Atom Egoyan’s new thriller Chloe explores themes of consuming jealousy and passion with a smart European sensibility that puts an exciting spin on the love triangle genre with Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore at the center — their sex scene is a particularly memorable, um, climax. The script was penned by Erin Cressida Wilson, who’s no stranger to sexual kinks. She tackled S&M with aplomb and erotic wit in Secretary, now tackling a subversive story that follows a woman (Julianne Moore) as she hires a prostitute (Amanda Seyfried) to test her husband’s (Liam Neeson) fidelity. As their encounters grow intense, the lines between reality and fantasy blur and unexpected desires are awakened in all three propelling the film to its startling yet inevitable conclusion. We caught up with Seyfried, Moore, and the filmmakers to talk about sex, manipulation and other bedrocks of a good marriage. Click through for the full Q&A.
On the challenges of the film:
Amanda Seyfried: I almost didn’t want to do the movie. I got really scared and was trying to think of a way to get out of it. I was so intimidated that i didn’t think i could actually do it. I’ve gotten by only playing versions of myself as most young actresses do. It was the best opportunity that’s come up for me and the most complex female character. It was clearly the riskier choice, but it was also the better choice. The risk factor came with that I might not be able to pull it off and also the nudity could potentially create some damage with my American audience.
Julianne Moore: Keeping it within the bounds of normal human behavior. If you try to one line this movie: it’s about a woman who hires a prostitute to follow her husband to find out if he’s cheating – oh, that happens all the time! – When you do that, you get outside of it, and it stops being meaningful. You have to be inside of Catharine all the time, so every time she meets Chloe and she goes, “okay, just one more time”. Each step feels like tragedy and is inevitable. You knows what’s coming, but you know she has to take those steps. That’s the most challenging thing to keep in mind.
On their characters:
AS: I just don’t see Chloe as an antagonist. In the beginning she’s creepy, and you don’t trust her at all, but then you start seeing some deeply human qualities like the vulnerability and the depth she goes. You see this lost girl falling in love with somebody. That’s what made me fall in love with her. I knew her so well, and I just feel it would be hard not to appreciate her. She doesn’t have those nasty motives. She just felt something that made her need it and become addicted to it and obsessed with it, which was love. That was her only motive to have that forever.
JM: Catherine’s been married for a long time. So many movies are about getting married, and in life, marriage is long and complicated. After a while, you barely remember the beginning: “when did we meet? Was it fourteen, fifteen years ago?” You don’t know anymore. That’s that least of it, so the idea that this is a woman who’s in the middle of her life and the middle of her marriage and has suddenly found herself struggling with it was really novel. I was very compelled by it.
Erin Cressida Wilson: I really related to the Chloe character for the first few drafts and felt a lot of empathy for her, so I didn’t write her as a villain at all but more as a broken, seductive, manipulative, but empty, needy girl who needed a family and love. Then I realized that I’d written Catherine’s role but not her depth. I always imagined Julianne Moore in the part, and I saw her exterior but I hadn’t developed her interior. That realization that I’m not a young woman anymore really played into the part. I delved as much as I could into the feelings of invisibility I was feeling. The different ways men were looking and not looking at me. The ways I could control a situation less than I had been before. My journey through that I came out the other end a woman as I think Catherine does. She falls back in love with herself through Chloe as her younger self. She finds her youth again in a more mature body. To me this is about how to re-eroticize a marriage and find each other again and to crawl back to each other through this mutual jealousy that occurs.
On being intimate:
JM: Whenever you have an intimate scene with somebody, you’re very prepared. Everyone knows what’s happening, and it’s usually very choreographed. If you’re lucky, you’re very familiar with the actor by the time you shoot it. Amanda and I had done most of our scenes by that point, so we were comfortable with each other.
AS: The love scene. I’ll never forget that.
Atom Egoyan: They use their bodies to express feeling, so once they understand what the parameters are, then it’s about the drama and what’s going on in their minds. If you keep that consistent then they understand that this is just another scene.
On Atom Egoyan:
AS: You can’t go wrong with Atom Egoyan. He’s his own thing. He never does anything against his instinct, and his instinct is always so specific and rooted in something so real. He has such passion for everything he does even when he doesn’t write it. I think this was daring for him, but he felt so connected to it and that’s even better.
JM: Atom is particularly interested in the subtlety of human behavior. He understands how people communicate, and the fact that what we’re saying is not always what we’re communicating. So often in film, everyone has an expectation that what the actor is saying is what they mean, when in fact life is rarely that way. He’s someone that understands that a lot can transpire with very little. He’s a master of all that complexity.