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Room director Lenny Abrahamson has helmed yet another book-to-movie adaptation with his upcoming film The Little Stranger, hitting theaters on Aug. 31. Taken from Sarah Waters’ 2009 novel, Abrahamson embraced the mysterious, fictional story set in London 1948 that fascinated him for years, and told his version of the story the best way he knows how.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at a special screening of the film at New York’s Metrograph theater, the director said he didn’t read The Little Stranger with a movie adaptation in mind, but he was so captivated by the world Waters created that he wanted to do more with it.
“I think what really struck me was how connected the ghostly elements were to the character elements,” Abrahamson said, “It’s not just, ‘What’s the scariest situation we can create?’ It’s really a film about what happens to those particular people and all of the dark stuff that comes from them.”
“The opportunity was there,” he added. “I had to make it.”
Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson), the story’s central and exceptionally troubled character, proved to be Abrahamson’s greatest challenge in directing, as he wondered aloud to THR, “How do you keep an audience close to Faraday?”
The director praised screenwriter Lucinda Coxon for doing great work, creating a fine line that allows viewers to empathize and care for Faraday.
While Gleeson ultimately became this character, he wasn’t who Abrahamson initially had in mind to play the part. Both Abrahamson and Gleeson were open about their admiration for and desire to work with each other, so when Abrahamson sent Gleeson the screenplay with the actor in mind for a different part, they were both shocked when Gleeson felt such a deep connection to the Faraday role.
“I just think he’s fascinating. He has got these depths that I am kind of scared of going to,” Gleeson said of the character.
Ruth Wilson, who plays Caroline Ayres, was also drawn to her character before shooting, and after spending her own time with the story, raving about the book-to-movie process, she pointed out how much an actor really gets to know his or her character from all that is offered in a novel.
Though The Little Stranger is characterized as a horror film, Abrahamson begs to differ.
“I thought it would be interesting to play with those horror elements and to create an experience for an audience that is new and fresh, that is coming directly from the truth of the characters and the situation that they’re in. It’s not an obvious monster film and it is not conventional horror, there’s a lot more going on,” he said.
The film also deals with class distinction, equality and familial separation — themes present in the U.S. right now.
Abrahamson sees a heightened relevance in his story due to the literal separation of families at the U.S. border for two reasons. Systems that divide people into “valuable” and “less-valuable,” he says, are “warping, destructive and causes the destruction of all of the good things people have in them. It brings out the worst.”
Additionally, he speaks of Faraday, and that character’s habit of suppressing his own bad traits because he cannot deal with them, noting his strong desire to believe his own myths about himself. Abrahamson believes that anyone who does that will bring into his life all the badness he’s trying to avoid.
“I think about America now in a way where America has not dealt with so much of the dark stuff in its history but prefers to cling to the myth of itself,” Abrahamson said.
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