A cast of Oscar nominees brings Anton Chekhov's beloved play to life in this new look at the Michael Mayer-directed film

Fresh from her third Oscar nomination, Lady Bird star Saoirse Ronan is already setting up perch in another film with an avian title.

The 23-year-old stars opposite four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening in EW’s exclusive preview of The Seagull, a sprightly costume drama adapted from Anton Chekhov’s esteemed 1896 stage play of the same name.

The new trailer (above) teases a quirky take on the classic material, which follows an aging actress named Irina Arkadina (Bening), who visits her brother, Pjotr, and son, Konstantin (Billy Howle) on a secluded country estate. As temperatures (and passions) rise in the throes of summer, Irina disrupts the placid social scene by introducing a successful novelist, Boris (Corey Stoll), to Nina (Ronan), a free-spirited young woman from a neighboring estate. Nina ultimately falls in love with Boris, which causes a stir among her peers — namely Irina’s son, whose affections for Nina come to a head as Boris seemingly chews up her heart and spits it out.

Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Russian Boy Inc.

Shot in 21 days, The Seagull was made in collaboration with several prestigious collaborators, including supporting actresses Elisabeth Moss and Mare Winningham, plus Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth (The English Patient).

Director Michael Mayer also worked with American playwright Stephen Karam — the mind behind Pulitzer finalist Sons of the Prophet and the Tony Award-winning drama The Humans — to craft the film’s screenplay. The film’s historical aesthetic was further enlivened by production designer Jane Musky (When Harry Met Sally) and Emmy-nominated director of photography Matthew J. Lloyd (Fargo).

“The play was trying to do something surprising and new: to show people behaving in naturalistic ways, to eschew histrionics and telegraphed emotions for something more nuanced,” Mayer’s director’s statement reads. “[It allowed] the actors to truly live inside the characters they were playing, and to introduce the concept of subtext to world drama.”

Credit: Abbott Genser/Russian Boy Inc.

“An important critic at the time of the play’s premiere, Anatoly Koni, wrote to Chekhov saying: ‘It is life itself onstage, with all its tragic alliances, eloquent thoughtlessness and silent sufferings,'” Mayer continues. “Chekhov didn’t live to see cinema emerge as an important global art form. He would never know how significant his contribution to writing and acting would be. I’d like to think that he would appreciate our film’s intention to capture forever, in Koni’s words, ‘the sort of everyday life that is accessible to everyone and understood in its cruel internal irony by almost no one.'”

Credit: Abbott Genser/Russian Boy Inc.

The Seagull opens May 11 via Sony Pictures Classics. Check out EW’s exclusive trailer and stills from the film above.

The Seagull
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