FrightFest interview: Isabel Coixet, director of Another Me
Matthew Turner | On 29, Aug 2015Reading time: 8 mins
Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner turns her hand to horror in Another Me. Co-starring Rhys Ifans and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the story of a teenage girl who discovers she has a sinister double heads straight to VOD on Monday 31st August, following its premiere at FrightFest on Saturday.
We sit down with director Isabel Coixet to talk teens, terrors and the importance of VOD to indie film.
This is your first horror film. How did it come about?
Well the producer, Rebekah Gilbertson, gave me the book, Another Me and we had talked about making something together for years. So she gave me the book, and it was a book for, let’s say, young adults, and I really liked it and I thought there was a very good representation of teenage angst and what happens when you’re 17 and you have problems at home, you have problems at school and you’re searching for yourself. And I worked on the script and I think I found a way to take that book to the screen.
What challenges does working in this particular genre present?
I’ve always loved horror films, those atmospheric films like The Innocents, the Jack Clayton film, or Robert Mulligan’s The Other, all these weird, 70s films where you don’t know exactly what’s happening, but there is something underneath which touches you. And I found inspiration in these films. One of my goals was to use just everyday things, all the things you can find in the kitchen or in your room, and suddenly, with just a little twist of your point-of-view, they can become horrifying. And that’s what I tried to do, incorporate elements of everyday life in a horror film.
Did you watch any particular horror films in preparation for this one?
I watched two films. One is The Ring, because I think this is the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen. I showed The Ring to Sophie (Turner) and The Shining and also we watched The Innocents and I gave her the Henry James’ book [that The Innocents is based on], The Turn of the Screw.
Did you ask the cast to read Cathy MacPhail’s book?
Yes. Everyone. Everyone read it, and even if the script is different, I think the core of that book was always with us. And I think, even if some things are different, there is this search for who you are, it was in her book and it’s also in the movie.
I was going to ask, what elements of the book were you keen to bring across, but I guess that’s the answer, the search for who you really are?
Yes, exactly, who you really are. These moments when you’re seventeen and you look in the mirror, it’s these moments between childhood and adulthood. When you look at your childhood you see the images you have of the happiness of being a child, it’s not there anymore. And that was what was at the core of Cathy McPhail’s book and also in the film.
How did you come to cast Sophie Turner in the lead?
Nobody believes me when I say this, but when I met Sophie, I’d never seen Game of Thrones. Now I’ve seen like three episodes, and that’s enough for me, because it’s not my thing. And also, I’m not one of those TV series addicts. Well, maybe Girls. I’m addicted to that. But Sophie was really amazing in the audition. She prepared two scenes and we did a casting session and then months after we did another one and I thought she was brilliant. And she was perfect and she was also passionate and she was a very good actress. And I also loved her attitude, because she’s amazingly down to earth and I can see she’ll do good things and she’ll go places. And she has a very, very healthy attitude towards fame and that will help her a lot in her life.
What about Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Rhys Ifans? What was it like working with them?
Oh, I love to work with them. I love Rhys Ifans immensely, I think he’s an amazing actor and I love what he does in the movie, and I also love the relationship he created with Sophie, he was very nurturing. And also, Rhys is a poet; Rhys Ifans is a real poet and I love to work with him. He’s a very, very underrated actor. He’s amazingly talented and incredibly sensitive and I would work with him again in a second. And Jonathan was so keen [to play] his character and he also had an amazing relationship with all the kids, he really took this thing about teaching drama very seriously.
Rhys Ifans had four films at the Edinburgh Film Festival his year and he was completely different in each of them…
You know. that’s the beauty of it. Rhys can play completely different characters – he can be an amazing evil guy, but he can be a lovely guy like he is in this movie.
What was the hardest thing to get right, overall?
You know, when you’re on the set, I never find things especially hard. I think, for me, the hardest part of filmmaking is all the world around the filmmaking itself. I think we live in a world where financiers and distributors and all these sales agents, all these things are really hard to me. Making a movie, just filming and editing, it’s wonderful, it’s an amazing adventure and a great journey and I’m always happy on the set. I’m never happy when you have to go to a room and have meetings with people. That, I hate.
So there was no particular kind of on-set challenge like a shot, or a scene, or something like that?
Okay, I have to say some scenes in the underpass tunnels, I felt very guilty because we were in December, in Cardiff, it was so cold and rainy and humid and Sophie was just wearing a t-shirt and getting down and dirty in the mud and I felt guilty to do more than three takes. She was shaking, it was very cold, but I always asked her, “Are you okay? We can wait…”, but she was like, “No, no, let’s do it, let’s do it”. She’s a champ.
I’m assuming you didn’t make Sophie cut her real hair?
No. [Laughs]. You know, she’s in Game of Thrones, we can’t touch her hair!
The film is going straight to VOD after FrightFest. How important is that for independent filmmaking and distribution?
It’s really, really important. There are films where it’s a risk for distributors, so the only way these films can reach an audience is through Amazon or Netflix or Hulu, all these things. In Spain there is FilmIn, which is kind of a Netflix for independent films. I just came from New York, where I was promoting a film called Learning to Drive and the film opened on just two screens in L.A. and two screens in New York, but they were giving me the video on-demand figures and I was amazed. The film can reach an amazing amount of people, a huge audience, so we really need these things.
Are you a VOD user yourself? What have you been watching recently?
Yes, I am. The last film I watched was yesterday – I watched the Alan Rickman film, A Little Chaos, and I loved it. I have to say, I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful film and Kate Winslet is amazing. And this Belgian actor, Matthias Schoenaerts, I love him. I’m completely in love. This guy is an amazing, amazing actor. Also, another film I saw on Netflix was Far From The Madding Crowd, and he’s a really good actor. Rhys Ifans and him, that’s all I need to make a film.
So do you mostly use it to watch films? You said you weren’t a big TV fan…
Films and documentaries. But at the same time, I live in a neighbourhood in Barcelona where I have a really good movie theatre, like two blocks from my house, and they have eight screens and they always have an amazing selection. There are films you have to see in a movie theatre but also there are films that never reach your city. But I’m fine with anything. If a film is good, it comes across, even if you’re at home and watching it on your little shitty computer screen.
What’s your next project?
My next project is a film called The Bookshop. We’re going to shoot in Yorkshire with Emily Mortimer. It’s based on the Penelope Fitzgerald book and I’m hoping to start at the beginning of next year.
Do you have a particular strategy, in terms of whether you work in Spanish or English?
I don’t know. Every story has a language and I’ve done films in French, in Japanese, in Spanish and in English. I was in love with that novel The Bookshop since I read it many years ago and the place to do it is England, and with British actors, so I think that’s the way to go.
Do you think you will work in horror again? Have you got a taste for it now?
I loved the experience, but at the same time… I don’t know. Maybe. It’s not something that’s in my future right now, but I really like the genre. I just saw this New Zealand film, What We Do In The Shadows, and I loved how they used elements of horror films in a comedy, and I would love to do something like that. It’s very, very funny.
Another Me is available to watch on VOD in the UK from Monday 31st August.