For William Oldroyd, directing is about trust. "You have to build trust with actors," he reasons. "You can get actors to go to quite extreme lengths if they trust you, but that trust has to be there."
Oldroyd's feature debut, 2016's Lady Macbeth, provided Florence Pugh with her breakout role and earned the director two BAFTA Film Award nominations for Outstanding British Film of the Year and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. "I felt very lucky that with Florence, Naomi [Ackie], and Cosmo [Jarvis] in Lady MacBeth, we had built that trust," he reflects. "Because some of the things they had to do were actually really brutal."
His follow-up is Eileen, another literary adaptation about a young woman who feels restricted by the world they live in. Adapted from Ottessa Moshfegh's 2015 novel of the same name, the pulpy thriller offered up equally juicy roles for Anne Hathaway and Thomasin Mackenzie to sink their teeth into.
"This story required an extraordinary commitment from the actors," the filmmaker points out. "But if they trusted that I would help them through those moments, then we would achieve great performances together — and they did."
Below, Oldroyd shares with A.frame five films that have influenced his filmmaking sensibilities, including two movies by Michael Haneke that set the bar for the sort of impact he hopes his own films have.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis | Written by: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
It's the first time I remember going to cinema. I went with my dad, and as a first cinematic experience, I think Back to the Future is pretty good. It kept me going back to cinema for many years after that, because you never forget it. There's also something now, where I want to make movies that draw people out to the cinema. So, what are those films? I do feel like with Eileen, you gain something from the collective experience of being with other people in that room in that moment.
Directed and Written by: Michael Haneke
The film that had the greatest impact on me was Seventh Continent, because it's the only film I've watched from outside the room where I had it playing on the TV. It wasn't even like through fingers or through a cushion on the sofa. I had to leave the room and then watch it through a crack in the door. It's a movie where this family systematically destroy everything they own and then kill themselves. It's really brutal. You think they're moving to Australia, and in fact, they're actually preparing to kill themselves. He's my favorite director, and that is a movie that really inspired me.
Directed and Written by: Michael Haneke
After The Seventh Continent came The Piano Teacher with Isabelle Huppert, who I think is one of the greatest living actors. When I think about projects, I look for roles that are as interesting as what she achieved in that film. I look for really complex characters.
Directed and Written by: Lars von Trier
I loved Dancer in the Dark. That movie showed me that cinema has a potential to be something which is unusual. I liked its irreverence. I liked the way that it played with form. Again, it's another amazing performance. I think that it's quite interesting that Björk did that movie, and then Drawing Restraint 9 with Matthew Barney, and they're the only two movies she made. But my God, thank God she did Dancer in the Dark. Because if you're going to do one performance, that's it. If you're going to do one movie, that's the movie.
Directed and Written by: Richard Brooks
We watched In Cold Blood as a reference for Eileen. Having watched that film and having seen the way in which they shot the basement then became clear to me that that was not the direction we should go. Because in the basement in Eileen, that's the moment at which all the truths will be revealed. It's meant to be exposing. Rebecca would like to put Mrs. Polk under the spotlight; not a single bare bulb swinging with the shadows. Understanding that then meant that we could actually make the rest of the movie very murky noir. So, it's quite interesting, having thought I might use the movie to create a basement like that film, it had the opposite effects. But what an amazing film In Cold Blood is. I mean, really just wonderful.