Netflix’s original film The Most Hated Woman in America had its SXSW premiere today, ahead of its March 24 debut on the streaming site. Based on a true story, Melissa Leo stars as Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the outspoken and shady founder of American Atheists who is kidnapped and murdered, along with her son and granddaughter, by an ex-con and an employee of O’Hair’s organization. Check out the new trailer above.
During a Q&A session after the screening, Leo said playing such a character that, “to put it politely, was seen as being difficult,” was tough. “You got to touch some part of your soul to get there,” she said, adding that writer-director Tommy O’Haver’s adoration for the real-life Madalyn was what drew her to the project. “She was a human being and she grew in an environment where” there was no room for “her intelligence and passion. … But she didn’t give a f*ck.”
Leo was joined onstage by O’Haver alongside co-writer Irene Turner and some of the film’s cast, including Josh Lucas, to talk about the challenges of making Most Hated Woman in America.
“Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy to set up a movie about a murdered atheist,” O’Haver quipped on the film’s early search for financing before Netflix stepped in. “It’s not a huge genre.”
The indie was shot in just 18 days, which Lucas said was “the fastest I’ve ever made a movie and as pretty low-budget as you can get.” Despite the tight schedule, “it was strangely a good, easy, fun movie to make.”
Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Vincent Kartheiser, Michael Chernus, Rory Cochrane, Sally Kirkland, Alex Frost, Brandon Mychal Smith and Peter Fonda co-star in the film, which was produced by Max Handelman, Elizabeth Banks and Laura Rister.