It’s not often that we see a young established actress early on in her career make a daring 180 from the types of roles she’s built her image upon. But that is exactly what Silver Linings Playbook Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence did in Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Lawrence plays the film’s title character, a woman whose virtues are overlooked by her selfish celebrity author husband. She’s expecting a baby, but life gets out of hand when too many guests descend upon their country domicile in the middle of nowhere. Says Lawrence, “I never lose myself in a movie. This is the only time I’ve lost myself. I couldn’t tell my body that none of it was real. I kept on hyperventilating.” Paramount will be releasing mother! on DVD/Blu-Ray on Dec. 19 and on SVOD tomorrow.
Tell us what mother! means.
The most important thing to know about this film before seeing it is that, it’s all allegory. It’s all metaphor that’s tied to this narrative. It’s the creation and decimation of the universe, including Biblical themes and creation of religion. I represent mother Earth, and what I have is Baby Jesus—if we guess the religion. I play this woman who has built this home from the ground up. I’m in a relationship with an artist who is obsessed with needing appreciation from me first, and then I’m not enough.
In preparing for the movie, did Darren Aronofsky bring up Roman Polanski and Rosemary’s Baby as influences?
Not once actually. We talked about The Giving Tree as a reference. I was reading Jane Eyre by happenstance at the time. It reminds me of this other short story The Yellow Wallpaper, this Victorian patriarchal. It also reminded me of the Wide Sargasso Sea. It reminded me of these patriarchal relationships that men have with their wives: They’re very nice and then politely take away their dignity. Those were some of my influences. The other tool that was most helpful to me were the house—my connection with the house, being barefoot, feeling grounded and home. Our references were more Biblical and universal than Rosemary’s Baby.
You shot the whole movie in rehearsal before you actually shot the entire movie. How did this help you and what did you discover from that?
It probably helped me to scare Darren. I didn’t find the character during the rehearsal. For me the rehearsal was about talking it out with the other actors and choreographing and getting used to the movie’s entire language which is just the camera. So, getting used to those huge close ups and moving with the cameraman was important to me. But, I didn’t find the character until we were in Montreal. So, I’m sure Darren was pretty worried for a few months. Everything is from my point of view. So, it’s either my point of view, or over the shoulder with a little bit of me in it, or an extreme close-up. I think there are only two masters in the whole film.
How did that make you feel as a performer?
It would have been distracting if I hadn’t gotten used to it in rehearsal, because not being able to look at a person is hard. Reacting instantly with a piece of tape is difficult, so it turned out I couldn’t do that. So we had to figure out ways that Javier [Bardem] or Michelle [Pfeiffer] could give me their eyes. It was distracting and weird
How does Darren’s directing style differ from say, David O. Russell, who uses more improv?
Darren is more specific. David is into creating chaos and seeing what comes from that, and often magic comes from that. Darren is very specific. He had this story burning inside of him, he created it, we show up on set, we had three months of rehearsal, so he was very specific. There was still room for discussion; on every film set there are things that come to you and you have to talk about them. But he’s very visually specific, very specific with the actors. We would also try different things. We’d do ten takes, and have a different reaction for each one.
There’s been a lot of chaos in America. The need for female empowerment is so urgent, especially now. Does this film speak to some of the chaos that’s been going on?
We made this movie way before the election. This movie speaks to the creation and decimation of the universe. It speaks to the truth in humankind, the cannibalization and insatiable need and hunger that we have, and always have, and what will happen if we continue to rape and pillage the planet. If we continue to drill into the planet, and put the emissions in the atmosphere, and the earth continues to warm, storms are going to get worse, droughts are going to get worse. It’s not about the election, it’s about the world. That doesn’t make me feel comfortable that the president doesn’t believe in climate change. That makes me feel really scared for my future.
The movie is controversial. Audiences who went to it in the beginning, may have thought this isn’t the kind of movie they were expecting.
It’s certainly not a darling. Every time you make a movie you hope everyone likes it. It’s your only thought. That never crossed our minds. It’s an assault. I think it’s necessary. I’m proud of us, I’m proud of Darren and I’m proud of banding together to deliver something we believe in. That CinemaScore [F]—we’re fine with it.