Movies

Noah Hawley On ‘Lucy in the Sky,’ ‘Fargo,’ And An Update On His Doctor Doom Movie

It is a little weird that the conversation surrounding Noah Hawley’s Lucy in the Sky – in which Natalie Portman plays Lucy, an astronaut who drives across the country to confront a fellow astronaut (Jon Hamm) she had been having an affair with, loosely based on the real-life events involving Lisa Nowak – is the lack of a scene. Namely, a scene involving adult diapers used on the aforementioned cross country road trip. It’s something Hawley finds “disheartening,” and he explains to us why he decided not to use that part of the story as a plot point.

Hawley is also about to start shooting the fourth season of Fargo, which puts the story in ’50s era Kansas City and features a stellar cast (with tremendous character names) that includes Chris Rock, Timothy Olyphant and Jason Schwartzman. But one project left up in the air is his idea for a Doctor Doom film. Announced in 2017 before Fox’s purchase by Disney, Hawley’s script had Doom telling his story to a journalist, blurring the lines between hero and villain. And if what we saw from Hawley’s Legion was an indication, his Doctor Doom movie would have certainly been unique. Hawley said he even met with Kevin Feige about the film, but the end result, at least from Hawley’s perspective, was vague.

It has to be a weird weekend for Zazie Beetz? She has two huge movies coming out with Lucy in the Sky and Joker.

And you know, it’s the dichotomy of what those two films are is really interesting. She’s pretty level headed though, so she hasn’t shown me any panic yet.

You’ve been asked a lot about the lack of a diaper scene in this movie. I know you have said it didn’t fit in, and also there are some who dispute it that even happened. But why do you think people care about that? Why is that what sticks out to most people?

Well, it’s interesting, I mean, I think if you think about what a tabloid story is – which is a story about human beings with dignity who make some egregious mistakes, ruin their lives, and get reduced to a punchline by our culture – then you can sort of see the reaction. The sort of, “There’s no diaper and I’m not okay with that.” I mean, I see it as, sort of, that sense of people wanting the punchline. My goal was to take human beings with dignity, and let them keep their dignity the whole way through. And to sort of say to an audience: who among us hasn’t failed or ruined their lives at one point or another? And certainly her punishment was profound. I mean, she lost everything she cared about, she never got to go to space again, she got divorced. She doesn’t need any more punishment than she actually got. She certainly doesn’t need to be mocked for a story that is, at the end of the day, a tragedy. So yeah, I find it disheartening on some level. And I know there’s a certain clickbait to it, right? The word “diaper.” So there’s something very just easy. It’s an easy click that you’ll get.

I think it’s how people remember the bullet points of this story. Basically, “An astronaut, and wasn’t there a diaper involved?”

And look, certainly making a movie, I don’t know, is this a story people remember, or is this a story people care about? It wasn’t necessarily at the front of my consciousness that that was a detail that was even really going to be interesting or relevant to people.

Well, you painstakingly take the first half of the movie to basically explain why someone would be led to do what they did. I understand why you’d think a scene like that might diminish what you laid out.

Yeah, I mean, it’s just a different story. At the end of the day, literally the facts of it are different. I mean, look, here’s the reality — how many films do you watch in which any of the characters ever go to the bathroom? Right? Tom Cruise never stops for a bathroom break on his way to saving the world. It’s that part of the story you just, yada, yada over.

You play around with the aspect ratios a lot in this movie. I know you wanted to present her scenes in space as wide open, but there’s more going on here than that.

Yeah, I mean, the whole film was designed to be her experience. And so if the universe looks enormous to her, and when she comes back everything seems small, then I want that to be the audience’s experience. And then every time she gets close to that feeling again, the screen opens up. And then, of course, there’s a moment in the middle of the movie where she finds out that Jon Hamm’s character is also involved with this other female astronaut, in which her world closes in even more, and we spend a certain part of the movie in an even smaller box. I’m not saying it’s going to work for anybody. And certainly if you’re resistant to it, it’s going to make the movie harder for you because you’re going to notice it all the time. But my goal is, you might notice the first couple of times, but at a certain point, you’re just feeling the feeling that comes when things expand and contract. And then, look, obviously I’m guilty of being a bit of a playful filmmaker, so there are certain moments where the screen sort of slides from the center to the side, and that’s more playful on my part. But it was designed to really immerse you into her point of view.

So I’m assuming you’ve never spoken to Lisa Nowak? Do you have any sense of how she feels about this?

I have not spoken to her. I don’t have any sense. I mean, her private life became so public for so long.

Right.

But certainly I think we all need to leave her alone. And so I’m not expecting, nor would I want her to even connect with it, especially because it’s really not her story. It is inspired by, but it wasn’t my goal to connect her to this film.

Right. But people are going to do that. I mean, I just did it. It’s hard not to do that.

But, you know, here’s the thing, American Hustle came out and won a lot of awards, and no one ever said, “You know, that’s not really the Abscam story.” Do you know what I mean? So it’s sort of a strange standard to be held to considering how many movies based or inspired by a true story play fast and loose with the facts.

I don’t think anyone is holding a standard here. I think it’s just something you probably thought about. Like, hey this might bring this all up again for her, but this is a story that needs to be told. And that’s fair.

Well I mean, my hope certainly is – in an exercise of trying to show this American hero as flawed and as human as we all are, and yet never turn her into a punchline – that she might appreciate that aspect of the film regardless of any other aspect of the film.

Everything I’ve read about your Doctor Doom movie sounded great. I know a lot has changed, with Disney buying Fox, since that was announced.

Yeah, I mean, it combined genres. And it’s sort of a Cold War parallel film. And I really like it. I’ve been too busy to really lean on them, and they certainly haven’t called me on the phone. And during my sit down with Kevin Feige, when he asked about the Doctor Doom movie, he said, “Are you still working on it?” And I said, “Should I still be working on it?”

Did he respond?

I said, “I assume you guys have a plan in a drawer somewhere for the Fantastic Four.” And he smiled a little bit, but would neither confirm nor deny. But yeah, I think it would be a great comic book movie certainly.

And you have the fourth season of Fargo starting to soot soon, right? Starring Chris Rock, set in ’50s era Kansas City?

Yeah, and you know, I mean, Jason Schwartzman as a 1950s gangster makes me irrationally happy. And Ben Whishaw and Jessie Buckley, and Jack Huston, and Timothy Olyphant is going to do it. I mean, it’s a crazy, crazy cast. And it’s just sort of an enormous American crime epic. And we start shooting in two weeks. [Laughs] I don’t know what I’m doing in New York right now. But I’m launching a movie and prepping to direct the first two episodes all at the same time, which sounds a lot like my life when I say it out loud.

I remember before the first season of Fargo came out, people thought you were nuts trying to make a series out of a Coen brothers movie. And now we’re four seasons in. That has to feel good.

Yeah, I mean, it’s good. I had done two shows before that were both canceled after a season. And I had to fight tooth and nail to make them good. I couldn’t make them great given the sort of network TV paradigm. And it felt really good that the first time I told a story that felt like 100 percent my version, and my vision, that I was rewarded for doing that. And it just reinforced that you just have to keep taking risks. I’d rather fail big by taking a risk than fail small for playing it safe.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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