A few months ago, we reported Amazon Prime Video and Blumhouse were going to release eight genre movies that focus on diverse casts, female voices, and emerging filmmakers under the “Welcome to Blumhouse” banner. With the first of these films, Veena Sud’s The Lie, now streaming on the platform, I recently spoke to Peter Sarsgaard about being part of the project.
If you haven’t seen the trailers, The Lie follows a divorced couple (Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos) as they try to protect their daughter (Joey King) after she confesses to a horrible crime. As the couple deals with the ramifications of their daughter’s actions, they are forced to decide how far they’re willing to go to keep her safe and protected from the authorities.
During the interview, Sarsgaard talked about why he wanted to work on the movie, how the film makes you think about what you would do in the same situation, his thoughts on streaming movies, what it’s been like making a movie (The Lost Daughter) with his wife, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and trying to make a movie in a COVID world, and more. In addition, he talked about what impressed him about Matt Reeves while making The Batman and why he usually doesn’t watch the movies he’s in.
Check out what he had to say below.
Collider: Yeah, it seems like it’s late where you are. Where are you? If you don’t mind me asking.
PETER SARSGAARD: I’m in Greece.
Oh, wow, okay. Jumping on in, why I get to talk to you today, first fantastic work as always. I am curious, you’ve done so many things over the last few decades, when people like see you in line at a store, is there one particular project that people always want to talk about?
SARSGAARD: It really depends on the demographic. I can tell which thing, I can usually guess as they’re approaching me which one they’re going to say. I mean, I like it when it’s actually a movie that meant something to them. Sometimes it’s more just like the novelty of seeing someone that they’ve seen on the screen and that’s not very exciting for me. But I like it when people say, I watched this movie and it stuck with me, I have this question or, I have some movies that I’ve done that have really meant something to people. So that was nice.
You worked with Veena on The Killing. How often, how early did you know about this project and what was it about this project that said I have to do this.
SARSGAARD: It was Veena. I mean, with Veena, after we did The Killing, I don’t know. It wasn’t that long after maybe like a year that she first told me that she had something. I just had such a great experience working with her and being on the show. It was really nice environment. It’s one of the things that really matters to me is work environment. So I think that I was in, I would think I was like already 70% in before I read it.
In The Lie, there is a river scene and it looks like it’s very cold and you have to go in the river and you’re looking for something. And I’m just curious, how cold was it when you were actually in that river? Because there you slip and fall and I see all the snow and I’m thinking that must have been very cold.
SARSGAARD: Well we had to break ice in order for me to walk in the water. No, it was really cold, but you know, they had like a tub off camera that I got into that was warmer water, but it couldn’t be super warm. You can’t go from freezing water to hot water and be okay. So, it was pretty horrible. There were a lot of scenes, there were a lot of things in this that weren’t like fun but yeah. And also there was a big challenge sometimes in trying to sort of get from point A to point B plot-wise, like trying to figure out how you wound up with that point of view.
The other thing about this film is, and I like films like this that make you question, what would you do in the same situation? Sometimes life happens so suddenly and you are forced in that millisecond to make a life altering decision, which is what is talked about in this film.
SARSGAARD: Yeah. I think one of the things that makes the character kind of like skip a step is his own sense of guilt. And, he does skip a step and skipped several steps. And so I think with myself in the same situation, I would ask a lot more questions before I took any action. He doesn’t seem like he has the type of father-daughter relationship that we would all hope for.
I completely concur. The movie industry has really changed obviously in the last, well, especially this year, but over the last few years with the advent of streaming, this film will be premiering on Amazon. What is your take on sort of the changing marketplace and how so much more is coming out on streaming?
SARSGAARD: I think it allows for more radical content, which I’m always for. I do like a movie, but the type of movie that I like, that I have nostalgia for, that I would love to see in the theater is like Nights of Cabiria, you know what I mean? Like there are movies that I’m wanting to see as a cinematic experience weren’t being made before all this streaming business anyway. So as an actor, the thing that I really want is content that’s challenging and adult and all of that. And like the fact is adults like to sit on their ass at home and watch it on TV or on their computer and weren’t going to go see it in the movie theater anyway. They get a babysitter and all that other stuff. So it allows for more of the type of material that I like to do, which I’m very thankful for. I do miss and I’ve always wanted to be in more things that were like pure cinema, but that’s what I’m doing with my wife right now. I mean, we’re in Greece making like a movie movie.
Yeah. I believe it’s called The Lost Daughter.
I’m obviously a fan of your wife, I’m a fan of yours, you guys working together sounds awesome. Can you share what it’s about and what people can look forward to?
SARSGAARD: I can’t say too much about what it’s about except that Olivia Coleman plays a woman who is on vacation and kind of reliving an experience that she went through that was very difficult from when she was way younger in that character. And so the young girl has played by Jessie Buckley and it involves motherhood in sort of the difficulties of being a mother, the overwhelming sense of responsibility, the overwhelming feeling of love and how it can kind of suffocate out your own feelings of who you are. And it’s the part of motherhood that nobody wants to talk about.
Well, first of all, congrats on the cast. Second of all, how is it working in this new COVID environment for you and for everyone?
SARSGAARD: I mean, the bummer about it is that as actors and directors and everything were all experts on reading people’s faces, their feelings through their faces and part of what makes us able to do our work it’s not just when the cameras are rolling, but to navigate all the emotional minefields and turmoil of collaboration. And it’s way more difficult if somebody’s wearing a mask and goggles and all the rest of the stuff, you know what I mean? On some shows, they have these things where, you know when your dog gets operated on and they wear one of these things, you wear those, it’s very hard to rehearse the scene, wearing those things. Certainly scenes that have intimacy are just, everyone’s a little freaked out. We get freaked out to like even touch each other, put your hand on someone’s shoulder. So it’s hard.
But a film like this actually has a little advantage and that we’re shooting it in 28 days. We don’t have to have, be potted up together for months. So we just like, shoot it. And like the other movies we have, an A group and a B group and they don’t intermingle. And, but that’s a bummer too, because you want to hang out with the production designer and quiz them and see where they’re coming from. But you don’t hang out with the production designer. If you’re on A group.
I’ve heard, I have a number of friends that are working right now and they’ve explained the pod system to me. I mean, it’s just designed to keep people safe, but it’s definitely not the way movies. It’s not the comradery that is normally on a movie set.
SARSGAARD: No. And if you’re shooting indoors and somebody ends up getting sick, if everyone wasn’t in the full gear, everybody has to quarantine for a lot longer. And the production shuts down for a lot longer. So you really, and there’s people there to see what happened and if somebody got sick and there were 10 people not wearing masks, those 10 people will not be working, then no one will be working.
Did you guess the ending, when you read the script or were you as surprised as the audience when you got to those final pages?
SARSGAARD: Well, Veena had told me, not the ending, but she said, I’m curious how you’re going to react to this last part of it and tell me what you think. And so, I’m perceptive, I knew pretty quickly when I was reading.
SARSGAARD: I think sometimes when someone asks you a question like that, you kind of go like this, like daydreaming about what it could be.
When people are talking about a movie and they’re like, you won’t believe the third act. I’m like you’ve just told me now that there is a huge thing coming.
SARSGAARD: That happened to me on The Crying Game. I was like done. I know what it is. And now I, don’t, I almost didn’t. I tried to figure it out fairly early in that movie, because I just didn’t want the whole movie to be about like that.
I’m a huge fan of Matt Reeves. I know you can’t talk about The Batman script and I don’t want you to spoil anything, but I am curious, can you talk a little bit about working with him as a director on such a huge project? Because I know he worked on the script for like a year or longer, and he has a huge trilogy planned out. And I’m just curious what it was like working with someone who really has it figured out.
SARSGAARD: He is the most detailed oriented director I’ve ever encountered. I mean, he is like, the level of focus, I mean, you would have to have to direct the kind of movies that he has directed, but it’s unbelievable. That’s like a very specific type of mind and it’s really fun working with him. He’s very collaborative, but he also, he totally knows what he wants. You know, I would say like, what about something like this? And he would think about it. Well, no, because of the thing and you know, he’s like really, he’s got it in his mind in such a detailed way that it’s almost like savant sort of situation.
What was your reaction to Colin Farrell with the way he looks in the film?
SARSGAARD: I haven’t been on set with him at the same time. I haven’t seen him.
Did you see the trailer yet?
SARSGAARD: I haven’t seen the trailer.
You should definitely watch it. It’s kind of amazing.
SARSGAARD: I’m like the last, I mean, I think part of the way that I have always worked as an actor is like, I sort of pretend that I’m never going to see anything that I make so that I don’t think about it. I don’t envision premieres. I don’t think about the final product at all. I almost just think about my job as an actor is so micro. It’s so just like needle points that I don’t like step back and think about what would my character’s arc is or what the grand scheme of the whole thing is I’m just not like that. So I don’t, there’ve been movies of mine that I never saw.
I’ve spoken to a lot of actors who’ve told me the same thing that they don’t want to see the finished movie.
SARSGAARD: Helps me. I mean, I’m not somebody who’s like a, what I would call a natural performer anyway. You know, it’s not like when I was a kid, I did a song and dance in front of people and had them watch me. I didn’t do a play until I was in college and I’d never had an impulse to do it. I don’t get a lot of joy watching. I don’t have a problem watching myself, but I don’t frequently enjoy it the same way an audience will. Having participated in making it, you sort of see where the toilet is, that the actors use. It’s like video village is right over there.
I know I get it. It, listen, I have a million other questions, but I know you got to go. So I’ll just say congrats on this and good luck with everything and congrats on working with your wife.
SARSGAARD: Yeah. Thank you.