CS Interview: Haley Bennett talks psychological thriller Swallow
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with actress Haley Bennett (The Red Sea Diving Resort) to discuss her upcoming psychological thriller Swallow, which has been receiving rave reviews from critics since its debut at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
When it came to getting the script for the project, Bennett found herself “terrified” as she read it, but also “intrigued” by the disorder that her character Hunter suffers from.
“I didn’t know if it was real and i had to know if it was real, although I’d heard something like this,” Bennett described. “After doing a little bit more research and watching a woman eat rocks, I was still beguiled and then, shocked that it does follow one woman’s unraveling as she struggles to reclaim her independence in the face of this patriarchal family. But of course, we could kind of elaborate on the pica, I think that it’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch at times, I’ve seen it with audiences and you hear gasps and cringes and screams. I think it pushes people out of their comfort zones.”
While some might see the issue of faking having to eat tough objects as the biggest challenge for taking a role like this, Bennett described “tackling the really difficult issues of women’s right and control over women’s bodies” as her biggest focus while filming.
“For me, it was like an act of rebellion,” Bennett explained. “It turns the system upside down, and I think that because of Carlo’s sensitivity and his originality of insight, and the fact that the collaboration was 70 percent women, it was really exciting that the framing perspective of Hunter’s world was from a distinctly feminine standpoint.”
Bennett leads a strong cast that also includes Austin Stowell (Fantasy Island), Elizabeth Warren (Homeland), David Rasche (Burn After Reading) and Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story), and among all of them she found that her favorite costar was “that asshole Richie,” aka Stowell.
“He couldn’t be a nicer guy, but he played such a dick,” Bennett said with a laugh. “Elizabeth Marvel was fantastic, it’s an incredible supporting cast. Denis O’Hare, although I must say, we only had one day to work together. David Rasche was also a dick, I worked with a lot of dicks and a couple of nice people. Everyone was lovely, and I mean this film was like a blip. We shot the film in 18 days, which is like impossible, and I was also not alone. I was pregnant whilst filming, which added another very interesting layer to my performance.”
The 32-year-old actress used this as an extra bit of empowerment for her performance, already feeling the power with her triple threat role as star, executive producer and being pregnant with her and husband Joe Wright’s daughter, saying she “pretty much felt like a badass.”
“Swallow is a film that represents me finding my voice as a collaborator,” Bennett said proudly. “For me, this is kind of a true milestone and the fact that I was pregnant with my daughter is pretty amazing, pretty powerful.”
In signing on for the film, Bennett found herself working with Carlo Mirabella-Davis in his directorial debut, and she described her and the crew as feeling “constantly impressed and excited” by the confidence and passion he brought to set in telling the story “inspired by his grandmother.”
“She knew it so well,” Bennett described. “Our cinematographer, Kate Arizmendi, had such a strong stylized sort of sensibility and we had amazing producers supporting Carlo and supporting our journey, Mollye Asher, Mynette Louie, and also my co-executive producer Joe Wright. So we felt really kind of all synchronized and supported. This is a story about a woman rebelling agains the status quo and in some ways healing from unspoken traumas and how that relates with this very specific mental condition. Then also takes a deeper look at what it is like to be on the verge of motherhood and more specifically in a relationship that just doesn’t work and that is actually destructive.”
On the surface, Hunter appears to have it all. A newly pregnant housewife, she seems content to spend her time tending to an immaculate home and doting on her Ken-doll husband, Richie. However, as the pressure to meet her controlling in-laws and husband’s rigid expectations mounts, cracks begin to appear in her carefully created facade. Hunter develops a dangerous habit, and a dark secret from her past seeps out in the form of a disorder called pica – a condition that has her compulsively swallowing inedible, and oftentimes life-threatening, objects. A provocative and squirm-inducing psychological thriller, Swallow follows one woman’s unraveling as she struggles to reclaim independence in the face of an oppressive system by whatever means possible.
The film stars Haley Bennett (The Equalizer, The Girl on the Train) as Hunter, Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies) as Richie, Elizabeth Marvel (The District, Homeland) as Katherine, David Rasche (Kill Your Darlings) as Michael, Lauren Velez (Dexter) as Lucy, Zabryna Guevara as Alice (Gotham) and Two-time Emmy nominee David O’Hare (American Horror Story) as Erwin.
Swallow is written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis. Mollye Asher, Mynette Louie, Charades’ Carole Baraton and Logical Pictures’ Frederic Fiore are the film’s producers. Bennett also serves as an executive producer along with Joe Wright, Constantin Briest, Yohann Comte, Pierre Mazars, Eric Tavitian, and Sam Bisbee.
The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival where Bennett won the Best Actress Award at the festival.