One couple’s relationship is tested like never before in Darren Aronofsky’s controversial new movie mother!. With Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem leading the film, alongside the likes of Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, the flick’s a star-studded affair, and we’ve got our hands on a brilliant exclusive interview from Lawrence discussing a little of what we can expect.
As well as that, the actress explains what it was like to be a part of a movie that’s jam-packed full of so much chaos and unique storytelling. The interview’s an enlightening read from start to finish, and one that should ensure anybody who’s not yet seen the film adds it to their library as soon as possible.
How did you become involved in this movie?
Well, the first time I heard that Darren Aronofsky had something, I had been a fan for a really long time, so I was immediately interested and I wanted to meet with him. And then, it was the first time I’ve ever just had a conversation with a director. He just… he just kind of had ideas that were so interesting and unique. And he didn’t even really have a script. It was just these brilliant, explosive ideas. So, I immediately wanted to be a part of it.
It had to be excited for an actress to know that you were gonna get to take this character through this journey…
Yeah. I mean, as Darren started writing and the pages were coming in, I mean, it just kept getting more and more intense. And also, the allegory and the layers of the film kept growing and becoming more psychological, more emotional and it was just… it was such an incredible journey to go, to take a character through.
Tell us a little bit about the character. Tell us about your initial thoughts of her and how your portrayal of her helped you influence who you realised she was.
My character’s very maternal. She’s very giving, emotionally. And she’s kind of in awe of this artist that she’s married to, that she loves. And she just wants to nurture. She wants to nurture their home. She wants to nurture his art. She wants to nurture him. And there’s a small element of insecurity in her that kind of makes them the perfect match.
What was it like developing this relationship with Javier Bardem? How did you build the characters’ relationship?
Javier’s amazing to work with. I mean, he’s an incredible actor. He’s so pure. Everything that he’s doing and portraying is real. And so, it’s interesting; all of the conversations that we would always have because it’s just how to get… how to make everything real, which, towards the end of this movie, as you’ll see, starts to become more and more of a challenge, to keep everything still grounded. I loved working with Javier. We had an amazing… he had a great collaborating relationship with Darren…
I imagine with a film like this that builds like it does, you really had to know where you were going…
Yes and no. there was… the shots, themselves, were so big. There would be a master shot that was so long that a lot was happening that you didn’t even… that would change from take to take, which I’ve, you know, never really dealt with. And there would be new scenarios and new things that were happening. So, there was kind of no preparation for each take and each scene. It was kind of growing and learning and adapting in the moment.
As an actress, that must be a fascinating way to work, very organic.
Yeah, it was… I had a blast. I mean, it was challenging.
I want to talk more about the home that she’s built. What does that mean and why is she trying to build this perfect place for him to work?
When we first meet my character, you realise, almost right away, that she is a very hands-on… what’s the word that I’m looking for? When you first meet my character, you realise how much love and passion she’s putting into this home. And she’s rebuilt Javier’s house that burned down before she knew him, as much as she can, because she loves him and she wants to make this perfect environment for them. And she puts her entire heart into it. You know, it’s a real passion project for her.
What is hard about loving an artist?
I think, in this specific relationship between this woman and this amazing artist, he needs praise and he needs to be worshipped. And she is willing to give that. She is in awe of him. She does love his work. She does look up to him. But at a certain point, he gets used to her gaze. He gets used to impressing her. He gets used to her reading everything and loving it. He gets used to her and he needs new stimulation. And for her, that’s heartbreaking, because it’s heartbreaking in any relationship if you feel like you’re not enough. So, I think, for somebody who’s… for this woman who’s given everything to try to be everything for this artist, when he finally feels like he’s unstimulated by her, it’s a feeling that I think a lot of people have felt in relationships, which is, you know, ‘what more can I do? How could I be new for this person? How could I be new and exciting and bring new life into this relationship?’
At the beginning, do you feel like your character is okay or already off balance?
I think that there’s something to be said about the particular type of relationship that Darren wrote about; that there’s an unevenness to it where I think that she’s happy and I think she’s in love and she’s attracted to this man, but she’s always a little bit scared of something changing. She’s always a little bit scared of seeing something shift behind his eyes or a deeper meaning behind something, that maybe he doesn’t love her as he did yesterday, which was interesting for me to play, because I’ve never done that before and it’s something that I think all of [us] have felt in a relationship, at one point or another.
And it’s deep and not obvious. It’s not loud. And so, I think that certain circumstances start happening throughout the movie that make her realise that this relationship really is off balance and something really is wrong. And I think, in that, she gets a little bit of her power back.
It’s not a relatable movie, but what you’re talking about is relatable. Do you think people will be able to relate to the film on that level? What do you feel like people are going to be able to relate to?
I think that there’s a million different facets to this movie that certain people are going to relate to, be scared of, be intrigued by. You know, loving is scary. Falling in love is scary. Being vulnerable is terrifying. But also, not letting yourself be vulnerable is terrifying.
Talk about who Ed Harris’ character is. For you, is that when the movie starts to take off in a different direction? How would you describe the way the movie changes once Ed Harris arrives?
When Ed Harris knocks on our door, that’s the first time we have another character that’s not just Javier or me. And he’s a complete stranger, which is exciting for Javier’s character and invigorating, which is a little scary for Grace, because she has her nest and everything settled and she was comfortable, and it’s confusing. At night, he said that he thought that we were a bed and breakfast and something just seems strange.
And the way that they hit it off is also a little intimidating, because if you don’t feel secure in a relationship, as we all know, any time that your partner seems like they’re having a good time or being stimulated by somebody else is threatening. And that only continues to grow throughout the movie.
What was it like working with Ed Harris?
I loved working with Ed. He’s very… he’s surprising. He kind of can stay in a zone and to get there, he kind of warms up, you know, with the cameras and with the equipment. He kind of like, warms himself up with that. He’s really… he’s got an interesting process. He’s also a really, really nice guy. He’s immensely talented.
I feel like he’s what first brings distrust into the relationship…
Yeah. He’s the first character that enters the house that immediately kind of brings something off balance. There’s just a mystery to him that unsettles my character.
And then there’s another knock at the door and Michelle Pfeiffer enters the picture…
Yes. And then, Michelle Pfeiffer comes in, which, as an audience member, Michelle Pfeiffer’s character blows in and it’s just an entirely different energy, and I loved it. If elt like I was watching Michelle Pfeiffer in that movie, like I was watching a football game. For my character, it’s incredibly intimidating, ‘cause she’s this woman who is everything that my character isn’t, and she’s very forward with her energy. And my character is just a little bit more reserved and a little bit more cautious of these people, whereas these people are immediately ready to be kind of our houseguests.
And I’m still… my character’s still a little taken aback by how quickly my husband has taken to this man who, to me, is a complete stranger.
What was it like to work with Michelle Pfeiffer in those scenes?
Like, I mean, doing scenes with Michelle was just phenomenal. She’s just so… she’s so effortless with it. She just kind of easily goes into this place and then I feel like she just… she made me better. She was just so easy to build off of. And it was interesting because, there were certain ways. There’s a difference and I feel like the audience will have the same reaction. There’s a difference between… you can look at what she’s saying and hear what she’s saying, and you can take it in an offensive way, or you can take it in an ‘oh, she’s just that.’ She’s just very honest and she’s very forward.
I think that it’s kind of… it’s really up to anyone’s interpretation of what she means by it. You know, I think that my character is not like that, so she was very taken aback by that kind of energy. But there’s also a mystery in her comments, because they aren’t all malicious, or it doesn’t seem like they’re all meant to be malicious.
Some of the stuff in the house was more like a horror movie. Does the film feel different versus an emotional movie or was this just Darren’s filmmaking? Are the techniques and camera angles different?
To me, even though we’re shooting things that are eerie and scary and there’s a lightbulb exploding and my character is scared, to me, the allegory is so much bigger, that what we’re looking at, that it’s so much bigger than a jump scare or something looking frightening. It’s what it all means. That’s what I saw when we were shooting. I mean, that’s what I saw when I finally saw the movie for the first time.
How gratifying is it for you, as an artist, to know that you made something people are gonna be talking about?
I mean, that’s one of the greatest things that can happen to you as an artist, to be a part of a movie that starts conversation, because it’s an original idea. It’s completely unique and I’ve never seen certain stories or certain ideas woven together in this way. So, I’m still thinking about it and Darren and I are still having conversations about it. And I think that’s a gift, as a filmmaker, to give to an audience. That’s a gift that Darren has created.
Was there anything during the making of the movie that you didn’t think was okay? Or did you just trust the process and the story and loved where it was going?
I mean, there’s definitely a moment in this movie that, if anybody was gonna say, ‘Darren, you’re taking this too far, people are gonna storm out of the theatres.’ There’s definitely a moment like that in the movie, but I wouldn’t have been there or been in Montreal if I hadn’t already thrown the script across my hotel room in New York and thought, ‘this guy is crazy.’ But it has to be. He has to take it all the way and I think he should. I think he was right not to shy back and not be afraid.
I would love to know what you think the movie is ultimately about?
I mean, as long as the universe is expanding, men will be using women. The end is very, possibly confusing, very big and very dramatic. But I think, in short, I would say, a creator always needs a muse.
mother! is out now on digital download, and comes to DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD on January 22.