Opening to mostly positive reviews during its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Korean director Chan-wook Park’s first English language film Stoker was praised for its increasing mystery and visual references. The mystery thriller, which is now playing in select theaters, shows the unique dynamics between a family that’s isolated not just from the outside world, but also from each other.
Stoker opens in the immediate aftermath of the death of India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) beloved father and best friend, Richard (Dermot Mulroney), in a tragic auto accident on her 18th birthday. Her quiet life on her father’s secluded estate is suddenly shattered, but she refuses to connect with any other members of her family, including her emotionally unstable mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman). India further masks her feelings, which only her father understood, after his long-lost brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) unexpectedly arrives for Richard’s funeral.
Charlie also surprises everyone when he decides to move in with India and Evie. While India is initially hesitant to trust her uncle, she increasingly becomes infatuated with her charismatic relative. She comes to realize, however, that his arrival is no coincidence. With her uncle by her side, India decides to finally fulfill her unusual destiny.
We were generously given the opportunity to sit down with Wasikowska, Goode and Park (who spoke through a translator) during a recent roundtable interview to discuss the film. Among other things, the actors and director spoke about Prison Break star Wentworth Miller making his feature film writing debut with the script; how the director’s unique visual and helming styles influenced the shoot; and what it was like filming India and Charlie’s intense piano sequence.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: The film was written by Wentworth Miller, who starred in Prison Break. Director Park, was there any point that you thought about casting him in the movie, maybe as Charlie?
Chan-wook Park: I understood that Wentworth wanted to be the writer and creator of the story. He didn’t expect himself to be cast in a role.
We Got This Covered: Matthew, when you first read the script by Wentworth, was there more of an actor’s perspective in the story? Was the script different from other screenplays you’ve read?
Matthew Goode: Well, he wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym of Ted Foulke. So I didn’t enter into reading it, thinking this is from an actor’s perspective. But it read like a really great screenplay. So you didn’t think the script was focusing on the actors more than anything else. It was just a good piece of work.
We Got This Covered: Matthew and Mia, you’ve both worked with many Western filmmakers before. What is it about Director Park’s visual style that’s different from other directors you have worked with? What is his approach like?
Matthew Goode: I don’t think it’s any different. Ultimately, if you break it down to its bare bones, it’s still people talking to each other, listening and responding, and that’s being captured by a camera. That’s not me being facetious.
But I haven’t seen anyone come to the set with 90 percent of the film made in his mind, and drawn out frame-by-frame. In some ways, it was slightly disconcerting, as it was all pre-determined. He story-boarded the hell out of it. There weren’t stick men; there were beautifully drawn figures, and there was a team of people doing it.
He’d also say, we can’t start filming in this location yet, because I haven’t gotten the color of the wall to match the color of this egg shell. (laughs) So that was mind-blowing.
But he had to adapt himself, because of production costs. He would have taken twice as long. He said he would have taken his actors back after every take to watch their performance after every scene. He wanted to talk about it and discuss it. In some ways, I was quite grateful we didn’t do that, because I don’t like to watch something back until you cut the scene and it’s finished. Then you go, why was I doing that?
His meticulous nature was great. We were lucky to have his long-term collaborator, Chung-hoon Chung, the cinematographer.
There was only one person who had a speech in it, and that’s Nicole. I wouldn’t say it’s the most naturalistic dialogue-it’s very pointed. It’s like what we’re seeing visually. Everything’s there for a reason, and it’s a prelude to something else. I think it adds an extra layer of intrigue to this weird bunch of characters. (laughs)
Mia Wasikowska: Well, I’m not sure if the differences are because he’s Korean, or because he’s him. But I think the most obvious difference in Korea is that you storyboard the film. That was really cool, I really liked that.
Every filmmaker is different, and different methods work for everyone. But it was amazing to be this well prepared. In rehearsals, we would open the script and we would have the scenes, and we’d have the folder of storyboards. He’d explain how he was going to shoot it, so that was pretty amazing to have that already there. Then we could discuss with him and collaborate with him.
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