Writer-director Onur Tukel’s just-released film Catfight is a black comedy about war, art, race, and class, with a notable supporting cast that includes Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi, Craig Bierko, Dylan Baker, Tituss Burgess, and Randy Gambill. But it is likely to be best remembered as the film where Sandra Oh and Anne Heche play onetime college acquaintances who encounter each other many years later — and then repeatedly beat the hell out of each other.
Which raises the question: Who would win a real-life rumble between the two actresses?
“I don’t think I would ever throw a punch,” says Heche. “So, for sure, Sandra would win.”
“Um, I think I would throw a punch more quickly than Anne,” laughs Oh. “Anne is not about throwing punches at people.”
Maybe that’s just what she wants you to think!
“No,” disagrees Oh. “She has other ninja powers, trust me.”
What attracted the two of you to this project?
HECHE: It began with the most incredible script. You just hope that you are right. Has somebody really written something so wonderful? Is he having these two women open up their brains and release on each other this brutal physicality? Is this true? And it turned out that it was. So, yes, it began with his brilliant words.
OH: Yeah, I echo what Anne is saying. Both of these characters are not particularly [laughs] — I don’t know, people you want to hang out with. I don’t know what that says about Anne, but I really like that.
The film is set in an America where the president has deported people of color en masse and dismantled an insurance system which sounds remarkably like Obamacare. Did you try to tell Onur how crazy all of this sounded?
OH: [He had a] failure of imagination.
HECHE: [Laughs] He just wasn’t very prescient, that’s all.
What was it like to shoot the fight scenes? How much preparation did you have?
OH: Yeah, what was our preparation?
OH: Our preparation was, “Okay, we’ve got to go on set. Do we actually have a location? Okay, let’s just watch what our stunt doubles do and let’s do the exact same thing, two-to-three moves at a time.” I think that kind of sums it up.
HECHE: We didn’t have the Matt-Damon-six-months-training to get our six-packs. We came with those!
HECHE: But, really, it was run-and-gun. I think 16 days was the amount of time we had to shoot. The first one we shot the second day that Sandra shot. I’d been working with Alicia. We were supposed to fight on a rooftop — [but] we didn’t have the location any more, and it became a fight in a stairwell, and it was changed within a minute. There was a really intense desire to make something happen that we had zero prep for, to answer your question.
The fight scenes are deliberately unsexy — they seem designed to fly in the face of that male fantasy of watching two women fight.
OH: I agree. You know, going back [laughs] to Anne’s point about our six-packs, I think it’s interesting to see women who have normal bodies, north of forty, who are going at it in a way that is just no-holds-barred. There’s something messy, and awful, and ugly about it, which is also what violence is — when you can’t figure out your own shit, that’s how messy it can turn out.
See the trailer for Catfight above.
Catfight is now available to watch in theaters, on-demand, and from iTunes.