Receiving a lifetime achievement award this week at the Sarajevo Film Festival, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay teased a slew of projects currently in the pipeline, heralding her much-anticipated return to the director’s chair since wowing Cannes in 2017 with the Joaquin Phoenix-starring thriller “You Were Never Really Here.”
Among them are a second collaboration with Phoenix, who earned best actor honors on the Croisette for that performance, as well as “Stone Mattress,” a revenge thriller set aboard a luxury Arctic cruise that stars Julianne Moore and Sandra Oh. There’s also “Die, My Love,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, which is based on the novel by Argentinian writer Ariana Harwicz about a woman living in isolation in rural France who loses her mind amid marriage and motherhood.
Then there’s the long-gestating “Moby Dick” film adaptation that the director has said would transport Herman Melville’s nautical epic into outer space. Ramsay began to discuss the film in Sarajevo with Variety’s Jessica Kiang before cutting herself short. “I don’t want anyone to rip me off, because I’ve been ripped off a lot of times,” she said, laughing.
Ramsay confirmed that production has wrapped on her latest collaboration with Phoenix, previously announced as “Polaris,” though she said the film — in which the Oscar winner plays a photographer — could be released with the title “Dark Slides.” It’s the first time the director will work off an original screenplay since “Ratcatcher” in 1999.
“Stone Mattress,” which is adapted from a short story by Margaret Atwood and will be released by Amazon in the U.S., is perhaps Ramsay’s most ambitious project to date. “It’s quite a difficult film to make, because it’s [set on] a cruise ship in the Arctic, so there’s a lot of elements,” she said. “You can only shoot it in a certain time frame. And…you’ve got to be in the Arctic and bits of the Arctic are melting in specific places. So it’s quite complicated, that film.”
While all of her star-studded projects are on hold due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Ramsay said the Lawrence-starring “Die, My Love” is “probably” next in line. “It’s quite simple. It’s not set in the Arctic. It’s not in a boat. It’s just them in a house, it’s just them in a village, so it’s easy to make,” she said.
It was Lawrence, said Ramsay, who first sent her a copy of Harwicz’s novel. “She just really responded to the material, which is hardcore in some ways, because it’s about postnatal depression and bipolar [disorder],” said the director. “But it’s funny as well. Well, I’ve made it funny. I think I’ve made it funny. I hope I’ve made it funny.”
Though the book is set in rural France, Ramsay’s film will take place in the U.S. and follow a marriage that breaks down despite both partners being very much in love. “Everyone’s had mental health issues through COVID. So it deals with that. But it deals with it, I think, in a really funny way,” she said.
Describing Lawrence as “funny” and “really down to earth,” Ramsay enthused about the Hollywood stars she’s worked with, many of whom have quite literally become part of the family.
“I absolutely love actors. I’m friends with all the actors I’ve worked with. Tilda Swinton is the godmother of my child. Samantha Morton is a really close friend,” Ramsay said. “And then John C. Reilly, he’s the godfather of my daughter. Joaquin, I speak to every day in my life. And his wife, Rooney Mara, she’s fantastic as well. So I just like actors. But I think you have to have an honest and authentic relationship with them.”
With the current Hollywood strikes hitting the 110-day mark, the U.K.-based filmmaker expressed her solidarity for the writers and actors on the picket line, insisting they’re “getting taken advantage of” by studios that rely on them to fill movie theaters and boost their subscriber numbers.
“I absolutely support this. I’m totally behind this,” she said. “All this AI stuff. They’ll be smashing my film with somebody else’s film [using AI]. We don’t get any residuals. You sign a contract with these streamers and you’ve basically signed away your life for infinity and beyond. And I think it’s really greedy. And I think people should get paid for their work.”