Talking Giant Monsters & Inner Demons with Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudekis
We sat down to chat with the Colossal stars.
I think this is the sci-fi companion cousin to Rachel Getting Married.
– Anne Hathaway
Nacho Vigalondo’s time travel movie masterpiece, Timecrimes, earned the respect of sci-fi nerds everywhere. Vigalondo’s latest feature, Colossal, has its sights set on a much larger audience.
Colossal tells the story of Gloria (Anne Hathaway), a hard drinking party girl who moves back to her hometown after her fed up boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicks her out. Shortly after returning home, Gloria reunites with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a small-town lifer. Oscar is a former childhood acquaintance, current local bar owner, and future enabler. As Gloria’s life descends into one long boozy haze, a giant monster shows up halfway across the world, hell-bent on destroying everything in its path.
Colossal is a cinematic chimera, a perfect mashup of humor, drama, and camp. Vigalondo’s script also tackles some timely themes. Packed with unexpected twists and turns, Colossal is a film audiences will want to discuss as soon as they leave the theater. During the film’s debut at TIFF, we managed to sit down and speak with the film’s stars Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. During the conversation, they shared their thoughts on indie movies, creative freedom, and post-genre cinema.
Colossal offers more subtext than most giant monster movies; it’s an all too relevant social commentary. Vigalondo’s script addresses addiction, codependency, and toxic masculinity.
AH: Watching the movie last night I was struck by what a brilliant example this movie offers in terms of why you shouldn’t give hateful men great amounts of power. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman or just a breathing human being in the year 2016…I just found it right to see a woman pull herself out from under traditional male bull$#!t and not in an overtly feminist way that would be off-putting to anybody. Just stand on her own two feet and just own it.
It’s difficult to summarize Colossal in an elevator pitch. What looks like an over-the-top monster flick actually tells an intimate and uncomfortable story. The film could have easily fallen apart while making the jump from script to the silver screen. When asked how the film survived the transition, both stars credited Vigalondo and the positivity on set.
JS: You know you’re talking about your artistic optimism. One of the nice things about when you start to make movies or even my time at SNL, prior to working at SNL, you can’t help but play the home game and judge it a little bit, like, ‘I would have done this, I would have done that.’ And then you see how hard people work and give a damn whether that movie gets purchased or doesn’t open or does open or becomes a hit or doesn’t. And if you just give a damn every single day, you have no control over it.
Sudeikis took a moment to collect his thoughts before adding
JH: You just put your trust in it.
AH: It felt right on some intuitive level. I just read a great quote the other day about the moment that hope becomes denial, and I’ve definitely experienced that in my life and I didn’t feel that happen on this one. Every day felt just very much in the hope bubble. I never felt like my optimism was being taken advantage of.
Hathaway and Sudeikis are Hollywood veterans and their successful careers haven’t been without failures. They were asked to discuss working on troubled productions.
AH: You just prepare yourself for the onslaught of the humiliation that the internet will serve you.
JS: And you’re hanging out at Craft services.
AH: Honestly you just kind of go, Ok I’m in this. You obviously try your best to make it as good as you can and whatever you can contribute to the limits of your power. And you just kinda try and make some good memories. Just because the film doesn’t turn out doesn’t mean that you have to have a poor time on it. You just kinda make the most of it.
JS: What Anne describes as optimism is something that is rooted in improvisational work where it’s the idea of yes and. Supporting something. Saying yes to it and then trying to contribute something new to it. With Nacho, he shares that same sort of optimism and enthusiasm and also a very clear love of movies in very different genres and I think that’s part of the reason this thing is a collection of people that feel that same way. I think that’s why it’s such a fun experience and why it’s such a blast for me to see it for the first time, with a bunch of former strangers.
In Colossal, Hathaway’s character Gloria and Sudeikis’ character Oscar, each deal with emotional insecurities. The two stars were asked how they deal with watching giant versions of themselves projected on movie screens.
AH: I’ve hit a point in my life where I realize that self-loathing really serves no one. In fact, I think that’s a little bit what the movies about. How that megalomaniacal attitude, that self-focus, the self-destruction, you think it’s only affecting you but your energy can be beaming out and hitting someone halfway across the world in ways that you couldn’t have imagined. That even when you’re self-focused you are affecting people in the world around you. So I try not to be too hard on myself but, I don’t go to my own movies for the pleasure of going to them, I go to learn how I can get better and I go out of respect for the people I make it with and for the filmmaker. This is one, however, I enjoy the movie so much that I can put up with my own self on screen.
Colossal is a true genre-bender. Our difficulty classifying the movie was a repeated topic of conversation
AH: I was really so grateful to the audience last night. This movie doesn’t have a clear genre and I think the audience trusted that and went with it and understood that it’s OK to laugh and then go to a more emotional, powerful place and that they don’t negate each other.
Hathaway on what makes this film special.
AH: For me, Rachel Getting Married was the verité addiction story that I wanted to tell and after we made it I was satisfied by it and when I saw it I’ve never been happier with anything I’ve made – outside of you know, a human being. I think this is the sci-fi companion cousin to Rachel Getting Married. I just thought, what a cool thing because addiction is always told from this place of heaviness. And for me, I thought if Rachel Getting Married is for, in my mind, the addict that’s newly in recovery. This movie is for somebody that’s been in recovery for 10 years, 20 years, who has that chip and knows that you can defeat a monster, you can do the most heroic action, at the end of the day you still can’t have a drink. And that appealed to me. That is why I wanted to make the movie and then afterward I was like, Oh we’re saying something really cool about the unnecessary… not by the way, I’m not saying male energy. I think male energy is fantastic, important, and welcome. I’m talking about macho energy, the BS macho-ness that has caused a lot of damage and taken up space and space that we should all want to share and discover together.
I asked Hathaway and Sudeikis if after working with Vigalondo, they were more open to taking on bizarre scripts.
AH: Not more open, I hope that I’m more of a lightning rod for them.
JS: I think it’s a special moment when you find someone, when you find an original voice. I think it’s important to support that and hold on to it.
Hathaway and Sudeikis on growing up during the indie cinema boom.
AH: When I was a teenager. You know I grew up about 40-minutes outside of Manhattan, so I had wonderful access to a lot of art houses. You would just go in and see amazing, amazing small movies. So, when I was in high school the films that I gravitated…we had a really, really great video rental store just a small walk from my house. You could just go and find these great obscure little hits. And of course, we all know the 90’s was just such a, oh my god, just a watershed moment for independent cinema. I grew up loving movies like, Living in Oblivion was my favorite movie in high school and Being John Malkovich is still one of my all-time favorite movies.
JS: Flirting with Disaster.
AH Yes! I saw that in the theaters. I think that was at the Maplewood movie theater, thank you whoever owned it! When I read this script and when I realized I had the opportunity to be a part of the process of getting it made, I just, I did this one for my 16-year old self. I would have loved this movie and felt so cool knowing that it existed and talking about it.
JS: Going to that small theater and being the one to tell your friends about it and going back again. That’s as relevant and prevalent now as ever, because of the digital realm. To find those little nuggets, we have so much stuff going on.
Keeping Colossal’s budget relatively small worked in Vigalondo’s favor; it afforded him a high degree of artistic control. Colossal is just one of many wild premises getting greenlit. Hathaway and Sudeikis both discussed the creative explosion taking place in the entertainment industry.
AH: I just read an article in the NY Times the other day about how the network TV shows this year, they’re at a throw spaghetti against the wall moment because the traditional formula isn’t connecting with their viewers anymore. So they’re pushing creative boundaries right and left. Things that never would have been considered on a major network before are suddenly getting 13-episode orders
JS: I’m on one. I’m doing one for FOX. I’m an animated, like He-Man character, Son of Zorn. And then my buddy Forte, Last Man on Earth. That again comes from, that’s the marriage of Chris and Phil, Lord and Miller doing these big epic things and creating this, you know with The Lego Movie and the Jump Street films like, ‘Oh these guys have their fingers on the pulse of these unusual things.”
I have so much optimism for an entire generation of artists that are being born now or going through school now that because of the internet, because of cameras and editing equipment that are pre-packaged on their laptops now, there’s an entire generation that will be making short films from the second they can figure out what app button to hit. They won’t be brought through a film school or film school will be life and actually the participation of making short films and writing stories. I think you’re going to see more things dabble in inventiveness and genre skewing and melding because its equalized things to a degree on the independent level. And I think there will always be a curious millionaire out there too that wants to endow the arts. I’d love to make $100 million dollars if for no other reason than to buy cameras for 12-year-old boys and girls. I’d be curious as hell what they would come up with. If not at 12 then certainly by 22
AH: So we don’t want to sound like up our own butts intellectuals but we’ve been playing around with the idea that this movie is post-genre. And I think we’re actually kinda uniquely poised at this moment to be entering a time of post-genre because we’ve all now been exposed to so many things through awesome television, through the history of amazing movies. We’ve seen so many great examples of things within their pure universe. It’s kind of like the next thing is ‘OK now let’s mix it up a little bit and let’s give you this thing with a twist.’