From director Rob King and writer Arne Olsen, the thriller Distorted follows Lauren Curran (Christina Ricci), a young woman who moves into a luxury condo with state-of-the-art features and security systems with her husband, Russel (Brendan Fletcher). Once they move in, Lauren begins to suspect that the building has a dark side and, with the help of an investigative journalist (John Cusack) with an interest in cyber conspiracy, discovers that it may actually be brainwashing its unsuspecting residents.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Christina Ricci talked about what attracted her to this character, why she has a difficult time with technology, being a bit starstruck to work with John Cusack, and the biggest challenges of making Distorted. She also talked about being heartbroken over the cancellation of her Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything, looking for another TV project, and that she’d like to try her hand at directing.
Collider: It’s always so interesting to talk to you about the roles you’re playing because you play such interesting characters. We last spoke when you played Zelda Fitzgerald, and this woman in Distorted is definitely a complex woman.
CHRISTINA RICCI: Yeah, this character is the reason that I took the movie. I’ve never played anyone and recovering from this amount of loss. Being a mother myself, it really meant something to me, this level of loss, so it was something that I was very interested in playing.
How did this come your way?
RICCI: The usual channels. I got an offer through my agent.
I love the look of this film. The hallways of the apartment building feel very much like The Shining. Did you find the aesthetic creepy?
RICCI: Yeah, it’s very creepy. I think the idea of a house itself being alive, like in The Shining, is terrifying for us. The more technology starts to animate our inanimate objects, the more magical thinking and that childish fear creeps in.
I’ve seen quite a few movies recently that explore issues of privacy and technology and manipulation, and how that can all work within itself. It’s very personally scary to think about things like that. Could you ever see yourself living in a smart home, or would you personally avoid something like that?
RICCI: I don’t know. I have a very difficult time with technology. I don’t want to admit this because I feel like it’s like admitting that you can’t read, but I am terrible with technology and I tend to break things, just by being close to them. I don’t think that I would do well in a smart home. I also find it really disturbing to be so dependent on technology. It’s that idea of, what happens if everything fails? What happens when you lose your phone and it’s like the end of the world? It’s definitely a little disturbing. Life is so much easier, but should the thing that you’re depending on break, you’re screwed. Four years ago, my phone broke in New York and I thought, “Oh, I’ll just use a payphone.” Now, there aren’t any payphones. You can’t call anyone. It’s really interesting. It opens so much up, but then it really limits you, in other ways, which I think people should be more aware of.
As someone with a child who is growing up in a world surrounded by technology and who won’t know what it was like before that, do you notice that your own child interacts different with technology than you do?
RICCI: Yeah. These things are intuitive. He could swipe the iPad thing before he could speak or walk. Obviously, they have more access and they think differently. They’ll never know what it’s like to grow up in a world where this has not always been the norm. I feel very distant from the younger generation, I have to say, because I feel like it is such a disconnect.
In what ways did you most easily identify with this character, and was there research that you did to understand the other aspects of her, as far as the grief or the illness that she’s struggling with?
RICCI: Yeah. I familiarized myself with what version of emotional issue or mental stability we were going to go with for this character. And then, beyond that, I was able to really extrapolate and imagine knowing how much I love my child and what that would do to me. I don’t know. I might not recover the way that she has, but I was able to draw on my own life a bit.
I really liked the fact that her illness, which could be perceived as a weakness, is something that actually helps make her stronger, in this situation. Was that something that also stood out for you, the fact that because of her illness, she’s actually more aware of what’s going on?
RICCI: Yeah, that was interesting, and it’s very smart. It’s a smart device that was used to tell this story. I think one reason why this movie is more successful than some other movies is that a lot of this is grounded in reality. All of this is possible, so that’s great.
Were there challenges in figuring out and playing such an unreliable protagonist? She’s Suffering from this illness and she’s prone to paranoid delusions, so we don’t know what’s real or if any of it’s real. Was that strange to navigate?
RICCI: I guess so. For me, I just track the emotional and mental journey of the character. When she believes what she’s saying, she believes it. When she doubts herself, that’s very clear, as well. That wasn’t so hard, to be honest.
There’s such an interesting and really very delicate dynamic between this couple. What was that like to explore? Did you and Brendan Fletcher spend any time together to talk about this relationship?
RICCI: We did some rehearsals and we talked about it, at the beginning. It wasn’t really that difficult. Everyone knew what we were doing and knew how to execute it, and Brendan is an incredible actor. It just worked out.