Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi Interview: ‘Destroyer’ writers
Screenwriter Phil Hay reveals that the idea for “Destroyer” really started to take shape when the character of Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), a hard-bitten police detective, came into focus. Prior to that he and co-writer Matt Manfredi had some ideas “about a certain type of crime story. But when we discovered who Erin was, and specifically what her relationship was with her daughter, that’s what kind of lit the whole thing up for us.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Hay and Manfredi above.
Directed by Karyn Kusama, this Annapurna release centers on a cop who spent years undercover in a drug ring until a tragedy upended her life. Her past decisions have destroyed her present, especially when it comes to her relationship with her rebellious teenage child (Jade Pettyjohn). But when the violent gang leader Silas (Toby Kebbell) returns after years in hiding she must confront her demons once and for all.
When we first see Erin she’s broken, disheveled, and ornery. While working to track down Silas she’s also “figuring out how she got to this point,” Manfredi explains. “She’s kind of investigating herself at times. It was a character study first in its iteration.”
Because of this, Hays adds, “the entire story is driven by her interior world as she navigates this exterior world. So in a way the story is told very intuitively, and very much from her point of view.”
In focusing on Erin’s fraught connection with her daughter, the two were able to explore a dramatic concept usually reserved for men: the absent parent who puts work before raising kids. “Sometimes, with a male character, it’s not really even commented on,” Manfredi says. “It’s just given that’s part of the job. In this, we wanted to show the real impact of her decisions, and how she has been with her daughter. We wanted to see ramifications for this.”
Hay and Manfredi previously worked with Kusama on “Æon Flux” (2005) and “The Invitation” (2015). They also collaborated on “Crazy/Beautiful” (2001), “Clash of the Titans” (2010), “R.I.P.D” (2013), “Ride Along” (2014) and its 2016 sequel “Ride Along 2.”
“Destroyer” opens in theaters on December 25.