TheGrill 2020: ”It was a fun challenge: could I make something emotionally resonant to me but still a heist film, dedicated to the con?“
Become a member to read more.
Miranda July’s wanted to make the Sundance darling “Kajillionaire” because growing up, traditional heist stories like the “Mission: Impossible” TV series didn’t have a lot to offer for women, and she wanted to change that.
“I grew up watching a lot of ‘Mission: Impossible,’ the TV show, and I still love that language of high stakes, who is who, not quite understanding the con until the very, very end,” July told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman during the annual media conference TheGrill on Wednesday. “I love that — it’s very innate to me. Though, ‘Mission: Impossible’ didn’t have a lot to offer a little girl or a grown woman. There’s not much there for me to relate to, so it was a fun challenge to see, could I make something emotionally resonant to me? I want be at the mercy of my script… but still a heist film, still to the end dedicated to the con.”
“Kajillionaire” follows a young woman (played by Evan Rachel Wood) whose life is turned upside down when her criminal parents invite an outsider to join them on a major heist. But not only the heist aspect was central to the film’s plot for July — it was also the idea of family that the filmmaker wanted to focus on.
Also Read: Evan Rachel Wood Plays a Socially Awkward Con Artist in Miranda July's 'Kajillionaire' Trailer (Video)
“I wanted to make a family where you got a sense of the parenting as not something that was inherent but a series of choices but to the daughter seemed seamless,” she explained. “This isn’t a maternal movie, but If we expand the realm of what we think of as maternal is pretty narrow, what i’m talking about is let’s question the entire structure of what a family is… There is a lot of inherent betrayal — the parents describe a world that will never be the world the child is ultimately going to live in, so that’s a deception and then the child will leave and that’s the child’s job and that’s a built in betrayal. And that heartbreak is central to this movie.”
“Kajillionaire” was initially being financed by Annapurna Pictures, which was also going to devise a theatrical release plan for the film. However, July explained, that soon, it became clear that the film and Annapurna weren’t a perfect fit, so the production companies involved, Plan B and Annapurna, agreed to sell. That’s when it went to Sundance in January and debuted to favorable reviews, and was ultimately acquired by Focus Features. It was supposed to head to theaters, but COVID-19 stalled those plans.
Also Read: Focus Features Lands Miranda July's 'Kajillionaire'
“There was that initial disappointment but I have to say Focus never changed as far as their complete dedication to do right by this,” July said. “What that meant is that they had to be incredibly agile and we had lots of conversations where they said, we don’t want to call it a loss and release it to streaming, we think there’s a path.”
She added: “Meanwhile, I was having the weird experience as I began doing press for the movie of talking to people who had only seen the movie in quarantine. And while it did really well at Sundance, it was almost like a different movie to these viewers who were so alone and so sensitive to touch. The theme of the movie is the fear of the Big One and surviving… those things that I had worried might be a little too subtle or personal were suddenly not abstract at all. So I’ve decided to just own it — in the end, I just made this movie for us now — us in this pandemic.”
For over a decade, TheWrap’s Grill event series has led conversations on the convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age.
TheWrap has created a digital-first experience for TheGrill 2020. This year’s event will focus on the future of theatrical, streaming revolution, building inclusion from within and the growth in podcasting and gaming. Attendees will have access to keynotes, panel conversations, roundtable discussions and virtual networking.
Film Editor, Twitter: @bverhoev