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Diego Luna’s Wander Darkly character seems like he’d be a respite from the heaviness of playing a Rebel spy in Rogue One and a drug lord on Narcos: Mexico, but the actor surprisingly disagrees. In Tara Miele’s fourth feature film, Luna plays Matteo, a woodworker who’s forced to confront the trauma of his relationship with Sienna Miller’s Adrienne. The film’s metaphysical narrative delves into the couple’s differing memories as they reconcile their relationship amid the birth of their first child. For Luna, the film’s exploration of first-time parenthood is why Matteo rivals the likes of Cassian Andor and Felix Gallardo in terms of the burden these characters face.
“I don’t know if Matteo had less weight on his shoulders than Felix or Cassian. He’s going through parenthood and the beginning of that experience is really hard,” Luna tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t think there’s anything more complex and challenging than having your first son or daughter. It’s quite a change in your life. It changes your perspective of everything, the way you see everything and the way you relate to everything around you. So it was interesting to be able to reflect on that since I went through it long ago.”
Luna, who’s currently shooting the Rogue One prequel series, Andor, in London, is eager to dive deeper into Cassian Andor and what led him to sacrifice an informant during his introduction in the 2016 Star Wars film. While Lucasfilm has put StageCraft virtual production on the map by way of The Mandalorian, Luna suggests that the 12-episode Andor will use a more conventional filmmaking approach a la Rogue One. Andor‘s recent sizzle reel that premiered at Disney Investor Day 2020 also seems to confirm this production method.
“I think the format of a series is amazing because we have a lot of time to explore all those layers. What happens in Rogue One is something we can actually reflect on, and what’s behind something like [sacrificing an informant],” Luna shares. “The way we’re shooting this reminds me of how we shot the film, and the amount of work behind this TV series reminds me of the work you do for a film. It feels like we’re doing a very long movie.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Luna also discusses his relationship to Los Angeles, the challenge of imagining Wander Darkly’s match cuts and why he’s glad his run on Narcos: Mexico has come to an end.
Just to get the timeline right, did you shoot Wander Darkly right after Narcos: Mexico season one?
Correct. I shot this in between the two seasons, yeah. It was my breathing time. (Laughs.)
Your character, Matteo, is a father and a woodworker. As unique as the movie is, did you enjoy playing a regular guy again since your Rogue One and Narcos: Mexico characters both carried the weight of the world on their shoulders?
Yeah, definitely. Being Felix Gallardo for six and a half months, something crazy like that, had a lot of pressure from everywhere because we were shooting very intense material with a very complex character that meant a lot for me. I wanted so much for that to be good that it worried me. So it was nice to go into a film where you know the beginning and the end of the story from the moment you sign on to it. It was nice to tell a story about love, parenthood, memory and a city I love because I have a really close relationship with Los Angeles. After Mexico City, it’s the place where I’ve spent the most time in my life, and Los Angeles is a character in the film. So it was important for me to do that and to play a role that was closer to me in many ways, but I don’t know if Matteo had less weight on his shoulders than Felix or Cassian. He’s going through parenthood and the beginning of that experience is really hard. I don’t think there’s anything more complex and challenging than having your first son or daughter. It’s quite a change in your life. It changes your perspective of everything, the way you see everything and the way you relate to everything around you. So it was interesting to be able to reflect on that since I went through it long ago.
The photography is quite intimate in an effort to capture the ups and downs of Matteo and Adrienne’s relationship. Did you and Sienna treat the DP or camera operator like another scene partner?
What [DP] Carolina [Costa] did was quite interesting because she used a very natural approach to the moment. And I think she had the same challenge that we all had, which was how to live in those levels of reality that the film lives in. I think Carolina found a very eloquent way to move from one memory to the other, using a fantastical approach to a very natural approach, too. She went from one to the other in a very simple and beautiful way. Since we shot this in very little time, she had an amazing task to do with very little time and resources, but she found a very beautiful way to shoot this story.
Does a movie like this stay with you longer than most? Does it make you ask the same questions that the characters are asking themselves?
Yeah, definitely. The film is quite interesting because the genesis of it is a real experience that [writer-director] Tara [Miele] had with her husband. So a personal event started this reflection in her, and then she passed it on to us. You had to perfectly understand not just the story, but also what’s behind it. There’s a need for this reflection in order to portray a role in the movie, and I had to ask a lot of the questions that the script hopes you ask. I wanted to reflect on love without being patronizing and talk about that complexity that comes to you when you become a parent. There’s a weight to that dynamic that is so complex and contradictory at the same time. Yes, I love to think about what stays with me after I do a film, and with this one, it’s memory. I’ve thought about how two people can be living the same moment and remember it so differently. I’ve thought about how little we care about the other side’s experience from what we’re experiencing. I also think that connects with this pandemic moment and the reminder of how important it is to be aware of others. I think there’s something nice to think about there.
The film has a bunch of match cuts as it transitions to a similar object or shot in a new location. For example, there’s a shot of Matteo’s bench at a party, which then cuts to the same bench in their living room. Were those transitions all scripted?
If they were not in the script, they were definitely in Tara’s head, and she managed to communicate them to us in a very efficient way. We always knew what she was trying to achieve, but it was quite challenging for you as an actor. Many times, you had to look at something and keep looking at something. And then, you’re shooting somewhere else two weeks later, and you do the same thing. You go, “There’s nothing there. What am I supposed to be seeing? What image do I have to create?” but Tara was patient enough to explain to us what was needed. There haven’t been many times where I’ve worked on a film and had so little idea of how it’s actually going to turn out. (Laughs.) And this was one of those. But I think it was really clear in Tara’s head. She knew what she wanted and she somehow created the film in her head. But, sometimes, it was difficult for me to picture what she had in mind, so you had to trust your director. This is something that every film requires, but on this one, it felt more important than ever.
Matteo’s line about the number of candles that Adrienne (Sienna Miller) lit made me laugh for quite a while. Was it beneficial to have a few lighter moments in a heavy story like this?
Yes, again, it’s a very smart script. We’re talking about memory, which is different from living the moment. So when you revisit moments in your life that have been traumatic and difficult, irony and humor can be part of that reflection once you see it with some distance. How many times do you laugh about a moment where you were getting crazy and you couldn’t handle it? And then, some time passes and you go, “Did I say that? Oh my God. I’m such an idiot. I really reacted that way?” So this film has that essence. The idea of revisiting your life, in a way, can allow humor to become part of the process, and I think Tara managed to do it. In a nice way, it’s almost imperceptible until you realize what the film is about, and to me, it’s interesting because it tells you a lot about Tara as a person. She tends to use humor in her personal life, and for me, humor is very important. If we can’t laugh about ourselves, there’s something very wrong with us.
Shifting gears, in Rogue One, Cassian Andor has one of the most interesting and nuanced character introductions in all of Star Wars since he had to sacrifice an informant to protect his mission. As far as Andor is concerned, are you excited to explore what got him to that point where he’s willing to make the hard choice?
Definitely. It’s really interesting to tell a story even though we know where it ends. The way you can approach a story like this inevitably takes you into a deeper process of reflection. I tend to use that word a lot. So once you know what Cassian is capable of, then there’s room for so much exploration, and that’s something that excites me a lot as an actor. I think the format of a series is amazing because we have a lot of time to explore all those layers. What happens in Rogue One is something we can actually reflect on, and what’s behind something like [sacrificing an informant]. It’s a very interesting challenge, the one we have in front of us. So I’m really excited to go back to that character because I really enjoyed playing him, and I was really happy with what the film represents. Rogue One was a story of regular people. It was regular people doing incredible things, and in a way, it’s a film that reminds us of the power we all have if we have a conviction. So, yeah, I feel blessed to have the chance to revisit this role.
Is Andor using Stagecraft technology to some extent?
(Laughs.) I have to be very careful in the way I answer everything. The way we’re shooting this reminds me of how we shot the film, and the amount of work behind this TV series reminds me of the work you do for a film. It feels like we’re doing a very long movie.
We have to wrap, but you’re going to be missed on Narcos: Mexico season three.
I’m going to miss it, too, but to be honest, as an actor, it was quite demanding. It was two very intense years of my life. I’m happy now to move to this other character [Cassian Andor] that I also have a great connection with. It allows me to play material that is not as dark as [Narcos: Mexico]. (Laughs.)
Interview edited for length and clarity. Wander Darkly is now available on VOD and Digital. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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