Kidman, Farrell reflect on experience of working with director Yorgos Lanthimos
TORONTO — Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ movies aren’t the sort that typically attract a stampede of Hollywood A-listers.
His films, which he writes with Efthymis Filippou, are deadpan, midnight-black comedies that carry out grim allegorical absurdities to extreme ends.
In his latest film, The Killing
of a Sacred Deer, Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell play the parents of a suburban family terrorized by a young man (Barry Keoghan), who’s a vague figure of comeuppance come to force Farrell’s heart surgeon to kill one of his two children as retribution for an earlier sin.
Earlier this fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lanthimos, Kidman, Farrell and Keoghan gathered to discuss their surreal and divisive film:
Q I’m guessing from your films, Yorgos, you don’t much care for small talk.
Lanthimos I prefer the small talk to the big talk. I’m not a big talker, am I?
Kidman He’s quiet. He’s an introvert, but not in his filmmaking.
Q Nicole, how did you first connect with Yorgos? Kidman I pursued him relentlessly and he finally gave in.
Lanthimos You like saying that. I turned her down for 50 films.
Kidman We had met. We had food together and chatted. That was a nice meeting. Then we had sort of a texting relationship. I was doing a play in London. He told me about the script. I said, “That sounds interesting, Yorgos.”
Q How did you describe the film to your cast, Yorgos?
Lanthimos Never get yourself into a situation where you have to describe the film.
Farrell “It’s 104 pages of joy!” I loved it. It was remarkably different from The Lobster, in tone, but also existing in a grossly idiosyncratic world. It was a mystery to me, as The Lobster was. It’s very seldom for me that you get to read writing that is so remarkably unique. The only other time that I had a similar feeling was with Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).
Keoghan It was a weird film, a weird script, but I loved it. It’s a different kind of acting, you know? You don’t act in it. It was just a challenge. I think he hates actors, as well.
Q Is it acting? It’s certainly a different kind of performance. Kidman He doesn’t like “acting,”
am I right? He always says, “Stop acting.”
Lanthimos What do you mean? There’s a lot of acting everywhere, all over the place. (Laughs)
Kidman He says, “You’re doing too much. Stop it.”
Farrell The best direction in 20 years of doing this job I’ve ever heard is him screaming from a monitor to an actor: “Stop trying to be so naturalistic!”
Lanthimos Because that’s the worst! You see the effort of someone trying to be like real life. You go, “I’m embarrassed. Don’t do that.” Kidman I think I embarrassed
him a lot.
Farrell It takes habituated behavioural responses and pushes them to the side. It kind of presents subtext as reality and so you don’t have to play subtext at all. It feels to me to be a really honest world.
Q Did the experience of making the film mimic the story’s trajectory from comedy to bleakness?
Farrell If you scream into the wind for 12 hours without anyone around, you’re going to be a little bit insane for at least another 12. We almost shot in continuity so it got darker and it got bleaker and it got weightier the closer we got to a decision that’s made in the film. I was depressed by the end. It got under my skin for sure.
Keoghan I’ve not acted since, basically. (Laughs)
Kidman And we were in confined spaces. We were shooting in a (Cincinnati) hospital, which is a very strange environment, anyway, to be shooting in. I was walking with bare feet and they were like, “Put your shoes on! You’ll pick up some weird bacteria.”