Equals director Drake Doremus spoke with Deadline about the film, how stars Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult became involved in the project, and the film-making process.
DEADLINE: What were your initial conversations like with Kristen [Stewart] and Nick [Nicholas Hoult]? Because I know in earlier interviews before you guys started shooting they were really excited about it but candid about how terrified they were.
DOREMUS: Nick and I kind of knew each other over the years through mutual friends and we got together and just over a general meeting, you know, you have generals with actors and it’s always “Yeah, man. We want maybe this, maybe that” But as soon as we came up with the idea it was just kind of like, “No, Nick’s the guy. He’s gotta be the guy” so I always had him in mind and he had always wanted to try what I did and was into it and I think a fan of the movie so for him it was just like, “Oh let’s go do this” And I think Kristen was nervous, I think she definitely trusted me though and just sort of wasn’t really about –For her I think it was more about the collaboration than it was about, “Oh I want to go do this sci-fi movie” and the character for her I think was really close to home, really made sense as far as a lot of the sort of awakenings she’s gone through in her life, she’s still so young, they’re both so young, but grown up so much because they’ve been working for so long. Long story short, it was just, “Ok let’s create a format that works.” For the Equals in the film, we weren’t improvising at all, and then when they’re alone we had the opportunity to [improvise] so we would allow that. So we had very strict rules on when and where we would not improvise.
Was that one of those improvised scenes, how did that scene come together? Because that’s kind of the key moment on the film.
DOREMUS: When he touches her for the first time?
DOREMUS: Yeah. I mean, we had the music playing on set and that was just two hours of the camera not stopping and it was just Nick continuing to explore and feeling something for the first time and just calibrating Kristen slowly not being able to fight it anymore and flood gates opening. It was just navigating those waters and it was just like two hours of that. I mean, I have like two hours of that, I have two hours of him just touching her face essentially. I had to cut it down to three minutes.
Hoult’s character is essentially the audience surrogate as you’re introduced to this world, but in some ways I think Kristen’s character is the most devastating as you realize she’s been living with this for a year and it’s just like a yearning for some kind of connection, finally, when they come together. Kind of the arc of her character I think in some ways is more powerful and at the end you see kind of the weaving of the missed moments and everything.
DOREMUS: Well yeah it’s, I think, very perceptive. Because I think it’s his story in the beginning and then it becomes hers in the end, it’s most certainly hers in the end. So it was just sort of about switching the POVs just having them cross over so they meet in the middle and then by the end they’re like this, which is interesting because I think all my movies kind of do that at times, you know, it’s about two people and at times it’s both their stories and then maybe it’s Felicity [Jones’] story, then maybe it’s Guy [Pearce’s] or maybe it’s Anton [Yelchin’s] whatever. It’s just sort of really being conscious of that so that the audience is with them at all times, but yeah it’s definitely Nick’s journey until it’s Kristen’s journey almost in a way.
What was it like to bring Guy [Pearce] back into the fold, what was it like working with him and also Jacki Weaver?
DOREMUS: It was cool because I feel like the last—My films I’ve always had one actor carry over, Felicity [Jones] carried over and then now Guy’s carried over and then hopefully maybe Kristen or even both will carry over. But it’s just so nice to have that shorthand, we’re good friends and like to make each other laugh, we’re pretty goofy together so just to get to hang out for a couple of weeks again and just to know what to expect. I mean, he just shows up and he’s such a professional and so talented and understated, it’s like for him to come in and play essentially a very thankless role in the construct of the movie and in the construct of just, “Hey, he’s in it” it’s like, “Oh yeah, Guy’s in that” He’s very selfless, he’s just a selfless actor so in that sense it’s awesome. I was such a huge fan of Jackie so to get to work with her was just kind of a dream for me.
And with someone like Kristen Stewart involved the interest is always kind of zeroed in on you. I hope this film finds a lot of people because Kristen’s incredibly talented and I think people just kind of unfairly write her off.
DOREMUS: Well I think not anymore, with the work she’s been doing and the filmmakers she’s working with.
She won the…
DOREMUS: The Cesar, first American!
DOREMUS: Deservedly so.
Read more of the interview HERE.
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