Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott on Their Nightmarish Drama ‘Black Bear’ | Sundance 2020

Black Bear stars Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon stopped by the Kia Telluride Supper Suite in Park City, where Collider spoke with the trio about their nightmarish drama.

Plaza plays a filmmaker who travels to the Adirondack Mountain seeking inspiration, only to link up with a couple at a remote lake house. Per Sundance, “the group quickly falls into a calculated game of desire, manipulation, and jealousy, unaware of how dangerously convoluted their lives will soon become in the filmmaker’s pursuit of a work of art, which blurs the boundaries between autobiography and invention.”

“It’s one of those movies you shouldn’t know too much about when you see it,” said Plaza, who called it a “Jungian exercise” of sorts.

“I bet you can’t wait to see it now,” laughed Abbott, who joked that he signed on to the low-budget indie because “I really needed the money at the time.” On a more serious note, Abbott said it was the script by director Lawrence Michael Levine that lured him in. “The writing was really good. It kind of almost felt like working on a play. It’s pretty verbose, so I was excited about the challenge of that.”


Image via Sundance

Levine is an actor himself, which was both a blessing and a curse for his cast. “Sometimes that can make things more tricky,” said Plaza, “but he cares about the acting process, and he thinks about performance and some things that directors wouldn’t think about because he knows that process well.”

Gadon said that at one point, Levine said told his cast, “‘I don’t want you guys to talk about the film with each other unless I’m present.’ There was a lot of that shit going on.” It sounds like keeping his cast in the dark and focused on their own roles in the story ultimately paid off for Levine, whose film has garnered strong reviews, particularly for Plaza’s performance.

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The actress returns to Sundance along with Abbott and Gadon, all of whom have had films premiere at the festival before. Abbott said the festival brings back memories of “[having] trouble breathing, bloody noses, and stress,” while Gadon threw in “heightened emotions” for good measure. Clearly, it can be stressful for actors to take a new movie to a festival, where critics and audiences aren’t always sure what to expect, and may not like the film as a result.

On the other hand, that’s just a risk that an artist has to take, and Abbott compared going to a film festival to going to a music festival, in that there’s a sense of community that he responds to and appreciates. Plaza echoed that sentiment. “[Sundance] is a great collection of people who are here because they all love movies. We’re here for the right reasons, and it’s fun, and there’s an element of danger with Mother Nature up here. You’ve gotta be prepared,” said Plaza.


Image via Lu Chau/Photagonist

And like Levine, don’t be surprised to see all three Black Bear stars transition behind the camera at some point. Plaza said she plans to direct, while Gadon revealed that she just optioned a novel with plans to adapt it herself — Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill.

As for Abbott, he said he used to have “a Japanese mentality of sticking to one trade and trying to be really good at that” before joking that he’s “starting to change my tune a little bit, because the more I work on movies, the more I feel like I could do it better.” He was kidding, of course, but he admitted that “I’m opening my mind a little bit more.”

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He just wrapped another actor’s directorial debut — Jarrod Carmichael’s indie movie On the Count of Three. “Im very excited about that one. Jarrod directed it, and we play two friends who want to kill ourselves, and so we might do it for each other, or we might not. There’s a lot to it. He’s editing now.”

Gadon just wrapped a movie herself — the horror-comedy Vampires vs. the Bronx, from Saturday Night Live director Oz Rodriguez. “I had so much fun making that movie with Oz and Chris Redd, who’s so funny,” said Gadon, who declined to reveal her role in the film, as her character takes a top-secret turn.

The Black Bear stars were in high demand all week, but they were hoping to have time to check out one or two movies. Abbott said he was excited to see Sean Durkin‘s new movie The Nest starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon, while Plaza said she’d heard good things about the documentary Boys State.

Watch the interview above, and stay tuned to Collider for our Sundance supercut, in which dozens of artists offer their Super Bowl predictions, theories on the death of Cliff Booth’s wife in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and which categories they’d like to see added to the Oscars, as well as the TV shows they most recently binged, and the ones they’d love to guest star on.

kia-supper-suite-marbl-toronto-logo-sundance-2020Finally, we have to thank our presenting partner, the Kia Telluride SUV, which was recently named the 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. Additional thanks to support sponsors Glenfiddich Scotch, Peroni Beer, Marbl Toronto, mou footwear, ic! Berlin sunglasses and clothing lines, Laundry by Sheli Segal and Orginal Penguin.

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