June 21st, 2024

The unstoppable duo of Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos

By Jake Coyle, The Associated Press on May 20, 2024.

CANNES, France (AP) – Before a journalist has even lobbed a question, Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos spit out a string of overlapping answers.

“We have a great relationship,” begins Lanthimos. “˜”We just love working together,” adds Stone. “It was cool to do a modern-day piece.” “Going back to some of the early stuff,” says Lanthimos. “A throwback,” says Stone. “Our relationship has evolved over time,” Lanthimos adds.

“Totally,” says Stone.

Stone and Lanthimos have by now honed their patter. They’re just barely removed from the Oscar campaign for “Poor Things,” which culminated in four Academy Awards, including best actress for Stone. Just two months later, they’re back together at the Cannes Film Festival with “Kinds of Kindness,” their third feature together and fourth film, counting the 2022 short “Bleat.”

“We do have a bit of a double act going on,” shrugs Stone.

Their collaboration has by now become so regular, and the talking points so scripted, that it would be easy to take it for granted. Minutes before they sat down for an interview in Cannes, a press release went out with the news that Lanthimos and Stone will soon begin shooting another movie together, titled “Bugonia.”

Opposite as they may seem – one a 35-year-old star from Arizona, the other a 50-year-old arthouse filmmaker from Athens – they’ve rapidly formed one of the movies’ strongest director-actor partnerships, a collaboration based on a shared sense of absurdity and a willingness to go, full-tilt, to some very strange places.

For Stone, the connection she feels with Lanthimos isn’t so different than the one she does with Nathan Fielder, the darkly deadpan comedian of “The Curse.”

“I don’t say this lightly even though I know it’s easy to use this word flippantly: They’re both geniuses,” says Stone. “They are. I think it’s just an innate thing. It can’t really be taught or described. It’s just a way of seeing society and people. You’re actually both drawn to themes of: Why is this social structure like this? Why do we have these rules? How are we supposed to function within them?”

You can grasp a similar attitude in Lanthimos and Stone’s opening volley of answers to unasked questions, disarming the regular rhythms of an interview. Or in how Stone, every bit the movie star, constantly undercuts herself with self-deprecating sarcasm.

But you can most see it in their movies together. The aggressive period farce of “The Favourite.” Bella Baxter’s childlike experience of social mores in “Poor Things.” In “Kinds of Kindness,” a triptych of extreme tales of controlling relationships, Lanthimos, working again with screenwriter Efthimis Filippou, continues his idiosyncratic examinations of social conformity.

“I got inspired by reading “˜Caligula’ by Camus,” Lanthimos says. “I just started thinking about one man’s control over other people’s lives. Then I thought it would be interesting to explore on a more personal level how that would feel, having someone be in total control over your life, even in the most minute detail.”

“Kinds of Kindness,” which Searchlight Pictures will release June 21 in theaters, was an opportunity for Stone (aside from “Bleat”) to work with Lanthimos in the style of his earlier films (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” ) with Filippou.

“It was the chance to finally be in that version of Yorgos’ mind,” Stone says. “Before I met him, obviously, those were the only ones I had seen.”

The two had discussed making “Kinds of Kindness” before “Poor Things,” but shot it in the aftermath of their Oscar-winner during its lengthy post-production process due to the film’s large amount of special effects.

“Do you remember we made this as fast as we could because we were like, “˜I don’t know what the hell is going to happen on “Poor Things?'” Stone reminds Lanthimos.

“Everyday after work, we’d talk about it. How was it? Did you watch the rushes? What do you think?” continues Stone. “And he’s like: “˜This is a disaster.’ Every single day. And I’d go, “˜OK, that’s what I thought.'”

Alternatively, “Kinds of Kindness,” Stone says “was free and happy and everyone’s going to love this.”

That might be surprising for anyone’s who’s seen the three-hour “Kinds of Kindness,” which uses largely the same company of actors across all three stories. (Among them: Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley.) The three parts take stories of work-life balance, spousal suspicion and sexual abuse to severe, surreal lengths.

For Stone, “Kinds of Kindness” extends a run of daringly unconventional projects, including “The Curse” and Jane Schoenbrun’s “I Saw the TV Glow,” which she produced, at a time when Stone could, by herself, help greenlight nearly anything.

“The common denominator of the things I’ve been a part of are that they’re things I want to watch,” Stone says. “That’s the only gauge that I have. If it’s not something that I would be like, “˜I gotta go see this the day it comes out,’ then it’s probably not a good fit for me.”

But she and Lanthimos may be shifting the bar for what constitutes “mainstream.” The brutal extremes of “Kinds of Kindness” have led to some, in comparing it to “Poor Things,” referencing their last one – an unabashedly profane coming-of-age tale about a dead woman reanimated with a child’s brain – like it was some kind of all-audiences crowd pleaser.

“It’s so funny to hear people talk about “˜Poor Things’ like the conventional film that we made,” says Lanthimos, smiling. “I get a little bit irritated but then I go, no wait, it’s great that people consider “˜Poor Things,’ like, a normal thing. We couldn’t get it made for 12 years.”

Yet at this point, Stone and Lanthimos’ collaboration is so continuous that the projects can bleed into each other. Take Stone’s already viral dance in “Kinds of Kindness,” a moment splashed through the film’s trailers. That was initially just something Stone was doing in between scenes on “Poor Things.”

“She would put on a song and dance like crazy,” says Lanthimos. “I was like, “˜I want you to do this in “˜Kinds of Kindness.'”

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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