With 7 BAFTAs and 10 Academy Award nominations, The Favourite is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year. We caught up with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) at London Film Festival 2018 to chat about his process.
The film centres on the court drama of the petulant Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) as her right hand woman (Rachel Weisz) competes with a newcomer (Emma Stone) for her favour.
It’s so unique to have a mainstream film with three female leads, let alone gay ones! Was that something that was important to you when you got involved in the project?
It was just a story that existed – a real story, that when I got to learn [about it], I was very intrigued to see what can be made of it. I think that apart from anything else, to do a story about these three powerful women at that time, to show how their personality and how their relationships and how their decisions affected so many other people, it was an interesting theme to explore. And it also is very relatable to our times today.
What was the preparation like to get the chemistry we see on screen between the three amazing actresses?
We did have a few weeks of rehearsals and we did a lot of games and exercises while we were rehearsing, and they felt really comfortable with each other, so I think that carried on on set.
What was it like applying your directing style to a period piece?
I think it’s just natural to do that. The reason that someone like me would make a period film is also to try out his way of making films and see how it fits within the period genre. So I think we just try to add many elements that would give a modern texture to the film through various ways, from music, from language, from the physicality or the story itself.
What was your biggest challenge on set?
I think making a period film is quite difficult, especially when you’re on a relatively limited budget, so there’s a lot of logistics that you have to take care of, and you can’t only focus on the performances and how you film the scenes, so that was quite challenging.
Were there any films that particularly inspired you on this project?
Well, a lot of different films – from period films to contemporary films, so we looked at Cries and Whispers, Draughtsman’s Contract, Amadeus – many different films that have dealt with the period [genre] in a bold and modern way. And then we watched other things for inspiration, from Żuławski’s films to Juraj Herz’s The Cremator – you know, just a bunch of films that would inspire us to be bold and try things, and try and make something different.
What do you hope audiences will take away from it?
I don’t know – we make films and we hope that people see themselves in a way in them, and they can relate to it and they can understand the story in a contemporary context as well.
The Favourite arrives in cinemas on January 1st.