Simon Killer's Brady Corbet on Getting Naked on Camera and the "Irrelevant Dinosaur" That Is the MPAA
If there's one character Brady Corbet runs the risk of being typecast as, it's the creep. Corbet pushed the edge of creepdom in Michael Haneke's Hollywood remake of Funny Games, where he played one of two homicidal preppy kids who slowly torture and murder a family vacationing at their Long Island home. More recently he played an unstable acolyte to a cult leader in Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene, tasked to tempt a young woman back into the fold.
Courtesy IFC Films Brady Corbet in Simon Killer.
In Simon Killer, the new film from Antonio Campos (Afterschool), the 24-year-old Corbet plays Simon, a lost soul from New York visiting Paris to try to get over an ex. He stumbles through the vacation trying to meet other girls but fails with sad sack lameness. He soon turns to porn and then a prostitute (Mati Diop) for affection. Things grow grim fast when he finds himself in over his head when he tries scamming his way using his new "girlfriend" to blackmail some rather menacing johns. It makes for a rather bizarre thriller where the crux of the suspense lies in the ineptitude of the titular character. As he did in Afterschool, Campos infuses the drama with a raw, distinct style and allows his lead a collaborative role beyond acting.
Corbet is currently in Paris, diving into prep work ahead of what he hopes will be his feature-length directorial debut. "The film is called The Childhood of a Leader and chronicles, in part, the seven months leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles," he writes via email. "The film is focused on a political family that relocates to France for the Paris Peace Conference and is about their little boy's metaphysical response to this tumultuous period of world history that paved the way for the Second World War."
Brady Corbet with Constance Rousseau in Simon Killer
He took some time out from his future project to answer some questions from Cultist via email, ahead of this weekend's theatrical premiere of Simon Killer at two Miami art houses, the Miami Beach Cinematheque and the Bill Cosford Cinema.
Cultist: How does an actor score a writing credit in a movie?
Brady Corbet: Antonio came to me with a few elements of the story the summer we were due to shoot Martha Marcy May Marlene [Campos was a producer on the film]... While we were working on that set, we quickly fleshed out an outline together in our off-time-- brainstorming about the narrative's potential through a series of conversations about what we were interested in: exploring contemporary male behavior.
How did that writing process work?
Antonio and I have very similar taste. We are very close friends and we sort of speak the same language, if you will-- it was a fairly organic process for the both of us. When we met Mati Diop [who also co-wrote] in Paris, we both knew that she was both the correct person for the role, as well as the best fit for a creative partner in fleshing out the film's detail. Mati is a very accomplished filmmaker in her own right.
The film is a sort of bizarre thriller where the suspense seems to come from the creepy ineptitude of your character, Simon. What inspired this story?
The story was very much inspired by Georges Simenon's novels which were stories that would frequently chronicle the downward spiral of its male protagonists into a pit of urban decay. We were interested in subverting Noir genre expectations, as well as the expectations of the "coming-of-age" story.
How did you feel about immersing yourself into this character? What was your inspiration in fleshing him out?
He's a character that quickly adapts (or lies) to just about everyone he encounters. I treated each scene like its own narrative because I think his lies are true for him-- he only really starts to come apart at the end of the film when Mati's character starts to peel the paint back, if you will.
Were there other characters in cinema history that informed the personage of Simon?
We never discussed Tom Ripley who has frequently come up in conversation but I like the comparison... We discussed Joran van der Sloot a great deal in pre-production. He was the only point-of-reference for us.