Navigating the Past and Present: A Conversation with Gilles Paquet-Brenner for the Home Entertainment release of DARK PLACES
Libby Day (Theron) was only eight years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Almost thirty years later, she agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night, but what happens when you try to find light in dark places?
DARK PLACES features an all-star leading Hollywood cast including; Charlize Theron (Prometheus, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Libby Day, the protagonist; Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, X-Men: Dys of Future Past, Kill Your Friends) is Lyle Wirth, the leader of the Kill Club, a club fascinated with true crime; Christina Hendricks (Drive, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Mad Men) is Patty Day, Libby’s mother; Corey Stoll (House of Cards, The Good Lie, Homeland, Ant-Man) as Libby’s brother, Ben Day, and Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo, Dark Shadows, Carrie) plays a young Diondra Wertzner, Ben Day’s secret girlfriend.
The Fan Carpet's Jen Scouler spoke to Gilles Paquet-Brenner about Dark Places, he tells us about getting the story adapted to the big screen, working with Gillian Flynn and directing the younger cast...
How did Dark Places first get into production?
For production, you have to go back to when I read the book actually. I read the book in 2010 when I was finishing my previous film called Sarah’s Key and I read the book and fell in love with it and it was before Gone Girl was even written. At the time, it was this small, dark thriller that I love and we acquired the rights and started to write the script. Then what happened was that Sarah’s Key played well internationally and was successful and then Gillian Flynn became this sensation so it helped us tremendously and it attracted a lot of actors interest.
Your last film Sarah’s Key was also based on a novel. Do you find particular challenges in adapting a novel as a writer and director?
I guess it depends on the novels. Some novels are very, very cinematic which was the case for both Sarah’s Key and Dark Places. It was challenging for Dark Places in a way in that there was a lot of materials, a lot of characters, a lot of timelines and events. So obviously, when you have to put that into a 2 hour movie, that’s a bit challenging.
Did Gillian Flynn have a lot of say in the film’s production?
Well, we became friends and I consulted her- when there was a new draft I would send it to her and she would give opinions on things but usually she was pretty happy, she liked what I did. It was an informal collaboration but she was very respectful of what I was doing anyway.
Do you think you could direct without writing or is writing always going to be a big part for you in doing movies?
I don’t know if I feel like a real writer. In France, that’s what we do but now, if I get the perfect script, I certainly won’t touch it. It’s not an obligation for me to write. It might be a bit harder because when you’re a writer with a director, sometime the director does not agree with the writer. So when you’re the writer it’s easier to make difficult decisions!
Of course a lot of the film is moving back between past and present. How did you find balancing those timelines?
You just do it the way you feel is right! Sarah’s Key had the same structure so i was kind of used to it and it didn’t feel so challenging to me. The only thing is that it goes back and forth a lot more in Dark Places so in the editing room it was a bit of a challenge because you could have had scenes that were too short.
How did you find the cast and how was your time working with it?
When Gone Girl became this sensation, we had a lot of interest from actors. I don’t remember exactly how Charlize Theron came into the conversation but we’re in the same agency and she really liked the project. Once she signed on, we were flooded with phone calls from agents because everyone wanted to be a part of it. It was great, for me to have access to all these amazing actors that wanted to be in the project and it was a blessing. It’s a very small movie, I know it doesn’t look like it because of the cast but we shot in 24 days, in Louisiana, and they brought their A-game because they really liked the project so much.
Christina Hendricks is really fantastic in this film. How did her casting come about, because of course some might see her as being cast against type?
Of course, she has this image from Mad Men but I think that she’s really an amazing actress. You know, they’re actors, they can play supposedly almost anything! (laughs) She was the right age, she’s a great actress and it felt pretty natural.
Was it a challenge directing the younger cast in some of the difficult scenes?
Well what you see on screen is not what we experience on set. The kids were having fun together actually on set so it wasn’t that gloomy, where everyone was depressed on set. We were just running around like crazy because the schedule was so tight.
Did you feel like you had to take a break because of the dark content?
Not really, what’s weird is when you do comedy there’s a lot of pressure. You’re terrified not to be funny but when you’re making dark movies or horror you’ll see that people actually have fun doing them. Now, what was pretty heavy was the scene with Charlize and Corey (Stoll) in the prison. That was amazing but yeah, that was quite heavy because it was a 6, 7 page long scene about a very heavy concept.
It depends on the actor as well. Chloe (Grace-Moretz), you push a button and she’s there. It’s very easy for her! Other actors have to be in a sort of mood to get into that mindset.
DARK PLACES is out on Blu-ray™ and DVD from February 22, courtesy of Entertainment One