Q&A with William Oldroyd
Following a career as a theater director, William Oldroyd has quickly established himself as one of contemporary cinema’s more provocative voices in recent years. His feature debut Lady Macbeth (2016) starred Florence Pugh in a star-making performance and garnered awards at numerous film festivals, including the FIPRESCI Prize at both San Sebastián Film Festival and Thessaloniki Film Festival. His newest film, an adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s award-winning debut novel Eileen, is a chilling Christmas story caught between crime and romance starring Thomasin McKenzie in the titular role alongside Academy Award Winner Anne Hathaway.
Eileen is now playing in U.S. theaters.
Q. The way in which you balance the film’s elegant look with its pulpier themes puts it in conversation with similar films about the suburbs’ hidden unpleasantries, like Blue Velvet (1986) for example. What films were you and screenwriters Ottessa Moshfegh and Luke Goebel thinking about while developing Eileen?
A. The character of Rebecca in Eileen was drawn from Daphne Du Maurier’s novel of the same name and so of course we had Hitchcock’s great film adaptation in our minds. I also remember talking to cinematographer Ari Wegner about In Cold Blood (1967) when we were in prep. I love Conrad Hall’s striking black and white photography in that film and also love the fact that it was shot in the sixties and set in the fifties, which was useful in helping us find our look for Eileen.
Q. Both your feature debut Lady Macbeth (2016) and Eileen are period pieces that focus on women at odds with their environment. What is it about the social conditions these women find themselves in that attracts you as a storyteller?
A. I’m drawn to stories with complex characters, high stakes and a clear sense of time and place. Historically, women have had to fight harder to get what they want than men have, so that’s probably why so many of the greatest dramas have women at the centre of them, and principally why I want to tell their stories.
Q. How did Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry get involved in Eileen?
A. I loved the score that Richard wrote for The Nest and have been a fan of Arcade Fire for many years. After we wrapped I sent Richard an assembly of the last ten minutes of the film, which is virtually wordless, and mentioned that it would all be scored. He seemed to like what he saw and we started working together.
Q. What is the last book you read and loved?
A. Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Q. Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
A. The Shining.
Q. How far back do you usually sit in a movie theater?
A. As far back as possible.
Q. What image would you like to end this interview with?