“A lot of tiny things” changed in “Wasp Network” from the version that premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September to the new cut that arrived at the New York Film Festival on October 5. That was according to screenwriter and director Olivier Assayas, who discussed the film with press and industry along with its stars Penelope Cruz and Edgar Ramirez. Watch their entire press conference above.
The film tells the true story of Cuban spies who infiltrated anti-communist groups in the US, and Assayas admitted, “When I was editing I was obsessed with being … as precise as possible with the facts, so at some point I realized when we presented the film that we were overloading the audience with dates, places and facts, and that it was detrimental to the film.”
There was also a time crunch since the film finished shooting in May and Assayas had committed to finish it in time for Venice. With some “fine-tuning … this is much closer to the cut I would have finalized if I had had the time.” It pares some of the excess details, but actually came out a few minutes longer than the Venice cut.
Being true to the real-life subjects was important given the heated tensions between the US and Cuba over the last 50 years. Assayas revealed that two of the subjects of the film, Rene and Olga Gonzalez (played by Ramirez and Cruz), actually “were not so happy we were making this film.” Still, the actors wanted to be faithful to the characters they played, though they weren’t interested in mimicking them.
Cruz has played real people before, including Donatella Versace in the limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” for which she actively sought Donatella’s blessing. She didn’t do that this time because she felt it was more important to convey the underlying spirit and psychology of Olga than to do an imitation. “I don’t have to agree with her. I don’t have to think like her,” Cruz explained, “but everything was done with respect and from a base of a lot of information about these characters. We built our own interpretation of them.”
Ramirez agreed. He played Gianni Versace in “Assassination” with Cruz, and he previously worked with Assayas on their lauded fact-based miniseries “Carlos,” but in this case they “wanted to keep as much creative freedom as possible … Olivier wrote in the same way that happened with ‘Carlos.’ He wrote very interesting characters. He did that research for us so we could open up the characters he had written.”
“Wasp Network” premiered on October 5 at the fest, but it screens again for the public on Saturday, October 12.
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