The incomparable Annette Bening revisits a role she played in acting school with the gorgeous on-screen reimagination of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, THE SEAGULL. On its opening weekend, Bening was joined by the film’s director Michael Mayer and audio-extraordinaire Ira Glass (of the podcast This American Life) for a post-screening Q&A.
One of Mayer’s goals for the on-screen adaptation was to stay true to the time, and the gorgeous Monroe, New York ‘set’ was just what he needed. With that, complete with all natural light – candelabras held by crew members! – made the film meld seamlessly into the setting.
Here, Mayer elaborates on the film’s setting:
Human nature, so Bening says, is a key theme in Chekhov’s works. “I always feel better when someone tells me the truth,” she says, “he doesn’t sugarcoat people… he also loves them at the same time.” Chekhov’s works hang in the balance, “right on the edge” of both humor and sadness, and – as Bening states – that is why we continue to re-create them for new audiences.
Bening and Mayer’s collaboration on this film was prevalent from day one – Bening agreed to be a part of the film before there was even a draft of the screenplay written, and from Chinese food at Bening’s apartment to basement rehearsals at Manhattan’s Belasco Theatre – literally downstairs from where performances of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH were taking place, at the time starring Neal Patrick Harris! – the precedent for teamwork was set.
Bening elaborates on the intimacy and collaboration of the film shoot here:
Glass asks Bening about the comparison between Irina, her character in THE SEAGULL, and a previous mother character she’s played, in the 2016 dramatic comedy 20TH CENTURY WOMEN. Her character in 20TH CENTURY WOMEN was filled with contradictions, highly based on director Mike Mills’ mother. Despite her contradictions, that character was not a narcissist like Irina is. Bening’s approach to Irina was also different, especially after having played the role in her 20s. She states that she approached this adaptation with much more freedom – trying not to over-think the character or worry about the outcome – just getting lost in the story, “freely going in to the moments.”
An audience member asks, “If you could ask Chekhov any one question, what would it be?” Bening’s reply: “Would you like to go have a glass of wine with me?” She adds, “What did you really think of Stanislavsky?”
Find out Mayer’s answer, and so much more about the film and Bening’s character choices, by viewing the full Q&A here:
About the film:
Based on the classic play by Anton Chekhov, THE SEAGULL is the heartbreaking and funny story of friends and lovers, all of whom are in love with the wrong person. Michael Mayer’s film ultimately becomes a depiction of the tragic consequences of narcissism, particularly on young dreams and romantic love. Featuring an all star cast including Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Corey Stoll and Brian Dennehy.
View the trailer:
Where to see it:
THE SEAGULL is now playing the Angelika’s sister location – The Paris Theatre – where this Q&A took place; as well as the Angelika New York. It opens this Friday 5/18 at Angelika Mosaic, and Friday 5/25 at Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano and Angelika Carmel Mountain.