Florian Zeller interview: ‘The Father’ director
Florian Zeller always knew he wanted to make his directorial debut with a film version of his Tony-winning play “The Father” and that it would be in English. While he knew that he wanted Sir Anthony Hopkins to play the title character, he never expected this to happen. “The character’s name became Anthony. I knew it was not an easy dream to fulfill, because he is Sir Anthony Hopkins. But I did not want to close the door to this possibility because I knew he would be very powerful in this part.” Zeller was part of Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts panel, conducted virtually by this writer (watch the exclusive video above).
In “The Father,” an elderly man refuses all assistance from his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman). As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, himself and even the fabric of his reality. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing this red-hot Oscar contender, which also features Rufus Sewell, Mark Gattiss, Olivia Williams and Imogen Potts, on February 26, 2021.
Zeller recounts working with his English language translator, the Oscar-winning writer Christopher Hampton (“Dangerous Liaisons”), on the screenplay. He details the ways in which he transformed his play, which had a single perspective, into a cinematic experience. The key was making the apartment itself into a character. “What I wanted to do was dare to stay in the apartment so that the space could become a mental space. There was nothing outside the apartment and in way that meant the liberty was even wider.”
His goal was to make the audience into active viewers, to keep us constantly engaged and challenged. The trick was to offer up a puzzle that has no solution. “When you let it go you can understand the whole story on another level. Even though the journey is complex, the destination is very simple – pure, emotional territory.”
After success as a novelist in his native France, Zeller has become one of the country’s leading playwrights. He has produced hit after hit, with a string of transfers to London’s West End and Broadway in recent years, including “The Father,” “The Mother,” and “The Height of the Storm.”