Behind-the-scenes-industry-player-turned-movie-director Marc Meyers took multitasking to a new level this month, debuting two wildly different films at corresponding fall festivals.
Meyers helmed “Human Capital,” a hit-and-run drama told from numerous perspectives that stars Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei and “Stranger Things” breakout star Maya Hawke, which debuted in the official selection in Toronto. A week later, he brought “We Summon the Darkness,” a horror-comedy set against the Satanic panic of 1980s, to Austin’s Fantastic Fest.
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Variety caught up with the busy filmmaker (who used to work in our hallowed Los Angeles halls) to reflect on the projects, his upcoming Universal Pictures film “All My Life” and why the one percent are go-to movie villains these days.
You came in to your first TIFF with some heat from your last movie, “My Friend Dahmer.” Do you think people expected that same edge?
This was my first TIFF; I take it all with lots of gratitude. “My Friend Dahmer” wasn’t my first film, but it was the first one that touched a nerve and entered some part of pop culture. It was technically my fourth film. “Human Capital,” I feel like, is the natural evolution of my craft. Working with these actors was a true highlight. You don’t get a chance too often as a director to try to tell a story that is structurally unconventional — and at the same time a story that is populist enough that lots of people can go and see it.
There’s a theme in “Human Capital” that is all over the prominent films this year — grappling with income disparity and a bubbling class war. Why is that?
There’s a dialogue about the one percent and class, and also about people living in the shadows who don’t have the resources to defend themselves. It’s a very relevant theme that, when I read [the script] a year ago, it was relevant then. It was relevant a decade ago when the book this was based on was released, and unfortunately it continues to be relevant.
On top of that, I think it’s about community and how we’ve become fractured. Beyond the lens of class — Liev is a middle-class real estate broker, Marisa Tomei is an upper-class woman whose husband owns a successful, volatile hedge fund, and [Maya] has fallen in love with a guy from the other side of the tracks — it’s a story of how we can’t come together, but scatter to our corners to preserve ourselves.
After “Stranger Things” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Maya seems on the verge of something big.
It’s nice to have collaborated with a young actress who is at the beginning of a great career. I enjoyed every moment and every day working with her. She was a deeply insightful, soulful, talented, beautiful young woman who is expressive and has a great look at the world. She’s daring, and she did things on screen that she’s never done before. It was fun to be a part of. She had a lot personally invested.
Liev and Marisa feel out of their comfort zones, as well. He’s always someone who commands a lot of control, and she always seems to be less polished and more natural. It’s the opposite here.
I was so enjoying the collaboration and the dialogue and the way we plotted out the scenes. He’s such a smart man who is aware of the entire filmmaking process. There was a moment when I walked up to him, we were about to shoot a scene and we’d been working for about a week. I asked, “Is there any character in film or theater that this man is reminding you of.” We both looked at each other at the same time and pretty much said, “Willy Loman” [the ill-fated patriarch at the center of Arthur Miller’s “The Death of a Salesman”]. These two characters have a similar arc, and it was fun to watch him realize and put into focus the magnitude of the repercussions of seemingly mundane events.1
Marisa is an incredible actress. She seizes a moment in a way that is both natural and honest, but also unexpected. So you really have to be prepared, because you’re going to touch some lightning.
And then there’s “We Summon the Darkness.”
That’s a very different film. I shot these back to back last fall, and then alternated in the edit room. That stars Alexandra Daddario, Johnny Knoxville, Kian Johnson, Logan Miller. It was a wonderful, young, energetic cast and a genre film that I thought was going further than where “My Friend Dahmer” left off. This one cinematically continues that film, and gets stranger, louder, bloodier, funnier. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever done. I’m just as proud of that as I am of “Human Capital,” and having them both premiere at festivals in the same month has been a unique experience.
Marc Meyers previously worked for Variety in marketing and sales from 2002-2005.