Favourite, The: Interview with Director Yorgos Lanthimos

The Favourite: One of Year’s Best Films

The Favourite world premiered in competition at the 2018 Venice Film Fest, where it won a major jury award.

Dominated by women, the film offers strong roles for three great actresses, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, and secondary ones for Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.

YL:  Yorgos Lanthimos

Scripted Dramedy and Fun on the Set

YL:  It was scripted, but we rehearsed things and changed things and rewrote them on the set.

Bold Scenes 

YL:  Scenes by themselves don’t necessarily say everything about a character, so you have to follow a whole arc and put all of these things together.  So, it was one aspect which showed a very specific moment of her character as well because she was particularly worried about what she had done before, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that she would have behaved exactly the same way if that thing hadn’t happened before.  So, it was a complicated little moment that happened to just be on their wedding night.  And I remembered having to write a longer monologue for her in order to have enough time, if you know what I mean.

Dark Humor

YL:  I think it was apparent from the screenplay itself what the intention and tone of the film was.  I really don’t like to explain to actors what they are supposed to do, or what in the scene they are supposed to feel or what the film is supposed to feel like.  I guess the most that I did was send them some videos and stuff just to be inspired, just from various films, I think everybody say those.  But it was mostly about, I think the way that the tone became more apparent was during our weeks of rehearsal that we fooled around a lot and we tried to deal with the material and the script and the fashion of the film that didn’t make it too precious.  And through their interaction and playing games and fooling around and things, first of all they felt comfortable with each other, but it also was quite telling about what the tone of this film was supposed to be like mostly, because there is also the darker aspect of it.  But I guess it’s easy for most of us to peek into that when we need to.


Particular and Universal Stories

YL:  It’s one of those things that it’s hard to answer, because I make the film in order to share it with you and this is what I have to say about the issues, about the matter.  For me to just point out this and this issue, I think it limits the film very much.  There are obvious things like about women, their relationships with men and their relationships with each other, power and power games, love, there are obvious themes there which are relevant to our times, but at the same time, there’s much more than that.  And different people perceive films in a different way and according to their culture and their background and their education.  So I do want to avoid saying that this film is about this and that’s why it’s relevant today, because it can be many different things for many people and we go to great lengths in order to make the film open enough for people to be able to project their own experience on those films and see what comes back to them according to who they are and where they come from. That is why I say it’s universal, and many people can understand it in different ways.


Origins of Project

YL:  Reading the original script, I saw that there is an actual real story about these three women, that at some point of in time had this kind of power, but also the emotional implications between them but also the repercussions that their relationship had to a whole nation or millions of people or hundreds or thousands of people, felt like a very strong story.  And of course the fact that there were three female leads in a film who were given the opportunity to create this amazing complicated, complex, wonderful and horrible human beings, is not something that you can do often.  Initially, it wasn’t call ‘The Favourite.’  We all came up together with it, because it’s been so many years that we have worked on it, so everything is phased out, where it started from and where it ended up.  It’s a collaboration between all of us and that’s what films are anyway.


Going to Greece to Tell Unique Stories

YL:  I don’t know if I necessarily have to go to Greece to tell these stories.  When a story feels quite universal, I guess you can tell it anywhere.  This had an historical context, so that is why it had to be in England.  But I obviously find it easier to work in the English language and easier to put films together when they are in the English language and I love working with these actors and so I want to keep working with them.  But if there’s a particular project or particular film that needs to be told in the Greek language for some reason or needs to take place in Greece, then I will gladly go back and make it there.