Florian Zeller Talks Mental Health in Hugh Jackman’s ‘The Son’ Personal Request – The Hollywood Reporter


Little Appreciate this kind of directorial debut Florian Zeller It was a pleasure to work with The father. The 2020 drama – based on its own acclaimed dementia play and ingeniously leading its audience through an immersive maze of disorientation and confusion – was a critical and commercial success. The film was also a big hit during awards season, earning a number of nominations. Zeller Son co-screenwriter Christopher Hampton won Best Adapted Screenplay and Anthony Hopkins Award for Best Actor at both Oscar BAFTAs.

Two years later, and still the Parisian His second feature film is now available. Adapted from another of his plays The son This time, we tackle the subject of depression, focusing on 17-year-old Nicholas – an extraordinary turn from newcomer Zen McGrath – whose growing struggle with mental health begins to devastate the lives of his parents, especially his high-flying New York lawyer. father (a moving hammer performance by Hugh Jackman). Has his separation from his (loving) wife been finalized. Laura Dern) and recent baby with a new partner (Vanessa Kirby (to blame?) While Nicholas makes the accusation, the film – mostly shot in London – doesn’t seek to point fingers (or even suggest that there is something to point to), and only deals with the crippling consequences.

Talk to The Hollywood Reporter To be ahead The sonof the world premiere in Venice, Zeller speaks of the need to share the emotional pain of parental helplessness, struggling with himself to tell a story much simpler than a story with the complexities of The fatherHow and why? Jackman He graciously offered himself to the role. He also describes how he selected his young star. Zoom, but didn’t meet McGrath in person until three days before filming.

When you wrote the original play The fatherYou shared your experiences with your grandmother about dementia. Do The son Also, personal experiences can be helpful?

Yes, this is a personal experience. It’s not my story in terms of characters or situations, but it has to do with my own emotions. So it wasn’t because I wanted to tell my own story, it was more because I felt there were so many people connected to these kinds of issues and it would be meaningful to share those emotions. Like with The fatherWhen we performed the play, people were waiting for us after each performance to share their experiences. And surprisingly, I found myself connected to the truth. It’s that so many people know what’s going on with the story. Maybe it’s because it’s about what it’s like to be a father or a mother, and sometimes you have to accept that you’re helpless. Being a parent is part of the experience. And sometimes love is not enough and it is a real pain to accept it. It was therefore more important to share my emotions than to tell my own story. But it’s true that it came from a personal place, which is why it was so important for me to tell this story, and not another. I couldn’t have made any other film than that.

The son doesn’t focus on the cause of the depression but just treats it like the monster it is. What was the inspiration behind this decision?

Because I think that’s part of the mental health issue, it’s like a mystery. You can’t figure out exactly why it’s there. This may seem unfair, as there is no clear explanation and, in a way, it is no one’s fault. But because we are human, we feel guilty. From We mention that there was a divorce, but I didn’t intend to tell a story about what might happen if that happens, because that’s not what I believe. But we try to find explanations for what we are going through, especially mental health. And from the son’s perspective, he doesn’t understand why he’s going through this pain, so he needs an explanation and the easiest way to figure it out is that it’s because of his parents. We do it because that’s what we do. And the father grapples with his guilt, believing it’s all his fault. And that’s why he almost looks like a tragic character.

Most directors don’t have the kind of success with their first movie that you had with The father. This extra pressure may have been created for you. The son? Do you feel a heavier expectation weight?

Although I wish I could say yes, the truth is no. I was able to relax and not feel pressured during filming. I know it was the movie I had always wanted to make. And it was clear to me why and how I wanted this to happen. So I didn’t question anything about what people expected of me. But now he’s about to come out, but I’m starting to think, “Oh, I get your question.”

Because The father It all played out like a puzzle that I couldn’t solve. It only became apparent at the end when I started watching. The sonI thought you made a puzzle or you were playing with me. Was this something you should consider?

Most of my rooms are built like a maze, but in fact the only one that isn’t is The son. It’s very simple, very linear. My instinct is to create more complex narratives. However, I remember having to control my urge to be simple. Because I knew the audience had to believe every moment of the film to make the last scene as captivating as possible.

How easy it was to find your son. And how did you land? Zen McGrath?

Many young actors appeared on the set, which I appreciated. Zoom, because at the time you couldn’t meet people. And it was a very exciting process – I knew that somewhere there was someone who would be that character, and that it would be an important journey for all of us. But then I saw it! ZenIt was obvious that I wanted him to play Nicolas. It’s very subjective and intuitive and it’s very difficult to do it on Zoom. And to make matters even more difficult, he was in Australia. But I knew it was made for me. The combination of strong fragility, sensitivity and the ability to feel those emotions was what I felt. But we only met for the first time in person a few days before we started filming.

Bringing Hugh Jackman to Nicolas’ father was a particularly successful casting. How did it happen ?

It happened in a unique way. He wrote to me when I was just starting to talk to agents. For me, it was so unique. He said he saw The father The game The son When I heard that I was working to adapt, I apologized. However, if I was already in conversation with someone, that would be great. If not, please give me 15 minutes so I can understand why he should. I was so impressed with his honesty and humility. So we met on ZoomIt was striking after about 15 minutes because I felt he was that character. He wasn’t cheating or trying to perform, he was just talking with me and being himself, and I felt every element I needed. He is a very special human being, quite extraordinary. And I’m not saying that out of courtesy.

And Without giving anything away, Anthony Hopkins – your Oscar A father who won The father — has a small but great scene in which he plays a rather brilliant bastard. Is he your lucky charm

In fact, he was the first to read the script. As soon as I was done, I sent it to him. I really respect his sensitivity. And sure enough, he noticed the character’s name was Anthony. And what was funny is that it’s really the opposite of The father. In this he is completely in control.

For The son You were also invited on board See-Saw Films Production companies They are obviously creators of prestigious tastes with an incredible track record, but what did they bring to the film?

I met Iain CanningAlso available on ZoomWe get along. I love his movies. And he had also done a few films in New York. You can also use it as a UK producer — the main one I’m talking about is Shame, who I really, really respected – so I thought he might help me with this translation. Even if I didn’t want to tell an American story. I wanted it to be related to American reality. Especially Every country is different when it comes to psychiatry. So he was extremely helpful during this process. But it was great to work alongside a producer who made films that you admire.

Since you quickly went from The father To The sonare we to assume that you – and Christopher Hampton – are adapting the third play in your trilogy, The mother?

No I’m not. Still. I’m still in The son, To be honest but it’s true that it’s linked to The father The son. It crossed my mind.

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