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Assassination Nation has seen some memorable screenings since it debuted in Sundance months ago. At the Park City-set film festival, a raucous reception greeted the film’s midnight screening, while at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, viewers reportedly shouted at the screen.
That’s pleased the cast and creators of the film: At the L.A. premiere late Wednesday, those associated with writer-director Sam Levinson’s sophomore feature said they hope the visceral reactions continue after the film’s Sept. 21 wide release. “You have people that really dislike it, and then you’ve got others that love it,” executive producer Jason Cloth of Bron Studios told The Hollywood Reporter. “You want to see an emotional outburst for your film.”
Rated-R, Assassination Nation imagines Salem, Mass., as 17,000 residents — including the mayor and high school principal — have all their text messages, photos and videos made public. Online fervor implicates an honor roll student named Lily (Odessa Young) and with her best friends (Abra, Hari Nef, and Suki Waterhouse), she is soon hunted by classmates, cops and everyone else.
Neon and the Russo brothers’ AGBO studio bought the movie in Park City for approximately $10 million, the January 2018 festival’s priciest acquisition. In his introduction, Neon chief marketing officer Christian Parkes wore a red raincoat like the film’s heroines and advised audience members at the ArcLight Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome, “You might be outraged, and that’s OK. … It’s a stick of dynamite.”
Levinson took the stage next, revealing, “I started writing this film five days before my wife gave birth to our first child, and I think I was responding to a very specific terror: the idea that I was bringing a kid into a world – specifically a country – that was outwardly celebrating aggression and violence and vitriol and mob mentality.” After praising his cast and crew, he paused to fight back tears while acknowledging his parents, Diana Rhodes (“Thank you for reading every page I’ve ever sent you my entire life”) and Oscar-winning Rain Man director Barry Levinson (“Thank you for your practicality and your wisdom and your humor”).
The cast’s central quartet walked the red carpet, along with co-stars including Bella Thorne, Joel McHale, Jennifer Morrison and Maude Apatow, as well as Charli XCX, and Rumer and Tallulah Belle Willis.
An after-party followed at Avenue nightclub, where McHale raved that Levinson — who wrote the forthcoming dramatic series Euphoria, executive produced by Drake and starring Zendaya and Storm Reid — crafts dialogue for young people “so easily that it is haunting.” HBO, the same network behind Levinson’s collaboration last year with his father (The Wizard of Lies), will also air Euphoria.
As the lead of the film, Young said, “It just feels good to release something that was written and conceptualized before this [MeToo#] movement began, that supports it.”
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