Stars lined up on a black carpet instead of red for the screening of Ewan McGregor's directorial debut, American Pastoral. The color choice for the carpet may just hint at the nature of the film. As does the poster, which depicts a sideways image of a country house on fire.
The screening was held Thursday night at The Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Included in the cast that walked the black carpet was Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Emmy winner Uzo Aduba, Valorie Curry and McGregor himself.
Just before entering the theater, Connelly stopped to talk with The Hollywood Reporter about her role in the film. "I play Dawn, who's married to Ewan's character. They set out to live a good and simple life out on the countryside and things don't work out as they think they might," said Connelly. "I have a lot of compassion for my character. She's left to contend with the fallout that ensues."
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Philip Roth, the film follows an American family whose idyllic life is shattered by a traumatic event. Making his directorial debut, McGregor also stars in the film as former high school athlete and now successful businessman Seymour "Swede" Levov. Seymour's wife, Dawn (Connelly), was a former beauty queen, and the two seem to have a perfect, polished life out on the countryside. However, this is all disrupted when their daughter, Merry (Fanning), disappears after being accused of committing a violent crime. Seymour sets off to find her and reunite his family but becomes deeply disturbed at what he finds along the way and what he is forced to confront.
"I felt it was my duty to soak up as much of Philip Roth's sensibilities as best I could from his writing," McGregor told reporters outside the theater. "I just lived in the book for nine months of my life." McGregor went through a mix of feelings when approaching his directorial debut. "The very beginning of prep is quite daunting because there's no one with you," he said. "You're alone. It's all you and you have no one really to talk to yet."
Despite his trepidations, Fanning insisted he was spectacular to work with. "He's such an experienced, talented actor, and I think he was able to draw on all of that to be an amazing director and sensitive to each actor's needs." Apart from spending months thinking about the film, Fanning had to develop a stutter for her role as Merry.
The screenplay for American Pastoral was written by John Romano (Lincoln Lawyer, Nights in Rodanthe). The film is set for a limited release on Oct. 21 before expanding the following week.