Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon premiered to two full houses on the first night of SXSW last night in Austin, clearly a victory for a first time filmmaker with a unique vision. I sat down with her this morning at the Driskill hotel to talk about the relationship inspiration behind the film, scoring “Game Of Thrones” star Rose Leslie and her love of Rosemary’s Baby and Cronenberg-ian body horror.
In the film, “Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods.”
Last night during the Q&A you said the film comes from a place a lot of people get to, where they look at the person they’re with and ask, “who is this person?” Is there a specific instance of this that inspired it?
There wasn’t a specific moment before we wrote the script but part of the thing is, and this is going to get weird now, my boyfriend is a twin. We used to all live together, the three of us. And there was a moment when we were all in Vancouver while my boyfriend was shooting his first movie where I woke up and saw my boyfriend standing next to his computer. I didn’t have my glasses on yet and I walked over and touched his back a little bit and he turned around and it was his brother. That moment was so terrible! We were like, “ugh!” To touch someone in this familiar way and have it be completely different… those moments hit home for me.
Even small moments though can drive a wedge between people. “I don’t like this movie.” “What are you talking about? Of course you like this movie.”
You can tell they’re trying really hard to make the honeymoon work. There’s a pressure there to not disappoint the other person.
That’s interesting, I think that’s one of the reasons we went to a honeymoon. It’s this protected space where it’s just you guys away from the world, whether you’re at a resort or a cabin. You’ve made the decision for this little amount of time the blackberries are going away and there’s the pressure of, “we have to make this good.” I’m not sure what it’s like, I’m not married, but it also seems like there’s just a lot of cultural stress.
Where in the “Game Of Thrones” trajectory did Rose Leslie come onboard? That’s quite a get.
I love Rose, she was my first choice. We shot in the spring of last year, after season 2 of “Game Of Thrones.” But her character wasn’t in that season that much. The big John Snow cave scene, that aired while we were shooting. And part of it, I said last night, I had read the “Game Of Thrones” books and Ygritte was my favorite character. I knew her trajectory, I knew where she was going. When Rose started playing her I thought she was amazing and was really nailing that energy. I just thought she was a star. I felt really really lucky to have her.
You mentioned a preference for Cronenberg body horror as well as Polanksi’s Rosemary’s Baby. There’s a scene in the film where both of those elements collide – I don’t want to spoil it for anyone – but what was the process of that like? It’s fairly nightmarish.
There’s an invasive quality there that’s something I probably wasn’t quite as cognizant of as I should have been. There are a couple of scenes that are… invasive, for lack of a better word. We put it later in the shoot a bit so they had time to settle into their characters and it was difficult. She’s very vulnerable in both of those scenes and understood so much of what this transformation was that she was able to feel comfortable doing it. The crew was able to make her feel comfortable as well. The makeup artist was really good about making her feel protected. As an actor you’re always in a vulnerable position, but this was particularly hard.