Published on 19 Aug 1919
In a new interview with Variety &mdash his first since the cancellation of his film “The Hunt” earlier this month &mdash director Craig Zobel voices both his support for Universal’s choice to delay the film after a series of mass shootings and conservative-driven backlash which became so heated it appeared to even reach the the White House and his dismay over how the film has been portrayed by the media.
The Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions film, a new interpretation of the classic “The Most Dangerous Game” trope, was pulled by the studio on August 10. The studio had already opted to pause marketing on the violent film after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, rocked the country, announcing a full cancellation after President Donald Trump began to vaguely tweet about the film, calling it “racist at the highest level” despite it containing no overt racial themes and “made in order to inflame and cause chaos.”
“If I believed this film could incite violence, I wouldn't have made it,” Zobel wrote in an email interview with Variety. “Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally. We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be.”
Despite his misgivings about how the film has been portrayed in the lead up to its cancellation, Zobel said he supports the studio’s decision to move the film’s release date as of this writing, the film has not yet found a new release date or a potential new distributor.
“I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton,” he wrote. “In the wake of these horrific events, we immediately considered what it meant for the timing of our film. Once inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie began to take hold, I supported the decision to move the film off its release date.“
While the film reportedly pits “elites” against “deplorables,” Zobel contends that the film’s themes have been misunderstood by the media. “I wanted to make a fun, action thriller that satirized this moment in our culture &mdash where we jump to assume we know someone's beliefs because of which &lsquoteam' we think they're on&hellip and then start shouting at them,“ he wrote. “This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time.”
Last week, IndieWire exclusively reported that the decision to pull the film from theaters came before conservative backlash, and the choice to pull marketing was indicative of the studio’s plans to scrap the film entirely.
Still, Zobel said that the studio took a “risk on greenlighting a film not based on prior intellectual property.”
He added that he hopes the situation can turn into a teachable moment for all involved. “My hope would be that people will reflect on why we are in this moment, where we don't have any desire to listen to each other,“ he wrote. “And if I'm lucky some of us will ask each other: how did we get here? And where do we want to go moving forward?“
Published on 14 Aug 1919
Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin's “Ready or Not“ can pretty much be summed up by a single line of dialogue from the movie's relentless second act: “Fucking rich people.“ Spat out through a set of bloody teeth, those words cut right to the heart of this devilishly fun late summer surprise, a violent dark comedy that sometimes literally skewers the 1% by inviting us into a clan who would sooner kill than surrender their good fortune. There are other devious forces at work here, as well &mdash the story hinges on the strange moral codes that hold families together &mdash but most of all this is a movie about how money is always a devil's bargain. Inheriting it can be dangerous marrying into it can be deadly.
Grace a phenomenal Samara Weaving learns that lesson the hard way, even if money is the last thing on her mind. A former foster kid who grew up without a trust fund or any of the support that it entails, Grace is getting hitched to Alex Le Domas Mark O'Brien for all of the right reasons. She's a genuine soul with a grounded sense of humor, and it's clear from the very first scene that she thinks of Alex's family &mdash an angry and stuck-up hive of WASPs &mdash as more of a liability than a selling point. That's something the two lovebirds have in common, and something we see them joke about one last time before they walk down the aisle.
But only Alex, the semi-estranged black sheep of the Le Domas “dominion,“ knows why every family wedding has to be held at his father's Henry Czerny sprawling mansion. Only Alex knows why the house is threaded with secret passageways, trap doors, and a special room full of Civil War-era weapons. And only Alex knows why it's so important that the eccentric Le Domas brood end every wedding night with a randomly chosen game of some kind.
He isn't trying to trick his bride, he just doesn't think it's worth scaring her. Most of the time, nothing bad happens! When his alcoholic brother Adam Brody married a coldly elegant woman named Charity, they all played Go Fish or something. When his cocaine-addled sister Melanie Scrofano married a sweaty human disaster named Fitch Bradley Kristian Bruun, they all played Old Maid. The odds of them landing on Hide & Seek &mdash the most dangerous game &mdash are slim. But that's exactly what happens on Grace's special night, and Alex is powerless to stop the rest of his family from hunting his new bride. If they catch her before dawn, they'll kill her. And if they don't, the consequences might be even worse.
The reasoning behind this premise is utterly preposterous, but screenwriters Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murray are too smart to pretend otherwise while the dialogue isn't as sharp as any of the weapons the Le Domas clan use to hunt Grace down and a lot of those old axes and crossbows are pretty rusty to begin with, the script never loses sight of how silly and strained this all feels.
Meanwhile, Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin &mdash perhaps better known as two-thirds of the filmmaking collective “Radio Silence“ &mdash mesh perfectly with the wild vibe, and manage to navigate a story that unfolds like a crowd-pleasing mash-up between “Clue“ and “The Purge“ the film splits that difference with the help of three scantily clad maids, who look like they were plucked off a fashion week runway in order to serve as morbidly hilarious redshirts. The direction is more functional than flashy, and it sometimes leaves a number of easy laughs on the table, but “Ready or Not” never breaks its own rules, and it's a testament to Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin's command of the material that the film's gooey, go-for-broke ending feels shocking and inevitable in equal measure.
But Weaving &mdash a rising Australian actress who's unmistakably related to Hugo Weaving &mdash is the glue that holds this whole ridiculous movie together. In a fast-paced August programmer that does what it says on the tin and can't afford to let people get bored for even a second, there isn't much time for niceties or nuance. Nine times out of 10, the Grace character is just a standard-issue scream queen who surprises herself with her own capacity for violence and succeeds as a cipher for any number of audience fantasies. But disposable as the characters in “Ready or Not“ might have been on the page, they all smirk to life on screen.
Weaving knows that she's in a comedy of terrors, and she endows Grace with a shrewd comic wit that can't be faked, but &mdash crucially &mdash the actress doesn't allow her performance to be defined by some kind of eye-rolling irony. She never lets us forget that this was supposed to be the best day of Grace's life. The scene where she has to rip her wedding dress in order to stay hidden is almost heartbreaking. That slinky white gown was beautiful, Grace believed in it, and it was probably the most expensive thing she'd ever worn in her life. Grace laughs at a lot of the crazier shit that happens in this movie, but it's only to stop herself from crying. It's delightful to find a potentially star-making performance in such an unexpected place.
Which isn't to say that Weaving is the only standout cast member. The great Andie MacDowell is a treat as Grace's morally uncertain new mother-in-law, and Nicky Guadagni is a hoot as the bloodthirsty aunt Helene, who wears a cape like an extra from “Rosemary's Baby“ and wields an ax like an extra from “Braveheart.“ Brody, far removed from his teen idol days on “The OC,“ shoulders much of the dramatic weight as the most conflicted member of the Le Domas murder squad, and he tethers the movie to something human even when the story is drifting towards darker territory.
As the wage gap increases and late capitalism takes its course, the rich better get used to being victimized on screen Trump can't get all of these movies cancelled. But “Ready or Not“ doesn't settle for cheap shots. Brody's character, who sighs that “You'll do pretty much anything if your family says it's okay,“ helps deepen the film's class commentary into a halfhearted exploration of inherited moral codes, and the inertia that allows them to pass from one generation to the next. No one's going to confuse this for “The White Ribbon,“ but the movie is at its best when it shows a little sympathy for the devil.
If “Ready or Not“ never quite feels like a cult classic in the making &mdash the scares are soft, the imagery is familiar, and the ending is so batshit that it confirms your nagging sense that the previous 90 minutes were holding back &mdash it's still wickedly entertaining from start to finish, and painted with enough fresh personality to resolve into something more than the sum of its parts. It might be unhelpful to grade it on a curve, but go-for-broke movies like this always look good when they're released at the end of a summer movie season where almost every other wide release played things safe. And that's one thing the Le Domas family never do.Grade: B
Fox Searchlight will release “Ready or Not” in theaters on Wednesday, August 23.
Published on 13 Aug 1919
Over the weekend, Universal announced that it would be canceling the release of “The Hunt,” an upcoming thriller produced by Blumhouse, due to a storyline involving shooters that was deemed inappropriate following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in which at least 31 people were killed. In a statement, the studio said, “Now is not the time to release this film.” In response to the decision, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn and David Ehrlich traded thoughts on the decision.
ERIC KOHN: It’s 2019. Don’t the movies have enough to worry about? Declining box office and the looming shadow of the streaming wars have put the medium on edge now, it’s being scapegoated by the so-called leader of the free world. Of course, Donald Trump’s moronic tweet-storm in which he singled out “The Hunt” as an example of “liberal Hollywood” attempting to “inflame and cause chaos” is just another means of deflection, an attempt to cast the nation’s biggest problems onto a convenient target.
But it kind of worked: Universal has canceled plans to release “The Hunt,” a movie about wehy one-percenters who pay big bucks to hunt a dozen people dropped into a clearing.
Setting the Trump propaganda spin aside, many well-meaning people have nodded their heads in somber agreement with the decision. After all, maybe this is not the best time for a movie about lunatics with guns, killing innocent people, when the trauma of very real lunatics with guns doing just that in El Paso and Dayton looms large in the public’s memory.
And yet: Is there ever a right time to engage with this subject? After all, “The Hunt” is an adaptation of Richard Cornell’s short story “A Most Dangerous Game,” published in 1924. That should give you an idea of just how much this potent narrative about human-on-human acts of aggression has remained relevant over the years. Violence is one of the touchiest subjects in American culture, and we only empower it by refusing to confront the matter head-on. If Universal, which had already put significant money behind the project, wanted to show real solidarity with the victims, it might consider what sort of message it’s sending by essentially erasing this subject matter from our screens. The studio is risk-averse enough to realize that releasing “The Hunt” could lead to terrible optics &mdash but in this particular case, it’s also letting the bad guys win. There must have been a middle ground on this.
DAVID EHRLICH: I appreciate why this situation put Universal in a bind, and I don't envy the studio's executives for the hard decision they had to make about this movie. But &mdash and I can't stress this enough &mdash I really don't care. They were asked to pay the price for making socially conscious satire in the demented year of our lord 2019, and they refused to foot the bill.
Of course, it's a bit of a leap for me to refer to “The Hunt“ as “socially conscious satire,“ because &mdash much like Donald Trump and the “Fox & Friends“ hosts who talk to him through his television like he's some kind of sub-mental Truman Burbank &mdash I haven't seen “The Hunt,“ and couldn't tell you the first thing about what it's really trying to say. Yes, there's a world of difference between Craig Zobel and S. Craig Zahler, and it's hard to imagine that the production company that brought you “Get Out“ is suddenly repping for the racists, but the fact of the matter is that the movie itself really doesn't matter. This isn't about sensitivity or inflaming public trauma. It isn't even about saving money on marketing costs or getting ahead of a box office bomb, even if it's hard to imagine why anyone in America would pay $15 to watch people indiscriminately slaughter each other with assault rifles when they already get to see that for free every week.
This is about a major Hollywood studio conceding to a world in which the President of the United States can use the potential threat of White Nationalism &mdash of his own fanbase &mdash as a cudgel with which to exert his influence on the culture. When theater chains refused to play “The Interview,“ it was because anonymous internet trolls had threatened to commit acts of terror during screenings, and no sane business would leave themselves vulnerable to that kind of violence. That threat was likely unfounded. This one is not. Universal only made the decision to cancel “The Hunt“ in order to seize control of the narrative and prevent theater chains from doing the inevitable. At a time when mass shooters are writing manifestos that are indistinguishable from the President's rally speeches, Universal knew that Trump would have spent the next six weeks pouring gas on the fire.
Releasing “The Hunt“ may have been bad for the studio, but cancelling “The Hunt“ is bad for everything. Trump, who only cares about results, gets positive reinforcement that he wields more power in a country where everyone is afraid of each other. The media, who only cares about optics, gets to further a wag-the-dog worldview that has turned America into a country that simply breaks the nearest mirror whenever it feels too ugly to look at itself. Remember last week when Walmart responded to the El Paso shooting by banning video game displays, but continuing to sell actual guns? And the masses, who only care about getting through the day in one piece, get to see another opportunity for real change diluted by a petty distraction.
Yes, Universal was in a tough spot. But the problem isn't a movie that shows Americans shooting each other. The problem is a President who encourages it. And until someone makes that clear, the whole country is going to feel like prey.
ERIC KOHN: I think you’re touching on the bigger issue here: Not only is Universal making an odd call with respect to this particular movie in this particular situation it’s setting an awful precedent. Because movies have the capacity to show us the world in a narrative context, those stories can be reduced to their simplest ingredients by anyone with an agenda. It was all too easy for a rival distributor to sabotage the Oscar campaign for “Zero Dark Thirty” by proclaiming that the movie promoted torture methods. “Depiction is not endorsement,” Kathryn Bigelow pleaded, but it was too late: The movie was vilified.
So it goes with “The Hunt”: Trump is basically hitting on a new tactic for blaming all the world’s problems on the movies. At some point he could even start digging into the past. Fifty years ago, Lindsay Anderson’s “If…” ended with students raging militant war on their campus, and that movie was released by Paramount. And the madness doesn’t have to stop there. What’s Netflix going to do once Trump decides that “The Irishman” glorifies crime?
The big takeaway from all this is that we can’t expect corporate America to fight back. The saving grace of “The Interview” fiasco wasn’t Sony itself stepping up to get the movie out there it was the communal resolve of art house theaters around the country, who came together to push the movie into a DIY release strategy. And ironically, the headlines associated with that movement elevated “The Interview” in a manner that no marketing plan could manufacture. Pushing back on these pressures turns out to be not just a moral imperative it’s good business. If Universal can’t see that it, it ought to hand off “The Hunt” to someone who does.
Big picture time: Most movies face an uphill battle to get noticed by anyone at all. One can only hope that all this hubbub draws more attention to the work of “The Hunt” director Craig Zobel, whose “Great World of Sound” and “Compliance” both tackle the complex paradoxes of American identity &mdash the way scam artists so easily prey on good intentions. And that’s certainly what the scam artist in the White House seems to have done here.
Published on 12 Aug 1919
Two-time Emmy nominee Betty Gilpin’s first thought upon hearing that her hit Netflix series “GLOW” was heading to Las Vegas for its third season: “Oh, no!” While the glitzy, fun-loving wrestling-centric show seems like a natural fit for the over-the-top desert hot spot, Gilpin was worried about how exactly she would fit into the casino wonderland.
“As a person who has left her wild past behind and whose spring break self has been hung up in the closet, now I’m really an indoor depressive who likes Postmates and YouTube. The thought of Las Vegas concerned me,” Gilpin said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “Los Angeles is already at a shock to my, I would say, Emily Dickinson side, so I was nervous about the Charo-ness of Las Vegas.”
Like her character, unexpected wrestling superstar Debbie Eagan, Gilpin was able to transcend those initial concerns with a little more rumination. One worry quickly allayed: They still filmed this season in L.A.
“It is a good fit, because the show is so over-the-top and fantastical and circus-y, and sometimes the hair, the makeup, the setting, it kind of gives us the excuse to make those circus-y, fantastical choices in our acting,” she said. “So I also felt calmed by it being in Vegas, I was like, ‘OK, we can continue to be insane.’ I think if they went to like, Sarah Lawrence for a season, I would be nervous for how our stakes would play there.”
If there’s one lesson “GLOW” has always handily delivered, it’s that there’s more than one way to be a woman. There’s certainly more than one way to make your way in Las Vegas “insane” is probably the best one. For Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s show, that kind of evolution, paired with a continued interest in embracing their characters in all their messy glory, added up to a cosmically great way to move the show and its wrestling ladies into literally new spaces.
As has been the case over the course of the previous two seasons, the third season of “GLOW” pushes its leading ladies, particularly Gilpin’s Debbie and Alison Brie’s Ruth, into sometimes uncomfortable arcs. While moving their wrestling act to Las Vegas opens up plenty of new opportunities for the gals, it also further shows the divide between the lives they used to have and the choices that have brought them to this stage in their personal and professional existence.
For Gilpin, it’s a canny continuation of a path set out from the show’s earliest episodes, when struggling actresses and one-time BFFs Debbie and Ruth endured a terrible falling out, only to be pushed back together by the professional opportunities afforded by the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.”
“I think that when we met Debbie, she thought that the credits were rolling and that her story was basically over and that she was gonna live out her life as a housewife in Pasadena,” Gilpin said. “This life explosion that happens to her in the pilot, it sort of sets her off on this path of realizing, ‘Oh, I was pretending to be a person that I actually didn’t want to be, and that there has been this dormant monster inside me that could be really powerful and complicated and the most beautiful part of being alive.'”
The actress hails creators Flahive and Mensch, plus a talented writers’ room, for not taking the easy way out on Debbie’s arc. “It would be easy for them to write feminist propaganda, in a way of ‘this happened and then she’s empowered and now everything’s fine!,'” Gilpin said with a laugh. “In some ways, Debbie has really found her power, and then in other ways, she’s still a woman in 1985 who’s being told that things that are valuable about her are the smallest parts that have expiration dates. And I think she still believes some of that.”
As the show has evolved, so has Debbie, moving from shy wrestling wannabe to an empowered businesswoman able to make opportunities happen for herself. In the third season, that side of Debbie only grows, as she uses her natural business acumen to move from producer and performer to an even bigger and unique position of power.
“She really wants to have power at work and have her voice be heard and she wants to value herself as more than expirable arm candy,” Gilpin said. “I think that she believed the world when it told her that’s what she was. And I think watching her try to learn those lessons and having trouble on learning them has been really interesting and refreshing.”
The girl power-fueled nature of the show is evident off-screen, too. Over three seasons, “GLOW” has consistently stayed true to its female-centric storylines &mdash the series’ two leading male characters, played by Marc Maron and Chris Lowell, have also evolved in service to the success of the ladies’ wrestling show &mdash and that interest in centering women has impacted Gilpin’s career in spades.
“I realized after working on ‘GLOW’ how many times and jobs of yore I had really stood in my own way or let circumstances or fears of mine take over the creative parts of my brain,” Gilpin said. “Second-guessing myself and not wanting to take up space really shut down the brave idea section of my brain, and working in an environment where I feel safe and supported and inspired, it’s as if all those creative brain chambers were opened.”
She added, “I think it’s a result of the environment that Liz and Carly created on set. I also think has been a result of the feminist climate that we’re living in. You know, the femme-pocalypse is here. … It’s been completely life-changing.”
Also life-changing: a pair of Emmy nominations for her work on the show. For Gilpin, who spent the early part of her career zinging through guest parts on big series including two appearances on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” playing different characters each time and hustling gigs off-Broadway, that kind of recognition is still wild.
“There is a beauty and the terror to your dream coming true, things like a nomination or people even watching your show, it’s literal proof that you’re not invisible,” Gilpin said. “It’s like, ‘OK, you talked a big game that if the world ever turned and looked at you, that perhaps your life could be magnificent or you could do something special, now’s your chance.’ I am afraid that the world’s gonna look over at me and I’ll just like throw up in my shoes and then it’ll move on. So I’m trying to not do that.”
If “GLOW” has helped readjust her thinking, so have other relationships with women in Hollywood, including actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan. “So much of this business, it’s still saturated &mdash especially for women &mdash in competition and ‘there’s only x amount of spots,'” Gilpin said. “It’s really been people like Zoe that, watching their success in the way they conduct themselves in the world, it’s completely changed me as a person.”
Their friendship didn’t always seem so fated shades of Debbie and Ruth, anyone?. While Gilpin is now the godmother to Zoe and partner Paul Dano’s baby girl, it almost panned out very differently. “I first heard of Zoe because she was a person who was getting every part in New York City that I wanted, and I was cursing her name,” Gilpin remembered with a laugh. “When my agents would call and say, ‘OK, it’s not going our way,’ I’d be like, ‘Don’t say it, don’t say her name!’ I would like, scream at my cracked ceiling, ‘Noooo! I hate her!'”
Then, of course, inevitably, they met in person. “I didn’t know her at all, and then once I met her I realized, oh, she has a thousand-miles deep brain and soul and is the smartest, most talented person I know,” she said. “And also is my greatest champion. This person has become my sister and has become a person that I model my way of living after, in terms of supporting other women and swallowing my pride and celebrating someone and their achievements.”
One achievement that’s been put on pause: her first starring role in a film. Later this month, Gilpin was set to make her leading lady debut in Craig Zobel’s twist on a “Most Dangerous Game”-type thriller, “The Hunt.” After outcry from no less than President Donald Trump, Universal canceled the film’s release over the weekend. It’s unclear what will happen to the film, which allegedly pitted “deplorables” against “elites” in a battle to the death.
IndieWire spoke to Gilpin before the news hit, and the actress was enthused about the part, particularly because of how it stretched her talents in new ways. While she’s spent three seasons on “GLOW” hacking through tough stunts, she said Zobel’s film combined that kind of physicality with an emotionally ambitious part for Gilpin, and early marketing set her up as the film’s hero.
“I play a lot of women who are like the women whose books I carried in high school, I play a lot of girlie alpha women, and I’m sort of presenting my field notes on that person in my performance,” Gilpin said of the film. “I feel like I am playing a character that is closer to my innermost gremlin, monster self. I feel more exposed than I have ever been. The days where I was flipping over and landing on wooden tables, that was easy. Peeling the curtain back and being like, ‘okay, gremlin, starts talking!,’ and the gremlin is like, ‘but I’ve been in the shadows all this time!,’ that was the greatest stunt of all.”
Still, Gilpin has plenty more potential projects up her glittery sleeves. In 2017, she wrote a well-regarded and funny and honest and true essay for Glamour about self-confidence and body image perfect headline: “What It’s Like to Have Pea-Sized Confidence With Watermelon-Sized Boobs”. She’s still hoping to write more.
“I definitely have a computer full of like essay eggs, basically of ideas that could be turned into something. I really, really want to, but I sometimes panic that I don’t have enough of an outline brain to write a book or a script,” Gilpin said. “I guess I just have to fake an outline brain and hope for the best. I feel, like Debbie, I have found this strong self in many ways. But you know, I would say shame and fear are not dead. It’s something I definitely still battle when it comes to my own work and to what I put out there. It’s a daily struggle.”
Debbie can do it. So can Gilpin.
“GLOW” Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.
Published on 11 Aug 1919
Universal Pictures has canceled the release of director Craig Zobel’s upcoming Blumhouse thriller “The Hunt.” The writing was on the walls when President Donald Trump alluded to the film in one of his latest tweetstorms, in which he fired off at “liberal Hollywood.”
An adaptation of Richard Connell's 1924 classic man-versus-nature story “The Most Dangerous Game,” the film drops 12 American strangers in a clearing, rudderless and unaware that they're being, literally, hunted for sport by one-percent elitists. Universal had previously put the brakes on marketing the film in the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and Gilroy, California, as the trailer for the film pivots heavily on gun violence and killing among cast members Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, Glenn Howerton, Betty Gilpin, and Hilary Swank.
“While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for ‘The Hunt,’ after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,“ according to a statement from Universal. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.“
Allegedly, the screenplay described the Americans who are being hunted for sport as “deplorables,” the term made famous by Hillary Clinton during her campaign for the presidency.
According to Variety, this was not an easy decision, and it was made in cooperation with the filmmakers as well as Universal executive leadership, including studio chief Donna Langley. Given the nature of the film co-written by “The Leftovers“ co-creator Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, “The Hunt” is unlikely to see the light of day, at least theatrically. The film was set to open September 27 across the country. The film’s most probable future is to end up streaming once Comcast launches its service.
IndieWire has reached out to Universal for comment.