Beau Is Afraid’s Nathan Lane & Amy Ryan on Ari Aster’s Lord of the Rings

Apr 22, 2023

Filmmaker Ari Aster (Midsommar) is a genre treasure in horror, and he’s returning to theaters with star, Joaquin Phoenix, in the mystifying Beau Is Afraid. During a press junket, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with two of the movie’s many stars, Only Murders in the Building alums Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan, about their experience filming what Lane coined the “Jewish Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Even as the days leading up to the premiere of Beau Is Afraid dwindle, the plot of this horror-comedy is still somewhat mysterious. In their interview, Lane describes Aster’s third feature as a “one-man surreal, nightmarish odyssey,” in which Phoenix plays Beau, an anxious man who has to face his own demons following the death of his mother (Zoe Lister-Jones). In the movie, Lane and Ryan play Roger and Grace, a couple who attempt to restrain him in their home, Misery-style, when Grace accidentally runs a harried Beau over with her car. Early reactions to a surprise screening bolster Lane’s sentiments, saying it’s “absurd” and will make audiences “nauseous,” and we couldn’t be more thrilled!
Beau Is Afraid is both written and directed by Aster whose original screenplays for Midsommar and Hereditary now top most horror fans’ lists. During their interview, which you can watch above or read below, Lane tells Weintraub that this script made him question the director’s sanity, while Ryan called it “harrowing” and “funny.” They also discuss why it was such a pleasure and thrill to work with Aster, share stories from filming with Phoenix, that “nightmarish” opening sequence, and getting to go off script.

COLLIDER: I definitely have to start with the most important thing. I had heard that Ari was a big fan of Only Murders in the Building and was only casting people that had appeared in that show. So I was curious, why do you think Joaquin was cast?

NATHAN LANE: [Martin] Short was not available. Just think what this movie could have been with Marty Short playing Beau.

It would have been a definitely been a different movie. I think it’s good that Joaquin got cast. I mean, he’s okay on camera.

AMY RYAN: He’s not too shabby.

LANE: Oh, he’s as good as it gets.

Image via A24

RELATED: Joaquin Phoenix & Ari Aster on ‘Beau Is Afraid,’ Discovering Each Others’ Depravities & Why This Idea Lingered for So Long

Being serious, one of the things about Beau Is Afraid is, this has to be a very unique script to read. What was it actually like reading this for the first time? I’m assuming you don’t read scripts like this that often.

RYAN: You don’t read scripts like this that often. At least, I don’t [laughs].

LANE: Oh, not another surreal nightmare comedy-horror film.

RYAN: Yeah, it’s as harrowing, as nightmarish, as funny as– you know, I lost balance reading it, had to reread it again, and was, you know, quick to say, “How fast can we say yes to this project?” I want in.

LANE: Yes, you read it and you think, “Oh, I hope [Ari Aster’s] in therapy. I hope he’s on the right medication.” And then you actually meet him and you think, “Oh, he’s the sweetest guy in the world.” He’s so smart and funny and compassionate and kind and collaborative, and you just think, “I hope his mother never reads this.” Can you imagine that premiere when Mom shows up? [Laughs]

Look, you know, it’s Ari Aster and Joaquin Phoenix, they’re the kind of people you wanna work with. They’re true artists and true mensches, and we had a blast.

For soon-to-be fans of the movie, is there anything that you think might surprise them to learn about the actual making of the film?

RYAN: I feel like Ari’s fans out there probably know more about the making of this film than Nathan and I know about the making of this film. I know so many people take such a deep dive into his world. But you know, every inch, whether it’s dialogue– this movie is so well-choreographed even though there was room to play and improvise. But it’s so ingrained in Ari’s brain.

I’d watch him direct that nightmarish scene in the beginning with the tons of background extras, and he was running to each one, each one had a character in a moment in timing. Nothing was random in that setup, and that, to me, I was like, “Oh my gosh.” He’s in such control of this film, and also not, which is the fun part, he leaves room for the unexpected.

LANE: Yeah, I think maybe what would be surprising is that we laughed a lot, you know? And I mean, I’m sure there are other sections where there weren’t a lot of laughs, but in our section of the film there [were] a lot of laughs, a lot of laughter, and we really had fun.

Image via A24

I generally don’t ask this question, but I’m going to ask for this particular movie, how have you been describing this film to friends and family?

LANE: Well, look, I think any film that’s three hours, directed by Ari Aster, starring Joaquin Phoenix, you realize going in, it’s not gonna be your average film. It’s an arthouse film. It’s a challenging movie. It’s really out there. It’s a one-man surreal, nightmarish odyssey to get home to visit his mother.

RYAN: To visit his mama.

LANE: So, my joke was, it’s the Jewish Everything Everywhere All at Once, and then I think Ari stole it, and he turned it into the Jewish Lord of the Rings, except he’s going to his mom’s house. So, whichever you choose.

Like everyone, I am a huge fan of Joaquin Phoenix, he’s so talented and he gives his all to everything. Can you talk a little bit about collaborating with him in the scenes that you shared, and what surprised you about the way he works on set?

RYAN: One time he kept saying– well, we were all cracking up moments before camera was rolling, and we’re trying to get it together, and he looked at me in all sincerity, and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I was like, “I think you know what you’re doing.” He’s like, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” I was like, “You know what you’re doing!” and then I was like, “Are you messing with me? Do you think I don’t know what I’m doing?” So we went down this rabbit hole.

But he is so generous, he is so committed, but he seems very gentle, or he was with me and Nathan in his process, if he would even call it a process, I don’t know.

LANE: One day we were shooting this scene, we did take after take, and there was the written dialogue, but Joaquin’s situation, which is at that point, he’s been told by Richard Kind on the phone – and whenever you get Richard Kind on the phone, you really want to listen – and he’s telling him they can’t bury his mother until he gets there, it’s stipulated in the will. And so he’s got to get out of there and get home, and so he’s very upset.

Joaquin, he was full throttle on that emotion, and desperately, so he didn’t want to really follow the dialogue so much. Of course, I was trying to, and then Ari just said to me, “Look, the objective here is you’re trying to make sure he stays there and you can’t let him go. So no matter what he says, talk him out of it.” Well, I loved hearing that because then it gave you free rein to play.

I just loved working with both of them, and he’s, you know, aside from being a great actor, and yes, totally committed at all times, he’s just a sweetheart. He’s so dear. So it was a real pleasure and a thrill to get to work with him.

Image via A24

You both have done so much work. Did you notice when Only Murders in the Building had reached a lot of people? Because when you’re walking around, I would imagine that a lot of people want to talk to you about that particular show.

LANE: Well, when it first came on. Now they’ve moved on to Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd. We’re just old news.

RYAN: Oh yeah, our names are mud!

LANE: Although, I am the only one who won a fucking Emmy, so there! [Laughs] But, in the beginning, yes, sure. You know, FedEx drivers would drive by and yell out the window, “Hey, Murders,” – they called me Murders – “Hey, Murders!”

RYAN: I was walking the dog one morning and I had this guy pass me, and he said, “Shame on you!” Spoiler alert…

LANE: [Laughs] Are you sure it was about the show?

RYAN: No! It could have been– he seemed familiar.

Image via Hulu

On that note, I need to go. I just want to thank you for your work, and especially, congrats on this, good luck with the rest of your speed dating.

RYAN: [To Lane] Congrats on your Emmy too.

LANE: Oh, thank you, thank you.

Beau Is Afraid is now playing in theaters. For more, check our interview with Yellowstone’s Kylie Rogers talking about what she learned while co-starring with Joaquin Phoenix.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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