On The Set Of Mama, First-Time Director Andy Muschietti Taps Into Childhood Fears
I'm curious about the character of Annabel. She seems like she wouldn't be the star of a movie like this-- the punk rocker usually dies. Where did this character come from?
Andy: That was a chemistry need I guess. This is a woman who, by accident, from one day to the next she has to take the responsibility of raising two little children who aren't hers. It's a reluctant hero, and you will notice when you see the movie-- now you know it, but when you see the movie she's not the hero at all. But there's kind of a twist that makes her jump in the driver's seat, just like that, and she's the least apt person for the job. That's where it comes from I guess.
Do you have specific artistic references for the film? Your producer was talking about Modigliani paintings that you had that kind of inspired you. What other paintings or films inspired Mama?
Babara: We had a Modigliani growing up, and it scared the shit out of us. When Andy started drawing Mama, it was very clear that there was a big, elongated Modigliani air to Mama. It's very scary visuals.
Andy: Yes, especially for the character. There's tons of influences that come together here. I'm a big fan of Edward Gorey, and I don't think he has been portrayed in film. Well, Tim BUrton is a fan too. But the horrific part of Edward Gorey, how he frames things is very disturbing. And I think that Mama will have a lot of that.
Do you see the character of Mama as a monster or someone we can be empathetic toward?
Andy: It's a mix. It's a character you don't empathize with, because you're not on the right perspective. But if you could understand what's going on, it's the story of a mom trying to get her children back. I think we played with that. If you asked the girls, actually--
Barbara: They love her. She's a horrible hero, really. That's what she is.
Andy: One of the elements of horror is that we are building a big question of what is the character. You learn a lot of things, you see that the girls love this thing. You're not sure if it's real or not, but they follow her, they mimic her, you see a lot of traits from the mysterious character that is reflected on the girls. And when you see it, it doesn't matter all you know about their love, because it's so horrifying that you shit yourself. Ideally. So that's the game we're playing.
Did you look at a couple of different actresses or actors before settling on Javier for Mama?
Andy: No. Well, we went through a phase where I was sure that she wouldn't be human, that there would be CG, because I wanted to do very strange motion, and the proportions of the character couldn't be portrayed by any human. Then I saw Javier in [REC]. I don't know if you guys saw [REC], but at the end of [REC], I thought he was a CG characters, because the proportions were not real. You see this thing swaying aroundÖ But even then, I think I still thought of doing CG. But then, I don't know, I realized that it just wouldn't be-- as good as the CG is, there's always something that tells you it's CG.
Barbara: And also when you, and this is a bit on how we've done our commercials int he past year, when you give something so important as this character, Mama, to a company to do, even if it's with your supervision, even if you're on it, it becomes a very different thing, and you lose the ability to really mold it during your shoot.
How did you come to cast Jessica Chastain as Annabel? I wouldn't expect her in the role.
Andy: Yeah. But we first thought of her when saw a trailer--
Barbara: The trailer for The Debt, about a year and a half ago on iTunes. And we were like, What is? Especially, this sounds ridiculous, but the gynecologist scene, where she catches him with her legs. We were like, "We like her." This was before this explosion that's happened in the past month. Then they told us she liked the script, we scheduled a Skype meeting with her, and literally 24 hours before the Skype meeting we said "Let's go meet her. Fuck the Skype." We went to meet her and we were with her in a room for two hours, and she was incredible, and she's insanely good and insanely nice and helpful. I mean, we thank our lucky stars every day.
Andy: And she has-- there's something about her that, for me, was perfect. The character has an arc, and the beginning of that arc she should be not only an unlikely person, a reluctant hero, but she should be distant and not empathetic to the audience. I saw her and she has this, she can be really distant. She has these features where she barely has the eyebrows. Of course, when I saw Jolene, I saw all the emotional stages and moods she had, and she was perfect. And I love her nose.
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