Greta: Director Neil Jordan On Creating a Female Stalker Movie [Exclusive Interview]

Nice people are so naïve. Do not trust strangers.

In Greta, a young woman befriends a lonely widow after she found her purse abandoned on the subway. Unbeknownst to her, the older woman harbors a dark and deadly agenda.

The film stars Isabelle Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe. It is directed by Neil Jordan, who also wrote the screenplay with Ray Wright.

LRM Online had an exclusive interview with director Neil Jordan. Our conversation covered the origination of the story to adapting the characters for Huppert and Moretz.

Jordan won an Oscar for the screenplay for The Crying Game and nominated as director back in 1992. He had directed the television series The Borgias and films Breakfast on Pluto, Michael Collins and Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles.

Greta will be in theaters nationwide this Friday.

Read our interview transcript below.

LRM: What initially started you on this project of Greta?

Neil Jordan: I was sent the script. I’ve never considered doing a stalker movie. The script was intriguing. Most intriguing. There were several things that intrigued me. One was that, obviously, [the story] is between three women. Two women, and the third being Maika [Monroe]. I’d never anticipated a female stalker. I thought that was really cool idea. There were several things in the screenplay that was written by a gentleman named Ray Wright. The first was the handbag. The look of that handbag I thought it was so simple and so chilling really. There were several standout sequences as well. The stalking with the phone. The sending the phone messages back and forwards. And the double dream. The reality is presented as a dream and what’s an actual dream is, which was perception is reality.

I thought that’s really intriguing. I loved it. I’ve never thought of using that as a narrative device. There were the things that intrigued me. I thought if I can explore these characters, explore the obsession, the fact that it was between two women–it made the obsessional nature of the relationship more interesting. It was less about sexuality or sexual dominance. It was more about maternal need, a need for friendship and the need for company basically. If somebody said to me, “Look. I want you to make a movie where there was a woman driven mad by the need for a company.” I would say, “Yes. I’ll do that in a minute.” That’s what it became really in the end.

LRM: With the script, was it originally a play or was just a straight up movie script?

Neil Jordan: It was a straight up script by a Hollywood writer.

LRM: How did you work with Ray to make adjustments to it?

Neil Jordan: We worked on the phone. We Skyped. There was a long gestation where the financiers were talking to me about various ways in which the film could be financed and made on various actors that could attract the finance. When Isabelle [Huppert] said she would do it and then Chloe [Grace Moretz] got involved, then I restructured the characters around them. I did a lot of rewriting around those two actors, which is what I liked to do. Once we get the cast, I liked to rewrite almost the whole thing around these particular people.

LRM: Did you already pictured them for the, for those parts?

Neil Jordan: No. It’s when they read the script and they agreed to do it. That’s when I could see the whole movie properly. The original part for Greta, in the original script, she was an old, much older woman. She was Hungarian or Romanian. She was an immigrant to me her 50s. She was the kind of lady you’ll see ladened down with shopping bags. She would standing really tired, waiting for the traffic light to change at the street. Frances’ relationship to her was more based on pity. When Isabel agreed to play the role, I said, “Okay, I’m going to change this character entirely around you.” I made a French. I made Greta to have this French persona. I used the piano as an element to gave her this sophistication. It gave her this elegance kind of thing. It became tools of seduction rather. She’s not so much for somebody that you pity. She’s somebody that seduces you into our world.

LRM: The character element where she actually dances after she makes it an important move in the movie. That was very creepy in a sense. Was that added in later?

Neil Jordan: That was added in? Everything was quite logical really. I said to her that you’ve got this detective and your apartment. We would turn up the sound to hide the banging from the room next door. We used Chopin for that. I tried to work with that and asked, “Would you be at imagine doing this whole scene as it kind of a ballet?” And she said, absolutely. She loved to. Most actors would not have even understood that request. She delighted with it. She loved it.

LRM: I was fascinated you portrayed the antagonist with this such elegance.

Neil Jordan: Elegance and fun. It’s a matter of having fun with the situation and the material.

LRM: Why is that Chloe perfect for her role?

Neil Jordan: Chloe’s great young actress. Before I cast her, we began to have a conversation. I looked at a lot of other stuff she’d done. She’s been acting since the age of eight. She done some extraordinary things and little known movies. People got to know her in Kick-Ass. Before that she’d been a child actor, she had done some great work. I watched the remake of Let the Right One In. In America, it was called Let Me In. She was wonderful in that. I’ve seen a lot of work. She really grounded this character in a way that I needed. I needed the movie going head to head with European sophistication with an American kind of innocence. She was perfect for that.

LRM: You worked with Stephen Rae a lot. Even though this film is about three women, but you managed bring him as well in. What was this all purposeful?

Neil Jordan: No. He’s been in so many of my movies. [Laughs] I said to Stephen I’ve got a killer detective role and you help me do that. He said, “Okay. I’d love to.”

LRM: You managed to put him in as a cool detective after all.

Neil Jordan: I didn’t write that part for him. It seemed to belong to him. So I gave it to him.

LRM: One of the things that I’m wanting remark is that the relationship also signal sorta like a generation gap. Gretta, herself, is not using a smartphone. She’s actually using like a Nokia phone. [Laughs] Could you talk about that? What was the image you’re trying to portray?

Neil Jordan: That’s part of her shtick, isn’t it? She portrays herself as somebody who doesn’t even know the phone or can take a picture. She turns out she’s incredibly, incredibly adept with that. The phone camera is a weapon. It’s part of her diabolical design really. Oh, my goodness, I didn’t know I could do that? Suddenly she’s bombarding Frances with pictures and messages. She knows very well how technology works. It suits your purposes to pretend that she doesn’t.

LRM:It’s the secret to persona of hers. One of the most frightening things, as everything unwinds, it seems like the authorities can’t seem to do anything or they’re actually in competent. It makes it scary is because for some people in real life, it is like that in this type situation.

Neil Jordan: Well, there is no law against it. If somebody was over in that building staring at me, could I call the police to have them stop staring at me? I don’t think you can. Can you? I relied on the original writer. He’s American. I relied on his knowledge of American law. I don’t think there is a law on somebody just staring at you through a window of your place of work.

LRM: That is actually frightening. After Greta, do you have any upcoming projects?

Neil Jordan: I’ve got a few things. I wrote a novel called the Drowned Detective. I really want to make a movie about that. The script is very elegant. It is 70’s and Eastern Europe. It’s very difficult to finance these kinds of movies these days.

LRM: One last question. A lot of people know you for your Oscar winning work on the Crying Game. Could you remark about this film? It’s been quite a long time and memorable. How proud were you with that?

Neil Jordan: I was kind of amazed that people liked it. I’m also amazed the people remembered it. It’s great. The fact that a movie can mean something, it’s very important. People do want movies to mean something. I watched the Oscars the other night. There was quite a few movies there that meant a lot right there.

LRM: Excellent. Hey, thank you very much.

Neil Jordan: Thank you!

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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