Italian director Nathalie Biancheri’s random encounter with an article on a condition called species dysphoria led her to make her latest film, “Wolf,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this month.
The film stars George MacKay (“1917”) and Lily-Rose Depp as two teens living at “The Zoo,” a treatment camp for people with a psychological condition in which they believe they are animals born in human bodies. In an interview with TheWrap’s TIFF studio, Biancheri said that her film isn’t intended to be an accurate representation of species dysphoria or even set in our world, rather using the condition as a springboard for an exploration of identity and young romance.
“I felt confident in being able to work with the actors to find the emotional, human heart of their characters,” Biancheri said. “But I think that dichotomy of crawling on all fours but then also for an audience member to watch that and not laugh at them but feel with them [was important].”
Depp said that she and the cast got help in their performances from Terry Notary, a motion capture actor who played the chimpanzee Rocket opposite Andy Serkis in the “Planet of the Apes” reboot trilogy. He’s also known in the arthouse world for his performance in the Palme D’Or winner “The Square,” which involved him acting as an angry ape in a dinner party as part of a piece of performance art.
Notary served as a movement coach for the cast, teaching them how to move like the animals that their characters had an affinity for. Depp said that led to some funny moments on set.
“Every morning I had this view of the beach from the hotel we were staying at and I would look out the window and see George and Terry crawling around,” Depp said. “But I went into it thinking that Terry was just going to teach me how to act and crawl physically like a cat but it was so much more emotional than that and he really taught us how to connect with our characters.
“Wolf” will be released by Focus Features on December 3. Watch the full interview in the clip above.