“This is my nightmare.”
That’s how filmmaker Ari Aster started his interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday night while on the red carpet for the premiere of his latest film in LA, Beau is scared. It was in reference to the obligation to do press, something he clearly doesn’t enjoy. The same goes for its star, Joaquin Phoenix, who came to the DGA Theater to pose for photos and make a brief appearance on stage with the rest of the cast as Aster introduced the A24 Epic.
“I still can’t quite believe I was given the resources and the freedom to make this the way we did it,” Aster said during those remarks to a large crowd, including Pedro Pascal; Jenna Ortega; Jesse Williams; Everything Everywhere Everything at once Daniel Kwan, Daniel Schienert, Jonathan Wang and Harry Shum Jr.; Kesha; Jordan Firstman; Kate Berlant; Rachel Sennott; Darren Kris; and Benito Skinner, among others. “The credit is very much due to A24 for being stupid enough to give me that.”
It’s a big moment for the company after a huge Oscar night that ended with seven Academy Awards for Everything Everywhere Everything at once including coveted Best Picture. This also happens to be a big moment for Aster, whose other films, Heir apparent And midsommarwere hits for the indie distributor. Beau is scared marks the biggest budget Aster has had to date, and it’s a departure from what horror fans have come to expect from the author.
“It’s so busy,” Aster said THR on the carpet of juggling with expectations. “Things weigh on you, like the money weighs on you, the clock weighs on you because the time window always closes. It can be really hard to stay in an open space where you don’t stop playing, so it was nice working with Joaquin to build a system where we kept coming back to work. Joaquin is so dedicated and involved that the [film] kept coming back to life, which isn’t to say it was dead, but it kept living in a way that was very, very exciting. It was challenging in the best way.”
Beau is scared cast Phoenix as Beau Wasserman, a paranoid man who embarks on an epic odyssey to get home to his mother, played by Patti LuPone. Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Hayley Squires, Denis Menochet, Kylie Rogers, Armen Nahapetian, Michael Gandolfini, Julia Antonelli, Richard Kind and Zoe Lister-Jones complete the cast. Posey, Rogers, Nahapetian, Antonelli, Kind and Lister-Jones were on hand Monday night and (mostly) game to talk about their collaboration with Aster on a movie that doesn’t easily translate into press-friendly sound bites.
Veteran actor Kind gave the impression that he didn’t even want to discuss it with a reporter who hadn’t seen the film yet – or so he hissed THR. “You can’t ask me anything unless you’ve seen it, because you don’t have a reference,” Kind said.
Posey was much nicer, though she wasn’t impressed by one particular point of reference. When asked about another reporter’s description of her character Elaine’s sex scene with Phoenix’s Beau — Variety wrote that it “might be one of the craziest ever devoted to film” – Posey attempted to provide a spoiler-free explanation. “I’m not a big fan of the word crazy,” said the actress, who previously worked with Phoenix on Woody Allen’s Irrational human. “Elaine has been around for Beau for a very, very long time and his mother is a big part of that as well. His mother also owns Elaine, so Elaine is also trapped. It’s really layered what’s going on and I don’t know if the people writing about that understand the psychology of it because it’s deeper than just crazy. But it’s kind of funny.”
It is also a heavy lift. Lars Knudsen, Aster’s veteran production partner, said: “Anything Ari does is almost impossible. He pushes everyone to the limit of what is possible, and this movie was particularly difficult, but in a very satisfying way. Why? “An action like this has six different worlds you have to create and you don’t have enough money or enough days to shoot them. Everything becomes kind of life and death in the world of film production because you can’t afford to get delayed or fall behind.”
Knudsen said the team felt encouraged by the initial sneak screenings held at Alamo Drafthouse locations in several cities, including New York and Los Angeles. “Anytime you make something that feels bold, different or original, you don’t know what the response will be, so those screenings made us feel like people who like Ari’s movies like this movie. There’s a lot of pressure, of course, because a movie like this has to do well so we can make the next one on a budget that we want.
When asked how she would describe the film, Lister-Jones, a private filmmaker who also created the upcoming TV series, replied. Slip, borrowed the description from Aster. ‘It’s a Jew Lord of the Rings, which sums it up perfectly. It’s a fear-induced, trippy, epic nightmare comedy,” said Lister-Jones, who added that she still can’t quite believe she’s part of the cast. ‘I mean, I died. I’m still dying. I can’t believe I’m part of such a wonderful work. It’s like no other movie I’ve seen. Ari is just so masterful as a filmmaker and I am so inspired and in awe of what he does.”
She described the filmmaker as “so playful in the midst of a very bleak story,” and praised him for creating a set that “allows for so much experimentation in a way that’s really liberating as an actor.” Speaking of, “I had to bark like a dog, you know? I’m still barking. It’s just such an amazing gift to work with a director who pushes his actors to just do wild shit.
Posey, for her part, said she should have a lifelike mold made of her entire body. “That was pretty intense,” she said with a laugh. “It really is something to go through. So even though I had such a small part, I’m just so happy to get in touch with a young author like Ari who puts such a vision into the story they want to tell.
She also hooked up with Mariah Carey who made a surprise appearance at the movie’s after party last night. The superstar singer signed on to lend her hit single “Always Be My Baby” to that sex scene featuring Posey and Phoenix’s characters. Carey was joined at the after party by other guests such as A$AP Rocky, Aaron Paul, Bo Burnham, Erika Christensen, Twin Shadow, Gus Van Sant, Joey King, Logan Miller, Maya Kazan, Nathan Fielder, Taran Killam and Thora Birch, and others.
While Carey, Aster and Posey posed for photos, premiere attendees gathered in the lobby to digest the three-hour film. Many who saw it tweeted that they may need days, weeks or months to wrap their heads around it.
It shouldn’t surprise Kind, and he was eager to discuss that part. “The movie is epic and you can love it and you can hate it,” the actor concluded. “But you’ve never seen anything like it before. If you hate it, you hate it for good reason, and if you love it, you will love it for good reason.”