Mickey Keating’s (Ritual, Pod) newest directorial effort, Darling, had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX on October 2, 2015. It was one of the most buzzed about films at the festival and I thought it was great. Bloody Disgusting got a chance to discuss the film with Keating himself and Brian Morvant, one of the actors in the film. We met in the “Truly Outrageous” karaoke room in the Highball, the bar that is connected to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, the venue for Fantastic Fest.
Darling follows Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter) as she acts as caretaker for the Madame’s (Sean Young) house for a few days in New York City. Over the course of her time looking over the house, Darling begins to slowly descend into madness as her world crumbles around her.
Filmed entirely in black and white and sporting such filming techniques as strobe lights, quick cuts and sudden loud sounds to reflect Darling’s slow descent into insanity, Keating discusses his inspiration for Darling by saying “First and foremost I think the Polanski films are very much there. Repulsion is in there. I love Rosemary’s Baby, I love The Tenant. It’s funny because visually, Darling is pretty similar to Repulsion but The Tenant is actually what I used to make up the backbone of the movie. That was the jumping-off point for setting up the idea that the domestic place is the entity”
Originally set to take place in an apartment (like The Tenant), Darling actually takes place inside a luxurious mansion in the heart of New York City. Says Keating: “Lauren called me and said that she had some friends who had this house and asked if I would rather do the movie in an old scary mansion I immediately jumped at the opportunity. The movie becomes what the movie is while you’re making it, so the house essentially helped me direct the movie. It was just a beautiful coincidence.”
Darling is Keating’s third film in three years, and he has a fourth, Carnage Park, on the way early next year. That makes him a very busy man. “I’ve been very lucky to be doing a movie in post-production while I’ve had a movie in pre-production. This has been the case for three films now. We shot Darling in 12 days, which is the way it was designed,” Keating said. “With that being said I just don’t want to be working on movies just because I’m making something. I’ve been fortunate to always have this amazing opportunity to be able to tell my story.”
With such a quick shooting schedule, it makes sense that Keating likes to use the same actors in his films. Darling marks his second film with Morvant and Carter and his third with Larry Fessenden. “That’s pretty awesome too because it builds a trust with everybody,” said Morvant. “I did Pod with Lauren, and being able to work with her again on Darling just creates this really comfortable relationship. Plus Mickey and Joe (Begos, director of The Mind’s Eye, also starring Carter and Morvant) like their ensembles, so they will use the same actors in vastly different roles in their movies.”
Actress Sean Young (Blade Runner, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) plays the rather significant role in the film as the homeowner, known only as Madame. As it turns out, Larry Fessenden is the reason Keating was able to get her for the role. “When I sent him the script he read it and told me he loved it, then basically offered Sean Young to me and I immediately said yes. She was wonderful. I kept thinking ‘Holy shit! I’m directing the woman from Blade Runner!'” Keating added: “We wanted her to be that kooky landlady. I sat down with her and we built this really big backstory and when Sean Young becomes that character you just let Sean Young become that character.”
Darling is another dramatic shift for the director. With his third film, Keating tackles a third genre. When asked how he chooses which type of film he will work on next, Keating said “I’m always watching stuff so really just what it comes down to is I get in zones of the kind of movies that I am gravitating towards at the moment and that usually dictates it to some degree. I also think it’s very important to do something completely different than what you’ve done before. I don’t want the success of a film I’ve done to dictate what I do next. If one of my movies is a smash hit I don’t want to think that I have to recapture that for my next film because I feel that takes away from the art of filmmaking.”
Keating’s next film, Carnage Park, is currently in post-production, and we should hopefully see it hit the festival circuit sometime next year. On the film, Keating said “It’s very much in tune with the 70s getaway crime movies, and then it turns really, really depraved. It’s my first kind of period piece and is another way for me to tell a cool story in a harsh way and another ensemble cast.”
As for his next film after that, it is still in the very early stages. So early, in fact, that even Keating doesn’t know what it will be! “Whatever it’s going to be, Brian is going to be front and center! We’ve been talking about doing a biker gang movie, and then also a killer robot movie. So it’ll be one or the other, or maybe both in the same film. I’m not sure yet.”
As many of you may know, I am a proud gay horror fan, so I was pleased to find on Morvant’s Twitter page that he is a huge LGBT advocate, feminist and animal rights activist. I closed our conversation on a more personal note by asking a little bit about the role his activism plays in his film career. “The more I work the more I realize how important those issues are becoming to me. There are certain things that I can’t have an influence on and other things that I may be able to help change. At least in terms of representations of women in film being aware of how truly challenging it is for women and LTBT people in the industry. I just feel like any film I’m involved in or any conversation I have with a director give me a chance to make it a little more accessible for everybody. I just do what I can to help the change.”
A strong female role is exactly what Keating has given Carter in Darling, so it is refreshing to see the two working together to advance the film industry in that way. It takes one step at at time and, as Morvant says, “The more we can get away from what it used to be, the more we can come up with new, positive messages and roles for those groups.”