With the light and party of “Mamma Mia” (2008) and the overwhelming personality of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” (2011), Phyllida Lloyd put her name among the Oscar nominees. But when it seemed she could establish herself as a flashy director, choosing projects and actors from the UK to Hollywood, she decided to take refuge in the theater. In his theater, rather. There he has found happiness between the Royal National Theater and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. He has directed “social” libretti, he has directed opera … And suddenly, he became interested in cinema again. He looked, yes, for a small, independent project that would allow him to dump some of the things he had found on the stage tables. And he did it at the hands of Clare Dunne, actress and screenwriter of this “Starting Over (Herself)” which now premieres in theaters. A vindictive history of solidarity and sisterhood among the women who have it most difficult. And, also, a song to the union of the neighbors, to make community.
Nine years ago, since “The Iron Lady” (2009), which did not appear on the big screen, what have you found in this story that has made you come back?
The truth is that it takes a little time to recover from making a movie. More than a little, quite a bit. You have to calm down for a couple of years, go back to the basics; in my case, go back to the theater. And then developing a movie that you are passionate about takes a long time. I had spent many years looking to make a low-budget film and I felt that perhaps the social issues that I was doing in the theater could also lead to the cinema. I was waiting for a topic that I was passionate about. I was working in the theater with Claire Danes, the protagonist and also the scriptwriter of this film, on a subject that interested her a lot, abuse. What was our surprise when we discovered that in prisons there are many women who suffered abuse, not only in childhood, but also in later life and who are sometimes there for having killed their abuser. This gave us the idea.
From the first scene, he plays with the viewer’s emotions …
We have all seen the story of an abused woman in the cinema before, but one of the aspects that distinguished this script is the light and the dark. I wanted to use to show great love, hope, community, and on the other hand, danger, despair, and constant threat. As a director, I let myself be carried away by that orchestration. When I gave the script to the cinematographer he said “this is a thriller, my God, something terrible is going to happen that will destroy the house.” I think that tension is below the story.
Without falling into the “spoiler”, we see that there is a community that comes together to help the protagonist to build the house … Does seeing these expressions of solidarity today make the film a “science fiction” story?
A year before we made the movie, Claire and I took a course on how to build a wooden house like the one you see in the movie. We met people who did it, who were going to do it. We felt the difficulty it represented, but also that it was possible. People did this to join a life project. Why? We help because we need help, we need to be part of something, to feel needed. How the community unites us is not a fairy tale, because we saw that this happened and how it happened. Calling it science fiction is a bit extreme. For example, you have to feed them while they work, and one of the reasons for doing so was to have food assured.
The film also talks about sisterhood …
At this time that we are living in solitude, I believe that community is something fundamental. The pandemic has passed through us and we have all thought “am I a good neighbor? Am I acting like I should? Should I be more part of my community? Have I been at some point? ” There is a situation of loneliness at the moment, and of course women who are in a situation of domestic abuse are in a precarious situation. We need solidarity and sisterhood more than ever in our recent history.
After the “Mamma Mia” party and the harsh portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” how does this film fit into your filmography?
It seems that most directors try to get bigger and bigger budgets for their films, but I felt that the work I was doing in the theater, which was often directed towards a social mission, might be a better fit alongside a film. more “indie”, giving me freedom to do what I wanted to do and in the way I wanted to do it. All of these previous experiences were amazing, but I feel like I’m more in my element with this movie than I have been with those experiences.
You contributed, with “The Iron Lady”, to the image that more than one generation has of Margaret Thatcher … Looking at the new series, like “The Crown”, how do you see the new portraits that are being made of her?
I’m a huge Gilliam Anderson fan, I’ve only seen one episode of The Crown so far, but I’m quite mesmerized by her. I think it’s amazing on screen. So yeah, there will always be more Margaret Thatcher because she was kind of a larger than life character, a superstar who was irresistible. I know at least two other great actresses who are dying to play it and who will be queuing.