In anticipation of the release of Rupture in theaters and video on demand today (April 28), Slice of SciFi spoke briefly with director Steven Shainberg about his new movie and what prompted him to make a genre movie, about some of the inspiration behind his story choices in Rupture, and his central character, played by Noomi Rapace.
My conversation with Steven Shainberg kicked off shortly after I screened Rupture – because what’s better than a predawn screening of a movie about head games? Needless to say, it and an immediate Q&A with the movie’s director was certainly an interesting way to start the day… it also meant I had a notepad full of thoughts and questions at the ready:
Slice of SciFi: What made you decide your first movie back would be a genre film; “your brand” of horror with Rupture?
Shainberg: The short answer is I spent a lot of time trying to get a movie made called The Big Shoe and Andrew Lazar, one of the producers of Rupture, and I worked for a long time to get that movie made didn’t get it made. At the same time, I had developed and written seven other movies and one of the movies I was developing was Rupture. After trying to get the other made for so long he and I agreed to get a genre movie made that we could get financed.
What happened, which was a surprise to me, is that during the development of Rupture it became more and more a movie I was interested in. In a sense, it became more and more a movie of mine with the themes of transformation and personal confrontation of who one is and to a larger extent the movement through what you’re afraid of to a positive new realization. All of these ideas I seem to be continuing to work on were in Rupture, or worked their way into Rupture as we worked in the script. It didn’t start as a movie I thought I would make but it became a movie I was more and more interested in.
The Secretary is one of my favorite movies and it felt like in Rupture you picked up a different side of the theme of coming to understand who you are.
Shainberg: Yeah, exactly.
Both Noomi’s character and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s characters start out in the movie having a certain kind of timid(ness) and it felt like Rupture was a continuation on a theme in a way like you were looking more to examining who/what are you really and can you accept it.
Shainberg: Yeah, and I think in a one-to-one comparison Maggie’s character is afraid of where her relationship with Jimmy’s character is going; she afraid, very nervous she could easily get up and walk out of that office at any moment. But she doesn’t. And to some extent, I think what you’re saying is exactly right. Noomi Rapace’s character is going through a very similar psychological experience. Sure, the tone and the environment of it, everything else is quite different but, there is that inner similarity.
Noomi’s character is like a mouse in a maze… it all felt like an experiment but there’s the question at one point of is it really an experiment or was it part of her transformation, was she hallucinating and it felt like some of those moments seemed deliberately sidetracking…
In Secretary, you used James Spader “spying on” Maggie Gyllenhaal to get bigger picture perspective but here you’re getting that perspective with Noomi and it seems like she accidently became more interested/invested in what was happening to her and around her than and distracted from getting out of that building. Was that purposeful?
Shainberg: What you’re pointing toward, is what the question of what is actually scary in a psychological thriller or horror movie. This is a differently genre and tone. It leans into and is intended to be frightening and the reason, from my point of view, is the psychological experience we’re talking about, particularly on such a huge level as the one Noomi is facing in Rupture, that’s genuinely scary to go through that kind of transformation however you might do it in your own life and it can cause you to completely change your life. The relationship between the central character and the audience in a horror movie is different than in a romantic comedy or a love story so on that level the film making perspective needed to be driven much more directly from her point of view. You’re definitely noticing something that’s actively going on and was very consciously done on everyone part.
When you were trying to decide what would make up the “steps” the subjects would go through to terrify them, what made you pick some of the more common/uncommon phobias like: arachnophobia, or being forced to confront things that are disturbing or unsettle you, what turned you in that direction?
Shainberg: The problem with film making, you need to see things; you have to be able to put it on screen, visualize then and communicate in a visual way to an audience. So, you need things that essentially can be physically manifested that are clear and are scary.
I personally hate spiders, I kind of hate all creepy crawling things…so, that came out of me. It wasn’t very complicated what would be scary or horrifying. The scene that happens near the end of the movie came directly out of a dream I had. Literally, the scene is that dream. So, it was pretty straight forward – it was horrible for me, and it was a difficult to execute – but it’s pretty disturbing. I feel like it works on screen.
It seemed like you put together a rather eclectic cast where you know people’s faces but you don’t get distracted by their movie profile while the movie’s happening…
Shainberg: That’s the happy circumstance of low-budget filmmaking. The financier is going to want the bigger names in supporting parts; but movie benefits, and is better, if when she goes into the facility the faces aren’t too familiar. It will be scarier if they’re unknown to her, Noomi Rapace, so they should be unknown to the audience. That’s an argument you lose if you have the money to pay and attract the bigger names. But when you don’t have that money, you get to do what’s right. It’s ironic. It served the movie and made a better movie because we couldn’t afford Christopher Plummer but I could call my friend Peter Stormare [he plays Terrance] and say, “hey would you do this?”
And the same goes for Leslie Manville, who is a great lead actress and we could ask if she’d do this smaller party because she’s absolutely riveting and phenomenally intelligent and all of that would serve the movie. So, you know, if you’re a good director with good actors – if you can attract good actors – then don’t lose them because of a financier say you’ve gotta out “so and so in the movie for sales” that’s the dumbest way to cast a movie but it is how most movies get cast.
This movie seemed to fit your ability build out a metaphor, would you do more horror movies or psychological thrillers going forward?
Shainberg: You know, I thought the answer to that question would be no but after making this movie, the answer is yes. I really got interested in the genre and I have another movie that’s a scary movie that I want to make. But it’s not going to be the next movie.
As a rabid Secretary fan, you can easily guess my closing comment was more of a fangirl moment that, no one needs me to share… but I will share my thoughts on Rupture itself.