Writer-director Lynne Ramsay discusses We Need to Talk About Kevin, working with Tilda Swinton, and much more.
Lynne Ramsay is a director who has gained a cult following through her first two movies, Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar, and (hopefully) will gain a larger following with her third offering, We Need to Talk About Kevin. This wonderful indie drama follows Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton), a mother whose traumatic plight we follow through a unique narrative style. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Lynne Ramsay over the phone about We Need to Talk About Kevin, which opens in limited release December 9, and here's what she had to say.
I stuck around for the Q&A after the movie, and Tilda (Swinton) talked a bit about the differences between the book and the movie. I haven't read the book, but I thought it was interesting that the book, it seems, is a series of letters. I was wondering how long it took yourself and (co-writer) Rory (Kinnear) to find this different way into the story from the book?
Lynne Ramsay: Well, it was actually quite a long process, because we totally re-imagined the whole thing. She (author Lionel Shriver) wasn't a part of the process, because she was off writing another book. Rory and I, we had the manuscript and we would see her on the weekends. I kept cutting it while we were shooting. I shot it in 30 days, which is insane, you know. I was super-organized, and I knew that there were only going to be two weeks of casting. I came to New York and we had an amazing casting director.
From what I understand of the book, it seems like you kept the same kind of tone, where you think Eva is just one thing, which sets up for a rather shocking finale. It was cool you kept that.
Lynne Ramsay: Yeah. I think that the location really sells that too. You know something bad happens, and you kind of calculate it. There's this magnetic force that can't stop moving. I tried to keep that structure. I thought about (Alfred) Hitchcock a lot (Laughs). There's lots of conflict in it, but lots of fun too. The place we went to with no cars, no telephones, no email, that's really where we really tapped into, to get away from all the bullshit.
I read that Tilda was on board very early on, and John (C. Reilly) was a great casting choice as well. However, I was wondering if you could talk about finding these three different versions of Kevin in Rock (Duer), Jasper (Newell), and Ezra (Miller). How long did it take you to find that trio, and did you ever read any of them together to see if they would match?
Lynne Ramsay: Yeah, well, first of all, Tilda I cast quite early on, because I thought she would be a great addition. I thought she might be too beautiful, but I loved her, she was fantastic. I had her meet with the casting director, and I wanted to see a different dimension, and she brought me to tears, so I was like, 'Wow, OK.' Rock Duer is amazing, the little one. The only thing that upset him was he didn't like the diapers. He was like, 'I'm a big boy!' (Laughs) He studied the tests, the movements, the little walk. I got him and Tilda in a room, and she came in character and, he's a little shit, basically, and he played pissed off on camera. I loved it.
Lynne Ramsay: That's exciting. He's an extraordinary talent and an extraordinary young man. Sometimes you forget he's 18, but he is 18, you know. He has a wonderful range, and he just doesn't have that bullshit you sometimes get when an actor has too much and is too young, you know. They can get out of control, and he just doesn't have that, which is unusual and I think it's clear he's going to do big things.
I was wondering if you can talk about your approach behind some of these shots. There are some very beautiful but very unconventional techniques.
Lynne Ramsay: Oh, exactly, right. I used to be a photographer, and, they told me in film school that I have a very unusual eye (Laughs). I was a photographer, then I became a cinematographer, then I shot my graduation film and directed as well, with Seamus McGarvey, my AD and DP, I wanted to write and direct my own. I love Seamus. I think if I would have done it with a different DP, it wouldn't have worked. He's a genius.
Are you writing anything right now that you can talk about?
Lynne Ramsay: I'm shooting a short, for the Olympics, but I think it might be a feature. It's about a swimmer, it's beautiful, and it has some science-fiction.
What would you like to say to anyone who might be curious about We Need to Talk About Kevin, about why they should see it starting December 9?
Lynne Ramsay: Please be very open. It's not a hyper-active movie. I think you should just go in with an open mind and that's it. Just have a good time. I think people who like seeing intelligent cinema should see it, because I really think that's dying these days.
That's my time, Lynne. It was great talking to you, and I hope the film does well. I really enjoyed it.
Lynne Ramsay: It was lovely to talk to you. Thank you! I hope to speak to you another time.