Bo Burnham’s leap from YouTube to cinema took another step at Sundance 2020 with his performance in “Promising Young Woman.” But for the “Eighth Grade” director, playing the male lead in Emerald Fennell’s provocative thriller about sexism and harassment led to a lot of nerves.
“Holding a coffee cup and just looking like I’m from planet Earth was enough of a challenge,” Burnham joked to TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven. “Just the simple act of business and sort of integrating it, and meanwhile I’m holding a french fry and wondering, ‘Do I look like I even have human DNA at this point?'”
In “Promising Young Woman,” Burnham plays Ryan, a part of a dark past belonging to former pre-med student Cassie, played by Carey Mulligan. Cassie had a bright future ahead of her that was derailed by the same evil that has afflicted so many female college students: sexual abuse. Bitter about the mysterious incidents that scarred her, she now gets her vengeance by pretending to be drunk at clubs and baiting unscrupulous men into “helping” her … although her full plans are not what they initially seem.
In making her provocative thriller, Fennell said she wanted the tone of “Promising Young Woman” to be both “beautiful and terrifying,” a description she feels applies to one of her favorite films, “American Psycho.”
“They’re the kind of movies that on their face are beautiful and funny and sort of silly … and underneath, it’s just rotten. To me, that rot inside of everything is both hilarious and disastrous.”
“Promising Young Woman” will be released by Focus Features on April 17. For more thoughts from Fennell, Burnham and Mulligan about filming the movie, click on the clip above.