Universal Pictures opens The Girl on the Train nationwide on October 7th, 2016.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you shake off your role emotionally?
Haley Bennett: For me, I think itís about balancing lightness with darkness. That wasnít the tone that was on set. We were able to have relief from the intense scenes that we were in because we kept it really really light on set. Thereís a line in the film where Megan says, ďI went home and I washed the baby off of meĒ because her skin crawls with the thought, she avoids the smell. She says, ďI canít.Ē No day goes by that she canít see her eyes and she canít smell her skin and the reality of that situation. So the reality of Megan was: I would go home and I would, literally, scrub my skin to shed her---just the physical act of shedding her.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is so appealing about dark themes?
Edgar Ramirez: I think that it is a fundamental part of our nature. You know weíre both; we are darkness and weíre the light. What defines us as humans beings is our contradictions and the blending of that darkness and light. I think it is very interesting and refreshing when you see it on screen because, in a way, as Shakespeare used to say, what we do as actors or as filmmakers is basically hold a mirror for everybody to see themselves. I relate to characters that present a deal with contradictions or struggle with contradictions because thatís who I am. I struggle with contradictions like everybody else. I think that all the darkness and all the light are caricatures that doesnít exist. The hero and the antihero are labels that donít really define the human experience. The human experience is diverse, and itís a blending of many traits that we all are. I think that when we see the flaws onscreen, when we see the dark sides, we are basically seeing ourselves. Itís more than being attractive. We identify more than being attracted to that. I think that itís a sense of identification that we have.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What research did you do for your role?
ER: I couldnít research as much as I normally do and as I would have loved to because I was basically thrown into the movie. I was finishing Gold here in New York last year when Tate [Taylor] called and said, ďPlease read the script, and then if you like it, sit down and lets talk about it.Ē Then I read it in one go, and I couldnít stop. I sat down with him and I met with him. The next day we were rehearsing, and then two days later, we were shooting. To ease the nervousness and the insecurity that comes from not having had the chance to prepare as much as I would normally do, I said to myself, ďLetís play. Lets do an whole happening with this character. Letís just be there and be open.Ē It was fantastic to discover a character on set and through the words of other characters because my character basically observes and listens, and there was a lot of holding back. He was just there listening and listening, and I think that I discovered the character through that, through Megan, and through Rachel. I have to sit and listen. It was a great exercise also of contemplation, and it was great to be there and you always wanted to say things in life, and as an actor you always want to propose things. I couldnít; I just needed to listen. I saw all of the takes, you saw what was chosen, but I saw everything and each take was fantastic and should really put it all out. The movie was so effective because nobody held anything back, everything was out there. It reminds me of those great movies from the 80s and the early 90s, those adult dramas that made American cinema so important, that unfortunately donít get made as often as before. So I hope this movie, if it is successful and people respond to it, could open the door for more movies like this to be made. I think that itís important. Life is tough, and you shouldnít be afraid to see it in a film.
NYC MOVIE GURU:Haley, your character in the film has both likable and unlikable qualities. How did you approach that dichotomy?
HB: I wanted to approach her in away that she would be relatable and likable. Thatís a difficult thing when sheís having affairs with multiple men. I didnít want her just to be a mistress or to just to be a home wrecker; I wanted her to have layers and dimensions, and for her to be human and not just a monster that you just donít understand why sheís damaged. I think that as her layers are peeled back, I was glad that there was an opportunity in the film to sort of fill her in and to add different shades to her personality and then discover what it is--the secret that sheís been harboring and how it affected her. Then you learn why sheís become this woman, and why sheís so restless, and what sheís been running from---thatís sheís just carrying around this enormous weight, this enormous amount of guilt. She just masks her pain with the validation that she tries to get, and the love she tries to get from the different characters---not just the men, I think [also] the women and the people that she surrounds herself with. Itís exhausting, but great. It was an exciting challenge for me to try to fill her in in that way.
ER: I think that Tate generated, he granted and he created a great space and a great room for us to really connect to the characters. Iím saying this just because I think that the memories of this movie are very strong, still. I listen to her and I can totally connect and feel it--you still feel it under her skin. I think that we hadnít seen performances, especially female performances, so raw and mainstream in American cinema in a very long time. That for me is very refreshing. Iím not from here, but I grew up watching American movies and wanted to be an actor in movies because of a lot of great American movies that I saw. So itís great to have the experience that we had. I think that most of you were out last night at the theater and to go to the theatre, have that collective experience by watching a drama. I mean what movies are being out there? Like, superhero movies or the horror films, and itís not bad---theyíre great and I watch them as well--but I think itís amazing to have a collective dramatic experience. I think it hasnít happened in a very long time.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did the novel help you to grasp the complex, evolving relationships of your characters in the film?
HB: We had great material to work with, with Paulaís novel, so that was something I could go back to, and it was written in the minds of each character, so really, what the relationship was and the chemistry that they had, for me, was spawned from the book. Also, things sort of change when you put two actors in these roles that are fictional, and on set they create a life of their own, depending on the chemistry between the actors. I was very fortunate to have such a great partner who was bringing out the best in me, even though we didnít have a whole lot of time to develop these characters and their relationship. I think there was an immediate bond and trust between us to where I couldnít have gone to some of the places that I was able to go if I didnít trust him. I donít know why we had that connection, but I just instantly felt at ease, whether that just being who Edgar is, and he just brings that out of you. He did bring that out of me, but he felt like somebody that I could really lean on as an actor. I think that was able to enhance any of the moments or any chemistry that they were supposed to have. There was a scene that isnít in the film. Itís just a very brief scene, but they locked into each other, and Iíd like to think that Megan had already done her research about him. Actuallu. it touches on that in the book that she does her research, and she knows exactly who he is, and all the other women in the suburbia that she is living in go to him because they found that he was tall, dark, and handsome. They were all going to them to talk about their issues, and it sort of might have been a game for her at first, and then it turned into something else. It turned into something where she was able to try to work out her issues and just project it all onto him for the first time or to really to get some release for the first time. Also, I think that some of my favorite parts of the book were between Kamal and Megan, and how just the forbidden nature of, and physically, what the film is about is these things that weíre not supposed to see and weíre not supposed to do, and what is forbidden. This is a doctor-patient relationship, and they cross a lot of lines, and then the voyeuristic aspect of him watching her and getting more involved than he should.
ER: The only thing that I discussed with Tate was the passing of time. Like, four months ago, a month ago, Friday---those kind of things---because you definitely need a bit of discussion about that context because the relationship was advancing. Other than that, I think that we never really analyzed the text or the monologues. She has huge monologues in the movie, and actually, many of the narration that you see in some of the scenes were was part of the therapy. You were seeing images of things going on, and those were lines that she said.