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Hey All, we interviewed the folks from the new eco-terrorism spy thriller, The East.  Writer/star Brit Marling, director Zal Batmanglij and stars Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page and Patricia Clarkson sat in to give us their thoughts about living off the grid, anarchists and female MacGyvers.

Added bonus for True Blood fans, LMD is the first to reveal the fate of Eric Northman in the final Sookie Stackhouse book to Alexander Skarsgård and records his excellent reaction.

Dig it!

The East

Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen Page

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Your characters, Benji and Izzy, are both children of wealth.  I felt like they were compelled by their guilt of being born into affluence.  How did you read their motivations?

Ellen Page:  You actually see that a lot in people you meet or people that I know that are anarchists; they grow up and reject that.  I think a lot of times anarchists can get criticism sometimes because of that, coming from wealth.  I think a lot of that has to do with their internal discomfort and their internal sadness and anger.  I think that’s one thing that really fascinated me with Izzy.  It’s sort of hard to talk about her overall journey and arc because that gets revealed late in the film and it’s nice to not have that exposed too early.  Her reasons in specific are so obviously emotional and personal and I think that that’s often for a lot of people in any kind of resistance movement, and I don’t think it should take away from the validity of what they’re angry at because they have a lot of valid reasons to be very angry, as well as anyone who’s been oppressed.  But her journey specifically as an actor is really fascinating because you see that a lot of her external anger and external angst has a lot to do with her inner pain and profound discomfort which she confronts at the end of the film.

Alexander Skarsgård:  Like Ellen said, it’s a little difficult to talk about it because there is the scene in the film where Benji talks about his background and explains why, what motivates him in that moment where he inherited all that money and how that changed everything around him.  Like all his relatives related to him in a different way and they related to his money rather than him as a human being.  And what was interesting about that moment was also that he said… We talked a lot about that scene, Zal and I and Brit, and I didn’t want to put the blame on the family and go, ‘Oh, and then I had all this money and suddenly everyone wanted my money, and I was like, “Oh, whatever, I’m out”.’  I thought it was more interesting if he felt that it changed him: That people related to him in a different way, but he kind of enjoyed that and he let them do that because he had the power because of all the money.  And I just felt that it was more interesting if that’s what scared him - not that they changed, but that he changed - and he allowed them to treat him in a different way, and that was the moment when he set the house on fire.

 

Director Zal Batmanglij

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  The East came about after you and Brit Marling chose to experience living off the grid; riding trains and living with anarchists.  Why did you do that and how did that grow into a spy thriller?

Zal Batmanglij:  Brit and I were frustrated because we couldn’t get Sound of My Voice made into a film.  We’d entered this sort of dead end professionally.  I guess we hadn’t even started professionally, trying to break in, but also personally, we just had hit a wall, and we wanted to go have an adventure.  We had no money, and so we went on the only adventure that was free that was available to us, which was hitting the road and exploring the underworld of America.  A world that we hadn’t experienced before, which was we went on anarchist farms, we went to people who were living off the grid to get off the bounty of capitalism, but were finding new bounty in its waste.  So we were blown away by how much food is thrown away on a daily basis.  Like all these good pastries have to be thrown away the next day and they’re just sitting in a dumpster on their way to a landfill.  Once you figure out how to pick a lock and open that dumpster and can go in there and take out that food and you watch someone get fed by that food; that changes the way you see the world.

When we came home, we had been fascinated by writing a spy thriller, just abstractly, influenced by the films of the 70s; {Alan J.} Pakula’s paranoid thrillers, The Parallax View, All the President’s Men and Klute, but we couldn’t shake this experience that we had experienced on the road.  So the two vines sort of intersected.

 

LMD:  How much of what we see on The East is based on actual moments you and Brit experienced while on the road?

ZB:  Only spin-the-bottle is the actual moment; the rest is tone and feeling.  And then all the news stories; the antibiotic, the kids dying of cancer, all those are hyperreal.  They’ve never been exaggerated for dramatic effect.  There is a drug on the market that makes 1.4 billion dollars a year; it has those side effects for certain people.  There who are kids dying of cancer from the bathwater. That’s all real.  The East is exaggerated for dramatic effect; there’s no group that exists like that … yet. But the corporate crimes aren’t even dramaticised a little bit.

 

LMD:  Ellen and Alexander mentioned that the order in which you shot the film helped create a sense of intimacy immediately by starting with a nude scene and then the bathing scene next.  Was the schedule set up for that purpose?

ZB:  The studio called me and said, ‘We have an issue. We can’t figure out where to put these dates on the schedule.’  We had an issue of the water getting colder every day and we had scheduling issues about when certain locations are available and we were all on a conference call trying to figure it out and we couldn’t figure it out.  Then I went to sleep and when I woke up at 6:00 in the morning, I was like, ‘Of course, we’ll start with the bathing scene, or start with Izzy’s nude scene. One of those two things and that’ll be a way to bond everybody.’  And it was huge risk, but everyone was open to it and it worked like gangbusters, so I will try this over and over again.

 

Brit Marling and Patricia Clarkson

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Besides being a film with a message, The East is a very entertaining spy thriller with Sarah having a bit of MacGyver and Jason Bourne to her.

Brit Marling:  Oh my God, you’re saying all the things that we love.  We thought of MacGyver.  We wanted to make en espionage movie where people are spying with gadgets like a phone.  Modern espionage has just gotten too crazy; there’s a gadget to save you from everything, so it’s nice to see espionage with a paper clip.  How do you get out of trouble with a paper clip?

 

LMD:  Sarah has to make a lot of interesting choices and I wonder if by casting Miss Clarkson, you kind of placed a choice in front of her, because given her trajectory, Sarah could easily become Sharon in about ten years’ time.

BM:  The reason we were so excited and praying that Patty ever saw the script was because we felt like the movie could become really uneven if Benji and Sharon weren’t two equally powerful, equally charismatic forces.  Like you really have to believe that Sarah’s caught between these two worlds and that she’s drawn in and feels that her boss has this intense allure and power and is seductive and wildly intelligent, and that Benji also has an allure that’s intense and quiet and that softness that draws you in.  And so creating these polar opposites of equal strength was so important, so when Patty said that she would do it, we had this little dance party in the room.

 

LMD:  Was your protagonist always meant to be a female?

BM:  Yeah, she was always a girl.  We were always interested in the idea of what it would be like to do an espionage action movie where it’s written for a girl from the beginning.   A lot of times you watch something like Salt - which I loved Salt - but that was written for a man and then they changed the gender and made it a woman.  I think you see that a lot; when you see an action movie with girls in it, it’s sort of thinking from a male perspective and we wanted to write something where the journey was about the girl becoming more feminine rather than moving away from her femininity.

Patricia Clarkson:  Which I think is brilliant because - we were talking about this - is that so many female characters have to take on male characteristics; that we can be very feminine and tough at the same time.  But that often CEOs of companies as they move into more power, they take on the same misogyny and sexism with women that we’ve suffered through with powerful men, because it’s just the nature of the beast.  And how do you remain this organically feminine, soft, beautiful woman and have all of the power and intelligence, capable of everything that the men are capable of?  But we are different.

 

LMD:  I’m curious about your thoughts about the motivations of Benji and Izzy because they’re children of wealth.  Are they moved by a sense of guilt?

BM:  Yeah, I’m sure that guilt is part of it.  We tried to make a group of people from all different backgrounds.  I think Doc comes from a very middle class background and probably got a scholarship to go to school and med school.  Thumbs is an ex-soldier from Afghanistan.  I think that everybody sort of came there differently, but certainly with Benji and Izzy, we do talk about their background and they do come from privilege, and I think that’s actually a hard thing for people to empathise with.  No one has much empathy for the rich kid who sets his fortune on fire to become an anarchist.  It’s definitely a hard thing for people to find the feeling into.  But I think that when we came up with the oil spill jam, and we were like, ‘Okay, how did these kids pull off this oil spill jam?”  The sort of innovative answer to us seemed, ‘Oh, it’s because one or two of them in this collective are actually part of that world, and so they have a point of entry that’s letting them in.’  I think it’s true, we met people on the road that were like that; kids who did come from a certain amount of privilege and then kids who did not.  I think it’s from both backgrounds, really.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 20th, 2013

 

Since we are nearing True Blood’s vamptastic return to HBO, here’s a little bonus.  LMD was the first to apprise Alexander Skarsgård of the fate of his character Eric Northman in the newly released final chapter of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires mysteries, Dead Ever After.

Special Alexander Skarsgård/True Blood Bonus

Full of Spoilers!

The Lady Miz Diva:  Are you aware of the controversy surrounding the last Sookie Stackhouse book and Eric’s fate?

Alexander Skarsgård:  No?  What’s the controversy?

 

LMD:  What happens to him?

AS:  No, I haven’t read it.  He bites the bullet?

 

LMD:  No, it’s worse…

AS:  It’s worse?

 

LMD:  Well, maybe.  He ends up as a sex slave to the queen.

*Three full seconds of stunned, open-mouthed silence*

AS:  Ohmigod!  That’s in my future, huh? {Laughs} The queen is dead.

 

LMD:  There’s another one.

AS:  Another queen?  I can be a sex slave, that’s fine.

 

LMD:  The fans are rather upset about it for Eric’s sake.

AS:  So, Eric’s a sex slave and she {Sookie} ends up with Bill…

 

LMD:  Nope, it’s Sam.

AS:  Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

 

LMD:  Neither did a lot of the fandom, apparently.  There’s been a huge upset on the internet with other authors getting involved to defend Charlaine Harris against the outcry.

AS:  No, I didn’t know anything about it.  That can’t be the end.  There’s gotta be another book, right?

 

LMD:  There’s supposed to be a short epilogue coming.

AS:  Ahh, there you go.  I knew there had to be more.  Well, what number is this one, book 12 or 13?

 

LMD:  It’s book 13.

AS:  Hah!  So, I don’t have to worry.  We’re not going to get around to shooting it for about 8 more years.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 20th, 2013

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive Photos by L.M.D.

 

Film Stills Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

 

 

 

 

 

 

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