This Friday, the psychological thriller Looking Glass arrives in select theaters and on various digital platforms courtesy of Momentum Pictures. Directed by Tim Hunter (the director of River’s Edge and episodes of various genre TV shows like Scream: The TV Series, Hannibal, Gotham, American Horror Story, and more), and co-starring Nicolas Cage and Robin Tunney, Looking Glass follows a married couple trying to rebuild their lives after a tragic accident claims their young daughter. They purchase a remote roadside motel, but get more than they bargained for once they realize there’s much more to their new property than meets the eye.
Daily Dead recently had the pleasure of speaking with Hunter about his latest project, and he discussed what initially drew him into the world of Looking Glass, collaborating with both Cage and Tunney, and more.
Great to speak with you, Tim. I still remember how badly River’s Edge messed me up as a kid the first time I saw it. In regards to Looking Glass, what was it about this script in particular that appealed to your sensibilities as a director and made you want to take the helm? It's a really interesting character study between these two broken people who are just trying to move forward, and it's just not that easy for them.
Tim Hunter: Well, I’m glad I was able to mess up your childhood [laughs]. But yes, that's exactly right about Looking Glass. The script came to me with Nicolas Cage already attached, and the script was fairly well-formed, too. For me, it was a neo-noir as much as it was about a conflicted couple as it is about voyeurism or the murder mystery. Of course, I responded to the underlying psychological aspects. I thought the complexity of Nic’s character was interesting. He wants to be faithful to his wife, he wants to stay in his marriage even though he's possibly being transgressed against. She was drinking too much and taking pills, and because of that, their daughter died, so they're in a precarious place. They're trying to start over. The last thing they need is a motel with a secret passage to a one-way mirror on a room where all kinds of sex and murders are taking place.
It's precarious, but clearly there was an unresolved psychological need inside of Nic's character, and that's what the sex, murder, and voyeurism story plays into. I also thought, as in River's Edge, that there was a darkly comic aspect to it. As in a lot of my favorites of film noirs and B-pictures, though the surface details are finally resolved, the murder mystery, the question of whether they survive the story and the underlying psychological problems and issues are still there at the end. I actually thought that the piece had some complexity to it in addressing some of these issues, so that's what I responded to, just as much as the genre aspects themselves.
You mentioned neo-noir films, and there were a lot of aspects to Looking Glass that felt like a storyline pulled right out of Twin Peaks, with this kind of dark quirkiness. Is there a delicate balance for you, as a storyteller, to build up those different tensions in different ways and keep the audience wondering just what exactly is going on with the mystery at the core of the story? Because the audience’s perception of the mystery is just as off-kilter as Nicolas Cage's character’s perceptions in this movie.
That's exactly right—you're in his point of view. This is a slow-burn movie, though. It comes in through the back door, and I like movies that do that. It takes a little time to get going, but once the plot clicks in, and you know the characters, and you're invested in it a little more maybe than you expected to be, that’s when it’s fun to play with the different aspects of the story.
Of course, you have to walk a fine line with films in this genre, because you're dealing with a kind of hyper-reality, or even a heightened reality is a better way to describe it. But at the same time, it must maintain some semblance of reality so there are some rules that you have to follow. That way, you can maintain and build a mystery without cheating the rules at all. I'm very sensitive to that stuff—the Hitchcock of it all. I love the genre, so I wanted to try to build it in a way that walks that line.
I do think the one thing that people seem to be responding to most in this film is Nic. It's a big part and it's kind of a big performance, but it's a big, quiet performance compared to some of the other stuff that he's done of late where he's had to go fairly full-on psycho one way or another. I loved it because I thought he was so subtle in Looking Glass, even when he does something hyper-real or in the way that one expects from a Nicolas Cage performance. He’s very nuanced in this picture, and I liked that there was an opportunity for some subtlety and nuance from him in this one, where he could capture the contradictions of this guy who wants to do the right thing, but there’s this fighting of the dark urges inside himself. He's an everyman, and Nic really understood that.
I also think Robin Tunney is equally as fantastic here. There's a lot that she does with this character, where it's almost not even verbalized throughout some of her character’s moments. Can you talk about bringing her into the mix as well, and finding that dynamic, since she and Nic play very complicated protagonists with some very rough edges?
I'm so glad you liked her. I had worked with Robin before, so I already knew her a bit. I asked her if she would consider the part, and she had always wanted to work with Nic Cage, so she took it on, even though the part was not necessarily completely fleshed out on the page when she came on board. The three of us talked about where we could possibly go a little further with the emotional scenes, the scenes that helped define them as a couple, where they could really bring their emotional issues and conflicts to life.
They were both very receptive to working on a few of the key scenes to really try to bring out the underlying issues in the marriage. She's such a good actress. Robin was buried on that TV show The Mentalist, which I'm sure made her a rich, happy woman, but didn't necessarily give her the opportunities to act, which she deserves. But I thought Robin and Nic worked great together.