There is a lot going on in Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis' new movie — which is why, over two years after filming Colossal, the actors are still having a tricky time nailing down exactly what it's about. Hathaway plays Gloria, a hard-partying writer who moves back to her hometown after losing her job and boyfriend (Dan Stevens). She spends her time getting sloshed at childhood friend Oscar's (Sudeikis) bar. And then shit gets weird when Gloria realizes she has something to do with the gigantic Kaiju monster she sees on the news attacking Seoul, South Korea. Really weird.
With its bizarre premise and unpredictable screenplay (from Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigilando), Colossal is a thrillingly original ride. It's also a wonky vehicle for discussions about everything from toxic masculinity and sexism to alcoholism and self-destructive demons: a philosophical stoner's dream.
While the movie itself is, in one obvious way, completely absurd, it never spins out into the stratosphere of ridiculousness, thanks to the thoroughly believable performances from Hathaway and Sudeikis. They are by turns charming and repulsive, brave and vulnerable. So we sat down with the pair to talk about the gospel of Kristen Stewart, what it actually means for a film to be "feminist," and the unintentionally brilliant ways their new movie reflects what's going on in the world right now.
Let's start with the fact that these are very different roles for both of you — major departures from what you usually do. Anne, aside from Rachel Getting Married, you haven’t really done a hot mess quite like this.
Anne Hathaway: “I find it so funny because I have to check myself from making faces when people are like, ‘So this is a real departure for you,’ because this is the closest to me I’ve ever been.”
AH: “Yeah, I think so. I feel like it would be inauthentic for me to say that I’m this all the time, but I’ve had long stretches of my life where I’m very much like this character. And I’ve always kind of been able to pull my shit together for a movie or for something larger than myself, but there have been plenty of moments in between where you just feel find of lost and you’re struggling with who you are and how you’re doing things.
"The parts that make me uncomfortable are the ones where you have to play someone who seems like they have their life together. Everybody’s struggling with something. So I was really psyched to find someone like Gloria who is all these things that we usually don’t allow people to be, which is totally sweet and self-absorbed, and very, very caring, but also self-destructive. She hasn't totally found her north star, and it’s a really unusual circumstance by which she finds it. But I think that given the right context, we can all be monsters, and given the right context, we can all be heroes. And I thought it was really cool to have someone in a movie that was both.”
Absolutely. So much more real.
AH: “I think so. I read something that Kristen Stewart said the other day and it just knocked my socks off [about] this notion that celebrities or actresses — this idea of the mythic female, the untouchability. We finally punctured it, and shit’s getting real, and that’s so much more fun. And first of all, everything about her, I’m just like, hallelujah hands all the time with her, she’s so cool. But that’s the way I feel. And the more free we get, the better our characters get, and the better the representations we see of ourselves are.”
It’s a very rare character, but then especially rare for a female character.
AH: “Yeah. And I’m sure you’re as anxious as I am to not have to say that anymore. [Laughs]”
Jason Sudeikis: “And it’s even the fact that that’s not what the movie’s about — it’s not like, here’s a movie about a woman not being perfect.”
AH: “Yes, I know! ‘And then I realized, I don’t have to be perfect’! [Mocking dramatic voice]. I got sent that the other day and I got into a really long discussion with a director where I’m just like, I don’t think people need to learn to not be perfect anymore. I think we can let that story go. So I say — I hope I don’t make that story in five minutes [Laughs]. But I got a kid now, so if I do, excuse me. My integrity is gone.”
JS: “It’s fleeting.”
You’ll get a pass, maybe for like one more.
JS: “[Laughs] Yeah, choose it wisely.”
So, do you see this as a feminist movie?
JS: “Yeah, I could see that. I defer more to women to a degree to decide that. But it feels more about the empowerment versus the equality of, which, I think that would help balance out the history that we’ve led up to this point. But I’d say, yeah it’s feminist, from my point of view.
AH: “My only hesitation about saying that it’s a feminist movie is that I think it invites a laziness of thought that doesn’t benefit the movie. Because I think that for some people, it lets you gloss over some things. And I think that for some reason, ‘feminism’ will unfairly sink things. And I don’t think that either is a true definition of feminism.
"Earlier today, somebody asked me, ‘Is this a female revenge movie?’ And I said to him, ‘I think that says more about you than it does about the movie,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think it’s a female revenge movie, because if you look at the movie, Gloria gives Oscar every opportunity to melt and become vulnerable, and he chooses ego every single time.’ And I think that this is a movie that records a very accurate experience for women, which is people trying to control them, people believing they have a right to control them, people not trusting them to make their own decisions.”
This movie records a very accurate experience for women, which is people trying to control them, people believing they have a right to control them, people not trusting them to make their own decisions.
JS: “And thinking that they need to be controlled.”
AH: “And the reality is that while nobody has the right to do that, she’s not taking care of herself either. So like I said, I think ‘feminism’ is an easy word, and I think this movie is worth a deeper conversation. And after saying all that… yeah, I think it’s a feminist movie [Laughs].”
JS: “I am hesitant for it to be sold as that because of what you’re speaking of. That word has — at its denotative level, it is equality for both genders.”
AH: “Yes, exactly!”
JS: “So to that, I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, is it feminist? Probably not. No. So that’s a good point. But it is a feminist movie in the sense of if you’re talking about movies in general.”
AH: “Or but is it? Because feminism’s about equality. This is a movie about empowerment, and are movies about female empowerment necessarily feminist?”
JS: “No. But to have a female protagonist that has an arc that Gloria has is an equal measure to films that for ages and ages have been men going through those same journeys. So it’s feminist in regards to movies, like it’s a tick in the box under 'F' instead of 'M' We’ve got a long way to go until those ticks balance. So it’s feminist in that regard, but I don’t believe it is the theme necessarily.”
Okay, I like that! That works.
JS: “Yeah, ‘cause as you’re talking about it, I’m like, it’s not my definition, or the definition, of feminism. This movie’s got all sorts of stuff going on. I learn more and more each time I do a new interview.”
AH: “I think one of the best selling points about the movie is that we’ve been having a conversation about it for two years and either we’re dumb, or this movie just holds up. And for me, it’s the latter.”
On that note: Can you guys see this movie as a metaphor for society in a different way, with anything going on today? This shitshow unfolding on TV while everyone sits around watching, getting drunk…
JS: “You’re leading the witness! [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, without a doubt. And again, this is a credit to Nacho, because I don’t think he actively had a bunch of corkboards with ‘alcoholism’ and ‘toxic masculinity’ — he didn’t hit all these themes. It came out of him because he’s an open, childlike, artistic soul with as good of a left brain as a right brain. And so when you watch it, there’s all sorts of metaphors going on there. I think it’s the dealer’s choice. I think that’s one of the neat things about the movie, is it’s not explicit in what it’s about.”
AH: “Nacho wasn’t trying to push any points or make a statement. He was just telling a story intuitively. And he’s got a wonderful mind that can hold a lot of different possibilities at the same time. So I think because of that, he’s tapped into some universal feelings, which have just happened to have coincidentally become incredibly timely. And two years ago, maybe, the alcoholism aspect of it would have resonated more vibrantly. And now, given the givens of what we collectively as a society experienced the last year, I think they way women are treated by angry men is really jumping out.”
AH: “Can I say one more thing I like about the film?”
AH: “I think it’s nice to find a film that makes you think without making you sad.” [Both laugh]
Absolutely. I walked out, like, scratching my head but not crying.
AH: [Turns around and gestures to movie poster.] “Colossal: Will not make you sad!”
Colossal opens in theaters on April 7.