attention.

commended for loving somebody; love

well. He was great company for me.

Madame Rosa was a character you’d yearned to play for years.

With Madame Rosa, there was no

is as important as breathing. You don’t

Loren: Oh, right away, as soon as I read

question in my mind. This sense of a

pat yourself on the back for it. And this

I hope it won’t be another 10 years

the book. It comes from inside you too,

character that was full of contradic-

is very much true of Madame Rosa. She

before your next film.

this feeling of wanting to be the charac-

tions. She’s soft, but tough. She’s

loves as naturally as she breathes. It’s

Loren: No, 20 years [laughs]. I don’t

ter you’re reading, and it’s not something

dramatic, but funny. There’s something

not about sentimentality, because she

know. It depends on life.

you can force. It had been a while where

very poetic about these contradictions,

can be brutal with Momo, the boy in

I had not worked on films. And when

and they not only reminded me of my

the story. But behind her roughness—

You really need to talk to the man

Edoardo gave me the book to read, right

mother and my mother’s voice, but

behind her irreverence—there is true,

next to you.

away I realized I was already filming it

also of my grandmother, my mother’s

true love.

Loren: Yeah, maybe. I’m too accus-

without filming it. It wasn’t as simple as

mother. Like Madame Rosa, both

Loren: It was wonderful to find that

tomed to him.

reading the book. I was imagining what

of them had lived through war. My

with Momo. Ibrahima Gueye [who plays

Ponti: She needs somebody new [laughs]. ★

14

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

COU RT ESY OF N ET FLI X

when it came to talking about acting, to


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

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

’20s Trailblazer

How the makeup and hair designers of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom helped Viola Davis disappear into a real-life legend ON MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, hair and makeup designers Mia Neal and Sergio Lopez-Rivera worked to transform Viola Davis into the titular Georgia singer, known as the “Mother of the Blues”. To capture the essence of the only real person depicted in Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle, they turned to a limited set of period photographs, before digging into her psychology, and the sociopolitical context of her times. “We’re talking about a Black woman in the 1920s who was gay,” Lopez-Rivera notes. “What was her level of freedom, in terms of women’s rights? As an AfricanAmerican woman, what [materials were] available to her?” Defying the Black beauty standards of her time, Rainey wore a wig built from horsehair while on stage, which proved a challenge to recreate. “I sourced horse mane from Europe, had it flown in, and it was covered in manure and lice eggs,” Neal recalls. “This was the first time that I had to build a wig with gloves on.” For his part, LopezRivera channeled the sweaty greasepaint look that Rainey wore like armor, giving Davis gold teeth, pencil-thin, drawn-on eyebrows, and dark circles around the eyes. “It was really important to her that none of us were trying to make her look pretty, and I felt so free, creatively, which is such a rarity in this business,” the makeup designer says. “To know that you are not having to be careful of the vanity of the actor playing this character.” —Matt Grobar

SPLITTING THE ATOM

and other destinations. To carry the

Radioactive’s production designer tracks the fallout of Marie Curie’s discoveries

would work with a brilliant team

ODDS

1

Chadwick Boseman Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

82/25

2

Anthony Hopkins The Father

4/1

3

Riz Ahmed Sound of Metal

9/2

4

Delroy Lindo Da 5 Bloods

5/1

5

Gary Oldman Mank

6/1

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

ODDS

1

Leslie Odom Jr. One Night in Miami

18/5

2

Sacha Baron Cohen The Trial of the Chicago 7

5/1

3

Paul Raci Sound of Metal

13/2

4

Daniel Kaluuya Judas and the Black Messiah

23/2

5

Mark Rylance The Trial of the Chicago 7

13/1

viewer through time and space, Carlin of Hungarian artists, transforming sections of Budapest and Spain to achieve a diverse assortment of looks.

On Radioactive, production designer

story of Marie Curie (Rosamund

“It’s a fairly niche project, so we had to

Michael Carlin created a sense of

Pike), the pioneering scientist who

be inventive to pull it off,” the designer

enormous scope with a relatively

changed the world with her discovery

notes. “It was half creative and half

modest budget, recreating period

of radioactivity. Intercut with episodes

logistics. But the main rationale

environments from five countries, for

from Curie’s life were scenes that

was just incredibly inventive use of

a story spanning more than a century.

spoke to the consequences of her

The drama tells the remarkable true

work, staged at Hiroshima, Chernobyl

locations, and manipulation of existing GLOW UP Rosamund Pike stars as Marie locations.” —Matt Grobar Curie in Radioactive.

16

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


F O R

Y O U R

C O N S I D E R A T I O N

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM - POLAND ALEC UTGOFF IN

“Profoundly cinematic... exerts its own hypnotic power.”

“A magical film... A tour-de-force... of brilliant cinematography.”

– Anna Smith, DEADLINE

– Deborah Young, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

A film by MAŁGORZATA SZUMOWSKA & MICHAŁ ENGLERT /$9$),/06$1'0$7&+)$&725<352'8&7,216,1 &2352'8&7,21 :,7+.,12¤:,$70$=29,$:$56$:),/0)81'',)$&725<%$<(5,6&+(5581')81. ,1 &223(5$7,21 :,7+$57(),/0:,7+ 7+( 6833257 2) / &2),1$1&(' %<32/,6+),/0,167,787(),/081'0(',(167,)781*15:'(876&+(5),/0)›5)(5)21'6 0(',(1%2$5'%(5/,1%5$1'(1%85**(50$132/,6+),/0)81'&,1(&2352$:$5' )($785,1*$/(&87*2))0$-$267$6=(:6.$$*$7$.8/(6=$ :(521,.$526$7,.$7$5=<1$),*85$‘8.$6=6,0/$7$1'5=(-&+<5$.5=<6=72)&=(&=27&,1(0$72*5$3+<0,&+$‘(1*/(5736&(',7,1*-$526‘$:.$0,“6.,360 $*$7$&,(51,$.352'8&7,21 '(6,*1-$*1$-$1,&.$&$67,1*0$*'$/(1$6=:$5&%$576281'.$&3(5+$%,6,$.036(0$5&,1.$6,“6.,036(0$5&,1-$&+<5$ &26780( '(6,*1.$7$5=<1$/(:,“6.$0$.( 83 :$/'(0$532.5206.,*(50$1 /,1( 352'8&(567()$$16&+,('(5352'8&7,21 0$1$*(5 '$*0$5$%$*1(&.$ &2352'8&(56$11$63,6=720$6=.$5&=(:6.,0$5&,13,$6(&.,-}'5=(-6$%/,“6.,5$)$‘*2/,6&200,66,21,1* (',7256&$5/26*(67(1+$8(5(%5)&251(/,$$&.(56(%5) 021,.$/2%.2:,&=(%5/$57()%,5*,7.g03(5($57() 352'8&(56$*1,(6=.$:$6,$.0$5,86=:‘2'$56.,9,2/$)²*(10,&+$(/:(%(50$‘*25=$7$6=802:6.$ 0,&+$‘(1*/(57:5,77(1 %<0,&+$‘(1*/(57 0$‘*25=$7$6=802:6.$',5(&7(' %<0$‘*25=$7$6=802:6.$&2',5(&7(' %<0,&+$‘(1*/(57


ANOTHER ROUND

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN

CHARLATAN

Windows on the World HOW THE INTERNATIONAL FILM LANDSCAPE IS SHAPING UP IN A DIFFICULT YEAR BY NANCY TARTAGLIONE

The drama from Thomas Vinterberg, a previous Oscar nominee for 2012’s The Hunt, recently swept the European Film Awards after taking prizes in San Sebastián, London and elsewhere, and has been a box

with as much heat on it as Parasite

and Suriname (Wiren). Also, some

office smash at home where it is the

year on recent record for myriad

had at this time last year. But there

are upping their participation after

biggest movie of the year. Samuel

reasons, the International Feature

is a promising field. The full list of

having put forth titles in just a few

Goldwyn released it in theaters and

Film Oscar race is not immune to

eligible films has not yet officially

previous years, including Paraguay

digitally in the U.S. in December.

the impact of Covid. Along with the

been made available—it’s our under-

(Killing The Dead), Ivory Coast (Night

The story of four weary high school

Academy of Motion Picture Arts

standing that rather than release a

of the Kings), Kenya (The Letter) and

teachers who test the theory that a

and Sciences tweaking submis-

submission list as would normally be

Guatemala (La Llorona).

constant level of modest inebriation

sion deadlines, many films vying

the case during the fall, the Acad-

for recognition in the International

emy has opted to wait until all films

nificant presence including Brazil’s

experiment takes them on a journey

Feature category have experienced

are fully vetted. That’s believed to be

Babenco: Tell Me When I Die, Chile’s

of self-discovery with both tragic

a lack of physical festival exposure

a means to avoid having to change

The Mole Agent, Romania’s Collec-

and uplifting consequences.

and the customary resultant buzz,

things around should a submission

tive, Luxembourg’s River Tales and

as so many events were canceled or

not fully meet the official criteria.

Italy’s Notturno from Gianfranco

names vying for a run in the Inter-

Rosi. The latter is an interesting

national Feature category this year

In what has been the strangest

moved online throughout the past

Last year, Nigeria’s Lionheart

Also, documentaries have a sig-

opens our minds to the world, their

There are some other familiar

nine months. In several cases, films

was ultimately ruled out because

choice by the Italian committee

including Agnieszka Holland with

selected by their respective coun-

of its use of English, and the same

which had stoked the ire of previous

Charlatan from the Czech Repub-

tries actually debuted way back in

phenomenon has come to pass with

Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino when

lic. Holland has been nominated

the 2019 festival season.

Canada’s official entry this year,

it selected Rosi’s documentary Fire

twice before, with 1985’s Angry

Funny Boy. The Academy is expected

at Sea as the country’s representa-

Harvest and 2011’s In Darkness—and

esting time for non-English language

This comes at a particularly inter-

to release a full official roster in the

tive in 2016. Sorrentino at the time

with Charlatan she brings to three

movies, given the incredible 2019 run

coming weeks.

lamented the fact that Italy could

the number of different countries

have split the Documentary and

she has repped. Set against the

of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. After be-

Some trends are notable this

ginning its career in Cannes, it went

year out of Africa and South

International Feature categories

backdrop of the 1950s, biographi-

on not only to scoop the Interna-

America. A handful of countries

across two films.

cal drama Charlatan premiered in

tional Feature trophy, but also Best

have put forth submissions for the

Director and Best Film — the latter a

first time ever, including Lesotho

titles that have already made a

on healer Jan Mikolášek who cured

first for a foreign-language movie.

(This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrec-

splash with some awards bodies is

hundreds of people using his plant-

tion), Sudan (You Will Die at Twenty)

Denmark’s Another Round (Druk).

based remedies. ★

For the moment, there is no film

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

Among the more high-profile

Berlin earlier this year and centers


LA LLORONA

NIGHT OF THE KINGS

Films getting their launch at Ven-

THE MOLE AGENT

Kong crime drama Better Days from

The 1970s-set film about maneuvering tive and lifetime Academy members

ice, 2020’s first major international

Derek Tsang; Albania’s Open Door

inside the Korean Central Intelligence

who have viewed each of the five

festival of the pandemic era, include

by Florenc Papas; India’s Jallikattu

Agency is the top grossing movie of

nominated films.

Poland’s Never Gonna Snow Again

by Lijo Jose Pellissery; and Bulgaria’s

2020 in the market with over $37M.

and Greece’s Apples. The former

The Father by Kristina Grozeva and

Woo Min-ho directs.

is the surreal story of a Russian-

Petar Valchanov.

speaking immigrant who becomes

The deadline for entries this year

Given the Covid impact on movie theaters, the Academy this year is allowing submissions that

Also worth keeping an eye on are

was December 1, while preliminary

had a previously planned theatrical

a guru-like figure in a wealthy gated

Naomi Kawase’s Japanese title True

voting in the category will begin on

release, but which have initially been

community. It hails from filmmak-

Mothers, which was stamped with

February 1 and end February 5. The

made available through a “reputable

ing duo Małgorzata Szumowska and

the Cannes 2020 label; Austrian

shortlist—again comprised of 10 films

commercial streaming distribu-

Michał Englert.

drama What We Wanted by Ulrike

as was the case last year when it was

tion service, or video on demand.”

Kofler; Quo Vadis, Aida? a war drama

upped from nine for the first time—will This required filmmakers to submit

section in Venice. Christos Nikou’s

Apples opened the Horizons

from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s

be announced on February 9, along

documentation of government-

exceedingly timely comedy/drama,

Jasmila Zbanic that bowed in Ven-

with shortlists in other categories.

mandated cinema closure dates,

set against the backdrop of a pan-

ice; Georgia’s Beginning from Dea

demic, went on to play Telluride, as

Kulumbegashvili, which also has the

Feature Film Preliminary Voting Com-

and streaming distribution or VOD

well as Toronto, and has the blessing

Cannes 2020 label; Russian master

mittee will view the eligible submis-

agreements.

of Cate Blanchett who is an execu-

Andrei Konchalovsky’s Venice entry

sions in the category and vote by

tive producer on the pic.

Dear Comrades!; Sweden’s Charter

secret ballot. The group’s top seven

festival’s online/virtual platform

Holdovers from festival play in

During Phase I, the International

previously planned theatrical release

Participation in an impacted

by Amanda Kernell; Switzerland’s

choices will then be augmented by

does not affect a film’s eligibility for

2019 that show potential include

My Little Sister from duo Stéphanie

three additional selections voted by

awards consideration, provided the

Filippo Meneghetti’s Two of Us from

Chuat and Véronique Reymond; and

the Academy’s International Fea-

festival has a transactional pay wall

France; Romania’s Collective from

Iran’s Sun Children directed by Majid

ture Film Executive Committee. The

or password-protected entry.

Alexander Nanau; Mexico’s I’m No

Majidi, repping the country for the

International Feature Film Nominating

Longer Here by Fernando Frías; Jayro

sixth time.

Committee must view the 10 shortlist- cordance with national and local

Bustamente’s Guatamalan entry La

ed films and vote by secret ballot to

specified guidelines and criteria,

Llorona; Bhutan’s family drama A Yak

interest in Korean political thriller

determine the category’s five nomi-

and on a date to be determined by

In The Classroom from Pawo Choyn-

The Man Standing Next which is fol-

nees. Final voting for the International

the Academy, this exemption will no

ing Dorji; multi award-winning Hong

lowing in some sizeable footsteps.

Feature Film award is restricted to ac-

longer apply. ★

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

Further, there is likely to be keen

When theaters reopen in ac-


F O R

Y O U R

C O N S I D E R A T I O N

B E S T I N T E R N AT I O N A L F E AT U R E F R A N C E O F F I C I A L E N T R Y 9 3 R D A C A D E M Y AWA R D S ®

“‘TWO OF US’ IS A FEATURE DEBUT THAT’S TOLD WITH A VETERAN’S TOUCH, and it’s all too easy to appreciate why France selected Menenghetti’s moving tearjerker as its Oscar ® submission this year.” INDIEWIRE

“QUIETLY GROUNDBREAKING. Entirely unique and uniquely vital.” VARIETY

“CAPTIVATING. BOLDLY ORIGINAL. Driven by a powerhouse, impassioned performance from Barbara Sukowa.” THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“YOUNG LOVERS MOVE OVER — Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier bring to life an unforgettable lesbian couple. Meneghetti’s incredibly deft feature debut is cause for celebration.” SCREEN INTERNATIONAL

OFFICIAL SELECTION

OFFICIAL SELECTION

TORONTO

NEW DIRECTORS/ NEW FILMS

INT’L FILM FESTIVAL 2019

2020

BARBARA SU KOWA

MA RTIN E C HEVA L L IER

L ÉA DR U C K E R

T WO O F U S A F I L M BY F I L I P P O M E N E G H E T T I


The Art of Craft The United States vs. Billie Holiday costume designer sculpts his own version of the iconic blues singer BY MATT GROBAR IL LUSTRATI ON BY PAU L KENG

The pictured gown, made from crêpe black silk, silk chiffon and bugle beads, was worn for a comeback performance at Carnegie Hall.

For The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Paolo Nieddu crafted period-accurate looks for Holiday (Andra Day), showcasing the “Black glamour and excellence” she represented.

This look was inspired by the work of Adrian, the iconic costumer behind The Wizard of Oz.

His first step was to create a timeline of historical images, charting her style trajectory from 1947 to 1959.

It was sewn by hand by Old Hollywood cutter/fitter John Hale, who worked on the iconic Some Like It Hot.

His lookbook featured materials from the Library of Congress, as well as Pinterest, Instagram and eBay.

Nieddu collaborated with the “timeless, elegant” House of Prada on nine other looks for Holiday.

NUMBERED The United Stars vs. Billie Holiday

Nieddu and his team

60 fresh orchids were

3,200 background

had only 8 weeks

always on hand to

actors featured, all

of prep before

decorate Day’s hair.

of them dressed in

starting the shoot.

Andra Day had 75

Around 250 costumes

8 to 10 House of

costumes. 25 were

were made

Prada artists worked

created from scratch;

for the production’s

with Nieddu on 6 of

the rest were vintage.

99 principals.

Day’s gowns.

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

COURTESY OF AP IMAGES/HULU

period attire.


F

O

R

Y

O

U

R

C

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE ALEXANDER NANAU

O

N

S

I

D

E

R

A

T

I

O

N

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

ROMANIA OFFICIAL ENTRY 93RD ACADEMY AWARDS®

“THE BEST DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR. A FULL-ON MASTERPIECE.”

“STAGGERING.

THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE MAY BEND TOWARD JUSTICE. BUT AS ‘COLLECTIVE’ LAYS OUT WITH ANGUISHED DETAIL AND A PROFOUND, MOVING SENSE OF DECENCY, IT TAKES STUBBORN, ANGRY PEOPLE — JOURNALISTS, POLITICIANS, ARTISTS, ACTIVISTS — TO HAMMER AT THAT ARC UNTIL IT STARTS BENDING, MAYBE, IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.”

“EVERY NOW AND THEN A DOCUMENTARY DOESN’T JUST OPEN YOUR EYES BUT TEARS YOU APART. THIS IS TRULY A DOCUMENTARY FOR OUR TIMES.”

(OUT OF FOUR)

★★★★

“GRIPPING, INCISIVE AND SHOCKINGLY POWERFUL, ‘COLLECTIVE’ IS EASILY THE DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR.” “ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES ABOUT JOURNALISM EVER MADE.”

(OUT OF FIVE)

★★★★★ “SEARING.”

COLLECTIVE A FILM BY

ALEXANDER NANAU

WHEN GOVERNMENT FAILS, WE ALL PAY THE PRICE


Fresh Face BY N A D IA N EO PHYTOU

WHO Helena Zengel Age: 12

After winning the German Film Award for Best Leading Actress with 2019’s

With no formal training, Zengel took on her

WHEN & WHERE

System Crasher, Helena Zengel made her American film debut alongside Tom

first acting gig at age five, in the TV series

Having recently signed

Hanks in News of the World. To star opposite Hanks, who plays Captain Jefferson

Spreewaldkrimi. Her mother got her into an

to CAA, Zengel will

Kidd, a war veteran widower traveling town-to-town reading the news for

agency and she started booking small parts

no doubt have more

audiences, Zengel auditioned for director Paul Greengrass, with her mom as

on TV movies and shows. When director Nora

projects lined up. For

stand-in. “We did the scene where I bite Tom Hanks’ hand. I was pretty nervous,

Fingscheidt was looking to cast the lead role

now, she’s already

but it was really fun, and cute also, for my mom to do it with me.” Fun—and a

of Benni in her debut feature film, she chose

learned the art of

bit of a formality, really. Director Paul Greengrass had already been impressed

Zengel out of the 150 or so children who

evading the press, and

with Zengel in System Crasher. He cast her in News of the World as Johanna

auditioned. “What I just love about seeing me

can’t say what she’s

Leonberger, the young girl Kidd vows to return to her biological family, after she

[in a film] is that you are able to learn more

working on next. But she

was raised by the Kiowa tribe for most of her life. Zengel needed to brush up

about what you might have done wrong, or

wants to keep acting

on her English—“There was no other way because there were very little people

what you did great,” she says. That film went

for as long as she can.

speaking German on set”—and learn the Kiowa language and culture, too. The

on to win the Silver Bear and ensured Zengel’s

“It’s just so relieving. You

50-odd-day shoot made many demands on the young actress, including extreme

status as a breakout star, leading to her role

can totally lose all your

weather conditions, but Zengel was a trooper. “Sure, sometimes it was tough,”

on News of the World. “Acting is actually

thoughts and you can

she says, “but every day was a new, great day. I just love being on set.” Working

normal for me,” she says. “I never had acting

just let it go and just do

with Hanks was fun, too. “He was so nice,” and “just terrific” she says, adding, “I

classes or anything, so it’s just something

what you want to, and

was surprised that he could sleep really everywhere.”

natural I like to do.”

do what you love.” ★

WHAT

24

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

WHY

COU RT ESY OF U N IV E RSA L P ICTU RES

Hometown: Berlin


COLLECTIVE

TIME

CRIP CAMP

In Real Life

that many campers went on to seed the disability rights movement that

AS NARRATIVE FICTION STRUGGLED AGAINST THE PANDEMIC, NON-FICTION RODE HIGH BY MATT CAREY

took off in the late 1970s. “I think this really is one of the great civil rights stories in American history, and it’s been very overlooked

filmmaker Ava DuVernay during a No-

creating fantasy sequences imagin-

for a long time,” Newnham says.

documentary race in recent years,

vember Q&A. “I just said, ‘I am going

ing his death.

LeBrecht, who was born with spina

winning best feature in both 2020

to try to translate that cinematically,

and 2018. But this year it could be

what hope looks like.’”

Netflix has dominated the Oscar

“We’ll just kill dad over and over

bifida and attended Camp Jened

again and he’ll come back to life and

as a teenager, adds, “There were a

Amazon’s other major hope-

we can do it until he really dies for

number of people at the camp who

ful, All In: The Fight for Democracy,

real,” Johnson says of her concept.

really provided this sense that, ‘Oh

and produced by Amazon in partner-

places the spotlight on systemic

“That’s what I said to my dad, and he

my gosh, we can fight back. There are

ship with Concordia Studio, enters

racism as manifested in the denial

thought that was hilarious and it was

rights to be fought for.’”

Oscar season as a favorite, having

of voting rights to people of color.

like, ‘Okay, we’re doing this.’”

won prizes from the New York and LA

The film, directed by Liz Garbus and

Amazon Studios’ Time to shine. Time, directed by Garrett Bradley

In a year that will shatter records

Crip Camp comes from Higher Ground Productions, the company

film critics organizations, and nomi-

Lisa Cortés, features former Geor-

for eligible documentaries, Netflix

formed by former President Barack

nations from early awards shows,

gia gubernatorial candidate Stacey

also contends with Disclosure, from

Obama and Michelle Obama that

including the Critics’ Choice Docu-

Abrams, who is credited with turning

director Sam Feder, and The Social

has a distribution deal with Netflix.

mentary Awards.

Georgia blue in the 2020 presidential

Dilemma from director Jeff Orlowski—

Their debut film, American Factory,

election through her voter registra-

a documentary mixed with scripted

won the Oscar for Best Documentary

tion campaign.

elements that argue social media

Feature last year.

Bradley’s film tells the story of Fox Rich, a mother of six who fought tirelessly for the release of her husband

Netflix, naturally, won’t cede the

is damaging our politics, our social

Best Documentary contest to Ama-

prison for armed robbery. It’s a case

zon without a fight. The streamer

study in the pernicious effect of

has once again fielded a formidable

with Crip Camp, directed by Nicole

Crip Camp, but also gave love to Gar-

mass incarceration, and particularly

slate, including Dick Johnson Is Dead,

Newnham and Jim LeBrecht. It’s built

rett Bradley’s Time and to another

timely, given a societal reckoning with

winner of best film at the Critics’

around archival footage from 1971 of

documentary, Collective, directed

systemic racial injustice.

Choice Documentary Awards. The

a summer camp in upstate New York

by Romanian filmmaker Alexander

documentary is a poignant and

that gave young people with disabili-

Nanau. The latter film, from Magnolia

husband] said to me, ‘Our story is

surprisingly funny effort by director

ties the opportunity to explore their

Pictures and Participant Media, won

the story of 2.3 million other Ameri-

Kirsten Johnson, about coming to

identities in an atmosphere of inclu-

the best documentary prize from

can families and we feel that our

terms with her aging father’s mental

siveness and respect. Camp Jened

the Boston Society of Film Critics, in

story can offer hope,’” Bradley told

and physical decline. She does so by

was such a life-changing experience

addition to awards from several Euro-

“Fox said to me and Robert [Fox’s

26

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

fabric and our mental health.

In a list of his personal favorite

who was sentenced to 60 years in

Netflix makes a further Oscar bid

fiction and non-fiction films of the year, President Obama highlighted


THE DISSIDENT

and snorting as she raises a passel of

people in Puerto Rico to not be seen

piglets on a farm in Norway. Support-

as victims but as leaders, as global

ing roles are played by cows and a

leaders, in a way that I think colo-

remarkably agile one-legged chicken.

nized people very rarely get to be.”

Actor and animal rights advocate Joaquin Phoenix executive produced

two films in contention: The Way I

the film, which has earned accolades

See It, about former White House

around the world, including a nomina-

photographer Pete Souza, and John

tion for best film by the International

Lewis: Good Trouble, about the late

Documentary Association.

Congressman and Civil Rights move-

Neon, which factored in the Oscar race last year with Honeyland, also

76 DAYS

pean festivals. Collective, about a tragic nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania in 2015 and its aftermath, highlights the work

Director Dawn Porter boasts

ment hero. MLK/FBI, directed by Sam Pollard,

competes with The Painter and the

uses recently declassified files and

Thief, winner of a special jury award

restored archival footage to expose

for Creative Storytelling at Sundance.

the FBI’s campaign under J. Edgar

Benjamin Ree’s film begins with the

Hoover to vilify Martin Luther King

theft of canvases painted by artist

Jr. Pollard is co-director of another

Barbora Kysilkova, which were swiped

contender, Mr. Soul!, a film about the

Salman, also takes center stage in

from a gallery in Oslo. Kysilkova later

pioneering TV host Ellis Haizlip, co-

two documentaries contending for

met one of the pilferers, Karl-Bertil

directed by Haizlip’s niece, Melissa.

Oscar recognition.

Nordland, forming an unexpected

The Dissident, directed by Oscar-

bond with him.

to Oscar attention include The

of intrepid reporters who exposed

winner Bryan Fogel (Icarus), unspools

the government corruption and gross

like a thriller, drawing on extraordinary

and emotions,” Ree says of the artist.

Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, a lov-

mismanagement that cost the lives

footage and documents gathered by

“She was really attracted to the sad-

ing portrait of men and their dogs

of dozens of burn victims. The film

Turkish authorities who investigated

ness and darkness of Bertil, but she

who search for the elusive fungi in

underscores the importance of jour-

Khashoggi’s 2018 killing.

finds the beauty in that. And I think

Northern Italy, and Maite Alberdi’s

that’s what makes her extraordinary.”

The Mole Agent, a ‘documentary noir’

tary, Kingdom of Silence, directed by

Among other documentaries vying

about a private eye who enlists an el-

nalism in a democratic society—not just in Romania, but here too. “We can only watch [the reaction]

Showtime’s Khashoggi documen-

“She’s really observant of people

Other films with a strong claim Truffle Hunters, directed by Michael

Rick Rowley, features Pulitzer Prize-

for attention are two that take on the

derly man named Sergio to infiltrate

and in a way be happy that people

winning author Lawrence Wright,

legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean.

a Chilean retirement home.

get inspired by the film,” Nanau ob-

who in addition serves as an execu-

Cuba is the focus of Hubert Sauper’s

serves, “and it helps them reflect on

tive producer.

Epicentro, winner of the Grand Jury

world,” Alberdi notes with great

their own societies.”

Prize for World Documentary at Sun-

amusement. “But for me he was a

life,” says Wright, who befriended

dance. Cecilia Aldarondo’s Landfall,

gentleman that I realized was good

A Thousand Cuts, the film directed by

Khashoggi in the wake of 9/11. “He

meanwhile, centers on Puerto Rico,

for the film.”

Ramona Diaz on Philippine anchor/

had an entree into the world of

the U.S. territory saddled for years by

reporter Maria Ressa, CEO of the

Al-Qaeda and into the Saudi Royal

a debt crisis and then decimated by

strong case for inclusion on the

news website Rappler that has at-

family. And he lived in the West and

Hurricane Maria in 2017. The director

Oscar doc shortlist, to be revealed

tempted to hold President Rodrigo

he began to be the person who knew

finds nobility among islanders who

February 9. Among them are Softie,

Duterte to account.

everything. He was really the spider in

banded together to save themselves in Mayor, City Hall, Welcome to Chech-

the web.”

the wake of neglect from the U.S. and

A journalist is likewise the hero of

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the columnist for the Washing-

“I knew that Jamal lived a perilous

“Sergio was the worst spy in the

There is not a single word of

corruption by island officials.

nya, Boys State and 76 Days. And that’s just for starters. The

ton Post who was brutally slain in

dialogue in one of the strongest

the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,

contenders this Oscar season, Victor

case study of communities caring for

of many fictional films in 2020, but

Turkey, allegedly at the behest of

Kossakovsky’s Gunda from Neon. It

one another when their institutions

the documentary race is still setting

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin

stars the eponymous sow, grunting

fail them,” Aldarondo says. “I wanted

records for contenders. ★

28

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

“There’s a really quite instructive

Many more films can make a

pandemic postponed the release


On My Screen: Andy Samberg

With pandemic metaphor movie Palm Springs, and a secret love of Kidz Bop, the SNL mainstay reveals his film and TV favorites BY STEV IE WONG

Andy Samberg’s quirky time-loop rom-com genre mashup Palm Springs became a representation of everyone’s emotional isolation, and a blueprint for us to find our redemptive souls in the process. “All of a sudden, it morphed from this movie that blended genres and was really fun conceptually for us,” Samberg says, “to people saying this movie is boiling down what we’re all going through.” It’s no wonder really that Palm Springs has been lauded as the comedy of the year. With that success, and then the return of his Golden Globe-winning performance in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Samberg has much to celebrate. Here, he picks out some onscreen favorites, from his early days experimenting with The Lonely Island, to working on Saturday Night Live, with guilty pleasures and life lessons along the way.

MY FIRST FILM LESSON Probably during film school at NYU, I was struck by how few people actually made stuff and finished it. When I left school and linked up with Akiva [Schaffer] and Jorma [Taccone]— together we are The Lonely Island—we moved to LA and just made things. It sounds so simple, but there were three of us to help motivate one another. The best part about making a ton of things is you can get a lot of bad habits and ideas out of your system and see what works. A lot of people wait for permission to make something, and the truth is you really don’t need it.

THE BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED I was an assistant at the late Gary Goldberg’s Ubu Productions (Family Ties, Spin City), and one of the pieces of advice he gave me was, “Always bet on yourself. If you know you’re going to do the work and you believe in what you’re doing, just get it made.” And I really took that to heart.

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THE FILMS THAT MAKE ME CRY The last one that made me cry really hard was Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The ending of that movie, even thinking about it now I get teary. That ending is a real gut punch. All those Daniel Day-Lewis movies from the ’90s. Pretty much every single Daniel Day-Lewis movie from the ’90s makes me cry. Oh and every Hallmark Christmas movie that came out this year.

MY MOST TORTURED CO-STAR Probably Bill Hader because we kept asking him to be in the digital shorts, and they would shoot until five in the morning. He’d be so bummed. He’d be like, “I love that you guys put me in these, but I don’t want to do it anymore. Do we really need to shoot this many scenes for a laser cat?” In his defense, he had a kid, so I get it.

N EO N/ M EGA AG E N CY/ EV E RE T T CO LL ECT I ON /A P I M AG ES

THE PART I ALWAYS WANTED I remember I read the script for The Social Network, and it wasn’t like anyone ever asked if I wanted to audition or anything. I just had heard that it had been written. I was like, “I would do anything to be any of these parts.” They were like, “It’s cast. It’s Jesse [Eisenberg] and Justin [Timberlake].” I was like, “Oh yeah. That makes sense.” It always struck me from the first page that there was a different kind of writing that exists and that was the first time I was seeing it for real.

WITH THE WORLD COMING TO A TOTAL STANDSTILL IN THE PANDEMIC,


MY TOUGHEST ROLE Probably just making it through SNL. The schedule is so gruelling and mentally also gruelling. I say that while also acknowledging that it was everything I had ever wanted to happen in my life. It was my childhood dream. You read about how it’s hard, you still just want it. If you love SNL, you love it. That’s it. It’s where you want to be. I felt like I was just young enough to be OK with how hard it was. We were on such an opposite schedule from the rest of the world. I would just stay up all night and sleep all day, every Saturday get completely trashed, and then start over again.

THE MOST FUN I’VE HAD ON SET It was doing Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang!. Basically, it’s four comedy people and all they want to do is do comedy stuff. You show up, and there’s no goal other than goofiness. They just hand you bit after bit after bit, and they’re all funny. You just sit there and rattle off weird, surreal bits, and laugh. Then they go, “Great. Now we’re going to edit it.” Anytime you’re working on something that makes you laugh while you’re shooting, that’s usually a good sign.

MY MOST QUOTED ROLE For a while, it was just, “Dick in a Box.” A lot of, “I’m on a boat.” Now, with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a lot of, “Cool, cool, cool, cool”, which I’ve also noticed that people say for real now. It’s really neat, because it came out of a take that me and Terry [Crews] did, where we were just improvising. He was like, “Right, right, right.” I’m like, “Cool, cool, cool, cool.” Then, the writers just kept popping it in, and it became a thing for Jake. For “Dick in a Box”, people didn’t even know my name. They just knew I was the guy with Justin Timberlake. If you make songs, people just say the song stuff. It’s a lot easier to make something a little hooky when you’re actually writing hooks.

MY GUILTY PLEASURE This is slightly humiliating. I’ve started listening to Kidz Bop versions of music with my daughter. A few times, I found myself being like, “This kind of slaps.” My daughter loves that song “Sunflower” by Swae Lee and Post [Malone]. There’s some pretty uncool stuff said in it, so I’ll turn up Kidz Bop and really bump it. I wonder, is there going to be a Kidz Bop version of “WAP”? AKA Wet Astute Penguin. THE CHARACTER THAT’S MOST LIKE ME Probably Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’ve been shooting the show for so many years, it’s inevitable that things about you start to permeate the character. A lot of his mannerisms are my own. I’ve shot 150-something episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so I think there’s a little bit of all of the cast in all of those characters.

WHO’D PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC It’s got to be Meryl Streep, right? If you’re going to do it, go for the best. I would be so amped to see her take.

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

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PH OTO G R A PH Y BY VIO LE TA S O FIA


EMERALD FENNELL’s directorial debut PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN could have easily been your classic revenge fantasy thriller, with its tale of Cassie, a grief-stricken, silently enraged woman on a mission to expose every last sexual predator in town. Only it’s so much more. Styled like an entrancing ’90s romcom, it wrongfoots the viewer at every turn with its fluffy-sweatered, heart-printed world, punctuated by cupcakes and pop songs. With CAREY MULLIGAN’s blood-curdlingly underplayed performance as Cassie, Fennell leads us down a deceptively pretty garden path to the real truth about sexual assault and society’s turning of the other cheek, on a journey so twisty we never see its end coming. ANTONIA BLYTH meets Fennell and Mulligan to find out how they disguised a truly thought-provoking shocker as a pretty pink love story.

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ACT I

“W

e’ve both gone completely potty,” Emerald Fennell says, as she fires off a text to Carey

Mulligan during our Zoom meeting. It’s a GIF of an awkwardly dancing Theresa May, ex-UK Prime Minister. Deadline's photographer has asked the pair to dance to capture some fun pictures, and this GIF is Fennell's impression of the results. “I was like, I don’t know fucking how,” Mulligan explains. “So, we did the macarena.” “There’s an order to it. You can understand it,” Fennell deadpans. Both their faces twitch with suppressed laughter. This is the sort of punch-drunk sisterhood that comes from either years of friendship or a very intense mutual experience—in this case, the latter, and the making of perhaps one of the most arresting and clever films ever to address sexual harassment and its consequences. Promising Young Woman, written and directed by Fennell, follows Mulligan as Cassie, a med school dropout who spends her evenings in bars, faking the kind of lost-my-phone level of drunkenness predators can’t resist. The so-called ‘nice guys’ who offer to help her back to their place and then make a move on her semi-conscious body are petrified when she then suddenly reveals herself to be stone-cold sober, bolting upright with a testicle-shriveling “What are you doing?” D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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Where a lesser film would have made that the DAMN THE MAN

Top to bottom: Carey Mulligan as Cassie; administering treatment to one of her troubled patients, posing as a bachelor party stripper; Cassie and Ryan, played by Bo Burnham, turn a pharmacy into a dance floor and rock out to the pop stylings of Paris Hilton.

whole story, Fennell instead weaves an extraordinary exposé of our gray areas, our silent collusions and the darkest corners of human behavior, feeding it to us with a deceptively candy-flavored coating of nostalgic pop tunes, clean-cut Americana and pastel nail polish. Writer and showrunner of Killing Eve’s Season 2, a series that twice earned her an Emmy nomination, Fennell is also known for her front-of-camera work as Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown. She brewed up Promising Young Woman almost wholesale, coughing it up “like a hairball”, she says. “It probably came out because it’s something that I find incredibly troubling and I wanted to talk about.” And the story was this: Cassie’s nocturnal activities are a symptom of terrible grief. Her childhood friend and fellow med student Nina has committed suicide after being raped at a college party. And the perpetrators remain untouched, enjoying ‘good boy’ lives of privilege, thanks to an unscrupulous lawyer hired by rich parents, shallow friends, and a college dean who looked the other way. Cassie cannot and will not ever let this go. As Fennell cooked up the screenplay, the soundtrack came with it, hand-in-hand. “I don’t write at all until the end when it’s done,” she says. “When it is I’ll transcribe it, and it takes not very long. The real bulk of the work is done entirely in my head, entirely with music.” And that music is the siren song of rose-tinted, upbeat nostalgia. Like a sort of homage to Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet, in the midst of tragedy and devastation, there’s a deliciously incongruous, soaring pop tune—an orchestral version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, or a surprise blast of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”. And instead of sugarcoating the bitter pill of rape and suicide, the contrasting sweetness skewers us all the more painfully. From the very beginning, as the film came to Fennell complete with its soundtrack, she also had a rock-solid idea of how it should look. On the set of The Crown, Fennell showed the script to co-star Josh O’Connor. “I thought it was complete magic,” O’Connor says. “She just knows exactly what she’s going to do. She was like, ‘This is how I’m going to make it. This is what it’s going to look like.’" Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap were early believers in her concept, and her deceptively sweet, subversive approach to a heavyweight subject. “I feel like Emerald had an incredibly clever approach in luring us­—especially those of us who grew up in the ’90s­—into nostalgic territory,” Robbie says. With “the familiar ’90s rom-com relationship dynamics we have been accustomed to seeing in films”, Robbie says Fennell is expert at “pulling the rug out from beneath us and smacking us in the face”. As soon as she'd read the script, Mulligan was on board. “For ages before this film came along,


We have countless films about men who go on crusades on behalf of their loved

ones and we never say they’re crazy or that they’ve lost their minds from grief.

They’re going around having shootouts and ninja fights in every scene. That is objectively insane. What Cassie's doing, by comparison, is fairly mild.

—carey mulligan

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Somebody described Promising Young Woman “the other day as looking like a ’90s Lifetime movie.

And I was like, that is truly the greatest compliment anyone could give me. Could there ever be a more violent, feminine world than the world of the Lifetime movies of the ’90s? —emerald fennell

people were like, ‘What part do you want?

U.S.A. felt necessary. “It was important that

Fennell, Mulligan was thoroughly cut out for the

What have you not done that you want to do?

nobody could say, for example, ‘Oh well this

job. “You see what’s happening with so little. She’s

What’s your dream part?’” Mulligan says. “And

happens in England because they have a different

got that thing that’s so rare to find, where she

I couldn’t describe what it was. I would just

culture.’ Or, ‘This happens in New York, because

does almost nothing, and it's almost everything.”

say, ‘Well, I just know it’s not that, and I know

girls in New York are a little fast.’ It had to be the

it’s not that. I know it’s not the wife to that

most accessible place, and because all of us

breakout, An Education, spotted this particular

great man or the girlfriend who’s a ‘troubled

have grown up on American culture it felt like

quality in her from very early on. “I knew that we

individual’. I knew what it wasn’t. And when

something where the fewer people that could be

had to see a lot from her eyes, or through her,” she

this came along I was like, ‘Oh, it’s that. That’s

let off the hook, the better.”

says. “And she has that strong detector for what

what I want to do.’”

To achieve her picture-perfect American pop culture vision, she went to the source: Michael

F

ACT II

Lone Scherfig, who directed Mulligan’s

is true. She doesn’t like phoniness.” Paul Dano, Mulligan's longtime friend who

Perry, production designer on that fabled TV teen

directed her in Wildlife, saw it too. “Even when

froth, Sweet Valley High.

playing a character that has some edge or some

“When I first met Michael, he gave me Todd’s

darkness or some harshness or some shadow,

Letterman jacket,” Fennell says, referring to Sweet

Carey is still somebody you can look at and

ennell had a mood board that had “a lot

Valley High’s lead heartthrob jock character. “Every

understand,” he notes.

of angels” she says. “It had To Die For,

time I think about it my whole body gets like...

Psycho and The Virgin Suicides, a lot of

Sometimes I wear it. If I’m feeling really peppy,

Sweet Valley High, a lot of tactile clothes

I’ll just pop on Todd’s letterman jacket and think,

and multicolored manicures. I wanted it to show that not only was it going to be comfortable and

This is it.” Fennell had also admired Perry’s work on It

A real potential pitfall for Cassie was the kickass, ‘woman scorned’ trope. “I think there would have been a temptation for other actors to maybe make Cassie kind of badass,” Fennell says. “It was important, certainly

glossy and appealing, kind of like Cassie is, but

Follows. “It was incredibly low-budget; a very

to me and to Carey, that she felt real; she felt like

that it could be somewhat allegorical, because

short shoot time. And the way that he just gave

a traumatized person.”

if Cassie is a part of this thing, doing something

it inherent, spooky femininity; these sort of soft

completely real, in many ways it is a sort of

shells. It was sexy, but frightening. It was brilliant.

underpinned with realism. No, she has not learned

classical journey, the allegorical story. And so, I

I said to him—and I do think this is true—that he’s

to wield a samurai sword, nor will she Jiu-Jitsu

wanted the world to feel somewhat like that too.”

probably responsible for millennial pink, at least

her way through those who have done her wrong.

in part.”

Because that is simply not truthful. “There’s a

That allegorical factor would later, during the shoot, prove almost too alluring. In a scene where Cassie confronts the lawyer

She was amused when someone attempted to derisively suggest Promising Young Woman

(Alfred Molina) who ensured Nina’s attackers went

looked like a ’90s Lifetime movie. “I was like, ‘That

free, he begs forgiveness at Cassie’s feet. “I was

is truly the greatest compliment anyone could

like, ‘Guys, here’s a picture of the Pietà,’” Fennell

give me.’ Could there ever be a more violent,

says. “So, if you could just find a way, as naturally as

feminine world than the world of the Lifetime

you can, of being in the position of Michelangelo’s

movies of the ’90s?”

Pietà by the end of this? Then we’ll pop a shaft of light on you.’”

Fennell and Mulligan built Cassie through an ongoing conversation. And the result was a

Fennell laughs. “The shaft of light actually got

character who mostly appears impassive on

nixed because, even I in the edit was like, ‘Well, this

the surface, like a kind of angel of justice. This

is absolutely silly. Too much.’”

was something that required so much internal

As a Brit, her choice to set the film in Anytown

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emotion with so little surface tension. But, says

Thus, Cassie’s actions are also consistently

reason women do not resort to violence,” Fennell says. “Because they fucking lose when they do.”

ACT III

W

ith flip-the-script expertise, Fennell sends in Adam Brody as predator number one in the opening scene. Not some

beefed-up frat guy, but a man immediately recognizable as an old teen favorite, The O.C.’s


“DIRECTOR VADIM PERELMAN TREADS A FINE LINE BETWEEN HISTORY AND INVENTION IN THIS HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL TALE, WHOSE POWER COMES FROM ITS TWO LEAD PERFORMANCES” PETER DEBRUGE,

Persian L Lessons DIRECTED BY VADIM PERELMAN

“A BIG, WIDESCREEN CINEMATIC RIDE WHICH DEFTLY MIXES SUSPENSE, LAUGHTER AND TEARS” LEE MARSHALL,


nice-guy-on-wheels, Seth Cohen. (“We called him Seth behind his back all the time,” Mulligan jokes.) Brody’s apparently thoughtful, feminist guy rolls his eyes at his co-workers’ sexist remarks during after-work drinks at a tacky club. “Sorry about them,” he tells a fake-wasted Cassie as he gets in a cab with her. And yet he will soon press a huge drink on her, wait for her to (pretend) pass out, and then he'll attempt to sneakily whip off her panties. Having now seen the film, O’Connor calls it, “A blend of nostalgia and realism.” The Seth Cohenness of it all certainly smacked him in the face, he says. “It put you in this place of, certainly from my point of view, sexual discovery, like when all those Britney songs [were hits], that music, that color scheme, Seth Cohen.” Bringing in teen dream references, particularly the kitschy ones, was so key to Fennell’s vision. “I think certainly for women of our age group, that’s the pleasure center. For me, Clueless does something to my brain. That yellow plaid, that fluffy pen. When I see those things, I get what I imagine some men feel when they see a football player that they loved when they were growing up. I’ve never not bought a fluffy pen if I see one. It does something to me. It brings me back to that place of, ‘I could be that person.’” But she also wanted to look at how and why we disregard these ultra-feminine stylings. “I love getting dressed up, I love having stupid nails, I love Britney,” she says. “I’m really interested in what part of our culture diminishes that stuff, that makes that stuff silly. So partly for me, this movie was also about interrogating why that is. Why should it be this gray?” And in the ultimate ’90s romcom homage, she brought in the love montage. When Cassie reconnects with fellow med student Ryan (Bo Burnham), his self-effacing, goofy charm breaks down her walls, and they fall for each other. Set to the Paris Hilton tune “Stars Are Blind”, the couple dance in a pharmacy, posing with cans of food, giggling and generally looking adorable—a scene Mulligan found intimidating. “It’s so easy to cry on camera and that’s the territory I feel comfortable in,” she says. “But laughing and being free and happy, without ego and selfawareness, I think is much harder. That’s why I have such an immense respect for comedians.” She definitely did not want to dance, and tried

My only rule for myself was to not pretend I knew something I “didn’t. So, I tried to be as clear as possible when I didn’t understand,

or I didn’t know something. I would just be like, ‘Sorry what is that?’ Because otherwise you’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah yeah,’ and then you’ve agreed to shoot your film in black and white. —emerald fennell

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the tactic of telling Fennell she didn’t imagine

minutes, everyone in the room was just like, ‘Oh,

So, I think I was particularly aware in that scene

Cassie would do that.

it’s just fucking horrible. Horrible,’” Mulligan says.

of the broader picture and women’s treatment in general. It just felt really, really sad.”

She confesses, “It was definitely me hiding

When it was her turn to play the scene,

behind my character saying, ‘Oh, Cassie doesn’t

Mulligan found she had got her position wrong

want to do it,’ but I think it was Carey not wanting

and couldn’t breathe. “But he [Lowell] didn’t

monitor in the room with their hands clamped to

to do it. A great note from Emerald was, ‘Of

know. And I was like, ‘Well, I think I can get out

their faces,” Fennell says of that day. “It feels so

course you feel that way, but when you’re in love

of this.’ Then I realized that 10 seconds later I

horribly real. The thing for me was that it seemed

you look like an idiot from the outside. Everyone

couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe at all and I couldn’t get

like a plausible possibility, and all the things we’re

thinks you’ve lost your mind. You’re so annoying.’

out of it.”

used to feeling: It’s so unfair, it’s so unjust, and

And Bo, from the beginning, God bless him, was

She gave a pre-arranged hand signal to stop.

“I remember everyone standing around the

it’s the experience of being in a woman’s body… Inevitably there’s an imbalance.”

just totally comfortable doing it. He says he

“It was all very funny. Then I went outside and

wasn’t, but he was immediately picking up the

just burst into tears. I couldn’t explain why it was

[can of] spam. So much of the levity, and so

so upsetting. I’m so of the school of acting of, it’s

“Emerald was steadfast about it from the

much of Cassie’s lightness and vulnerability, was

pretending, it’s playing. But it was one of those

beginning. She was absolutely clear,” Mulligan

just because Bo was so hilarious and charming in

moments where, I think watching it happen to

says. “And I’m sure she heard objections. Even

that role. I can’t imagine a different actor doing it.”

somebody else, doing it yourself, understanding

when we were working on it, [the crew] were

how horrendously common that kind of stuff is,

saying, ‘Oh, I just wish [that didn’t happen].’ But

it was really way more upsetting than I thought it

that’s just not reality. The film does live in this

would be to actually shoot it. That surprised me

slightly heightened world, and I think there’s a

because I’m usually pretty unmoved by things.

tendency for people to want that to carry over

But there was also the problem of singing along to Paris Hilton. “The lyrics are quite complicated to learn,” Mulligan says, with absolute seriousness. “There

Even the crew struggled with the ending.

are bits of it that don’t really make sense. It’s like

into the storyline. But the storyline stays in truth.

learning a Radiohead song. It’s not a narrative.

And I’m so proud of Emerald for standing firm

They are strange bits in it that are... I mean, it’s a

on that.”

brilliant song, don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But it’s not straightforward to learn, so we did have to print the lyrics out and practice them.” Fennell and Mulligan always excitedly planned to invite Hilton to the premiere, and then the

SAVE THE EMPIRE

On the set of Promising Young Woman. Top: Carey Mulligan discusses a scene with (left to right) Emerald Fennell, Laverne Cox and Bo Burnham. Bottom: a heavily-pregnant Fennell readies a take with Sam Richardson and Mulligan.

Mulligan had, pre-shoot, watched The Hunting Ground, which details the covering up and denial of rape on college campuses. There’s a scene in that documentary in which a young woman is asked why she didn’t fight off a man twice her

pandemic got in the way. “My biggest

size. The question arises, why would

disappointment of 2020 was not

a woman filmmaker perpetuate that

getting to meet Paris Hilton,” Mulligan

delusional and damaging idea, given

says. “I hope she likes it.”

the choice? Fennell would not. But also, there is some resistance

ACT IIII

A

to the idea of women on revenge missions at all, Fennell says. “I do think that Cassie is a very particular person, and blokes go on these

s Fennell said, in reality,

dangerous missions­—revenge

violence from women

missions—all the time and no one

against men usually

minds. But when women do, people

doesn’t end well. And

are frightened by it.”

when Cassie does finally attempt

“The other day, someone said,

this against Nina’s rapist, played

‘Yeah, but is she just crazy at the

by Chris Lowell, the consequences

end? Has she just gone mad; has the

pop the balloon of the traditional

grief driven her mad?’” Mulligan adds.

Hollywood revenge fantasy. Reality

“The point is that we have countless

crashes down on the pop-culture.

films about men who go on crusades

“It comes back to that honesty

on behalf of their loved ones and we

thing, and trying to do justice to

never say they’re crazy or that they’ve

telling the truth,” Mulligan says.

lost their minds from grief. They’re

“It’s just statistically true. Once

going around having shootouts and

she’s introduced a weapon, it just

ninja fights in every scene. That is

isn’t honest [to have her win that].

objectively insane. What Cassie’s

There’s no way I could out-fight, or

doing, by comparison, is fairly mild.

ninja my way out of a fight with Chris

It’s just an interesting reaction

Lowell. It’s just not going to happen.”

because there’s a huge amount of

This confrontation was perhaps the toughest scene of the shoot.

logic, actually, to what she’s doing.” Fennell’s bold ending is both the

First, the actors watched the stunt

thing that makes the movie, and

team do it. “I started watching them,

breaks the audience with its painfully

and then after two-and-a-half

sharp left turn. Brave and divisive, but

42

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


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as possible when I didn’t understand, or I didn’t know something. I would just be like, ‘Sorry what is that?’ Because otherwise you’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah yeah,’ and then you’ve agreed to shoot your film in black and white. I thought, the things I want from this film I know inside-out. If I don’t know the name of a particular cable, it’s not the end of the world. I can learn that, that’s fine.” This can-do attitude is just who Fennell is, says O’Connor. “Three months after the film she came and did The Crown Season 4. I said, ‘How was it? Was it mad?’ Most filmmakers, when they make their first feature they say, ‘Yeah, it’s incredible and I want to make more, but it is hell and my relationship suffered, and I’ve lost my house.’ All that carnage around their life happens. But she was just like, ‘Oh no, I had the best time of my life,

“to anyone. She puts her full faith in the audience. Nothing is overly explained. And you get the ending that you get. ”—carey mulligan Emerald made no compromises. And she doesn't play down

and all the actors were incredible.’” Mulligan sees Fennell’s creative genius as part of a “new generation of women”, with her own particular brand of real, twisty, dark humor. “It does feel in keeping with that kind of work that [Fleabag creator] Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been doing, and Michaela Coel [who wrote and starred in I May Destroy You].” They are “a wonder group of women,” Mulligan says, creating new­—and

necessary, LuckyChap stood behind it. “They’re

drunk, and she “slept around” anyway.

distinctly unique—work that is giving voice to an

just amazing,” Fennell says. “They didn’t know it

Then there’s Connie Britton’s college dean.

was going to end the way it did, and when they

Her politely blinking, bland defense of those ‘nice

called me after they first read it, I think we had

boys’ with bright futures who couldn’t possibly

fresh viewpoint on women’s stories that’s pushing

a very brief discussion about it, but they were

be rapists. All of this, horribly, hauntingly familiar;

real change. “That’s what’s so exciting, because

completely on board. The whole thing is you

all stories we’ve heard documented in so many

these shows have massive audiences and

couldn’t really change anything about it because

real-life campus rape cases. When Cassie calmly

they’ve been huge hits,” she says. “I think it’s just

otherwise it would then just become the thing

brings her to her knees, crying tears of remorse,

a really good sign to all the people who make the

that it’s trying so hard not to be, which is a generic

it becomes perhaps one of the most satisfyingly

decisions, but actually there’s a massive audience

revenge thriller.”

set-up movie scenes in recent memory.

for stories about women, and they don’t have

producer of the film, says, “It was so assured and specific and completely original,” she says. “It question of how are we all a part of this knot we need to unpick.” With a movie that appears so pretty on the surface, Fennell perfectly points to that knot, to what lies beneath, what goes unsaid. “I think for me that just feels like so many women’s lives,” Fennell says. “I do think that we’re so practiced

She points outs that there is a hugely-popular,

to be perfect, or look perfect, or act perfect…

LuckyChap co-founder Josey McNamara, lead

evaluates our culture and thinking, and asks the

entire generation of women.

B

ACT IIII   eing over seven months pregnant and

These aren’t the things that are appealing to just women or just feminists or some sort of niche group. Everyone­—everyone—loves Fleabag. Barack Obama loves Fleabag for goodness sake.” Still, with relatively very little industry

directing your first feature in only 23

precedent for stories of real women who make

days in a foreign country might have

real decisions, and who don’t always have things

worried a different person, but Fennell

neatly work out, making Promising Young Woman

just leaned right into it. “I was so pregnant and I think that really

required the determination to stand by those bold choices throughout the process. “What’s so good about it is that Emerald, in our

at covering things up and making things appear

helped, because in general, I care deeply,

functioning, appealing, happy, putting a brave

pathetically what people think about me. I just

film, made no compromises,” Mulligan says. “And

face on it all… That’s the film really, because it’s

chose the worst possible career in every way

she doesn’t play down to anyone. She puts her full

[Cassie’s] film. It’s so much about looks being

for that personality trait,” she says. “The idea of

faith in the audience. Nothing is overly explained.

deceiving in every way.”

people not liking me and thinking I’m difficult, all

And you get the ending that you get.”

It’s Allison Brie's character, Madison, who

those things, is just dreadful to me. But luckily,

The film’s ending is not the fantasy we expect,

exemplifies the added toxicity of cover-ups and

when you’re carting around a massive baby and

but it may well be the reality we need. And with it,

the ugliness of collusion. She’s the college friend

you’re about to give birth, you don’t have the time

Fennell crests a brave new wave of storytelling.

with the seemingly perfect ‘nice girl’ existence: a

to be anxious. I was like a literal ticking time bomb,

A more ego-driven filmmaker might now

rock on her finger, a rich husband, twin babies and

which I think gave me this weird power for myself.”

be telling us what to think about their subject.

a meticulously-curated Instagram. But she has

She was so thrilled to be living her lifelong

Not Fennell. “I don’t necessarily, in spite of what

also sickeningly justified her decision to maintain

dream, she was “like a competition winner” she

the film is about, know any answers,” she says

a friendship with the popular, successful guys

says. “My only rule for myself was to not pretend I

sadly. “I don’t have any answers, because it’s so

who violated Nina, because she says, Nina was

knew something I didn’t. So, I tried to be as clear

unbelievably complicated and hideous.” ★

44

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


The B est O f 2020 | Actors

GOOD VIBRATIONS Ahmed as deaf musician Ruben in Sound of Metal.

With two films and an album out, 2020 can’t stop the Sound of Metal star B Y D A M O N W I S E

in a year that has stymied many of his peers, Riz Ahmed has been incredibly prolific, with two 2020 feature releases— Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal and Bassam Tariq’s Mogul Mowgli—as well as an album, The Long Goodbye, which came with a powerful short film that imagined life in a racist, post-Brexit Britain. If The Long Goodbye is a showcase for the sometime musician’s eloquent wordplay, the two movies offer some of his finest acting work yet, as a heavy metal drummer coming to terms with his sudden deafness in Sound of Metal, and as a rapper struck down by an autoimmune disease in Mogul Mowgli.

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

Your recent choices tuned out to

of humbling about living with death

be quite prescient this year: both

by your side, right? Because it can

Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli

really take these lofty illusions of

feature characters whose lives

artistic endeavor or personal iden-

change when they are forced to

tity and just dash them. The shadow

face their mortality.

of mortality is something that just

Well, the ideas I’ve been really

throws both of those concepts into

interested in recently, and I guess

sharper relief.

the ones I’ve been grappling with throughout my whole career­—my

What appealed to you about

whole life really—are the ideas

Sound of Metal? It’s a very chal-

about how art and identity interact.

lenging, physical role, not just in

So, out of choice and out of circum-

terms of playing the drums, but

stance, it has been just an area that

in terms of sign language too.

I’ve either been interested in or been

It was just a brilliant script. It’s

forced to be interested in, or to try

pretty straightforward, really. My

and engage in. And I guess nothing

agents sent it to me. I loved the

really poses the question about the

script, met Darius, loved him, and

role of art, or the limitations and

he told me this whole idea of learn-

possibilities of identity, like mortality

ing the drums and learning sign

does. Our identities are made, and

language. I loved the idea of that.

often we make art as an attempt to

Of course, when I started down the

immortalize those identities, and I

road, there was some stuff to not

guess there’s something just so kind

love, alongside all the stuff to love.

COU RT ESY OF A M AZO N ST U D I OS

Riz Ahmed


It was a big challenge. It was quite

York is that I was intermittently

your body of nutrition, to a certain

grueling in many ways, but, by the

meeting up with Bassam [Tariq],

extent, your mind goes to some

end of the process, I’m able to look

and we’d talk about it. Like, what

absolutely bat-shit crazy places.

back and say, “It was just a tre-

is this film? What are we going to

mendous gift.” Learning the drums,

do? It wasn’t really fully clear to us,

learning sign language—it just

even though we had a script. When

opened me up in different ways as a

I wrapped on Sound of Metal at the

person, as an actor. It expanded and

end of October, I went back to Lon-

it enriched me, particularly being

don, collapsed for a bit, and then

able to be immersed in some way

we flew out to Pakistan, because we

in deaf culture, building those rela-

were going to make the film partly

tionships. I often say that Jeremy

in Pakistan. We went there, met

Stone, my sign instructor, taught

some people, filmed some interest-

me the meaning of listening, taught

ing stuff, and when we came back,

me the meaning of communica-

I was like, “Actually, I don’t think

tion. Listening isn’t something you

this is right. That’s not what this

just do in your ears. It’s something

film is.” That was February. So, we

you do with your whole body, your

just banged out a new script at the

attention, your energy. Communica-

end of February and shot the film

tion, when you’re not hiding behind

in April. The whole thing was similar

words, can often be more con-

in a way [to Sound of Metal], in that

nected. I found myself getting much

it was a very long period of gesta-

more emotional communicating

tion with a very concentrated burst

in ASL at times than I did speaking

of crystalizing the idea and then

about things. Jeremy warned me

executing it.

of this—he said that deaf people think of hearing people as emotion-

Did you find that to be a very

ally repressed, because they hide

demanding experience?

behind words.

With both projects, there was a lot

I'd drum for two and-a-half hours a day, sign for a couple of hours a day, and work on the script with Darius. It was one of those projects where you're like, 'All right, this is all in.'

How do you balance indie movies with franchise movies? Why do they interest you? The way I think about is, does it stretch me, and does it stretch culture in some way? Is it trying, in some way, to contribute to stretching the boundaries of genre, or people’s expectations of it, and rearranging their mental furniture? That’s one side. And then the other side is, will I also learn and grow from it? And going from doing films like Shifty, to stuff like Rogue One, you absolutely learn. You learn about different kinds of filmmaking. You learn about how to do a marathon rather than a sprint. You learn all kinds of things. Do you keep the door open for those bigger projects? Could you return to the Star Wars universe? I haven’t had any conversations with anyone about it directly, but… I try

of emotional stuff to mine. That’s

and keep the door open to every-

How long did you train for it?

true of any project, but what was

thing. I think part of the terror and

It was seven or eight months, from

interesting about Mogul Mowgli was

the joy of life as an actor is you have

February until maybe September

the weight loss. You may or may not

to surrender a little bit to the waves.

[2018], I think.

notice it, but basically, I’m playing a

And you never know which direction

guy who is fit and healthy and ready

they’re going to take you. I try and

Were you doing other things at

to go on tour, who is suddenly barely

leave the door open to everything.

that time? How did you fit that

able to walk. We didn’t make a big

in with your work schedule?

thing of it and show lots of closeups

You also released an album and

I moved to New York and just told

of my ribcage, although you do start

a short film this year, The Long

myself, “This is what I’m going to

making out some of the weight loss,

Goodbye. What would you like to

do.” I’d drum for two and-a-half

I think, towards the end, when my

say about that project?

hours a day, sign for a couple of

character argues with his family. I

The Long Goodbye was directed by

hours a day, and work on the script

lost 10 kilos in three weeks for that

Aneil Karia who’s one of our bright-

with Darius. It was one of those

film. That was part of the big chal-

est new talents, I think, in Britain as

projects where you’re like, “All right,

lenge there, and it was really intense.

a filmmaker. Mogul Mowgli allowed

this is all in.” You can’t really dial

I read about other actors going on

me to put all my toys in one box,

this in. And not just because of the

that journey, and, obviously, it’s an

take the music—both rap music

technical aspects, but also because

emotional journey to go on with

and Qawwali music—both my

Darius’s writing always has a way

that kind of weight loss, but I didn’t

British and Pakistani heritage, my

of plumbing such emotional depth.

realize that other people do it in

Urdu and English, and put it into a

You see that in The Place Beyond the

five months with nutritionists and

film. I’m interested in that idea. I’m

Pines. You see that in Blue Valentine

stuff. It was an almost micro-budget

interested in hybridity as a person,

as well. He’s baring his soul, opening

film—we were like, “Fuck it, let’s

but also now more and more as

a bit of a vein. So, you have to meet

just do it.” I don’t think I’d attempt

a performer. And that’s what The

his words with that energy.

that again. I wouldn’t advise anyone

Long Goodbye was about. It was a

to attempt that. Because it does

chance to take the spoken word,

Did you go straight from that to

take you emotionally to some really

rap, film, some of my, I guess, more

Mogul Mowgli?

dark places. It’s crazy, actually. It

social political opinions, but also

No. Actually, the one other thing

just makes you realize how much

personal feelings and put them all in

that I was doing while I was in New

we live in our bodies. If you deprive

one place. ★

48

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


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Actors

MARCHING ON Lindo leads his fellow vets back into the jungle in Da 5 Bloods.

The actor reunites with Spike Lee for a very fresh look at the Vietnam War movie B Y D A M O N W I S E

Spike Lee’s 1995 thriller Clockers, based on the novel by Richard Price, drew some of the best reviews of Delroy Lindo’s career, but astonishingly, it has taken 25 years for the duo to reunite, for the Netflix streaming hit Da 5 Bloods, and the results are just as incendiary. Cast against type, and almost over the actor’s dead body, as a MAGA-hatted Trump supporter, Lindo dominates a superb ensemble cast as Paul, a bitter, tormented Vietnam vet who reconvenes his old platoon to go looking for a cache of gold hidden in the jungles in which they once fought.

50

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

It’s been a while since you last

pleased.” [Laughs] And when I saw

worked with Spike. When did you

the film, I was really proud of my

two first meet?

contribution. And I was also slightly

I first met Spike at my audition for

taken aback that my contribution,

Malcolm X in New York. It was very,

as relatively short as it is in the film,

very brief. You know, it was not an

impacted audiences in the way that

introduction per se. He may have

it did. You know, it’s a three-hour-

shaken my hand. I don’t remember.

plus film, and I’m probably in it for, I

Denzel Washington was in the room,

don’t know, 10 minutes, 12 minutes.

and Denzel and I read a scene or

But the fact that it landed as it did

maybe a couple of scenes from

and audiences responded to it, was

Malcolm X together. That was in, I

really… “Oh wow,” It was wonderful.

guess, 1991.

So that the following summer, when Spike called me and said, “Hey

How did your collaboration grow

man, I’m doing this film Crooklyn,

after that first encounter?

and I want you to be in it,” I was not

It really was very organic-seeming.

entirely surprised. I mean, I was not

I remember, right before Malcolm

expecting that call, but I was thrilled

X was released, Denzel called me.

when I got it. And then the summer

I had not seen it at that point, so

after that, he called me and said,

I said, “Have you seen the film?”

“I’m doing this film Clockers—there’s

And he said, “Yes. I think you’ll be

this character, Rodney, and I want

pleased.” That’s pretty much verba-

you to play Rodney.” So, I guess the

tim what he said. “I think you’ll be

answer to your question is, it has

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

Delroy Lindo


evolved very, very organically. Not a

fact that it was these Black men...

that one way or the other—just

lot is said. As far as I can remember,

There’s a love story between these

from a technical point of view, I

he has never, in advance, said to

men, these compadres, and I was

understood that I would be doing

me, “Oh, I’m doing a film next sum-

aware that audiences don’t get to

it directly to the camera. Thank-

mer and I want you to be in it.” He’s

see that. They don’t get to see Black

never said that to me. It’s always

men interacting lovingly. Of course,

very immediate, inasmuch as the

it’s fraught—we’re not all perfect.

phone rings and it’s Spike on the

But I loved that also, because that,

line, saying, “I’m doing project X and

for me, was a manifestation of the

I want you to be in it.”

very humanity that existed inside of the relationship. And also, I would

How did Da 5 Bloods come to

say that I really relished the pros-

your attention?

pect of telling the story from the

I got a call from one of my reps say-

point of view of Black vets. Because

ing, “Spike wants your phone num-

we don’t get to be center stage like

ber.” Which was a little surprising,

that, ordinarily. So, I responded to

because he already had my phone

the material in those terms.

number. But anyhow, they said, “Is

We've just come through a year of sociopolitical and racial unrest. So I think it's resonating for people from that standpoint.

fully, we did not film that scene until five or six weeks in. And by that time—I want to believe—I was sufficiently conversant with Paul. I was sufficiently grounded inside of the work and grounded with Paul that the morning we shot the film, I was clear about how I wanted to approach the work. It was... I don’t want to say ‘effortless’ because I was working, obviously, but there was a flow inside of the work that I was very comfortable with. I actually overheard Spike say, “He’s in

it OK if we forward your number to

How was the camaraderie on

Spike? Spike wants to talk to you.”

set? Had you worked with

He called me a day or so later and

people like Clarke Peters,

said he had this film. I think he said,

another of Spike’s regulars,

“What are you doing right now?”

before? How did you bond as Da

And I said, “I’m doing this TV series

5 Bloods?

[The Good Fight].” He said, “I’m

We bonded extraordinarily well

doing this film and I’m going to send

and effortlessly. I had seen Clarke

I think part of the reason that it’s

you the script. I want you to read it.

Peters on stage in London in 1997

resonated is that it’s landed directly

Let me know what you think.” I said,

in a production of Guys and Dolls.

in the middle of the zeitgeist, right?

“OK. But, you know, Spike, I’m com-

He played Sky Masterson. Other

To the extent that the film opens

mitted to this TV series." And he

than that, I did not know him. I did

with this sociopolitical and racial

said, “Don’t worry about that. Just

not see The Wire—the only other

unrest, and we’ve just come through

read the script and let me know

work of Clarke’s that I had seen was

a year of similar sociopolitical and

what you think.” He said, “The main

[Spike Lee’s] Red Hook Summer.

racial unrest—not only in the con-

characters in the film are called

Isiah Whitlock Jr. and I went to act-

text of America, but globally. So, I

Paul, Melvin, David, Otis and Eddie.

ing school together in San Francisco

think that it’s resonating for people

Who does that remind you of?” And

in the late 1970s—Isiah was a year

from that standpoint, and also, it’s

I said, “Oh, that’s The Temps!” The

ahead of me. I’d seen him around

telling a story that has not been

Temptations, right? And he laughed.

New York, intermittently. Norm

told—by which I mean that these

Maybe that’s how I got the part,

Lewis, I had seen in Porgy and Bess

vets are front and center, essen-

man—that I got that quiz right. I

from maybe four or five years ago

tial to the telling of his story. The

don’t know.

on Broadway. Jonathan Majors, I did

component that I responded to is

not know at all. Obviously, I knew

the fact that it’s, on some level, a

What did you think when you

Chadwick Boseman from Black

love story between these men. All

read the script?

Panther and Get on Up, where he'd

of those things, I think, are resonat-

There were two things that I recall.

played James Brown. But the con-

ing for audiences. And in the final,

One was that the overall arc of the

nection between us all was com-

final, final analysis, it is presenting

story seemed large and classical to

pletely organic. It was very, very rich.

these men in all of their humanity,

me. And when I say classical I mean,

And the bonding that took place

including their flaws. So, I want to

in the classic use of the term—

off the screen, we then transported

believe that, from the standpoint

Shakespearean, August Wilsonian.

that into the work that we did for

that these men and their humanity

It was a big story. I’m sure you know,

the camera.

are being represented, all of those

at this point, the reservation that

the zone right now. Leave him alone. Don’t bother him.” Which led me to believe that whatever I was doing was working. Why do you think Da 5 Bloods has struck such a chord in 2020?

things are resonating for audiences.

I had about playing a Trumpite? I

Could you talk a little about the

And broadly speaking, I believe the

really had a problem with that, but

amazing to-camera monologue

film has connected to the zeitgeist

we got past it fairly quickly. Probably

you have in the jungle?

not only in America, but across the

after my third reading of the script,

The only thing Spike said to me,

world in terms of the turmoil and

I recognized Paul as a big, classical

some weeks before we shot it, was

the tumult that is happening. I think

part with an amazing emotional

that I would be speaking directly

that that only accentuates the reso-

arc. I relished the prospect of play-

to the camera, which was fine. I

nance—and the importance—of the

ing him. And then also I loved the

didn’t really think anything about

film at this particular time. ★

52

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


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Actors

GREAT LEADER Kaluuya as Fred Hampton of the Black Panther party.

In Judas and the Black Messiah, the Oscar-nominated actor takes on the biggest role of his career so far BY NADIA NEOPHY TOU

In Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya is the late Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Black Panther party, who was assassinated over 50 years ago, at the age of 21. The British-born, Oscar-nominated Kaluuya has featured in such screen gems as Get Out and Black Panther, Widows and Queen & Slim. For this latest, which tells the story of the informant who helped the FBI assassinate the civil rights leader, Kaluuya took on a lot of introspection, much research and daily dialect work. “It’s because it’s Fred Hampton,” he says, simply, when asked why he felt driven to take on the task.

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What did you already know about

time. So, it was a joy to work with

director Shaka King and what

Shaka. I feel very blessed.

made you want to work with him on this film?

What made you say yes to playing

Ryan [Coogler] introduced us and I

Fred Hampton?

always really respect Ryan’s view on

He is a figure that encapsulates

people, point blank, in and out of the

so much of what people today are

industry. So, I sat down with Shaka

fighting for in America, and around

and, for me, you can see where

the world. And he was a channel. He

someone’s at, in terms of the rea-

was murdered at 21 and he was a

sons why they do it. If their reasons

channel, a vessel for all these incred-

are aligned, and it’s about something

ible ideas, incredible philosophies,

more than just themselves, it’s usu-

that are still being used today. And

ally more likely to produce a story

what the Black Panther party repre-

that’s likely to elevate, to resonate.

sented, as well, really resonated with

But also, it’s kind of an instinct, I

me, and really resonated with how

don’t really consciously think about

I see the world, and how I want the

it. It’s just like, “Oh, this makes

world to be. And it was also working

sense.” And I don’t question why it

with Shaka, working with Lakeith

makes sense. Things, in the world

[Stanfield, co-star], working with

we live in, they rarely make sense.

Ryan, working with Charles [King,

But Shaka’s an incredible person. He

producer] and Macro [King’s pro-

really cares and is really collaborative,

duction company], all of those fac-

and really has the vision at the same

tors, so many stars aligned.

COU RT ESY OF WAR N ER BROS . P I CT U R ES

Daniel Kaluuya


Did you feel a lot of responsibility

Oh, so much prep. So much prep. I

and resonance to them.

playing him? How do you put that

just worked on it with Audrey LeC-

What I go out to find is the truth.

aside and just focus?

rone, my dialect coach, who’s amaz-

And how do you tell the truth? I think

I think you put it aside by accept-

ing. I asked her, “Please be honest. I

that’s what art is, it’s articulating and

ing it, and going, “This is real, this is

want to feel confident when I’m out

a responsibility.” If you ignore it, it

there.” We just drilled it every day.

will just fester and manifest in a way

This is like a couple months before

that you won’t have control over. So,

the shoot, every day we just drilled it,

I accept it, listen in conversations,

drilled it, drilled it. I watched footage

ask questions. For me, it was really

or listened to audio. And then I would

important to have the family’s bless-

record the session, and then listen to

ing. So, I took myself to Chicago and

it back when I was at the gym, and

opened up to see the family. And

then go back and then mend stuff

we eventually got to see the family,

bit by bit. But it really was a situa-

Fred Hampton Jr. and Mama Akua

tion where, drop by drop, a river is

[Njeri, Hampton Jr.’s mother]. I just

formed. So, we just have to show

accept the conversation, accept

up every day and do a little bit, and

the responsibility. Then you can

then hopefully it will grow into a fully

put it to the side and do your job. If

formed interpretation that’s honor-

you understand what it is, you can

ing his spirit.

contextualize what it is, and go, “OK

I've had a window into a perspective that not a lot of people my age, or in my generation, would know. So, it does change you, and it gives you a deeper understanding.

visualizing things that people are too scared to say normally. Just say it and going, “This is it.” How it resonates as a result, is just to do with timing. That can’t be manufactured. When we were filming it, it was pre the murder of George Floyd. There was a different level of consciousness about this. I’m not saying it was devoid of it, it was just a different level. So, if you just tell the truth, then things happen. When we shot Get Out, Obama was still in office, and then when it came out, Trump was there. Then that changed how people viewed the film. That’s out of your control. All you can do is tell

cool, these are real things. These

Would you say that this is the

are valid things.” And then just go,

biggest role you’ve done? The

“Alright, put that to the side, I’m still

most important for you?

here to do a job.” And if I go, “Oh well,

Yeah. 1000%. If I’m being brutally

there’s all these other factors that

honest, it’s a huge weight, a huge

come in, that’s why I couldn’t do it,

responsibility. And he’s a huge man,

that’s why I couldn’t learn my lines,”

he’s a huge spirit. His words were

no one cares. I mean, with love, not

big. The biggest version of me had

in a dismissive way. No one cares.

to show up, in order for me to even

Yeah I learnt loads. Shaka gave me

You’ve got to show up and do what

hold the words in the way that they

the Black Panther party reading

I’ve been working for.

needed or were warranted.

list, which is basically the political

Does that go for criticism about

Did you feel like something in you

before they were a fully-fledged

you being a British actor playing

changed after playing this part?

member of the party. So, I’ve read

an American person too?

Yeah. The weight on those people

the majority of books on that, and

Yeah. Because to be real, it’s trigger-

during that time was real, the

just understanding that, from the

ing for generations of African-Ameri-

thoughts and beliefs that they were

outside looking in, they were per-

cans, and you have to address it, and

having in order to say the things

ceived as antagonists. However, they

accept it, and have the conversation,

they were saying, with as much feel-

were doing such amazing work in

and then interrogate your reasons

ing that they felt, in order to ignite

their communities. They were feed-

for doing a project, and your reasons

the people who they were trying to

ing kids before school, because a

why you’re going in, and going, “Do

ignite, had that weight. It’s hard to

lot of kids were going hungry. They

the pros outweigh the cons of it?”

be conscious of that weight, and

were educating kids before school,

And then if it does, then you move

not feel different as a result of it. I’ve

they were opening medical centers,

forward. If you don’t, then you don’t.

had a window into a perspective

they were trying to open medical

That’s why I don’t ignore the conver-

that not a lot of people my age, or

centers to heal the vulnerable within

sation. I try not to block it and ignore

in my generation, would know. So, it

the community. Whether it’s diabe-

the conversation, let it flow. I just

does change you, and it gives you a

tes or sickle cell, even helping the

believe that we are stronger together

deeper understanding into a lot of

Hispanic community. It alludes to it

as a diaspora. And I want to help

things. Why things work the way they

in the film, that they also formed a

that union, and if people don’t want

work, and you just see more. You’re

Rainbow Coalition, with the Young

to unite, then that’s what they want.

more aware.

Patriots, which is an all-white organi-

the truth. And then when it comes out, how people take it, and where people are at when they’re taking it, is just that. Did you learn things about the Black Panther party that you didn't know before?

education that they needed to have

I can’t force them.

zation, that was their enemy. I mean, It’s hard not to think of Breonna

they were doing a lot of great work.

You also take on another

Taylor, when you watch those

Something that Shaka always said is,

American accent, which is very

scenes of Fred Hampton being

“There’s so much information about

different to the ones that you’ve

killed in his home while he sleeps,

Fred Hampton’s death. And we’re

done before. What kind of prep

by the FBI. The films you’re in

trying to show how incredibly he

did you do for that?

seem to have an eerie timeliness

lived his life.” ★

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T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Actors

Tahar Rahim Channeling the pain of a wrongly imprisoned Guantanamo detainee in The Mauritanian BY JOE UTIC HI

Mohamedou Ould Salahi endured unimaginable horror as an inmate of the U.S. government’s notorious Guantanamo Bay detention center for more than 14 years. In all that time, no charge was ever leveled against him, and with the help of his tireless lawyer Nancy Hollander, who weathered extreme criticism for representing terror suspects, he was finally granted his freedom in 2016. His story is the subject of director Kevin Macdonald’s new film The Mauritanian, based on the memoir Salahi wrote in confinement, in which Tahar Rahim telegraphs the pain and resolve of a casualty of America’s heavy-handed war on terror. Yet, as Rahim explains, it was a role he might have dismissed before reading it…

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You last worked with Kevin

How did you overcome that?

Macdonald on The Eagle. That

I’ve been working on my English ever

was your very first role after A

since then. First of all, I work with

Prophet, right?

a lot of foreign directors who don’t

Yes. I remember when A Prophet

speak French, so English was a com-

came out, I had a lot of offers, but

mon language. And I started learning

it was all kind of the same type of

English from movies, music. There

characters only not as good, not as

was a turning point for me, and it

well-written. So, I wanted to wait

was when I was playing Ali Soufan

to have something good to defend.

in The Looming Tower, because he’s

Kevin called me after he’d seen the

an American citizen. He went to

trailer for A Prophet. He hadn’t even

America as a teenager, so I had to

seen the movie, just the trailer. And

work four hours a day with a coach

he offered me a part in The Eagle.

working on the accent, and I did my

Everything was brand new to me,

homework every morning. By being

so I was thinking, This is great, you

in America, being in New York, I was

can get a role just off the back of the

surrounded by people who spoke

trailer. I was a kid actor, just discover-

English every single day. Wherever

ing this industry, this world. At the

you go, you get to practice. So, that

time we shot the film, though, I could

helped me a lot.

barely speak English. So, it was a little strange and frustrating to share

How did Kevin approach you

an adventure without having a real

about The Mauritanian?

relationship with my director.

After The Eagle we had always

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

LONG STRETCH Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Salahi in The Mauritanian.


HUNGARY’S OFFICIAL ENTRY - BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM - 2021 ACADEMY AWARDS

“HAUNTING AND MYSTERIOUS. THIS ONE STICKS IN YOUR HEAD.” - RYAN LATTANZIO, INDIEWIRE

“SUPERB. SLIPPERY, SUPPLE AND SINUOUS.

A DELICIOUSLY REWORKED PSYCHOLOGICAL NOIR... IN GORGEOUS 35MM.”

- JESSICA KIANG, VARIETY

“HITCHCOCKIAN. MYSTERIOUS AND CAPTIVATING.” - AWARDSDAILY

A FILM BY L I L I H O R V Á T

PREPARATIONS TO BE TOGETHER FOR AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME


wanted to work together again.

experience such as his without

two days. So, you think about…

We were going to make a show

holding a grudge against anyone? I

Mohamedou was wearing them

together—The Last Panthers—which

was like, OK, that’s a life lesson right

every day, sometimes for 24 hours a

I eventually did with Johan Renck.

there, and I need to go through this

day, for nearly 15 years.

In the end, it didn’t work out with

process because I want to learn

Kevin, so I’m like, OK, well, there’ll be

something, not just as an actor, but

another chance.

as a man. It all started this way.

About two and a half years ago I

And then I got the chance to

had a text from Kevin saying, “Hey, I

meet Mohamedou virtually, and

might have a good part for you.” So,

he was incredibly nice, with such

I’m like, “Great, send it over.” He sent

a brilliant sense of humor. I didn’t

me the script and my first reaction

want to bother him by asking too

was disappointment. At the time the

many touchy questions. I didn’t

film was called Guantanamo Diary,

see myself as a young actor with

which is the title of Mohamedou’s

a notepad going, “OK, about this

book. I saw the title and I thought,

experience…” So, we just talked. We

No way, Kevin is not going to offer

had a conversation, and it was just

me one of those endless stereotypi-

about catching his mood, his spirit,

cal parts that I’ve been turning down

and all of that.

for years from Hollywood to play a Muslim terrorist.

What were you able to take from him? There’s footage of the real

[Terrorism] is a tiny fraction of the Muslim experience, and Muslim people, Arab people, are very wounded by what those people have done as well.

That was one example. Another was that Mohamedou was transferred into a cold cell at some point, and I asked the production to make the set as cold as they could so I could really feel that experience. I did. When you’re that cold for that long, something starts happening inside of you. I was combining that with a drastic diet where I was eating hard boiled eggs, a little bit of chicken breast and maybe two glasses of water every day. When you combine all that… Man, I learned a lot from that experience, fasting on set, living in this cold. Your soul is flying into fields you never knew existed [laughs]. You’re dragged along by

How many offers like that have

Mohamedou at the end of the

you received?

film, and he is wearing a huge

I’ve had maybe 15 or 20 offers like

smile, and just generally full of

that, from America, from Germany,

life. The Mohamedou you’re play-

from France, since I did A Prophet.

ing is in a very different place,

When you’re going to talk about

under lock and key in Guanta-

ally, I can manage my characters and

topics like those, you’ve got to know

namo, fighting for his freedom.

leave them on set, but with this one,

what you’re talking about and what

That was the toughest part, because

I’ll tell you, it took me three weeks

you want to say. What do you want

how can you ever truly know what

to get out of him. That had never

to tell an audience? What do you

that’s like without living it? It’s just

happened to me before. But when I

want them to learn? I’m not saying

impossible. It’s my job to fake it, but

got back home, my wife and friend

Muslim terrorism doesn’t exist; we

I don’t want to fake it, otherwise

would look at me and say, “Tell us

all know it happened and it’s real.

you’ll feel it as an audience member.

what happened. You’re so different.

But it’s a tiny fraction of the Muslim

First of all, I have the responsibility to

You’re not here with us.”

experience, and Muslim people,

Mohamedou of playing a real man. I

But it had to be done that way,

Arab people, are very wounded by

wanted him to be happy with what

for Mohamedou. It had to be real,

what those people have done as

I had done, and I didn’t want him to

because for him it was real. And I

well. There’s another face to being a

feel diminished by my performance.

want to make movies I want to see,

Muslim that is not explored enough,

For that, I needed to embrace

right, so I want the audience to feel

your emotional and physical state. Is it hard to keep control in that kind of environment? It is hard. That time it was hard. Usu-

and even before I started getting

some of the real conditions, physi-

the authenticity of what they’re

those offers, I knew that I wasn’t

cally, because you can work as hard

watching. I wouldn’t have been able

interested in telling stories about

as you like on the psychology of the

to do it in any other way, really. No,

terrorists. I refused to be a tool to

character—and I’d read his book, and

there was no other way to make it.

tell those stories. And they didn’t

met him, and done that—but there’s

need me; of course they told those

a big difference between knowing

Mohamedou came to set while

stories without me anyway.

the psychology and understanding

you were shooting the Guanta-

how that will be tested by the expe-

namo scenes…

This was different though…

riences he’s living through. So, for

He did come, and to him, I think that

Yes, because I knew Kevin and I

example, I asked them to shackle me

did feel like being back there. It was

knew he’d be too clever for that.

with real shackles. I needed to taste

so hard for him. They set him up by

So, I thought, let me set that aside

it. I needed a sense of it. My job,

the monitors and gave him some

and just read it. And, I mean, I fell

then, is to magnify it and play with

earphones so he could hear the

in love. With the part, with the

my emotions, but that realism was

scenes we were shooting. And he’s

script, with Mohamedou’s story. I

necessary for me. The bruises I got

so polite, he said, “Thank you,” and

cried twice, because it was just so

from being shackled, I kept them for

took the earphones, but he switched

moving. I cried because it hurt me.

the rest of the movie. And I can tell

off the receiver. He didn’t want to

I cried because of who this person

you, I wore those shackles for maybe

see, didn’t want to hear. He just

was. How can you come out of an

a couple of hours a day for perhaps

closed his eyes. ★

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T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | Actors

COURTROOM CONFLICT Abdul-Mateen as Bobby Seale in The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II The Trial of the Chicago 7 star hunts for the real truth about Bobby Seale B Y M AT T G R O B A R

invested in himself. He’s built himself up, he’s educated himself, and he’s made himself into a very wellrounded individual. I think that’s one of the reasons why you have a person who fights so

vehemently for the preservation of his own humanity within this story, is

Last year, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II seized the chance to engage with politically conscious storytelling, capturing the world’s attention with a pair of weighty, dramatic performances. On the heels of his Emmy win for HBO’s Watchmen, the actor returns to the awards circuit with The Trial of the Chicago 7, in which he portrays civil rights icon Bobby Seale. Infamously beaten, bound and gagged in the courtroom during the landmark trial, simply for demanding his constitutional rights, the Black Panther party co-founder inspired Abdul-Mateen with his self-sacrifice, his indomitable spirit, and his tireless advocacy on behalf of others.

because he believes in himself, and he’s invested in himself. So, that was something that I was really, really attracted to. He has an excellent way with words, he’s extremely charismatic and outspoken, an extremely passionate leader, and I like to think of myself the same way, when it

What were your first impressions

getting themselves involved in the

What qualities of Seale did you

of the script for The Trial of the

political process, and voicing their

see in yourself? What did you

Chicago 7? I know the language

opinions on things [where] they felt

admire about him?

Can you recall your first

was a draw.

displeasure or outrage. And I thought

I think the first thing is self-pride,

conversations with Aaron Sorkin

It was a big draw, and a really incred-

that was perfect for the time that we

Black pride. Pride in the way that he

and the cast before the shoot?

ible story, and that’s outside of the

were in, in this country.

built himself up as a man, and built

We didn’t talk much. I know that

himself up as a respectable human

there was a table read, and every-

came with playing Bobby Seale. This

I thought that this was something

being. One of the things that strikes

body came, and everyone was so

was an opportunity to participate

that would definitely speak to the

me as so impressive about Bobby

impressive. I really looked up to

in something that was intended to

world, especially in an upcoming

Seale, and I say this with the utmost

the actors in the room, and I found

reenergize the young people in this

election year. So, I was very excited

respect, is that he loves himself.

myself sitting across from Mark

country—to energize them around

about the themes.

He has a deep self-love, and he’s

Rylance. I knew that the majority of

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I got the script back in 2019, and

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

responsibility and opportunity that

comes to things that I care about.


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

6


my scenes, with the exception of

advocating for, and then setting that

have been. I thought about my

one, were opposite Mark, and so I did

down in 1960s America, and under-

father, my uncles, my grandfathers,

deep, deep preparation to be abso-

standing the repercussions of finding

and I thought about all the instances

lutely ready.

himself in the position that he was in.

in history where Black men and

Aaron told us that it wasn’t a remake, that this wasn’t supposed to be a one-for-one retelling of the story. It’s more of a painting than it is a photograph. But he did want to get across that we were making something that was important for people to see today, in order to awaken our own civic responsibility in ourselves. We knew that we were coming up on a very, very important year, and so we wanted people to be able to look at the past, but also to be able to relate that to the present. The world changed so much between those words being spoken, us filming it, wrapping the film, and when the film finally came out. So, we didn’t even know how important of a film it was that we were embarking on. How did you prepare? I read his autobiography, A Lonely Rage, and I tried to really get close to his words and his personality. I watched interviews; I read the court transcripts. He talks about his time

I thought about all the instances in history where Black men and women have been silenced, beaten, gagged, murdered for speaking out, and for attempting to hold onto their humanity.

women have been silenced, beaten, What else did you discover about

gagged, murdered for speaking out,

him in the research process?

and for attempting to hold onto

His smile is what I really latched

their humanity, and for attempting

onto. I really admire him, and he has

to speak for the humanity and the

a great affinity for people, a great

freedoms of other people.

affinity for relationships. I looked

So, I armed myself with all of that

back at several interviews and he’s

history. I went in as an advocate,

extremely charismatic and witty, and

and I just prayed for strength, but

he has a smile, which we didn’t really

it was incredibly difficult. I think it

get a chance to explore and show, so

was humiliating, as well. But it was

much, in the film.

my responsibility to step into that

So, that let me know how much

space, to allow that experience to be

pressure he was under during this

portrayed, and most importantly, to

case. I wanted to latch onto some-

come out on the other side victori-

thing on the other side of prison, on

ous. I’ll always say that, because to

the other side of those walls, which

beat him, and bound and gag him in

was his family, his wife, food, having

a courtroom, it wasn’t just because

a quality of life. And it’s not some-

he was speaking out. It wasn’t just

thing that I learned, but I intuited

in order to silence him. That type of

that he was a winner. So, I knew that

act is specifically, I believe, designed

no matter what, I would have to

to break him, to break his spirit, to

make sure that he came out on the

make sure that not only did he not

other side a winner—not broken, and

disrupt the court, but he did not dis-

not defeated.

rupt the status quo in America, once and if he was ever free again.

Seale is the first real person that

I knew that moment was about

in prison, and one of the things that

you’ve played. Did you find that

more than an outburst in court. It

he misses so much was cooking. So,

especially challenging?

was about trying to break his spirit,

he talks about his food. He’s deep in

Well, I think I try to give the same

and trying to break his will—not only

prison during this interview, and he

amount of attention to all of my

his will, but as he was a leader, to

goes on and on, for 10 minutes plus,

work, but this one came with some

break the will of the people who he

just talking about food, gravy, and

responsibility because a living per-

influenced. So, there was a great

what he would do with some onions

son would be looking at the story

deal of pride that I instilled in myself

and potatoes and sausages, and

and judging the portrayal. So, I had a

in those moments, and wanted to

how he does that. He does it all with

responsibility to be an advocate for

instill in my character, so that he

such charm and grace, and then at

him and his experience, and I wore

could not be broken, so that it was

the turn of a dime, he’s talking about

that like a badge of honor. I was so

impossible to break his spirit. And

the judge and his case. He’s pas-

proud that I was the actor chosen

although he didn’t have the facility

sionate about the people, and he’s

to walk in those shoes. It kept me

of using his words, his voice and his

talking about all of the wrongs that

up late at night, and it woke me up

opinion would still be loud and clear.

are going on.

early in the morning. This was a hunt.

He was just a champion, and

From the beginning, until the last

This past year, record numbers

that’s what I tried to connect to,

moment on set, I was constantly

of young people voted in the

knowing that I would have to go in

mining for gold, trying to find the

wake of police brutality. Was that

and tell this story, and eventually go

moments that would make him

heartening to you?

through this pretty harrowing experi-

human, and that would make his

Absolutely. I think the message

ence, this very inhumane experience.

story ring true.

of the film resonated with a lot of

It was my job, in the beginning, to

people, but also, the sentiments of

just understand him and the things

In one sequence, Seale is bound

the people resonated with the film.

that he cared about, to understand

and gagged in the courtroom.

I think we were hopeful that the

the world that he was in at the

What was that like to shoot?

film would resonate, and the film, I

time, and then live that experience

Yeah, it was difficult. I tried to call

think, turned out to be very much of

through the process. A lot of it was

on my experience as a Black man

the moment. I think the spirit of the

learning his words and really learning

in America. I tried to call on what I

people was congruous with the spirit

about the things that he would be

imagined Bobby’s experience would

of the film. ★

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

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FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION B E S T D O C U M E N TA R Y F E AT U R E

With Drawn Arms uncovers the story behind a critical moment in American history, spawning one of the most iconic images of protest from the past century. Artist Glenn Kaino and photographer Afshin Shahidi follow Olympic Gold Medalist Tommie Smith as he finally tells the whole story of his historic salute 50 years ago that defined a movement and still resonates today. With Colin Kaepernick, former Congressman John Lewis, Megan Rapinoe, and Jemele Hill. The film features legendary civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and Jemele Hill.

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Profile for Deadline Hollywood

Deadline Hollywood - AwardsLine - 01/13/21 - Oscar Preview/Actors  

Deadline Hollywood - AwardsLine - 01/13/21 - Oscar Preview/Actors