One of the many films to world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s monster movie/alcoholism drama Colossal. Truly unlike any other film at this year’s festival, or any other movie for that matter, Colossal centers on Gloria (Anne Hathaway), a woman who decides to leave New York and move back to her hometown after she loses her job and live-in boyfriend (Dan Stevens). When news breaks that a giant lizard is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to realize that she is strangely connected to these far-off events as she begins to reconnect with a boy from her childhood, played by Jason Sudeikis.
Trust me when I say this is a pretty crazy film that mixes a few different genres together but it absolutely works. It definitely helps that both Hathaway and Sudeikis are fantastic and keep everything grounded even when the situations get crazy. But one of the best things about the film is how it constantly takes left and right turns that you weren’t expecting and each one somehow makes sense. For more on Colossal read Adam’s review.
Shortly after seeing the film I participated in a group interview with Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. During the wide ranging conversation they talked about how the project came together, memorable moments from filming, what it was like working with Nacho Vigalondo, what they collect, being friendly from working together on Saturday Night Live, future projects, and so much more. Check out what they had to say below.
Note: since only a few images from Colossal have been released, a number of the images below are from other movies.
First of all how did you get the script? How did you get in touch with Nacho?
ANNE HATHAWAY: Well I called my psychic… [laughs] Jonathan Demme often screens films at the Jacob Burns film center in Pleasantville, NY and he invited me and my husband to a screening he was doing of Ben Wheatley’s A Fields in England. And I saw it and I was so transported by it, delighted by it, challenged by it and I just thought I don’t remember the last time I read something like that, I wanna be doing movies like that and I don’t think that I’m the actress people will think of for movies like that but that’s very much where my heart lies. So I wrote my agents, and I said, “listen I just saw this movie, I’m sending you a link to the trailer please help.” I gave them the script and said, “please help me find a movie like this.” And within two weeks this one appeared. I read it loved it; I mean, there was very little change between what was written on the page and what made it on the screen, with a little trimming here and there. Great scene involving me crying. [laughs]
JASON SUDEIKIS: Yeah, yeah. Heartbreaking.
SUDEIKIS: But, ultimately unnecessary.
HATHAWAY: [laughs] True on so many levels. So then I watched Nacho [Vigalondo]’s films and realized that he could actually pull off all these ambitious and creative ideas that were on the page and we met and we got along. Then Jason said yes and the whole thing became even more wonderful.
(To Jason) So what’s your story?
SUDEIKIS: Mine came through agents and I loved it, I read it and hopefully the way you felt maybe when watching it that like what is going to happen every 10 minutes, every 10 pages you know in the written form and then it was like, “this is great!” And I knew it at that point it was my ignorance both towards cinema in general but then also specifically Nacho’s work. I was like, “who could pull this off?” You know it had that same kind of like fun feel that I think we’ve all shared when we saw Being John Malkovich so in my head like, “Oh, I guess Spike Jonze or like Michel Gondry,” you know, and again, this is my small understanding of the people out there. So I was like, “I guess I gotta watch these, I wanna see his short films.” Because I love short films, and I have a real high bar from the people I worked with on SNL. He has a collection of them on iTunes, and I watched the first three and I was like “oh, this guy can do it.” Because to do what he’s doing but then also with a budget, he was as clever in the visual form as he was in the written one. I knew Anne’s involvement at that point and I could see that, she’ll crush this. Then we skyped and that took a while you know as it does in these modern times, and he saw this guy in me which is a compliment in some ways but also awful in others. And then I got to be a part of it. I was so proud to watch it last night and share it with a group of people and I was very proud of Voltage for supporting him and for Annie for saying yes, because that triggers financing. That’s a scary thing for people, the money people, to take a gamble on that, but I’m really proud that it exists. Because I was excited to see this movie regardless of my involvement, so to be a part of it I was like, “oh cool”.
HATHAWAY: We’ve been asked, “what adjectives would you use to describe this movie?” And we came up with Being John Malkovich-y. [laughs]
SUDEIKIS: Which is high praise, that movie is seminal and I think changed movies but I think he’s one of those guys that sees these invisible things, it’s neat, he’s very playful that way
I wanted to ask, Anne you already made a solid career in Hollywood, does this allow you to chose this kind of project; did you imagine choosing a project like this in your early career?
HATHAWAY: Oh Yeah! The fact that I’m a Hollywood actress, I’m like, “seriously, me?” I really did not expect any of this, I’m constantly baffled. It’s not like I’ve been trying to avoid making these movies, you just wait for the ones that really speak to you. I felt really lucky that in my early career I couldn’t have gotten a movie like this made. It was an incredible feeling knowing, and not one without a small degree of responsibility, where my saying “yes” was key to getting Voltage to make it a go-picture. I felt ready to take on that responsibility and say “okay”, you know there’s movies you do and they are getting made whether or not you’re in them. And I was ready to stand up and say, “this is my sense of humor, this is what I believe in, this is a filmmaker I’m backing, this is a script that I think should get made,” and I’m really gratified that a lot of people seem to agree with that.
So which adjective would you put under this experience being on a set of this smaller, but great movie? Is it empowering because it’s also your financing, I have the power, refreshing, liberating, how was it being there and doing something that is genuinely more you than other box office movies or at a big budget price?
HATHAWAY: You know, I’ve yet to make a movie that I didn’t believe in on some level, somebody asked me they’re like, “Do you do it to advance your career or do you do it for love?” and I’m like, “ehh it’s an ‘and’.” You know I can’t claim artistic purity. I’m very conscious of making moves that will allow me to keep making moves because I wanna stay in this, I love this, and I wanna be able to do this for the rest of my life. So it wasn’t all that different for me, because even if movies designed to hopefully, and by the way I haven’t made that many of those like tentpole movies, I kind of live very happily in the small-big movie world. I love making movies that I think could have potential to be sleeper movies. That’s kind of where I feel really, really comfortable so on this one I felt really confident going in because the size of the budget meant that we weren’t going to be pulled back into the middle, and Voltage, to their credit, didn’t try and come in and direct the movie. They hired a director they trusted.
For both of you, are there any memorable moments from filming? Is there a day or two you will always remember?
HATHAWAY: It’s kind of funny because the film has like a sort of fluid quality to time and we wound up doing a block shooting in locations so you sort of feel, I do remember the park stuff because we were there on a particularly gorgeous week and there was this tree and the colors that were changing on the tree were so beautiful and then they started to fall off, and as they were falling we sort of had to move the camera over to the sides because it wasn’t going to match. [laughs]
SUDEIKIS: But also everything that took place there you know the reveal of the first plot turn and then obviously, the heavier stuff that goes on and the metaphors and what it represents, and it being a child’s playground, like I was looking at photos that I took and just looking at Annie sitting in her chair in between the set-up reading whatever book you were reading at the time, with the merry-go-round in the background, and she’s sitting in the same spot and Gloria’s sitting in the same spot, where Oscar does horrible things, those are cool, memories, just imagination.
The wrestling and the slapping…
Both: Oh, yeah.
SUDEIKIS: A lot of movie magic. No Hathaway’s were harmed during the filming of this project. [laughs]
HATHAWAY: Will you always remember jumping in that pool?
SUDEIKIS: I will, I will.
HATHAWAY: Jason gets the actor award, Jason gets the tough guy actor award on this movie, because for reasons that were out of anybody’s control we had to shoot that pool sequence deep into Canadian November. And the pool was unheated.
SUDEIKIS: And it had to be, otherwise there would be heat rising off it and that wouldn’t make sense.
HATHAWAY: So Jason had to get into a freezing cold pool and act.
SUDEIKIS: I just had to slowly, Creature of the Black Lagoon, come out of this thing. Which was easy. [laughs] Then I understand why William Friedkin shot gunshots in people’s ear to get a reaction out of them, this is my version of it. I’m glad we didn’t have to do a second take, but I will always remember it. It was also the ride before the ride because it wasn’t horrible. But it was cold. My stunt double just happened – to be my stand-in – happened to be a polar bear swimmer. So he was like “no, it’s no problem.” Because I was like, “what’s going to happen to my body?” I think it was 40 degree water.
HATHAWAY: We were in Canada. Like an hour outside of Vancouver. Langley, we were in Langley.
HATHAWAY: That you’re trying to forget. [laughs]
You get to play the heroine, which is absolutely wonderful for females in film, what do you think this role will do for potential roles and females?
HATHAWAY: I mean I’m of two minds. The optimist in me says, “so much!” But I’m not even going to say what the pessimist in me says. Being in Canada – I am so inspired by what Prime Minister Trudeau said and did right when he got into office by creating a cabinet that had parity. And when questioned about it, he said, “because its 2016.” So what do I hope it does? I hope it does what should have been done already. But so much of it is on the audience. If you want to see more women in movies, support the movies that have women in them. And so I try to do my part by getting them made and hopefully making them fun to watch. And then you have to trust that if it doesn’t do that and it doesn’t find its audience immediately and it’s a longer slog and the mountain’s higher than we thought it was, we gotta keep going. Maybe it’ll do good on the micro level. Maybe some little 10-year-old girl or boy or unspecified gender filmmaker or artist is going to see it and get inspired by it and maybe it’ll do its work that way.
For me I felt like your character was one of the most interesting female leads I’ve seen in a long time. There’s all these men around her kind of projecting their ideals of her onto her. For me I felt all these feelings about gender and male entitlement and all that I mean would you call this a political film?
HATHAWAY: After seeing it, yes. When we were making it, I thought it was a movie about addiction. And it is on some level, but I missed all of that until we were halfway through filming and Nacho and I had a talk about the ending that lasted for three days. We would put down the phone and each go to our corners and then call each other back; we weren’t fighting about anything, we were exploring. I think Nacho’s purpose for making this movie was showing how unnecessary toxic, macho energy is. I’m not talking about male energy, because male energy is beautiful and I love it, and it’s half the reason why we’re all here and it should be valued and there’s always a place at the table for it. But what you’re talking about where it’s gone too far, where there is male entitlement where you’ve gotten into a toxic pattern of abuse and remorse. I think we do need to examine that as individuals, as a society and I think we should not be afraid of doing better.
I’m curious for both of you about the editing process when you’re involved in a movie, how much do you want to be in the editing room, because it’s ultimately where your performance is going to finally be shaped. How much do you want to be there watching and how much are you like, “I’m just going to see it at the premiere”?
HATHAWAY: I think it depends on the movie. I usually like to go in one more time before the picture gets locked, just so that way, if there’s something that I – because sense of humor is really specific it’s like, “oh, the timing of this might work a little bit better if you do blah, blah, blah” it’s just a little bit of fine tuning. You don’t always get that opportunity. I didn’t get it on this one, and I’m really happy with the results.
SUDEIKIS: Yeah. I don’t think they offered that opportunity but I wouldn’t take it, at this point – it depends on the project. I wanted to be a vessel for Nacho, it was important to me. I think there are people in finances that sometimes stick their fingers in the pie at the end and pretend that they baked it, Voltage wasn’t like that. They bought the script, they bought this guy’s brain and they let him be him. To that point, I don’t even know if we had playback, but it’s like, you’re my audience.
HATHAWAY: I don’t think we did.
SUDEIKIS: Nacho’s my audience so it’s nice when it’s all in his head.
HATHAWAY: It’s especially gratifying when you’re working with someone like Nacho, who’s an auteur. You just kind of go, “hey man, it’s your thing.” I’m not sure what I could add. And Jason’s right, it is something you’re invited into, you don’t expect it.
Did you know each other beforehand?
SUDEIKIS: Mhm. We had worked together on SNL two or three times.
HATHAWAY: Jason and I are actually cousins. [laughs] No, we’re not.
SUDEIKIS: You know, we’re all related. We had “walked the boards”. We did live television together so that’s a bond, right?
HATHAWAY: We “courted the muse”.
SUDEIKIS: That’s right, we “courted the muse”. Annie has always, in her times hosting SNL, it was a good luck charm for me. Personally and artistically. There were a few sketches I always loved, a couple of my favorite that were written prior to even being on SNL that then finally made it to – it was like, “oh god, Annie would be perfect for that.” That was my instinct, early on, and she didn’t prove me wrong. And after when she got to host it was always exciting like, “oh, I’m going to try to put this one up,” and whatever we have, to talk about it may make it disappear so I won’t, whatever that chemistry is, but there’s an unspoken similar way of performing comedy, like sketch comedy. Just perform it like, “it’s really happening” – I love that about her, and it’s what makes her a good host and certainly a scene partner. Someone fun to write for and cook up ideas for.
HATHAWAY: Thanks, Jason! I wish I could say the same about you…. [laughs] I’ve gotta say, walking into SNL as you can imagine, is a very intimidating experience. And after the first time, I was always psyched to walk because I was always going to get served something really tasty and I couldn’t wait to figure out what that would be. I think we’re both similar in that we’re, I think we’re really interested in modern things and old-fashioned things, and where they collide. And to have someone who’s interested in the same things, it’s great because right off the bat, you connect. When we were talking about casting and Jason’s name came up, I was like, “oh my god! Jason would be amazing for this.” Not my first thought at all, because you’re so rooted in comedy. But I thought like, “Jason’s the guy, because he’s the best red herring you could have.” Because you think you’re going to get this one guy, and then when he reveals so much more – and I knew Jason had the chops to pull it off. And even then, trusting in your talent, seeing what you do onscreen is really incredible.
SUDEIKIS: This is nice.
HATHAWAY: I just felt really good about it and I knew we’d have a blast behind the scenes. Yeah, it was cool.
SUDEIKIS: My favorite sketch that we haven’t done yet was based on Affair to Remember, just like the end of Sleepless in Seattle, me going over, her thinking I wasn’t going to be there, and I just turn around and kiss her. And then we pull away and go, “oh, sorry I thought you were someone else.” She was expecting someone else and I was expecting someone else, and it’s just two people going like, “should we do this?” It’s a relationship in four minutes on the top of the empire state building, but then rooted in classic films.
HATHAWAY: We should do that! My favorite was, I was hosting the week that the Beatles was just available on iTunes for the first time. And Jason wrote a sketch about the guy who wrote the Pina Colada song, trying to convince you why you should buy his song instead of the Beatles catalogue. You had the funniest line like, “sure you could buy the song that you’ve chosen to listen to thousands of times, or you could buy the song that you’ve listened to hundreds of times!” And I played his wife in the background that was harmonizing and keeping the beat. Anyway, you had to be there. [laughs]
What’s Nacho’s style like on set? What approach does he take?
HATHAWAY: Synesthetic. It’s kind of synesthetic in that it’s abstract, he’ll come up to you and he’ll be like, “you know, I really saw the color blue when I wrote this,” and then he’ll walk away.
SUDEIKIS: Or scamper. He’s a scamperer.
HATHAWAY: He’s like a little woodland creature.
SUDEIKIS: In fact, we filmed on Halloween, and I don’t think anyone dressed up except for him and he was in a skintight leopard suit.
HATHAWAY: Catsuit. And ears. And I think it was the day of your big scene.
SUDEIKIS: Oh, the fireworks?
HATHAWAY: The fireworks scene. And he was coming up and giving really straight direction, dressed as this sort of fun, urban jungle cat. So it was a lot of fun, it was very playful, he cares very much. But he’s kind of like this effervescent scream. He’s fun and bubbly, and a little bit wild but never out of control.
SUDEIKIS: He’s that twelve-year-old you see on the playground and you’re like, “what’s he doing? What’s that guy doing?” And you’re curious about him. Probably a problem child.
Was it a reference to Catwoman?
HATHAWAY: I don’t think it was, I really don’t. And the thing about Nacho was like, a couple things he did that were so endearing. I’ve worked with other directors, where, as the film goes on and things start to get tight, you’re always running out of time, this and that. I have worked with filmmakers who have dealt with that by drinking, dealt with that by yelling. And I noticed when we were running behind, Nacho would deal with that by pulling out comic books. Showing me comic books. And that was his way of handling that and staying calm, was to share that.
SUDEIKIS: Or playing iPad games.
HATHAWAY: Like, yeah. It was just so sweet and I love that. And my other favorite thing was when we started, we got to the production office in Langley, and Nacho sits down and he goes, “I have so much money on this movie, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” And I was like, “that is exactly what you want to hear as you begin this process.” You don’t hear someone going, “I don’t have any money, how am I going to make this work?” He’s going, “Can you believe what they gave me?”
Are you looking for more projects like this, for directors you don’t know of from many countries?
HATHAWAY: I’ve been doing that anyway, this is the first one that bore fruit that I can share. But yeah, no, I’m looking at some weirdo stuff. Don’t worry. Hopefully we’ll be back at TIFF, having a continuation of this conversation in the next couple years.
Can you relate to this whole reunion feeling, this going back somewhere? Are you still in contact with your friends from the playground?
HATHAWAY: Oh, yeah.
SUDEIKIS: Yes, oh yeah. I do, I think it is an interesting feel. Even my character, paying so much attention, knowing how her character was fired from her writing job, the way Austin [Stowell] was such a sharp guy. The smartest people can play the dumbest people so well, his innocence, is not too dissimilar to the experience of being in movies and television and then going home to our towns and everyone’s like, “oh, you’re back in town!” There’s a level of, everything’s the same and everything is very, very different that I would imagine, that’s what I was thinking about to a degree. Gloria is almost like a celebrity, she’s “the one that made it out.” Felt similar to me. And my enthusiasm that I feel for my friends, especially in the first act, when I come home, I hope they don’t have the same feelings for me that Oscar has for Gloria. I’ll have to go through their texts when they’re not looking.
HATHAWAY: I do too. At the moment, my oldest friendships date back to when I was five. And we’re still in our lives. I’m really gratified, my friends from elementary school, middle school, and high school, we all make it a point to get together at least once a year, twice a year. You know, phones have become such a godsend for that. If you miss someone, you write them a text, it’s not such a big, heavy thing where I have to write you a letter recounting the last ten years. You can just be like, “yo, dude, what’s up?”
SUDEIKIS: An emoji.
HATHAWAY: Even just an emoji, like… I have this one friend who’s obsessed with the snowboarder emoji and I’m just like, “why?” and he’s like “because I’m chill.” [laughs] And then, yeah, I made a second group of friends in college and we’re all like, they’re my extended family. That’s important. For all the stock, cliched reasons of you want people that knew you back when and all that, but also that instantaneous things that your spine does when you’re with someone that you’ve had the privilege of knowing and trusting for, in my case, almost thirty years. I mean, it’s a particular drip that goes down your spine, it’s so sweet.
I’ve been asking a lot of people about what they collect. So for both of you, what do you collect?
SUDEIKIS: It’s functional.
HATHAWAY: It is, it’s functional. I do like a nice chair. I love a well-made mid-century chair. Oh, Charlotte Perriand, I can’t.
SUDEIKIS: Have you seen that Eames documentary?
HATHAWAY: No, I haven’t. Now I’m gonna. That’s my flight home. So, yeah, I really love furniture.
Where do you put it all?
HATHAWAY: It’s a constant process of getting and letting go. So you say, “okay, I can’t have this one anymore.” And you give a lot of gifts, you let people borrow things for long periods of time. That and I collect books. Not consciously, like I don’t go out and buy a bunch of first volumes, I just can’t stop myself from getting them, I love books. So that’s a little bit tough.
SUDEIKIS: I have a lot of sneakers.
HATHAWAY: You do have a lot of sneakers.
SUDEIKIS: That’s been a big thing for a while. And that’s sort of rooting in playing sports. It’s kind of nuts now that I get them for free. I’m very flattered that the Jordan brand sends me $150 sneakers for free, because I probably would have bought them anyway. And then cameras. And pinball machines. That’s the thing.
How many do you own?
SUDEIKIS: I’ll follow up with you privately, I don’t want to bore these guys.
HATHAWAY: Do you remember that pinball bar that we went to up in Vancouver?
SUDEIKIS: Yes, someone said it – Lamp Lighter.
HATHAWAY: Lamp Lighter. If you’re in Vancouver and you like pinball, there’s your place.
What about the idea to have your monster outside of you, in real life?
HATHAWAY: Oh, my god I wish we could. Without the death and destruction it’d be so cathartic. I gotta say, one of the things I love about this movie so much, that I don’t always see in movies, Gloria feels the weight of her actions. She’s a pretty isolated drunk when you meet her. And obviously because of the movie’s more fantastical elements, we don’t have this represented in her life, but her shadow self blowing up in her face the way it does and disrupting people’s lives in the way it does, it gets her through therapy like that. The stakes become so high for her. And I don’t want to drudge up the past, I really, really, really don’t, but I did have my monster out there. I did have the internet turn on me and hate me and it was a whole big thing. And it was an important thing for me, you can become incredibly empowered and more self-actualized because of those things. So I guess what I’d say is, when the bad shit happens, don’t fear it, go with it, flow with it. So if this happens to us, I actually think without the loss of life, I think people would actually be a lot better off for it.
In March, you gave birth. When did you shoot this movie?
HATHAWAY: I was pregnant. I was about 15 weeks pregnant when we started the movie.
Oh, wow. Does now, will you be changing your professional life in adjustment to the circumstances?
HATHAWAY: I don’t know, I don’t know. Yesterday was my first full work day. I’ve done like little pockets of press, a little thing here, or a quick photo shoot. Yesterday was a day where I was gone all day, came home, spent time with him and then had to go out again at night. And I gotta say, it was hard. And I don’t even know of the word to describe it, please help me out if any of you can, because I was so happy to show the film and so gratified that it was showing at TIFF. And I all wanted to do was stay home with my baby.
HATHAWAY: And also not, because confliction implies an unpleasant experience and I’m just aware how privilege this tear is. I only have negative words to describe this experience.
HATHAWAY: Even mixed emotions implies like –
SUDEIKIS: We gotta invent this word.
HATHAWAY: Maybe that’s what it is. Mixed emotions always implies lack of satisfaction to me, and I didn’t feel unsatisfied. I just kind of felt like I was taking a step back and observing these very strong pulls that I was having and acknowledging them.
SUDEIKIS: Oh, I know: lucky.
HATHAWAY: Thank you. [laughs] That was really good! I felt conflicted and lucky. Con-luck-ted.