Bad Blood :: Talking With the Stars of ’Stoker’
When Nicole Kidman finally was able to see her new film "Stoker" on the big screen, it was at the Sundance Film Festival last month and, her reaction was simply, "Wow!" Of course, the Aussie actress, realizing that this could be interpreted in many ways, made sure to clarify at the recent Los Angeles press junket that she meant "a good wow, not a bad wow."
Audiences will definitely be wowed, too, by the film from acclaimed Director Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director who is known for his past film work ("The Vengeance Trilogy," "I’m a Cyborg But That’s Okay") where combining interesting framing of subjects and often brutally violent and/or emotional subject matter are the norm.
In "Stoker" Kidman plays the cold, emotionally distant mother who, along with daughter India (Mia Wasikowska), deals with the unexpected death of India’s father, Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney). When Richard’s long-absent brother Charlie (Matthew Goode, "A Single Man") arrives and stays with them, sexual attraction and suspicions about the past arise.
Exercise in transgression
The "Stoker" script was written by Wentworth Miller, the out actor best known for his lead role on the hit Fox series "Prison Break," who also turns out to be a screenwriter with a keen knowledge of film history (think Hitchcock) and a dark sensibility.
"Make no mistake: ’Stoker’ is a cunning exercise in transgression, a sleek, nasty little fable of first kisses and first kills," wrote critic Christopher Orr in The Atlantic.
Kidman admitted that she had to read it more than once to make sense of the script. "It’s got a lot of subtext and layers and stuff, so I just wanted to kind of absorb what the overall feeling of it was," she explained.
Besides the script, though, Kidman also credited her director for what he brought to the project. "I think the strength of director Park is he creates incredible atmosphere. And this script relies heavily on the language of the images because there’s not a lot of dialogue and so the cinematic language of it has to be very, very strong," she said.
"When I had a meeting with him, we talked about all of that and it was just extraordinary how detailed and precise in what he knew he wanted to say it with. And his use of color and sound and everything is all very specific and it’s not by chance. And that’s something that really kind of fills in a lot in a script like this."
Based on Hitchcock
Goode shared his positive impressions about having a director who didn’t panic during the film’s challenging shoot when, for example, production complications arose. "I think one thing that really sticks out in my mind is there was a scene that became compromised due to lack of finance," the British actor explained.
"It was meant to be by the lake where you see the burying of my younger brother. Director Park rather brilliantly didn’t flap about it; instead he reworked it as to take place in the backyard of the house around the sandpit, which I thought made for a more chilling [scene] because of the setup."
In the role of the mysterious and possibly devious uncle (loosely taken from Hitchcock’s classic "Shadow of a Doubt" with its homicidal Uncle Charlie), Goode ironically took on the role only after his co-star in "A Single Man," Colin Firth vacated it. Thankfully, Goode said, there was plenty for him to sink his teeth into. "As far as the actual character and wanting to do it," the handsome actor said, "of course it was about Director Park and these two beautiful ladies (Kidman & Wasikowska)... but the role was just so psychologically interesting and you got to go on a little trip with it and it was confusing and brilliant and wonderful and all those things and you go ’I’d like to be a part of this’ and luckily Director Park said I could be."
Wasikowska, who has made a name for herself in such critically acclaimed films such as "The Kids Are All Right," "Albert Nobbs" and "Jane Eyre," agreed with Kidman and Goode that they wanted to work with Director Park but she added, "India was a very different character to anything I had played before so I was excited about that."
While Wasikowska had a good relationship with her on-screen lesbian mothers (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) in "The Kids Are All Right," she definitely wasn’t on such terms with Kidman’s Evie. While Evie could be seen as less than good, Kidman doesn’t think that label is accurate. "I actually don’t think that Evie’s evil," she said. "I felt like she’s misunderstood. No, I feel like she’s just starved for love and she’s got a child that she doesn’t connect with."
Director Park explained it simply to Kidman when they discussed the relationship between Evie and India. "Director Park, when we first met, said to me, ’Ever since you’ve held this baby, this baby’s never wanted to be held.’ And that’s an amazing way to start building the relationship of a mother and child because that’s horrifying as a mother if your baby doesn’t want to be held by you."
The film, Director Park said (via an interpreter) definitely has something to say about evil, though it might not be what you’d expect. "Just on the bad blood, yes, it certainly including that [Director Park] wants the story to be interpreted in as many ways as possible. Of course, the bad blood aspect of it included," said Director Park’s interpreter. "Perhaps this is a story not about the hereditary nature of evil but, rather, you could interpret it from a different perspective, too. You could say that evil is contagious in that we have this mesmerizing mentor in Uncle Charlie, Matthew, who would come into your life and every person has a seed of evil inside and when you come across such a mesmerizing mentor, he’s able to successfully able to turn that into a flower of evil."
For more on "Stoker," currently in theaters, visit the film’s website.