Jeremy Strong refers to the old adage that the most personal stories are also the most universal. It certainly rings true with armageddon timewriter-director James Gray’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama about privilege, religion, race, and growing up (and getting into a lot of trouble) in an American Jewish family in the early 1900s. 1980s in Queens, NY
“I think the truth is, for all of our differences, there’s something that speaks through those differences and speaks through those divisions,” said the Succession says the star in an interview alongside her co-star Anne Hathaway. The actors play Irving and Esther Graff, whose son Paul (Banks Repeta) acts against them and his teachers, and lands in particularly hot water when he is caught smoking weed at school with a classmate. of class (Jaylin Webb).
“So James, having the will and the courage to go deep and take a real moral inventory of his own life and his own failures, and the things he struggled with in his family, I found a lot to tell in what he had written.”
Hathaway witnessed the film’s universality when armageddon time premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
“It’s a film about a family in a hyper-specific place in a hyper-specific time, [so I was curious] how could it address a French audience with an international vocation? And the shock was to realize that the public had completely understood it. There are themes in this very specific film that are so universal. … It is a house in which love and violence are linked. It’s very rare to find a work of art that wants to explore that, and very rare to find a filmmaker that wants to explore that part of themselves.
The violence Hathaway is referring to comes during a brutal sequence in which Paul is beaten by his father with a belt in a bathtub. And while the “belt” was fairly common in those days, it didn’t make the scene any easier to capture for Strong or Hathaway, who are parents themselves.
“As you can imagine, it was a really tough day,” Strong says. “Aware of working with a child actor, who by the way, was very playful and committed to what we were doing, to tell this story. But also the added sensitivity that we were kind of recreating a trauma that had been inflicted on our director, and he’s there watching it on a monitor. So it was a very personal experience to make a personal film. … There’s a level of honesty about what James does with this movie that I find very impactful the few times I’ve seen the movie.
Hathaway became visibly emotional and tearful as Strong discussed the sensitive nature of the film and depiction of child abuse.
“I don’t know why we’re not in a world yet where it’s safe to be a kid,” the actress says. “And I don’t think Esther or Irving weren’t trying to be bad parents. In fact, I think they were doing what was prescribed at the time as divine parenting. They were trying to prepare their child for the world. But what kind of world are we preparing children for when we have to beat them to fit in?
“So I was just thinking of a world where it was pretty safe to be a kid in a loving way, and I was just remembering the day we shot it. I’ve never done anything like that.”
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