By Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
A little bit like Mean Girls, a little bit like Groundhog Day, BEFORE I FALL, based on the Novel by Lauren Oliver, takes us inside teenager Samantha‘s(Zoey Deutch) world after a tragic car accident on Cupid Day has her re-living that same day over and over until she fully understands how it is her actions impact her own destiny. In town to promote the Film which closed-out the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, were its Director Ry Russo-Young and star Zoey Deutch and we had the pleasure of chatting with them.
When did you first get involved with the source-material and what was one of the biggest challenges bringing it to the screen?
Ry: I read the script about three years ago and what I was so attracted to was that is surprised me. I sort of thought that it was a superficial Teen Movie in the first 20 pages and wasn’t sure if I was on board with who these characters were and all that. Then I found Sam’s journey to be unexpectedly emotional and moving and profound. So thats what attracted me to the Movie.
Zoey: What attracted me initially was that I felt like…its so rare that I read a script that feels like it has the opportunity to be both extremely thought-provoking and moving, while also being entertaining. And not that I had any idea or expectation it would make it to Sundance or TIFF Next Wave or be a wide release. But I felt that it was so thought-provoking and so entertaining and so wonderful to watch a young girl go through so many different variations of her own self to explore all the contradictions and complications and intricacies of being a young woman. I really thought that that was important and inspiring and a really wonderful opportunity too.
Ry: It’s also a story we don’t get to see so often its a classic heroes journey with a female protagonist that is really at its heart. It’s the kind of Movie that I wish I had when I was a teenager, so its kinda like be the change that you want to see.
The chemistry between the group of friends is very organic. Did this chemistry need work or did it come naturally?
Ry: I think it was a little bit of both to be honest. A lot of the girls, Zoey’s job, she was in every scene it was so demanding a lot of the girls hung-out. We rehearsed a bit with all four of them. They hung-out independently as well a lot they went out to dinner.
Zoey: That also fed into the social cues of that group. Because I really did want Sam to feel like more of a follower than any other members of the group. Yes, she was probably like second in command to Lindsay but it was almost like a positive that I didn’t get to hang out them as much as they got to hang out with each other because they had developed this thing and I still felt a little but left out because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t experiencing those things. They were posting things on Instagram, I wasn’t there, and I would feel left-out. And it helped me. It really helped me feel lonely and left-out. It was actually kind of useful. But the girls…when I did get to hang-out with them they are the coolest, funniest, sweetest most wonderful women and and so supportive. And I am really truly friends with all of them. And I wish they were here now. We were texting them, chatting them, texting them all pictures of us.
Ry: It’s a little but of both in terms of we did some work and then they were also so natural with each other and everyone was down and had great energy.
These so called ‘mean girls’ all have their own back stories. Why was that important? To make sure that that backstory was shown?
Zoey: So vital. And I feel like, I don’t know what your experiences in middle school or high school were like, but for me people weren’t one thing. They were like Sam, she’s a bully and she’s bullied. Like Lindsay, she’s mean but for a reason. It comes from a place of real vulnerability and a fear for vulnerability. And I thought that was so beautiful that there really wasn’t a clear distinct hero or villain in the Movie. That you see so many facets of female experience.
Ry: Diversity is really key. To me that is the hope for a Movie like this…is that there are other Films. That this sort of leads the way for more Films by and about women. And one of the things in terms of…it was everything to me. Because otherwise we would just have stereotypes right? We would have these archetypes and stereotypes that we have seen a thousand times. And part of whats interesting about the Movie is that you do realize that everyone has their own humanity and is their own kind of complicated person battling their own inner demons. I always try to think about…to think about every character as if it was their own Movie about that character.
More on Ry Russo-Young and Zoey Deutch‘s visit to Toronto here.
Elevation Pictures release BEFORE I FALL Friday, March 3, 2017.
(Photo credit: Elevation Pictures)
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