With Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice now playing in theaters around the world, last week I sat down with Holly Hunter for an exclusive interview about the film. During our wide-ranging conversation she talked about how she got involved in the project, memorable moments from filming, keeping the twists and turns under wraps, if the script changed during production, what she knows about Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2, getting to work with Terrence Malick on Weightless, and a lot more.
Finally, I strongly recommend seeing Batman v Superman in IMAX if you have the option. Snyder filmed a number of scenes using their cameras and the footage is spectacular.
Collider: Were you or are you one of these comic book fans where you understood what you were getting yourself into when Zack [Snyder] asked you to be in this film.
HOLLY HUNTER: No, not at all. I’m not engaged in any way, not even remotely, with this world. And having said that, there are many reasons that people can engage and that I can engage with this genre with superheroes. Being somebody who’s like a theater geek that I am, I can just go right back to Aeschylus and Euripides and Sophocles, they were writing about gods and goddesses versus humans, and how gods could distort pervert or help people get what they want. And so, for me this didn’t feel foreign because that was the translation that it went through for me, that was my filter. But Zack called me and asked me to do it and I thought, “What are the downsides? None.” He’s an incredibly persuasive, incredibly confident, joyful guy. He is a fearless leader and does it with an incredible generosity to his actors.
Did you find once you were announced as a part of this that you had a lot of friends and family that wanted to visit you on set?
HUNTER: [laughs] Well, it was being shot in Detroit under some security, so actually that was not a big problem.
How has it been for you though, because these kinds of movies are highly secretive where the plot really matters, because you want the twists and turns to make it to the theater…
HUNTER: And it seems like this one has been successfully secretive, you know, this movie has not been leaked on the internet.
And also major plot points have managed not to be discussed yet.
HUNTER: It’s kind of amazing.
It’s amazing when you think about how many twists and turns there are.
HUNTER: And how big the internet is, just how massive. And how many extras were on this movie, I mean, there were people all around and over this movie.
Has it been a challenge for you, because I’m not sure if you’ve ever been a part of something like this where it’s so secretive, has it been tough to not talk about it with people?
HUNTER: Well certainly I’ve been asked many, many times about what happens, but I keep good secrets.
Before I run out of time I’m gonna switch gears and talk about this. I love The Incredibles, and it made my day and the entire internet’s day when Brad [Bird] was like, “Yeah we’re gonna make a sequel”. How long were you pestering him and when did you find out?
HUNTER: We never talked about it, I’ve never, ever talked to Brad about it, ever, not once. Never.
So you never called him and were like, “You know, a sequel could be fun”?
HUNTER: No. How I kind of feel about that stuff is like, I would never call a director buddy of mine and say, “Hey, when are we gonna work together again? Make up something for me to do, please.” Because the creative process is so private and it’s got to be so central to the person creating it, that if Brad doesn’t feel it, he shouldn’t do it. So, me kind of pestering somebody and being over them on the periphery going, “Hey, hey, hey” I feel like that’s just noise. For the person it’s got to be an organic, intrinsic desire from the creator, and in that case it was Brad Bird. So he’s writing it and he’s gonna direct it, and that’s a God-given gift for The Incredibles Part 2.
When did he call you, or when did you first hear this was happening?
HUNTER: That was happening right around the time that Tomorrowland was being released, Brad made an announcement that he was going to direct it. Because there was already an undercurrent of information about that he had written it, that he is in the process of writing it. But then when he made the announcement that he was going to direct it as well, then that was kind of like a real seal of it being definitive.
There are so many cool pieces of merchandise regarding The Incredibles, do you own one thing that you cherish?
HUNTER: Yeah, Mr. Incredible, I own the original – I don’t know if there is a particular name for it, but it’s the form of mister incredible, it’s the mold. I got the Mr. Incredible mold, the 3D, you know, it’s cool.
What’s the technical term for that? A maquette? Or is it a statue?
HUNTER: Yeah, it’s like a statue, but it’s plain grey, so it’s like the industrial mold that they use to kind of make the 3D. There is a specific name for it, but of The Incredibles, that’s my favorite thing.
My last thing about the sequel. Have they said anything to you about when you might start recording stuff, or nothing?
HUNTER: No, not yet. But it’s gonna be – it’s imminent, it’s imminent. That’s gonna start happening like in a month or [something] like that. It’s gonna be now.
It’s great because Kristen Bell just told us that she’s gonna start recording Frozen 2 like next month, and if you’re doing Incredibles 2 – I like original stories, but I’m looking forward to both of those as far as sequels, and hoping that [John] Lasseter and everyone have the stories.
HUNTER: Well, they do good stuff.
Jumping back into Batman v Superman, how much of the script did you get, how much of the story did you want to know prior to filming?
HUNTER: Well, I wanted to know as much as I could, but very few people got the entire script, I never got the entire script and the spoiler that we don’t wanna go into, but I only got a certain amount of the script, and then after that it was a complete mystery. I mean, I knew that Wonder Woman had a real impact towards the end of the movie because Zack and I talked about that, and so did Chris Terrio, the writer, and he was a really provocative guy to have around, he was really fun.
From when you first got your pages of the script to what we see on the screen, how much changed along the way in terms of script, character, and dialogue?
So it was really tight then?
HUNTER: Well, maybe, I think. I love the line “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” — that was something that I wanted put in the script because I thought it was so pertinent and so concise as to the crux of this dynamic that my character was bringing. What is her problem with Superman? That absolute power corrupts absolutely, when power is acting autonomously, unilaterally with no legislation, with no boundaries, with no law, except for the ones that he deems in his own mind, that can be detrimental.
It’s interesting playing a senator in these political times, it’s crazy when you turn on the TV, literally.
HUNTER: Literally, it’s nuts. Makes you go, “Ok, this is certifiably nuts.”
If people were doing what is going on as a movie, people wouldn’t believe it’s real.
HUNTER: That’s too big.
It’s crazy talk. So I have to say, you’re playing what seems to be a rational person having rational conversations, so who do you look to? Because very few people out there are acting with sense.
HUNTER: I happen to be flanked in the movie with Patrick Leahy, who is a senator from Vermont, and Leahy is an extremely rational, even-tempered guy and I really dig him, he’s a fabulous guy. And I had spent a little bit of time with Dick Durbin –You know, over the course of going to Washington DC, even beginning with Broadcast News when I met a lot of those guys when we were doing that movie in the ‘80s, Durbin has always been an incredibly amazing person to me. But you know, Susan Collins is a republican and she’s just kind of very open-minded democratic woman, and I think that Hilary Clinton, the way that Hilary listens is a thing of beauty. She listens with a certain dignity and in terms of how she takes in and the way that she absorbs someone’s questions, ponderances, observations, I find her very compelling and very admirable. When you see her in these debates she’s not interrupting or judging or making faces, she’s very…
HUNTER: She’s presidential in that way, and that was something that I very much wanted Finch to inhabit.
Before I run out of time, I believe you worked with [Terrence] Malick on Weightless, was it a day, was it a few?
HUNTER: He’s just so cool.
He’s a very individual filmmaker, very unique.
HUNTER: No one’s remotely like Terry, no one, no one. Terry’s off the charts.
At the same time, you could spend six months working with him and then not be in the movie.
HUNTER: That’s right, and when I took the movie I went, “You know, I don’t care, I don’t care. If I’m not in this movie, that’s ok. I wanna work with Terry” because I just wanted the experience.
So how long did you end up shooting on that one?
HUNTER: Like ten days.
So there’s a good chance you’re still in it, hopefully.
HUNTER: I’m still in it.
Did he tell you that?
Ok, that’s good. Have you seen it?
HUNTER: No. I mean, maybe I’m in it this long, maybe I’m in it that much. But the experience was completely unforgettable.
What is it like for you working with someone who could literally be placing the camera on your feet and you’re still doing the scene?
HUNTER: It’s like, “Oh, wow! You can actually make a movie like this.” He sets moviemaking on its head.
Did you have a memory of those ten days you’ll always remember from working with him?
HUNTER: Yeah, I’ll say I would finish doing a scene and then it’s like Terry’s leaving, we would finish doing the scene and Terry would say, “Oh that was so wonderful, that was absolutely great Holly.” And then he would be like leaving the room and I knew I had to follow him, because in 30 seconds we were gonna start shooting the next scene. It’s like running on the heels of Terry, and the DP, and any other actor in the next scene, because we were gonna start rolling as soon as we arrived at the location, and the location could be right there, we could be shooting here and then he’d start shooting the next scene right there where the light is so it was like, “You’re going.” It was like doing a documentary or something.