‘Medusa Deluxe’ Director Thomas Hardiman Would Like to Make a ‘Where’s Waldo’ Movie

Someone, please let him

Medusa Deluxe

“Medusa Deluxe” is here.

Truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, it’s a murder mystery set in a hairstyle competition. All of the characters are hairdressers, who have very strong opinions on hairstyles and on who the likely murderer is. Oh and the whole thing is shot like a single take (think “1917”), which adds to the sense that you are actually there, at the scene of the crime.

And while it might be easy to identify some of writer/director Thomas Hardiman’s influences (Pedro Almodóvar, “Shampoo”), he is more than happy to run through key texts (including filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Leos Carax and more). There are many different, very strong flavors in “Medusa Deluxe” and they all work incredibly well together.

TheWrap spoke to Hardiman about where the movie came from, why the single-shot aesthetic was so important and why he’d really love to direct a “Where’s Waldo” movie (hint: it has to do with the fact that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are his heroes).

Where did “Medusa Deluxe” come from?

Like any idea, it comes from a lot of different places, but there’s the stuff from childhood, like I spent a weird amount of time in hairdressers with my mom. She got her hair done every week. And I think when I was young I was scared of being left in the house on my own. I used to just be ferried around to her hairdressers and sit there for a few hours. It’s something that played into my life and I started to respect it as a craft and as a trade, and I became interested in hairdressing.

But beyond that, I’m interested in absurdist comedy. I’m interested in something that’s right on the edge between drama and comedy. You look for certain places where that can give it wings. For me, hairdressing, up here, has got this cultural value of hair and how people wanted themselves to be perceived in the world. And then also, down here, you’ve got the backbiting, all of the salon gossip. And you pinball between the two. Those were the worlds I was thinking about and what started it off.

What were you inspired by?

Do you want me to give the long answer? Because I can go in depth if you want to.


The thing is, it becomes massive. The first filmmaker I genuinely loved was Claire Denis, and “Beau Travail” was a massive film for me. And then there was a point at which I was like, I am not going to make the same films as she does. I’m a different person, it’s not going to be me. And I think I discovered Leos Carax around that time. And obviously I love “Holy Motors,” but I love “Boy Meets Girl,” his first few films, and they were massive for me. But the thing is, I think when you start making films, your frame of reference really changes because you start to … Filmmaking is, there’s so much creativity in it, but sometimes at its core it’s a logistical exercise.

And recently I was reading Michael Powell’s autobiography, and he was talking about the time he spent just sitting behind Hitchcock, basically. And I’ve obviously always looked at Hitchcock. There are specific shots in this film which are referencing Hitchcock films, but it sent me back. I was looking at “Blackmail,” his first sound film, and there’s this amazing moment where it’s like in the script it must have been, “They walk up the stairs.” But I guess like the best filmmakers, he’s gone, “All right, they’re not just going to walk up stairs, they’re going to walk up the best set of stairs you’ve ever seen in your life.” And literally he’s built a five-level staircase in a studio in 1930, which must have been a really big endeavor, for a 30-second shot of them walking up these stairs to this girl’s flat.

And you are there going, “I bet you …” I might be wrong, I guess he was pretty formidable. He probably just terrified everyone around him. But if you say to a producer, “For a 30-second shot I’m going to ask you to build an entire massive set,” you’re going to get laughed out of the room. And then you are watching it going, It’s genius. He is spot on. That moment underpins the entire tension in the film. It’s so clever. And I think that’s the thing, you start to look at these films with a completely different light once you understand the logistics behind them, and you take inspiration from them in such a different way.

I do look back to Hitchcock. I love Sidney Lumet and I was thinking about “12 Angry Men” when the camera famously goes from head height to waist height to below waist height to increase the claustrophobia of the room. And obviously what we’ve got, the sort of technology that we’ve got access to today, it’s radically different, in the sense that we can do whatever we want. But we’re still doing the same things. We’re still putting the camera here, here, and we’re looking back to those filmmakers to say, How did you do it and how can that influence me now? So yeah, it’s across the board, but above all, “Nashville,” [Robert] Altman, “Slacker,” ensemble comedies, and ensemble comedy dramas is something I really gravitate to. I like big canvases where you’re telling the story of a community.

Where did the idea of the movie being a “single shot” come from?

Yeah, it actually connects to what I was just saying. For a while I’ve been thinking to myself about how the modern media experience is changing, like how we take in and inhabit space through cameras. And the specific inspiration behind the one shot or the longer takes, was that I was looking over at my nieces watching hair and makeup tutorials on YouTube and being very willing to watch an hour of a random teenage girl somewhere just do her hair. And I was thinking, This is different. It’s something that we can’t just dismiss. We can say it has no bearing on actual film craft, but it does. That’s your everyday experience. And the way a phone, if you want to film an hour thing on your phone, you generally can. And I was thinking to myself that we might view one-shots as a fad, but I just don’t think it’s true.

I think technology and cinematic forward motion is always dependent on these groundbreaking moments when you get sound and people think it’s a fad for a bit. And when you get color people think that’s a fad, when you get steady cam, that’s a fad, apparently. Everything’s always a fad. But actually, if you look at how we are inhabiting the world with modern technology, we are getting more used to much longer takes, even you and I talking on Zoom right now. And for a filmmaker, it’s just an incredibly exciting possibility. You’re like, I can do anything. All these classic stories, I’ve now got a new way, I’ve got a new way to inhabit that space. And rather than in a murder mystery cutting away after a red herring or cutting away after a clue, you’re not going to cut away. You’re going to stay with them and you’re going to suddenly go from a genre piece to a character-led drama.

And that kind of duality is everything to me. I think that is modern life. I think we are living in a time where irony is the mode of inhabiting the internet, because everything is always undercut so quickly and everything we experience on Twitter makes you cry, makes you laugh, it’s so fast that everything needs these split levels. If you are going to really engage with a modern or contemporary character, they need to be able to jump between comedy, heartfelt, all these things that we do so naturally now that I feel like the internet has made a massive part of. I don’t think it was quite previously as split, it’s blown every aspect of life to smithereens. And it’s up to filmmakers to pick up the pieces and make it creative.

The single-take format also allows you to establish geography and relationships between characters, both physically and emotionally, right?

In terms of location, it’s something I’m really big on. Knowing where things are in a space, and in a cinematic space, really means something to me. When I feel like a room is not connected to a kitchen, it blows my mind. I need those connections. And for me they’re almost structural in a narrative sense. And so when I see an Agnes Varda film, she’s always very clever with geography, the way that the camera moves in “Vagabond” and it always pans to the right. But it goes throughout everything. Like “Iron Man 2,” I know not everyone necessarily loves “Iron Man 2,” but for me, you know the fact that the geography of the finale is really set up in the globe that you see them fight.

But for me, I do love understanding the geography of where this is taking place. It actually means something. And yeah, I’ve always just had a real connection to that. In terms of the camera and the space, I wrote the script completely alien to the space. I didn’t actually know that space and then it worked perfectly with it. But it becomes rhythmic. It becomes about, obviously you can probably guess I like dance music, I’m a guy that likes dancing and I like going to clubs. It’s like that kind of ebb and flow of a club is in the dialogue and the narrative of this film, the highs of being in the rooms and having a lot of conversation. And then the ebbs and flows of walking through a space and that rhythmic downplayed moment does something to you different emotionally.

Sometimes it can be the claustrophobia of the tension and sometimes it can be going to, like when Inez walked downstairs, she goes to a womb-like space effectively, and it’s that safety you can get from it. It’s something that I sit around geeking out on and thinking about relentlessly. Literally I’ll go back and watch a film to understand geography. That’s how mad I get on it.

What are you doing next, or what do you want to do? Do you want to do an “X-Men” movie?

I can’t believe they would ever ask me. There’s loads of things I want to do. I’ve got things I’m writing, obviously I’m writing a script I’m just in the middle of at the moment, but I am interested in absurdism. Everything I do is going to be ridiculous in some sense. But I’m working out how you tell stories that are kind of like … You know David Foster Wallace’s second big novel is about tax collecting, but obviously because he’s David Foster Wallace, because he’s the greatest writer of his generation, it’s not just about tax collecting. It’s so much bigger and so much better than that. And I love the thing of having, how do you tell a story about something that is so dull but incredibly engaging at the same time? Hairdressing is not the most immediate thing that people go, “I have to see a film about hairdressing.”

And so that challenge of going, “How do I make it riveting?” is just, yeah, it’s interesting. I was looking at “Where’s Wally.” You know the stories, “Where’s Waldo” in America, and thinking, how do you make a film about “Where’s Waldo?” I would love that kind of opportunity. You know, like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” I think “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is a total masterpiece. I actually think that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, I’ve never met them obviously, but I think they’re like auteurs who aren’t being given the due that they should. I think they’ve changed cinema and people don’t realize quite how good they are yet.

I think “Lego Movie” is a straight up masterpiece. But yeah, how can you engage with something like “Where’s Waldo” and go, obviously there’s a story and there’s emotion, but he’s got his mates, he’s got the wizard, he must be friends with the wizard. How did he meet the wizard? And then how do you engage in, how do you do it visually of doing the Waldo business of finding him and put that in a story? I would love to take on something crazy like that.

“Medusa Deluxe” is in theaters and on PVOD right now.