You and I are about the same age, so I assume that you grew up watching things like “The Matrix” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Did you have any time between takes to pump Hugo Weaving for stories? What was your favorite Hugo interaction?
I did not have any time. I’m still looking forward to — he’s coming to the festivals in Australia, and I’m very much looking forward to actually spending some time with him. It was so busy. The thing about that set is there’s so many people on it, and I think every scene Hugo’s in, there’s basically eight other people in the scene. And often, it’s the younger actors that need your help and attention a little more and need more guidance. So you end up, your attention is sort of divided. I did hear Jess and Hugo having a chat about “The Matrix,” which excited me because they’re connected in that way. [Jessica Henwick played Bugs in “The Matrix Resurrections.”] And I did see Hugo often — he’s so sweet — he would make videos for people, the extras, and just people in the town where we were shooting who saw him on the street would need things from him. So I kind of let other people do the geeky stuff and I pretended to be the director. [laughs] I was really cool and calm.
You’ve also directed a couple episodes of “Servant.” Timeline-wise, did you shoot those before “The Royal Hotel?” How did that work?
I did. I learned so much from directing episodes of “Servant” and yeah, I honestly would not have been able to pull off the bigger bar scenes in “The Royal Hotel” if I had not have f***ed up a scene in “Servant” where I felt like I missed some moments. And I regretted that. And M. Night Shyamalan, I adore him, he’s a great boss and was not angry at me at all. But there [were] moments that I felt I could have made a scene in “Servant” a little better. It was a dinner party scene with eight people and perspectives.
And when you’re doing those over the shoulders, and these moments, connections between people, you need a lot more than you probably would expect, often, when you dive into it. And I think I learned that on “Servant.” So I was able to bring that to “The Royal Hotel” and go, “Okay, so we not only need this person and this person, but we need that person to look at that person, and we need that person acknowledging that comment.” So there’s all these layers of detail that I think I learned a lot about and just to make sure we had, because of everything I’d learned from M. Night Shyamalan.
In both “The Royal Hotel” and “The Assistant,” you seem to be interested in translating the feeling of what it’s like to be a woman in the presence of these powerful men. And for “The Assistant,” I think I heard you say in an interview that you hoped it would cause people to think about their own lives and take a closer look at their own complicity in these systems that have been put in place. I’m wondering what you hope the takeaway is for audiences who see “The Royal Hotel?”
I mean, there’s a lot of it that’s similar … basically both movies are looking at this system around — it’s sort of like the gateway or entry point to sexual misconduct. What kind of behavior should we put up with? When should we say no? When should we put a stop to things? When should we speak up for ourselves? And specifically “The Royal Hotel” is about that. It’s about how much do you tolerate in terms of a bad joke, or an insult, or a line here or there. When do we say that enough’s enough? So yeah, it is looking at our own complicity in that. When are we going with that, when are we going a little too far, because if we let them get away with X, will they get away with Y next time? You know what I mean? It’s about putting a stop to it early so we never get to the worst stuff.