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Justine Bateman on how she hopes 'Violet' inspires people to stop doubting themselves

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  • Justine Bateman
    Justine Bateman
    American actress
  • Olivia Munn
    Olivia Munn
    American actress
  • Brittany Jones
    Canadian figure skater

Justine Bateman talks with Brittany Jones-Cooper about her new film, Violet, starring Olivia Munn, and what she hopes viewers take away from it.

Video Transcript

- You're fat. Your hair is gross. You smell. You majored in the wrong thing in college. You don't have enough friends. Why don't you know how to cook? You don't remember enough people's birthdays.

BRITTANY JONES: So you wrote and directed this film, and it was your directorial debut as well. So just how are you feeling right now?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: I'm-- I feel great. I'm really looking forward to everyone seeing this. The most important character in this film is the viewer. So I'm really looking forward to people experiencing it.

BRITTANY JONES: Violet is a complex character who's battling some pretty serious inner demons. How do you describe her journey in this film?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: The film is about the negative thoughts we have-- in the film, I call it The Voice-- that cause us to make fear-based decisions. And so you get to see there's this woman Violet played by Olivia Munn who realizes that voice's been lying to her whole life and really taken her off track as far as who she is. But the whole film's been designed as an immersive experience. So the viewer gets to go through it themselves instead of objectively watching characters go through it.

BRITTANY JONES: I'm glad that you're pointing out the viewer because as a viewer it's sort of at times felt like a psychological journey, like borderline horror film because you're also getting engaged in her anxieties and her fear. Was that ever your intention, is to kind of like push the viewer to that anxiety brink as well?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: This film is basically a map to cross that chasm, that bridge between who you've become if you've made fear-based decisions and who you're supposed to be. Years ago, I made a lot of fear-based decisions. I didn't know there was a bridge you could cross from one to the other. I thought you just had to be born one way or the other.

BRITTANY JONES: What did you do to help yourself cross over, because it does seem like something you can be aware of but it's hard to tackle in the moment, right?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: You know, it's funny. I was reading something I wrote. It's a sort of like an About Me for college applications because I went to UCLA at 46. So it was really something I wrote then. And in this essay, I was saying how I used to read all these biographies of these people who seem to be going as far as they could in life, taking these risks, and traveling, and taking chances and all this. And I would do start to do things that I thought could maybe approximate that.

And then I realized, oh, the difference isn't that they're making those choices and I'm not. The difference is that they're not people pleasing and I was. So then I was like, well, I've got these thoughts in my head that are causing me to make fear-based decisions. Why don't I just do the opposite? Why don't I go find out if that worst case scenario is really going to happen?

BRITTANY JONES: Why was Olivia Munn the right person to play Violet?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: I like to look at all kinds of video on an actor. I like to look at the work they've done, of course, and then their interviews, talk shows, whatever, and their social media videos, everything. I want to get a full picture of this person. And I want to get a full picture of what aspects of them are either obvious or subtle that I want to expand, and subtle, I have to tease it out. And if obvious, I want to focus on that, that's right for the character.

So Olivia had some of these qualities that I really wanted. And like I said, she really gave herself to the character. And we were able to do that. And the interesting thing about the role of Violet is it's not just Olivia's performance. It's also the handwriting, that's her inner passion and desire to get out of her situation.

BRITTANY JONES: Why did you choose Justin Theroux to be The Voice? What was it about him that made him perfect for that role?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: Oh, him specifically? First of all, he's an outstanding actor. And it's quite criminal I didn't have him on camera. He has that gravitas to his voice. He's a very good voice actor. It's difficult to put everything you need to do in a character just within the voice, not in the body language, not in the wardrobe, not in a tilt of your head or anything like that-- only in the tenor of your voice.

I needed a voice that could have that insidious quality, like water that seeps into something because it just finds a way. And that's what those negative thoughts do to us. They find a way into us because we want to believe it's protecting us. So we kind of let it in.

- You'll never find your way back to that kind of freedom.

JUSTINE BATEMAN: And I'm suggesting that you don't. I'm suggesting you regard all of it, all of it is lies, all of it is lies.

BRITTANY JONES: And you cast Laura San Giacomo to play Janice, the director. Was she modeled after you at all?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: I didn't ask her to, but that's what she told me. She was like, oh I'm like-- like I always pull my sleeves up. So she pulled her sleeves up. And I was like, OK yeah, that looks great. And she goes, yeah, I'm doing you.

[LAUGHS]

That was funny. She's fantastic. I'm so happy she was available to do that part.

BRITTANY JONES: And it's so cool to see you in this position because you grew up in the industry most notably playing Mallory Keaton on "Family Ties," but what has your path been like to getting to direct?

JUSTINE BATEMAN: I wanted to direct when I was 19, but the timing didn't feel right. And I know, for me creatively, I have to wait. Timing is a big component in my life, especially with creative endeavors. When I got out of school, I thought I would be going in a particular direction and more of an executive position where I could find tech and entertainment. But instead I realized, oh the timing is here for me to direct.

I'm really glad about that and there's lots of other films I hope to direct. So yeah, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I think everybody is born with a basket of skills and talents. And man, if you focus on your particular skills and talents and maximize those, it's such an enriching experience for the individual and such a beneficial experience for everyone else in society.