Writer/director Ari Aster is quickly becoming one of the new names to watch in horror following his debut Hereditary last year. But Hereditary wasn’t out yet when actor Jack Reynor signed on to star in Aster’s follow-up Midsommar, so he was going in sight unseen with an unproven director. Combined with Midsommar’s wild horror script, Jack Reynor originally wasn’t sure that Ari Aster could pull it off, as he explained:
I got the script from my team at WME (William Morris Endeavour agency) and they sent me a package with Ari’s short films attached. I’m reading this thing and going, Jesus Christ, this is so ambitious and so huge. I can’t see a clear path for how we’re going to pull this off, but that’s exactly why I should do it, that’s the reason to sign on to something like this in my opinion. This is the thing, I don’t want to sign onto things that I’m always confident [are] going to be easily achieved.
If you’ve seen Midsommar, you can imagine what this must have been like for Jack Reynor. He got a script from his agency for a horror movie that was so wild and unique and, as he calls it “ambitious,” that it was hard for him to wrap his head around it. It sounds like he doubted it could have been made period, much less with a director who only had a few shorts to his name at that point.
Jack Reynor’s outlook and optimism for Midsommar may have changed once he saw Hereditary and what Ari Aster was capable of, but he didn’t have that information when he had to make his decision to join the film.
As he told Entertainment Weekly, Jack Reynor simply didn’t see any way that the movie could work. But rather than a potentially unfilmable script and an unknown director deterring Jack Reynor, it actually compelled him to sign on to Midsommar. For him, the potential for failure was appealing because it meant that making Midsommar would be a challenge.
Jack Reynor had the philosophy JFK espoused in his famous 1962 “We choose to go to the moon” speech, signing on to Midsommar not because it would be easy, but because it would be hard. It’s an admirable thing to hear from the actor, that he doesn’t want to always take safe roles in films that will be guaranteed to succeed. He’d rather do something that seems like a recipe for disaster because of the challenge and the rewarding experience it will be if they actually pull it off.
Jack Reynor wasn’t just relying on Ari Aster to make his ambitious films work though, the actor also gave it his all. Jack Reynor actually advocated for his full-frontal scene in the film to add to his character and Midsommar’s messages. The whole experience sounds like it made Jack Reynor need a drink because the actor got immediately hammered after production.
Whether or not Ari Aster pulled off his ambitious film is for each person to judge. Midsommar made an unremarkable $10.9 million over the long Independence Day weekend but critics really took to the film to give it an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were less kind with a C+ CinemaScore, which is actually an improvement on Hereditary’s D+.