I’m not sure I’ll do it next time. I was on the jury at Cannes this year, probably two or three weeks after I finished my final mix. Watching some really, really interesting movies, I realized, oh, you can do whatever you want if you follow something truthful and I don’t think I knew that.
What was the hardest part of adapting?
I found that adaptation actually used a muscle similar to what I used as an actress in terms of taking a script, whether it was great or had issues, and understand the essence of this piece of material. There are things that are literal, but they are so weird. Like the sentence “I am not a natural mother”. It’s just 100% Ferrante, a straight lift, but a lot of people told me, delete that line. I also really did what [Ferrante permitted] and changed many, many things but I really believe the script and the movie are really in conversation with the book.
Leda is a writer and showing her ambition in her early years is a big part of the film. Have you seen “Bergman’s Island” This year? Both films wrestle with the question of whether you can fully be a woman and an artist at the same time.
I believe there is such a thing as women’s writing and women’s cinema. There are some really interesting feminist women who disagree with me. I think when women speak honestly it’s different than when men speak honestly. It’s really dangerous to talk about it. When I’m let go, given some money and space to tell the story I want to tell, it’s about motherhood. It’s about the house, and that includes a lot of kitchen scenes. Can stories about the servant really be considered high art? Because for me it’s an opera. I don’t come from women whose apron strings were tied in the kitchen. My mother is a professional person [Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal is a screenwriter and director], my grandmother was a pediatrician in the 1940s and my great-aunt was a lawyer. I am educated and have a professional life, yet my identification as a mother is an integral part of me.
What was it like working with Olivia Colman?
Olivia really didn’t like talking too much. I wonder, actually, if it’s because it’s relatively recently that she got the power as an actress, if she feels the same as me as an actress, that is, to say that it is very rare that anyone appreciates my ideas. They will say yes, but people get irritated by actresses who have a lot of ideas. I’m not an idiot, so I keep them mostly to myself. I remember asking Olivia if she liked to rehearse, and she said no, actually, and I completely identify with that.