Whether they’re teaching us how to show off in front of a crush or the right way to lean in for our first kiss, movies are often what advise the world how to love from a young age. Rife with crippling curses, role-playing surgeon-on-patient sex, and children bleeding from their eyes, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer is definitely not that movie. In fact, with a little help from stars Alicia Silverstone and Colin Farrell, it rewrites the rules of attraction across one of the most deliciously uncomfortable scenes of the year.
While we’ve come to expect certain things from Lanthimos’ work (deadpan humor, brutal slayings of household pets, and of course Farrell, the filmmaker’s newfound muse and previous The Lobster collaborator), his latest film throws a bonkers curveball into an already twisted machine, following a happily married surgeon (Farrell) who forms an ill-advised bond with the son (Barry Keoghan) of a deceased patient. When strange things (see above, re: curses) plague his family (Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy), seemingly at the hands of the boy, he quells tensions by indulging a dinner invitation from the teen’s widowed and sexually starved mother (Silverstone). What follows is perhaps the most awkward interaction ever to unfold atop a suburban sofa, complete with tactless smooth-talking and whiffs of cringe-inducing desperation. And then, without warning, she shoves his hand in her mouth, bidding him farewell (“You’re not leaving until you try my tart!” she squeals) as the scarred soul scurries away.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is in theaters Oct. 20. Read on for EW’s full scene breakdown with Silverstone.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were your first impressions of the script?
ALICIA SILVERSTONE: I’d seen Dogtooth and it blew my mind. When I got to set, I felt like such a fan. His script was so good. I tried to read a couple pages before bed. I needed to get up early the next morning, but I ended up reading the whole thing. I couldn’t stop. [My character] is fascinating: so lonely, desperate, needing, and wanting. Yorgos wrote exactly how he wanted me to [perform] it in the script. It says very specific actions, like “matter of fact” and other adjectives. That was a challenge for me, because I tend to be very emotional and expressive. I don’t think he didn’t want that, but there was an undertone of this character not being very dramatic.
You found such a palpable tone. How’d you and Colin prepare?
We didn’t really prepare! I met Colin a long time ago when I was doing a play with Kathleen Turner; I think we were in Toronto at the time… I met him there for a second, and all these years later I met him again on set. We said hello the day before, when I came in for a fitting, and we started working on the scene as we were shooting… We both dove in and did what we did.
Yorgos’ films have such a distinct style. Does his directorial approach match?
He’s an absolute artist, even in the way he photographs. He was taking photos when we were rehearsing, and between takes he’d talk to us while taking pictures at the same time. It’s so strange! Then I [realized], oh, he’s also the on-set photographer! He’s doing the art for his film! That’s beautiful. He’s telling the story as he wants to tell it. It’s also amazing where he chooses to put the camera. On every job I’ve done since the beginning of my career, the camera starts with a wide shot, then it moves closer. For the most part, you know where that camera’s going to be. But for him, he put it in the most interesting places. I didn’t know what we were doing. I was like, are we doing a wide shot right now? Then he did a close-up on [Barry’s] head, but it wasn’t really on his face, it was on the back of his head!
How’s his direction in those moments?
He’s not unlike all great directors. They hire the person they know is going to deliver what they want, so they don’t have to do much, which is the best directing there is… At one point, he was talking about the rhythm of the scene, so we changed the rhythm a few times, because he wants to play. At first I felt a little shy because I’m so in love with his work. I was thinking, he’s not telling me anything, why isn’t he telling me anything!? So, I went over to him and asked, “Is this okay?” He was like, “Yeah, I’d tell you if there was anything you needed to do differently.” Like, of course he would. Duh, duh, duh! He’s a great director!
He also had the idea of me grabbing Colin’s hand [and putting it in my mouth]. He had some funny ideas about that in the moment… he was like, “Don’t let go! Don’t let go of his hand!”
It’s not every day one gets to put Colin Farrell’s hand in one’s mouth.
That’s interesting that you look at it like a “get.” [Laughs]
It’s not like everyone’s out there doing it! What the hell does Colin Farrell’s hand taste like?
Oh… You have to use your imagination for that one. [Laughs]
But you’re a vegan! Did this feel like a betrayal of veganism?
Well, I’m a woman, I do put flesh in my mouth. So it’s not so crazy! But, yeah, I guess that would be a funny vegan thing. It’s a sexual activity [for my character]; she’s not trying to eat him, she wants to eat him. She wants to eat him up!