Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, and Francis Lawrence take a moment out of their day to talk powerful characterization, finding something new in a worn-out genre, and women taking their power back.
It’s been nearly thirty years since the Berlin Wall fell. It was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. No longer would the devastating tête-à-tête continue between the powers that be in Washington and Moscow. Finally, their satellite playing ground of Berlin would be unified under one German banner. Families would reunite, friends would catch up, and old grudges would fall to the wayside. It was a joyous moment, one that signaled to many the end of long-standing socio-political strife and misfortune. Perhaps finally, humans would enter the unknown epoch of lasting peace and civility. Fast forward to 2017, and it seems that nothing is further from the truth.
With each passing day and each passing disagreement between leaders, the once forgotten Cold War has seemingly begun to grow ever closer to becoming a new, albeit rehashed, reality. That unthinkable reality is the one that Francis Lawrence attempts to shine a light on in a remarkably brutally espionage film, Red Sparrow. Starring Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova and Joel Edgerton as Nathaniel “Nate” Nash, Red Sparrow plays out as if that fateful day at Checkpoint Charlie never materialized. Telling the story of Egorova, the once famed ballerina suffers a career-ending injury that leaves her with few options. As bills pile up and her mother grows ever sicker, Egorova agrees to become a spy for the Russian government. Soon, her topsy-turvy journey through the clandestine world leads her on a mission where she is tasked with seducing Nash. Before long, she faces a decision that will surely change her life forever. Director Francis Lawrence, along with stars Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton took the time out of their day to discuss the inherent barbarity of the film, gaining control, and delving into their respective characters. Check out what they had to say below.
This Ain’t No Bond Flick
James Bond has become the synonymous film representative for spy pictures. Whether it’s his tuxedo-clad presence or his gadget heavy execution of his mission, James Bond has always come off more as a upper class Brit than a tough-as-nails spy. It seems that Red Sparrow is ready to change all of that. Whether it’s the discomforting rape scenes or the visceral torture sequences, Red Sparrow seldom shies away from the reality that many spies face on a daily basis. There are no rainbows and sunshine here–it’s all murky, grey, and amoral. But that’s just the day in the life of Sparrows.
I’ve never seen a spy movie done this way,” Said Jennifer Lawrence. “It’s not glamorizing anything. It’s actually showing the brutality of such a lifestyle. The brutality, the anxiety, the lies, the deceit,” reflected the Oscar-winning actress. And that certainly is on full view, as many viewers will likely find some of the sequences wildly violent and sickeningly refreshing. Lawrence also added that “seeing this world of abuse, especially sexual abuse, through the lens of a woman who comes out and gets her power back by using her intellect was very inspiring to me,” noting that it was one of the main reasons she signed on to the film.
On Becoming a Pseudo-Ballerina
Method acting is one of the most respected ways in which an actor can prepare for a role. And ironically enough, the Method derives from one Constantin Stanislavski who created the rigorous practice back at the turn of the 20th century. Ever since then, famed actors including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall and many, many more have come to rely on it’s demanding terms to achieve total immersion into their characters. And it seems that J-Law is no different when it came to preparing for her role in Red Sparrow, learning how to become a ballerina to prepare her for her role as Egorova.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. My end goal is not to be a ballerina. I had trouble finding the wherewithal to keep going,” revealed Lawrence. “But then halfway through training, I started feeling my muscles changing and my body language changing. I began understanding the mental and physical discipline and mindset of a dancer.” It was at that point that the actor, “realized that all of this work was actually character building. It changed the way she moved. It changed the way she looked and walked. It was just another layer onto Dominka.” Lawrence’s immersion into the role paid off, as her presence as Egorova is both chilling and poised.
Sometimes the Spies Are (or Really Want to Be) Good Guys
In a world where good is bad, bad is good, and vice versa all at the same time, it can be difficult to know just what morality is anymore. It’s a loose term in the world of spying, one that is in constant flux, with each new day meaning a new paradigm of operation. But to some spies, it seems that that sense of morality seldom changes when all they want to do is make improve upon the state of things.
“It seemed to me from meeting Jason [Matthews], who wrote the book and was himself an ex-CIA operative, that he tried making the world a better place,” said Joel Edgerton. “There’s a lot of operatives that go into the field and become operatives because they think they can make the world a better place. Having that optimistic view of the world, at the same time ironically, makes Nate kind of bad at his job [laughs],” pondered the Golden Globe-nominated actor. “You should be more cynical and put every judgment through a more cynical filter. But I think Jason must think that that was one of those things about working for the government that you start with feeling that the world should be a better place. Nate is just truly a good guy.”
On Reinvigorating the Genre Film
Genre films are a classic staple of American cinema. They are the pictures that everyone knows, adores, and relates to in one way or another. They satisfy the cinephiles checklist and the average moviegoers standardization of form. And while some may point out that genre films seldom achieve anything new or worthwhile, director Francis Lawrence recognizes this as a worthy challenge to overcome.
“One of the things that I loved about the book was that it felt really authentic,” said Francis Lawrence. “I think that it is by far the most specifically genre thing I’ve ever done. I’m always a bit weary of doing things that are very specific to a genre because they are typically really well-worn. So you always want to do something unique,” added Lawrence. The director concluded by saying, “the authenticity of the world felt very unique to me. But really, the character journey felt unique and the humanity of the characters involved felt unique to me.”
Red Sparrow is set to hit theaters March 2.