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Actress-turned-director Justine Bateman says her personal journey from having the voice in her head stop being her worst critic and become her strongest supporter was essential to being able to complete her feature directorial debut, Violet.
“When I was getting from a fear-based decision life to an instinct-based decision life, what helped greatly was thinking about these negative thoughts in an objective way,” Bateman told a press conference for Violet at the Toronto Film Festival on Saturday.
Bateman added that came down to simple decisions her negative inner voice forced around clothing. “The example I use is ‘Don’t wear that shirt to the party or no one will talk to you.’ Within myself, I gave it validity. It’s my own thought, I adhere to its accuracy, blindly,” she recalled.
Bateman said choosing to ask herself objective questions turned her life around, like would the party have a dress code, or who would attend. “I would ask questions. I wouldn’t just take it all in as fact. And that made a big difference for me. I could look at it objectively and I could see these things as lies,” she recounted.
So to get the audience for Violet to the other side of the irrational fears of the title character, played by Olivia Munn, Bateman introduced The Voice, where Justin Theroux voices Voilet’s innermost critical fears and questions.
“I wanted to make the voice as different as possible from Olivia — change the gender, change the tone, change where it’s coming in on the speakers in the theater,” she explained. The goal was to have Violet move from the life she feared and held her back to one she wanted to lead.
Violet sees Munn play a Hollywood executive struggling to turn off the hostile voice in her head and live a more authentic life. Bateman said the movie’s audience will hopefully see their own negative thoughts as separate from themselves, so they could analyze them and not just treat lies as facts as Bateman had once done.
Here the actress-director insists people should be able to relate to Violet’s extreme doubts and self-criticism, especially as having to isolate during the pandemic has given everyone more time with their own thoughts.
“Maybe having more free time than we usually have will open the floodgates of thought, maybe it will be true that more people will say, oh my God, I realize now that I got a lot under the rug and I need to clean that out,” Bateman said.
The Toronto Film Festival continues through Sept. 18.
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