Madeline's Madeline director Josephine Decker talks Film, Pixar, Elisabeth Moss; Madeline's Madeline director Josephine Decker discusses her work on Madeline's Madeline and what to expect from Elisabeth Moss movie Shirley.
Having directed experimental psychological and sexual thrillers previously, the curiosity of critics was piqued by the prospect of a new film from directorJosephine Decker.
With her new film Madeline's Madeline, Decker has found a new level of acclaim and award wins for a mysterious and complicated movie of an artist as a young woman.
In the film, Madeline (newcomer Helena Howard) has become an integral part of a prestigious physical theatre troupe. When the workshop's ambitious director Evangeline (House of Cards starMolly Parker) pushes the teen to weave her own imagination and troubled relationship with her mother (Miranda July) into their collective art, the lines between performance and reality begin to blur for Madeline and the audience.
The resulting battle between imagination, emotion and memory rips out of the rehearsal space and leads to chaos.
Mirror Online spoke with Decker to discuss her hypnotic and emotionally complicated new film, her career aspirations, the streaming versus cinema debate, and her upcoming film with The Handmaid's Tale starElisabeth Moss.
Josephine grew up surrounding herself in creativity but didn't know it was necessarily going to lead to her directing.
"When I was growing up I didn't know that I wanted to be in movies. I knew I wanted to be a writer and knew that wasn't going to be a full-time job," she told Mirror Online.
Having studied literature, costume design and photography throughout her education, it wasn't until watchingPixarhit Monster's Inc and "laughing like a four-year-old" that her roommate told her "you have to do this, do what you love, making animated Pixar movies" and she realised that was "her calling", even though she ended up making "weird, violent, scary, sexual movies."
It would seem that an animated Pixar movie would definitely be on her to-do list, though.
"Eventually, maybe, I'll make that kids movie. That would be nice."
Fast & Furious: Is Charlize Theron villain about to get her own spin-off film?
Decker also discussed finding Madeline's Madeline star Helena Howard at an acting festival, where she was blown away by the newcomer's talent.
"She came in and did a monologue from this play Blackbird where she's confronting this man who sexually abused her when she was younger and the piece was so good and authentic that I was just floored.
"I wasn't expecting it all. Everyone else had been doing scenes from Frozen and her piece was so alive and it transformed the room. I started bawling when she finished and told her it was the best performance I'd ever seen in my life and she cried.
"When the whole session was over, I chased her like 'let's make something!'"
A huge part of shaping Madeline's Madeline was, appropriately, a long rehearsal period with the stars of the film and the director.
"We did six months of rehearsing, one weekend a month and scripting from the rehearsal and having lots of conversations about the power dynamics in the room from rehearsal and I wanted that to be an essential part of the film."
Baker also revealed how she naturally always writes about women and relationships between them.
"The power dynamics between women can be so subtle and often, maybe, unspoken. In this movie, it can be pretty horrific..."
Another important part of the film was the handling of Madeline's mental illness, which plays significantly into the style of filmmaking too.
"I felt a deep sense of responsibility. I had someone very close to me to be hospitalised due to their mental illness whilst we were rehearsing. And taken out of context, mental illness can feel like it can be used against you and mental illness is so complex.
"I knew that this person I was close with had had many different diagnoses in their life and I wanted to discuss the slippery nature of mental illness...it's super complicated, a diagnosis may change."
She also revealed that the film's title came about through an iPhone autocorrect issue.
"I was texting Helena like 'What do you think of this title Madeline Madeline?' like she says in the film when she plays her mother, but my iPhone autocorrected to Madeline's Madeline and I was like 'Oh my God, that it's it!'
"It was about her taking ownership of herself and her own authorship."
Decker also gave her thoughts on streaming services versus cinema theatres at a time where some directors have spoken out against the former.
"MUBI is so special as they're incredibly good at bringing really unconventional cinema to such a wide audience and take big risks with the films and filmmakers that they choose.
"Cinema theatres are so immersive, but my movies are mostly going to be digested on laptops, so you have to think 'how will I be able to make this immersive at home?'"
What is MUBI? Streaming service challenging Netflix with free cinema tickets
The director also spoke about her upcoming film Shirley, based on the historical fiction novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell onThe Haunting of Hill HouseauthorShirley Jacksonand husband Stanley Edgar Hyman, which will star The Handmaid's Tale actress Elisabeth Moss and The Shape of Water actorMichael Stuhlbargin the lead roles.
"They're both such huge blessings, they're so incredibly talented. Stuhlbarg and Elisabeth Moss have very well-crafted instruments and both bring so much to the rehearsal process and the staging, I learnt so much.
"They're a really good match for how they approach this material."
On examining the "fascinating human being" Shirley Jackson, Decker revealed that while time period accuracy was important, the film "by nature was a creative liberty" due to its basis on the novel.
"I feel like the relationship [between Jackson and Hyman] was so unconventional for the time period and the relationship at the centre of our film is very unusual and exciting."
The director revealed what genre she would like to move into next, aside from a Pixar movie, of course.
"I always wanted to do fantasy and sci-fi. One of my favourite films growing up was Labyrinth, and Babe, I love that movie."
Zayn Malik sings A Whole New World from Aladdin and fans want him as hero
Interestingly, Decker's authentic style might even make its way to mainstream Hollywood, with her revealing she "100%" would go for a blockbuster franchise.
"You can tell good stories in any genre."
"I wanted to make a film that people really got inside of and cared about the characters and I'm really big into the interactivity of storytelling where not every gap is filled and the audience is doing some work to create a storyline. I hope everyone's experience of the film is different."
Madeline's Madeline is in UK cinemas and available to stream on MUBI now.
Film editor's picks
Madeline's Madeline, directed by Josephine Decker
Helena Howard in Madeline's Madeline
Helena Howard and Molly Parker in Madeline's Madeline
Credit: 2014 Getty Images
Elisabeth Moss will play Shirley Jackson in Shirley
David Bowie in Labyrinth, 1986