UK director Lynne Ramsay has given updates on a raft of projects she has on the boil, including her fresh collaboration with Joaquin Phoenix, on the fringes of the Doha Film Institute’s Qumra talent incubator this weekend.
She revealed that her adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s short story Stone Mattress remains in development, with Julianne Moore and Sandra Oh still attached.
Deadline exclusively revealed the Amazon-backed project last May during the Cannes Film Festival and there were reports it would start shooting in September 2022.
The tale revolves around a woman in her sixties who plots a revenge killing against the backdrop of a luxury Arctic cruise when she meets a man from a traumatic incident in her past.
“It’s hard to put together because it’s set in the Arctic and I’ve made it quite a high-end ship. It’s complex.”
Ramsay said no shooting date had been set as yet, adding she was keen for it to take place on location in Greenland.
“It’s important it is there because it has this subtext that in some way, what’s happening in the Arctic is happening to this woman.”
Ramsay said she was attracted to the project by the strong female characters.
“It reminded me of when you got those really strong women in films from the 1930s and 40s before it was sanitized in the 1950s,” she said.
“It’s also about the environmental catastrophe. There are these layers to it about trauma, about how things from the past come back to haunt you and how the same thing is happening in the environment. It’s set in the Arctic for a reason.”
Ramsay said that while Moore and Oh remained attached she had yet to confirm the actor for the lead male role.
Asked if she had anyone in mind, she said: “I do, but I don’t want to put him on the spot right now, in case he is not available.”
The director also confirmed she was collaborating with Jennifer Lawrence, under the banner of her production company Excellent Cadaver, on an adaptation of Argentinian France-based writer Ariana Harwicz’s novel Die, My Love.
Described by The New Yorker magazine as belonging to the “motherhood horror” genre, the novel revolves around a woman living in isolation in rural France who loses her mind amid marriage and motherhood.
Ramsay said was in the process of completing the screenplay but that she did not know at this stage whether Stone Mattress or Die, My Love would shoot first.
“We’ll see,” she said.
Ramsay told a Qumra masterclass that she was also developing a new project with Phoenix following on from their collaboration on the 2017 thriller You Were Never Really Here.
“It’s an original project which I am still writing,” she said after the talk, confirming it was the previously reported project of Polaris but not giving further details.
Quizzed on her long-mooted, sci-version of Moby-Dick, Ramsay said she had not ruled out getting it off the ground one day even if it is not at the forefront of her efforts right now.
“I played around with it. I was interested in doing sci-fi. I liked the book when I was a kid and I could see a way to adapt it in a different way but it has always been one of those projects on the back burner,” she said.
“I’ve got an original script that I’ve written. That’s one I really love as well. You have to have a few things on the boil because you never know which one will go first. When you’re ambitious enough to say, ‘I am going to go with a sci-fi like that’, that’s a big thing.”
Ramsay said she had focused on writing during the Covid-19 pandemic and was now keen to get one of the projects she was juggling off the ground.
“You always want to make something that is breaking new ground,” she said. “I feel these are all things I am super interested in and they’ve taken years to develop.”
Ramsay is attending the Doha Film Institute’s Qumra talent incubator event as one of its Qumra Masters.
In the role, she gave a masterclass on Saturday in which she touched on her enduring love of the short film format, her early experiences at Cannes and her need for absolute creative freedom when working on a project.
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