Verge Meets: Scott Franklin- Producer of mother!

On Wednesday 6th September, I made my way over to Claridges, one of the most renowned and famous hotels in the World. It’s safe to say that for me, this isn’t the norm and an occasion such as this meant there must have been an exceptional reason for my visit. The rooms, the staff and in fact, everything in the hotel is exquisite and the perfect setting for the aforementioned exceptional reason, an interview with Scott Franklin to discuss his latest thrilling cinematic masterpiece, mother!.

Directed by Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan visionary Darren Aranofsky and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, mother! has premiered at Venice Film Festival to 5* reviews, shocked it’s audiences and has proven to be Lawrence’s most accomplished and different performance to date. It’s safe to say that mother! is set to both excite and divid cinema fans and so the chance to pick the brains of the Producer of such a film was an opportunity I was desperate to take.

Verge: Firstly, Scott, welcome to London.
Scott Franklin: Thank you man, I appreciate it!
V: How are you finding it?
SF: I haven’t been outside yet! (laughs)
V: (Laughs) Oh no! Really?
SF: No, I just got in, but I love London, I’ve been many times.
V: Good, I’m glad! So, I saw mother! last night.
SF: What did you think?
V: Spectacular. Absolutely spectacular.
SF: Thank you.
V: I saw it with my girlfriend…
SF: What did she think?
V: She had a panic attack during it!
SF: Wow!!
V: Towards the end, so yeah that is how intense it was. But she loved it!
SF: (laughs) That’s good!
V: (laughs) But honestly mate, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film like it. It was absolutely incredible and I think people are going to go mad for it!
SF: Thank you.
V: So how do you think people will react to it? Panic attacks aside!
SF: (laughs) ‘Panic attacks aside’, I like that! You know, I think it will speak to different people in different ways. I think there are a lot of different allegories, messages and metaphors in there for different people to pick up on different things which I think is great. Some people will respond to some things and others will respond to other things and hopefully it will be talked about for a long time.
V: Yeah, I can definitely see that. I hope you don’t mind me asking but what do you get from the film? Because I get the essence of creation, which obviously comes around at the end and the aspect of parenthood from two very different sides.
SF: Right. You know, it’s hard for me to say what I take away from the film and it’s actually an interesting question that I haven’t been asked because I should probably go back to what I took away from it when I read the script. Knowing Darren for so long and working with Darren for so long that when I read this script, I kind of felt that this was his Opus. And I understand Darren’s thought process…to an extent, as much as one can anyway! (laughs)
V: It’s interesting that you mention thought process of Darren because that is my next question! In your role as Producer, how do you make Darren’s vision become an on screen reality because it cant be the easiest script to direct.
SF: Well none of Darren’s scripts are easy to dissect and break down and I think that’s what makes him such an enigmatic filmmaker and I think that’s why earlier on in our careers it was harder to get his films made because he always transcends what is on the page. There’s always more than what comes on the screen than what’s on the page whereas in the film, there was a lot on the page and it’s funny because on the other movies, I knew there would be more and one approach to some of those films was to just have as much cushion that you could give him. Extra time, extra bandwidth, extra money that you can give him for those movies so that we’re prepared for it. Whereas with this movie, we were like ‘wow, if we get 80% of this, then this is going to be amazing!’ so that was kind of the thought process with mother! and he got it all. I’m in a blessed spot to be on of the only people to have read the first script and worked on it and then saw the finished movie to really know what a directorial achievement it is.
V: There were so many things that I loved about it and when you see Darren is doing a film you have some pre-conceptions of what the film will be like, but there was a lot of humour in his film this time around which I wasn’t expecting!
SF: Interesting!
V: So I was really pleased there was humour in the film, was it obvious that was going to happen? Could you see it was going to be funny?
SF: I could see it was going to be funny in places but it’s interesting you say that because I dunno if that came through in Venice. So it excites me to screen it tonight for an English audience.
V: Yeah, we do have some strange senses of humour! We are the Kings and Queens of sarcasm!
SF: (laughs) Absolutely!
V: So were you ever concerned about how the film would be received?
SF: No, No I really wasn’t. I don’t think you can set out to make a movie and tailor it to it’s desired perception. You know, you read a script, you love that script and then you decide to make that script and you tell that story and you make that film to the best of your ability. And you have to let the perceptions and the reactions fall as they may. You can’t set out to make a commercial movie because once you do that, you fail. You limit yourself, you put yourself in a box right there.
V: It’s really interesting you say that because I don’t know if you know this but Verge is the number one student publication in the UK so there will be students who are studying filmmaking at University reading this who I think will find that really interesting.
SF: Oh good, absolutely!

Left to right: Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, from Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.

V: So let’s talk about the cast. Jennifer Lawrence. Oh my God!
SF: She’s amazing, right?
V: She has given some incredible performances in her career but in my opinion, this is her best ever performance!
SF: I guess you could say it’s her best because it’s her latest and it’s the most unique and she’s never done anything like it. I think Darren really got her out of her comfort zone and wow, she was incredible and to watch her work, what a professional, what a talent! You know, she would deliver almost every time. She’s magical.
V: She is practically in every frame of this movie, it must have been fascinating to watch her prepare because it must have been exhausting! And she nails it!
SF: Yeah, and when she’s not in the frame, you’re feeling her presence.
V: Yeah I can imagine. I loved her movement, it was one of my favourite parts about her performance, she’s so graceful and almost angelic. And on the flip side of that, you’ve got Javier Bardem.
SF: Yeah, he’s one of the greatest living actors in the World right? You’ve seen him deliver some magical performances over the years and clearly this year is no different. Javier is really special because he brings a mystery, but I wouldn’t call it a dark side, he’s enigmatic and he’s extremely, extremely sympathetic. He’s got those eyes, and those expressions and you can tell how caring he is and how loving he is and he’s like that off screen. He’s such a gentleman and he’s such a good guy and then you take that combination and he brings that mystery and works with this material and it’s also a really special performance. I mean, talk about lucky as a Producer, to watch the two of them work on any given day and watching them work together was truly amazing!
V: It must make your life as a Producer so much easier when you have the two of them working for you and giving everything they have. Their chemistry is electrifying.
SF: Absolutely!
V: Did Darren come to you and say ‘I want these two to play these roles’.
SF: No we spoke about it, we first arrived with Jennifer because we felt it was important that we first cast her and we kicked around some ideas for actors, but Javier was the first person we went to. When we looking at and considering the list of actors, he was definitely our top choice.
V: It’s always a really awkward one to ask because you don’t want to say ‘did you consider any other actors for the role?’ but…
SF: Yeah, exactly and that’s one of the great things about working with Darren, unless an actor is unavailable or they really, really despise the material, they’re gonna sign on!

V: You’ve worked with Darren a lot.
SF: I have! Twenty years. Twenty years?!
V: Wow! To put it into context, that is five years younger than me!
SF: (Laughs) Oh boy, don’t I feel old!
V: Well, back to the original point, I don’t know if you can put it into words what it’s like working with Darren…
SF: I answered a similar question and I’ll answer it the same way. I’m obviously very fortunate to have been working with someone like Darren. We’ve kind of grown up together, you know? Making films together as kids, at twenty-four I was running around with him in New York City, helping make pie and he was twenty-seven and there was no pressure and we didn’t have a care in the world and no real money behind us and so…we grew up together. We grew up together as friends, we grew up together as filmmakers, we grew up together as colleagues and and it makes it easy. And we love each other. There’s a brotherhood there. We were single together, we got married at the same time, we had kids at the same time and so we really have just grown up together.
V: That is lovely. And I think as well as all of that, you can clearly see the evolution of your filmmaking together too.
SF: Thanks man.
V: So this is actually my final question, but it’s probably the one I am most excited to hear the answer to. I saw the film last night and there are plenty of shocking scenes in it. What is your favourite and most shocking scene in the film without giving too much away.
SF: Ah…
V: The whole sequence at the end, I found tough to watch.
SF: Mmhmm… could’ve been tougher! (both laugh) Well it’s one we don’t really want to giveaway! So my favourite scene… is when the brothers show up at the house. From the beginning of that scene to the end, I think it’s special because we’ve got the whole cast, all six of them. Six of our amazing actors on screen at the same time. The camera work is phenomenal and it’s all handheld shots and in that one scene you’ve got Jennifer, Javier, Michelle (Pfeiffer), Ed (Harris)…
V: Who are both exceptional in the film.
SF: Oh my God, I mean we talk about what an honour it is to work with these people! And then you have Domhnall and Brian (Gleeson) and to have all six of them working onscreen at the same time and watch what they do, it’s incredible!
V: It’s interesting that you chose that scene as your favourite because again, that scene starts with humour!
SF: Yeah!
V: I mean, I could talk to you about mother! for hours, there are so many things I’d like to talk to you about and I was saying it on the way home, that parts of it really didn’t even feel like a film! It felt most removed from filmmaking, it just felt real!
SF: Right, that’s great. That’s great!
V: It was like watching a documentary about these insane squatters essentially!
SF: (laughs) Excellent! Well I’m really glad you enjoyed it!
V: And I’m not just saying it but we’re just getting into Awards season, and I think this could go all the way to The Academy.
SF: We’ll see!
V: That’s the aim, right?
SF: We’ll see! I don’t think you can ever set that as the aim, because if you do then you set yourself out for failure but it’s nice to see people who work so hard at their craft be rewarded and to get some acknowledge for that.
V: We do have time for one last question so this will be the last one! So Verge as I said earlier is the number one student magazine in the UK so I think a lot of our readers will be interested to hear from the Producer’s angle, because you see the stars and you hear from the Director. Producing is a very interesting bag, what made you want to get into Producing and what do you love about it?
SF: Umm, I don’t know if I wanted to get into Producing, I just knew from a very young age that all I wanted to do was make movies. And again, not to date myself as this very old man…fuck! (laughs) we just had movie theatres! I didn’t even go to film school, I just kind of finished college and moved to LA. I didn’t know anyone, I just started working and got involved, and I networked and worked my up and learned on the job and learned on the set and I think that’s probably why I gravitated towards because I think that’s probably what my skills-set is most suited. As a Producer you have to wear many hats and I wore a lot in my rise as a Producer. But it’s fun! I like the troubleshooting, I like the preparation and I like kind of setting the table and making sure everything is lined up and in strategically in place and if you do your job well, when the problems arrive you won’t have too much to handle because you won’t have too much on your plate! It’s all about the preparation.
V: Yeah I can imagine. It must be interesting going from doing the things that I find incredibly boring like filling out permits and making sure you have permission to film in a particular street, to then speaking to the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, it must be such a completely mixed bag and a wonderful position to be in.
SF: And it’s such a fortunate position to be in, especially in this movie because this cast, they’re all great people. You know, you’re right when you say one day you’re filling in permits and then talking to Jennifer Lawrence but at the same time, she’s such a good person and she’s no different to the person I handed the application to.
V: Scott, thank you so much for your time and I’ll see you tonight on the red carpet, come and say hi.
SF: No worries man, and I definitely will. Take care.

Talking to Scott Franklin truly was an unforgettable experience. I will always remember the way he embraced our conversation with warmth and passion and the invaluable advice he was so keen to offer to our readers.

mother! opens Nationwide in cinemas on Friday 15th September and is released by Paramount Pictures.

Check out our coverage of the U.K. Premiere of mother! here