Before the Toronto Film Festival starts, any attendee will read through the descriptions of the movies to get a sense of what’s playing. Because these are all just a bunch of new titles thrown at us that mean almost nothing. When reading about I Care A Lot, I got the sense it would be about how the elderly in the United States can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous predators. I thought this would be a sad movie about the plight of older Americans who can’t take care of themselves. Rosamund Pike plays that unscrupulous lawyer who preys on Dianne Wiest’s character, becoming her legal guardian through dubious means then using that power to steal her assets. What I didn’t know about the movie is Peter Dinklage plays Wiest’s son, a Russian mob boss, and the movie descends into a bloody, violent ever escalating face off between two sociopaths: Pike’s Marla Grayson and Dinklage’s Roman Lunyov.
Ahead, we spoke with both Pike and director J Blakeson about this surprising bloodbath of a movie. Of course, none of us are actually in Toronto (we all wish we were), but we made the best of it over Zoom as Pike and Blakeson talk about this crazy movie that is not what anyone would possibly expect. Oh, and also Chris Messina, who plays Roman Lunyov’s attorney, who wears some pretty crazy suits. (Also, on the day of this interview I was uncharacteristically late. The publicists handling this movie were also handling a movie called Monday, so of course I wrote down the wrong day. Which led to me waking up to a lot of emails asking where I was, then rushing to my computer and spared everyone my “just got out of bed” look by keeping my video off.)
Sorry, my video isn’t on. I had a mixup and came straight from bed. Anyway … this movie was not what I was expecting at all.
J Blakeson: Yeah, I mean, it’s going to go down in some certain places I don’t think people were expecting it to go. Especially with seeing the cast, that they’re all pretty surprising in this, I think. So, yeah. I think people are surprised, but that’s not always a good thing. I think it’s better than doing what they’re expecting.
I read the description and I really thought this was going to be about the sad plight of how we treat our senior citizens and how they’re taken advantage of. At one point I had to check if it was based on a true story. And then the mobsters show up.
Blakeson: [Laughs] Well, they do have mobsters in the world, but this isn’t based on a true story.
Rosamund Pike: Even mobsters get old. That’s what Marla says, even sadistic and moral assholes get old.
It’s funny, the last time I interviewed you was for Barney’s Version, ten years ago. I re-read that interview and a good portion of it is you being disappointed because you thought they said Meg Ryan was coming in to interview you.
Pike: [Laughs] Oh, I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Mike. That’s why you didn’t want to get out of bed today.
Ha, right. Well, I too would be disappointed if I walked in instead of Meg Ryan. Oh, do you know what movie that I kept thinking of when I was watching this? It had a War of the Roses vibe to it.
Blakeson: Yeah, because that’s a story about two people, neither of which are willing to back down and they’re willing to destroy everything to win. And they’re pretty terrible people, but you’re really enjoying the movie. And they got sort of delicious relationship between the two leads. And I think, for that, I think it’s kind of a similar thing. There’s something very fun about having two exceptionally good actors go head to head in a duel to the death across a movie. That’s always sort of a delicious thing for me. And I haven’t seen War of the Roses for many, many years, but I remember enjoying it when I was younger. And I think, yeah, that sort of spirit of enjoyable, terrible people is in this one as well.
Did either of you have to Google interesting ways to almost kill people?
Blakeson: No, that’s just imagination. If I Google that, then I’ll get on some list somewhere, I think.
So how is this working this year with film festivals and a lot of it being at home? I kept imagining the reaction at a packed Toronto screening.
Blakeson: I mean, it’s bittersweet. It’s really great that everybody at TIFF has managed to get this happening in the way they got it happening. And the fact that we do have physical screenings, drive-in screening, that I’m upset I can’t be there, because there’s nothing like watching a film with an audience for the first time. My first film played at TIFF some years ago and that was a great experience for me. So, I’m missing out on that experience, but at the same time, we’ve been working hard on the film for a long time and we’re very proud of it. And I won’t be able to see it. It doesn’t really start to live it’s life until it’s out in front of people and you start hearing what they think of it.
But, of course, it’s I’d much rather be doing this interview at Toronto somewhere, and having a great festival experience, when you meet all the filmmakers and see other films. And you just have those happy accidents of bumping into people who you would never meet anywhere else. And there’s only one director on a movie most of the time, so I never meet other directors. It’s not like I’m an actor in a cast of other actors. I never meet other directors apart from a place like festivals or events. So, the last time I was at TIFF, I met some great filmmakers and it was really exciting. So, it’s a shame I can’t be there. But at the same time, it’s exciting. So, as I said, it’s bittersweet.
And Rosamund, I always hear actors say, “Oh, I just love watching movies.” And I don’t always know if I believe that. But I’ve actually seen you at Toronto just show up for movies you’re not in. I’ve seen you just kind of cruise in and watch movies.
Pike: I’m really sad not to be at Toronto this year. I love doing that because, for a start, when you’re there talking about your own film all the time, it’s such a relief to go. And I mean, it’s the first thing I ask when I arrive in Toronto, “When am I free? Let’s see the schedule. Can you get me tickets for this and this and this?” And I sometimes try and go two extra days either side. So, I see other people’s films. And it’s some of the best experiences I’ve had, seeing films that have been in Toronto. Because I love seeing things at nine o’clock in the morning, when you’ve got that sort of shock. It’s a different experience seeing a film at the beginning of the day. Oh, I do miss it.
Yeah, I can confirm.
Pike: I do love doing that. It puts a level of normalcy on to it. It’s like you know that your film exists in context with all these other films that are part of that year. And you get a sense of what is being talked about and, oh, it’s so… I miss it so much. Yeah.
I know a lot of people just get in and get out. But it’s always nice when you see people stay. I remember Jon Stewart was there for Rosewater, but he was there the whole week just seeing as much as he could. I thought that was neat.
Pike: It might just mean that I’m not busy.
I doubt that’s true. You seem like a very busy person.
Pike: A lot of time on my hands, maybe? Yeah, I mean, actors are always saying that, aren’t they? “I can only be there for six hours. I have to fly in and I’m flying out. I’m going to walk the red carpet and then I’m going to fly out.” I mean, it sounds very glamorous, but also not nearly as fun.
Do you get to see anything this year or no? Do they send you links for other movies?
Pike: We’re not allowed to, because everything is geocoded. I’ve tried, but no one can join the live screenings unless you actually have an IP address in Canada.
And it’s just a weird watching these movies on my couch. Being in New York, I’ve been on my couch a lot in the last six months.
Pike: Well, that can be our other quote. We had one interview where he said it played great on a laptop, you can put that on the poster. And you can also say, “great from your couch.”
Blakeson: I haven’t been to the cinema, like everybody, going six months. And then I had to watch this in the cinema, just to check the DTP. And it was the first time I’d been in a cinema for six months and you sit there, and the lights go down, and the film comes up. Even though I’d seen it 2,000 times before, it’s still really exciting to be in a cinema again. I just wished it’d been an entirely different movie.
Pike: Were you on your own?
Blakeson: I was there with some of the post team, just checking it through. So, I had a few people walking around, so it felt like a daytime screening at Noting Hill Gate or something. It’s nice.
Yeah, it’s a strange experience from the press side of it. My Toronto from my couch yesterday was this movie, Nomadland, and then Con Air for some reason.
Blakeson: [Laughs] Just a good simple film, if you do an all-nighter.
Can we talk about Chris Messina’s suit?
Blakeson: Yeah, you can. Which one? He’s got two different suits. The white one?
I think my favorite was the one in court.
Blakeson: The shoes, his shoes were fantastic as well in that scene.
I just like to think he showed up like that and that wasn’t a costume.
Blakeson: Well, you say that, but Chris came along with a lot of ideas on the character. And we had a lot of conversations with him – me and Deb, who did the costumes. And so a lot of that comes from Chris’s take on the character. That sort of flamboyant, sort of slimy lawyer look. I mean, I really enjoy Chris in the movie. I think he’s great and he looks fantastic, what can I say.
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