The filmmakers for Miss Sloane, a drama thriller set in D.C. against the backdrop of political lobbying over background checks on gun sales, said they struggled with setting the distribution date of the film, given the presidential election. While they thought the subject of background checks on gun sales would be front and center in the debate, that turned out not to be the case. An ironic and newly cut trailer for the film (from trailer house Ignition) ran during the election reporting last night:
The film, which has a screenplay reminiscent of the Oscar-winning writing on The Big Short and The Sting and a strong ensemble cast not unlike Oscar winner Spotlight, opens November 25 in limited release before going wide on December 9.
“When I saw the assembly of the film, I thought, ‘We should try and get the film ready not for any other reason other than the feeling that we might get behind the politics,’ to be honest with you — which we assumed, at that point, would be the politics of the gun debate which is the meteor of the film, and which looked like it was going to be a major topic in the political discourse leading up to this election,” director John Madden told fellow producers at the PGA panel screening of the film the day before the election.
“As it turns out, that election (was) hijacked by completely different issues,” he said. “The political process itself, which this film which really has as its subject … and even more specifically about the issue of women and gender in politics … we find ourselves bizarrely in this circumstance where we kind of raced to get the film ready … just to get into a place where we felt the movie would situate itself in the midst of a political circumstance. It’s strange how what we always thought — and I always thought — were the more significant issues of the political subject matter of the film are the ones that suddenly have landed right in the center of the whole discussion, which is bizarre and unexpected.”
That issue? A strong woman in the midst of political turmoil. “All of the significant characters in this movie who affect and shape the way the story is told are women, and that’s not an accident,” said producer Kris Thykier. “That was on the fore of what we were trying to do.”
Two of those women, the film’s star Jessica Chastain and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who gives the film its heart) went to D.C. to do research and met with lobbyists. Surprisingly, only 10% of the lobbyists in D.C. are women. Chastain met 11 female lobbyists and seven of the 11 wore black nail polish, so she integrated that into the film. In addition, the filmmakers also researched every aspect to make Miss Sloane as believable as possible.
“We felt that unless it felt completely authentic and embedded in reality, it would be open to partisan questions,” said producer Ben Browning. “It just wouldn’t really come together. We spent quite a bit of time in D.C.” — which, along with Toronto, is where the film was shot. They reached out not only to lobbyists but to consultants and journalists and met with them “to make sure the film was completely authentic,” he said.
Miss Sloane, which was picked up by EuropaCorp after a bidding war in Toronto, was produced by FilmNation and stars Chastain as the powerful lobbyist who takes a chance at sacrificing her entire career in D.C. in order to successfully pass an amendment enforcing stricter gun control laws. Madden and Chastain previously teamed in The Debt, so they had been looking to do another film together when Madden was turned on to the script by Browning and Thykier.
The script was found by Patrick Chu (at FilmNation) when a professor named Jonathan Perera who teaches English in South Korea submitted his first screenplay to a manager he found on the Internet and that manager contacted Chu. For a first screenplay, it plays out like any other Academy Award-winning screenplay like The Big Short or, because of the film’s twists and turns, The Sting.
And it is the performance by Chastain, not the issue that she is fighting for, is what truly defines the film. “The film is about an extraordinary character in the midst of a very specific political context and circumstance,” said Madden.
Chastain’s character in this film is a woman who operates like a machine, even a sociopath. As Madden says, she’s “an obsessive and a spectacularly gifted machine with no observable heartbeat, no emotional center or core … in many ways, she’s a repellent character … but she brings the audience with her.” He added that, “In my book, a role belongs to an individual … and this role belongs to her.”
She is being buzzed about for Best Actress yet again after being nominated for her performances in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. Surrounding Chastain in this film are a number of up-and-coming supporting cast who also are superb in their roles. The younger cast, Thykier said, had to be at the same high level of talent as Chastain, so they really cast the film in the old-fashioned way. “The reason the film works is that … she’s playing off the best of the best in every role,” he said. John Lithgow and Sam Waterston co-star along with a another strong performance by Michael Stuhlbarg.
“Seventy-five percent of this cast got their roles from auditions — more, actually,” added Madden. “The group around them raised everyone’s game.” Besides Mbatha-Raw, Miss Sloane co-stars Mark Strong, David Wilson Barnes, Ennis Esmer, Alison Pill, Noah Robbins, Grace Lynn Kung, Douglas Smith, Al Mukadam and Jake Lacy.
The film, which was finished only two weeks ago, also was produced by Ariel Zeitoun. It will get its world premiere at the AFI Fest on Friday.