Starring Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful), Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon sees a newlywed couple find their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night. Recently we caught up with Leigh to chat about the idea behind Honeymoon, how she made it and what it’s like to be a female genre filmmaker.
1. Before ‘Honeymoon’ what were you working on?
My writing partner, Phil, and I had been writing together for awhile. We were writing, trying to break-in to the studio side of things and we just kept hitting a brick wall every time. We’d have good responses, good meetings, but it wasn’t really going anywhere. And then, it was 2011, I think and there were all these great indie films coming out Monsters, Tiny Furniture and we just decided it was time to write something that we were going to actually make… So that was the beginning of Honeymoon.
2. Where did the story of ‘Honeymoon’ come from?
We were interested in ideas of identity and how well you can ever really know another person and the story kind of grew from that place. We also thought about bigger sci-fi films that we loved (Invasion of the Body Snatchers being one of them) and decided to just take a really intimate look at a relationship through that type of sci-fi lense.
3. How were your casting decisions made?
We didn’t have a casting director; we were just too small. With Rose, I had read the Game of Thrones books and Ygritte was one of my favourite characters. When we were casting Honeymoon, she (Rose) had just appeared in her first season of the show, as Ygritte. I recognised her from Downton Abbey and I thought her talent and energy just seemed perfect and interesting and different in all the right ways for Bea. She didn’t have a US agent yet; I remember emailing a friend asking them to look on this subscription based website to see who repped her. And then I emailed my producers saying “how about her” and they contacted her UK agent and we just crossed our fingers for a few weeks and waited. I was so thrilled when she came abroad.
With Harry, we had been getting actor submissions from the different agencies and he was on this long list of talent, but when I saw his name I was really excited. I knew Harry from Fish Tank and Control and he just has this immense ability to really become a character in a way that you wouldn’t necessarily anticipate. We Skyped and he was interested and finding him was just awesome. He was perfect for Paul and just really stood out.
4. Where did your interest in horror come from?
I grew up in the 80’s surrounded by Nightmare on Elm Street’s and Friday the 13th’s, but I wasn’t really allowed to watch those type of “slasher” films when I was a kid. I remember I was getting ready to have a slumber party for my 11th or 12th birthday and I begged my parents to let me show a scary movie, but my mom wasn’t into it. She didn’t like the idea of “gratuitous blood and violence.” So instead, she let me show Psycho, which ended up being way more intense and scary than Child’s Play ever would have been! So in any case, I credit my mom in that way for introducing me to the type of horror I’ve grown to love Hitchcock, Polanski, Kubrik…
5. What was your inspiration when you started on ‘Honeymoon’?
I had a bunch of different influences. Rosemary’s Baby, for sure. The Shining. The Fly. Blue Valentine. And of course, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
6. What work did you do with Rose and Harry to develop their relationship?
I didn’t have a lot of prep time ahead of time with Rose and Harry before we started shooting. I think they both arrived on set about four days before production started? The three of us spent four or five hours a day for each of those prep days just really talking through their characters and the script and getting to know and trust each other. And they just had great chemistry, too.
7. How did you find the locations of the film?
The film takes place in Canada and originally we had hoped to maybe shoot up there, but when our production schedule ended up landing in early spring, Canada just wouldn’t work. The temperature of the water up there would be too cold and none of the spring foliage would have started to bloom yet, so we needed to find another option. My great physical producers, Angela Sostre and Joel Henry, suggested North Carolina so we ended up heading there, six weeks out to find our locations. We went to a bunch of different lakes and nothing was right. They just didn’t have the feel of the Canadian lake country that I grew up visiting. Ultimately, we ended up finding the perfect lake and cottage locations right under our nose at Lake Summit in Flat Rock/Hendersonville right near where we had set up base camp.
I think I was a basket-case at SXSW. I had never been to a big film festival before and the whole thing was just really overwhelming. (And obviously great.) It was all a bit of a blur, but having the film premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse was just awesome. The crowds were amazing. The community of SXSW really embraced the film and I feel incredibly lucky to have premiered there.
9. How does it feel when people talk about the rarity of female genre filmmakers; are you happy to be spoken about in these terms?
I’m happy to be included in conversations that people are having about gender and film, sure. I wish that there wasn’t a need for this kind of conversation, but the truth of Hollywood still being a bit of a white man’s club exists. That said with Honeymoon, with Jennifer Kent and The Babadook, Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and countless others, I think last year was a pretty strong year for women in genre.