EXCLUSIVE: Zoë Kravitz will direct and Channing Tatum will star in Pussy Island, a genre thriller that Kravitz wrote with E.T. Feigenbaum. Bruce Cohen, Kravitz, Tiffany Persons and Tatum’s Free Association will produce. FilmNation will handle international rights and CAA Media Finance will rep domestic rights in the Cannes Market starting next week.
Frida is a young, clever, Los Angeles cocktail waitress who has her eyes set on the prize: philanthropist and tech mogul Slater King (Tatum). When she skillfully maneuvers her way into King’s inner circle and ultimately an intimate gathering on his private island, she is ready for a journey of a lifetime. Despite the epic setting, beautiful people, ever-flowing champagne and late-night dance parties, Frida can sense that there’s more to this island than meets the eye. Something she can’t quite put her finger on. Something terrifying.
As an actress, Kravitz plays Catwoman opposite Robert Pattinson in the upcoming Matt Reeves-directed The Batman and has starred in Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class, Divergent, and was EP and star of the Hulu series High Fidelity. She has been working toward her directing debut for several years, co-writing a script that captures the zeitgeist clash of power and gender dynamics in a genre construct. She spoke with Deadline and the first question was about the provocative title.
“The title means a lot of things,” Kravitz said. “I started writing this story in 2017. As a woman in general, and a woman in this industry, I’ve experienced some pretty wild behavior from the opposite sex. The title was kind of a joke at first, this place where people would go, bring women, party and hang out. The story evolved into something else, but the title wound up having multiple meanings. And it alludes to this time and place we claim to not be in anymore, in terms of sexual politics. People are evolving and changing but there is still a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths from past behavior. It’s a nod to that, but it’s also playful, and a really playful film in a lot of ways. I like that the title leads with that and has some heavy meaning beneath it.”
Kravitz got writing and producing experience on High Fidelity, which she called “an incredible education in storytelling. This is my first feature and it’s taken many years to get to this point and I’m very excited to step into this new phase. There’s absolutely a thriller element to the film, but it has comedy, drama and real heart. At heart through, it’s a genre thriller.”
She drilled down on Tatum to play the key character of the tech billionaire, and they’ve developed the script together, honing that character along with the heroine. Kravitz said for the female lead, she tried to write a role that would be a dream for her to play, with the resolve to give it to another actress so she can fully focus on directing a film that will begin production early next year on an undisclosed tropical island.
“Chan was my first choice, the one I thought of when I wrote this character,” Kravitz said. “I just knew from Magic Mike and his live shows, I got the sense he’s a true feminist and I wanted to collaborate with someone who was clearly interested in exploring this subject matter.”
Tatum said he was shocked when Kravitz called with that offer, because he’s not usually offered roles like that and because it felt like a challenge to wade into the perilous area of gender politics.
“It’s terrifying to talk about anything, when you start putting your toes over the line, and talking about men and women today, as things are starting to bubble to the surface and everybody is starting to have accountability,” Tatum told Deadline. “When Zoë called me about this, I was shocked. I didn’t know her. I’d watched her in movies, knew she produced High Fidelity and had seen that, but I didn’t know she was creating on a level like this, where she wanted to direct. This came out of nowhere and the subject matter made me say, wait, why are you thinking about me for this? No one gives me a chance to play a role like this, everybody throws me down a different alley and expects me to do a certain thing. It was scary and liberating, just to be able to have a free conversation, where I was allowed to mess up, and say the wrong things. It became less about men and women and on more of a human thing that will open people’s eyes, rather than us drawing lines in the sand, the you’re a man, I’m a woman, it’s us against you thing. This goes deeper in a direction I’m fascinated by and I’m interested in seeing how people receive this and break it down in their own lives. And what they think the movie means and how would they have made decisions.
“Slater is a wild character, an extremely committed version — psychotic possibly — but an extreme version of myself,” Tatum said. “I’m very interested to see what humans are capable of, physically, mentally, spiritually, energetically, all of it. He wants to know what people are capable of, what they want, and what they are capable of when they want something. And how far are you willing to push yourself to get the thing you want. For me, that supersedes gender, race or religion, creed. That’s wildly fascinating to me.”
He also came away from their first meeting with the confidence she had in her vision, and, well, other things.
“When someone can just come out and tell me I should not be wearing Crocs, and is so adamant about it, she completely convinced me and I never wear Crocs anymore,” Tatum said.
“I was just trying to be a good friend, Chan,” she said.
“I get it, but I totally loved Crocs for a hot second, and in one hang she was like, you can’t ever do that again. And I said, ‘OK, fine.’ ”
Said Kravitz: “Just to be clear, there are people out there who can pull off the Crocs thing; I just wasn’t sure you were one of them.”
Tatum allowed that since he stopped rocking the Crocs, “I feel cooler, and her point of view on me and Crocs was legit. She had a good argument. The one thing I can pull off, is listening.”
Pussy Island is a co-production between This Is Important, Free Association and Bruce Cohen Productions.
Kravitz is repped by CAA and Untitled; Tatum by CAA.