Last year, Richard Shepard’s The Perfection took Fantastic Fest by storm, and for this writer, the wait for it to finally arrive on Netflix has been painfully long. Thankfully, we're only a few days away now from The Perfection arriving on the popular streaming platform, and to get you ready, Daily Dead recently spoke with director Richard Shepard about his twist-filled thriller that features a pair of intriguing performances from Allison Williams and Logan Browning. During the interview, Shepard discussed the approach to the film’s story, working with both of his leads, and how The Perfection defies genre labels.
And do not worry, the following interview contains zero spoilers so that readers can go into The Perfection still able to enjoy all of the film’s unexpected moments when it debuts on May 24th.
Great to speak with you, Richard. I’d love to start off by digging into the ideas of the story, because you all did a wonderful job of creating these compelling and layered female characters, and dig into this complicated back-and-forth that they share. And I’m doing my best to keep things vague, because I don’t want to ruin anything for viewers.
Richard Shepard: No, you're doing great and here's the thing is, it is such a hard movie to promote without spoilers because the spoilers are what makes the movie so fun in so many ways. And it's been really tough talking about it without trying to hurt the movie, but what I can tell you is this: the fact is that this is a movie about two women and it is a complex, twisted, odd, dark movie that also is sexy and violent and thought-provoking, I hope.
And the characters are so rich because they are so not what they initially seem in the beginning of the movie. They become three-dimensional and so, in a way, it's empowering the roles because they're representing three-dimensional characters, which is rare in movies on any level, let alone with women characters which tend not to be three-dimensional. And in this case it is, and there's a true connection between the two characters, and audiences have responded to the fact that as twisted as this movie is, there's a real heartbeat underneath these characters—they feel like real people even in a heightened genre movie. So, I think it was really fun for the actors to play it, to be able to go to such extremes and take expectations of the audience and turn it on their heads.
These days, there's pressure on everybody, but I feel like there's almost sort of this added pressure to women because you have to consistently walk this line of critical perfection. Did you guys realize when you were making this that there would be this parallel between this story to some of the issues that are coming up these days?
Richard Shepard: Yeah, we wrote the movie wanting to tell an interesting story that was both genre-bending and had an emotional dovetail to it, too, and the fact is that Allison Williams and Logan Browning are incredibly articulate, passionate performers and people. They became my partners in this movie in terms of making sure that their characters were well-rounded and realistic, and that what we were doing was not exploitative, even if there were exploitative elements to the storytelling and to the movie. And yeah, it feels very current, some of the issues we talk about, and some of that is the pressure the people are feeling, the world that women have been living in and exposing some real problems in society.
I think it's great that we're talking about these things, and having these two strong women actors as partners with me making the movie helped me as a 54-year-old white man, tell the story in a different way than I might have told it without their participation and help. And so I do think that there's a currency to the film and a reality and a connectivity, even in a film as outlandish as this. I think that by the end of the movie, audiences are really behind these characters in some way that you might not have imagined earlier in the film.
You just mentioned working with Allison and Logan, and so much of this film is about this wonderful back-and-forth between them. Can you talk about that collaborative process that you shared on the film, and making sure you nailed certain elements of the story?
Richard Shepard: Yeah, this was a very unique collaboration and Allison was truly my partner in crime on this movie and from the very beginning, the script was pinpointing so many specific things, asking so many questions. Many of the reasons that the movie works with all the twists and turns is that Allison poked holes in earlier drafts to try and get us to tighten things up and make things make sense.
And, as a filmmaker, to find someone you can collaborate with like that, who you trust and who you feel like will put up a good and logical fight about things, is like a gift, and throwing Logan in the mix there, too, we were all able to approach this material in a cool way.
I also educated them on certain genre movie things that I was really interested in. I showed them Oldboy and The Handmaiden and all these other Park Chan-Wook movies. So I was showing them ascetically what I wanted to do, and we talked about all the genre elements, and they were even in the editing room, and we were always talking about making sure that we weren't revealing too much, too early. Ultimately, we wanted to make sure it was all tracking, so when you watch it the first time, it hits that landing point.
And this is definitely a movie where, I think watching it a second time is going to be just as fun for people. Obviously, I just hope they watch it a first time, because that's what's most important, but watching it a second time, they will be able to see the level of nuance that the actors brought to their characters. I think it's pretty fun.
In terms of genre elements, you have had so many great successes in different realms, was there something in particular that made you want to dip your toes in the waters of genre storytelling? There used to be this stigma for years about doing something that had horror to it, but I feel like that tide has really been changing over the last few years and it's very exciting for me as a fan because we’re getting this really fun influx of new storytellers coming in and bringing these new, different stories into the genre world, and I think The Perfection is a great example of just that.
Richard Shepard: Well, thank you. I agree on so many levels of what you've just said. I think that horror used to be stigmatized, but the fact of the matter is that great filmmakers have always been drawn to genre movies, whether it's Brian De Palma or Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg. There is something great about a genre movie. You can do so much more in a genre movie than you can in a straight drama or a comedy because you can have more than one layer going on. You can be twisted and perverse, and also deep, and you can be moving and funny and outrageous, and it also gives you the place cinematically to do very cool things.
But I do agree with you that there's been this sort of a stigma on horror for far too long, and I love that things are changing because there are so many great stories to tell. And with our film, it’s a situation where there are far scarier movies than The Perfection, and far more violent than The Perfection, and far sexier movies than The Perfection, but The Perfection exists in its own special place, and I'm really proud of it because it is its own genre.
In case you missed it, check HERE to read Heather Wixson's other interviews with the cast and crew of The Perfection.