‘Many rules are just thrown out the window’

Kathimerini meets Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons, protagonists of Yorgos Lanthimos’ new movie, ‘Kinds of Kindness,’ in Cannes

‘Many rules are just thrown out the window’

Νot even nine months have passed since director Yorgos Lanthimos triumphed in Venice by winning the Golden Lion award with “Poor Things” and the Greek filmmaker managed to create yet another film, this time sending it to the competition section of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. “Kinds of Kindness,” which will be released in Greek cinemas on May 30, finds Lanthimos joining forces once again with longtime collaborator Efthimis Filippou for the script, in order for the two to tell three different myths (mainly) around power, control, love, loss and loyalty, using the same actors in different roles. The mission was, of course, very demanding, but the cast that took it on was of exceptional quality, led by Emma Stone – who now seems to be forever tied to the Greek director – and Oscar nominee Jesse Plemons.

The latter received the “baptism of fire” in Lanthimos’ particular way of working and apparently did not regret it: “Technically, what you do is acting, but so many ‘rules’ are just thrown out the window and it’s done on purpose. Yorgos tries to create a condition of exploration, without making a lot of dramatic statements about what is valid and what is not. The trick, as always, is not to get locked into the script. The rehearsal process definitely helped, as did Yorgos’ way of working afterwards, which makes everything easier,” the American actor told us in Cannes.

Script with Efthimis Filippou

Sitting next to him, Emma Stone, now a veteran of the Lanthimos universe, collaborated for the first time with Efthimis Filippou. “I read the script very early on, before the decision was even made to have the same actors in all the stories. I was very excited because I had not acted in a film by Yorgos and Efthimis, such as ‘Dogtooth,’ ‘Alps’ and ‘The Lobster,’ but only in the ones we did with screenwriter Tony McNamara. Also, in this film, I was not a producer, although I always tell Yorgos what I think anyway,” she observes with a laugh.

She (deservedly) won her second Oscar for her performance in “Poor Things” and almost immediately took on the next, very demanding, project. But how easy is it for an actor to shed such a particular character and directly build the next one? “The truth is that between the two films I did a TV series, ‘The Curse.’ It helped that Bella [main character in ‘Poor Things’] and the character on the show couldn’t be more different in terms of their identities and motivations, so the transition to ‘Kinds of Kindness’ was liberating and fun,” Stone says. “I have the privilege of having worked with Yorgos many times, so I felt that soon I would find the balance and things would start to unfold. He will never tell you how something should work, but he will tell you when something isn’t working. That’s what you need to know.”

‘I felt that soon I would find the balance and things would start to unfold. He will never tell you how something should work, but he will tell you when something isn’t working,’ Stone says

The idea of a film with three different stories is being applied for the first time by Lanthimos, tempting the viewer to look for traces that connect them. “Yorgos wasn’t interested in showing off by saying, ‘Look, we have different stories,’ which would have taken something away from the themes and stories of the film. The difficult and at the same time exciting part was to look for that line that separates the characters. Scripturally there is something different about the mood and themes of each story, yet they all seem to belong in the same world,” Plemons adds.

Extensive allegories

These famous themes of the film became the subject of debate and controversy among the audience at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, who probably had a little trouble with the extensive allegories of Lanthimos and Filippou. However, they were not the only ones.

Emma Stone (left), director Yorgos Lanthimos (center) and Jesse Plemons pose for photographers at the photo call for the film ‘Kinds of Kindness’ at the 77th international Cannes film festival, southern France, on May 18, 2024. [Daniel Cole/AP]

“Obviously I have my ideas, which during filming I mainly discussed with Jesse, but even then they often changed. As we filmed, new ideas came up, as I believe happens to those who watch the film. It’s nice and interesting that the performances are so open and as an actor I love that feeling. Sometimes we’d be acting with Jesse and later he’d say, ‘I think this is what’s going on here.’ And I would think, ‘Great, I hadn’t thought of that.’ And I was in the scene! However, there are the main themes that often appear in Yorgos’ films: They have a lot to do with control and also with the need for love, acceptance and their price. All these are present to the fullest extent in ‘The Lobster’ and ‘Dogtooth,’ and even in ‘Poor Things.’ And here I found a lot of what he likes to explore, but given in such interesting ways, as I think no other living filmmaker can achieve,” Lanthimos’ muse says.

During the festival, it was revealed that the two are teaming up for their next project as well, a fantasy comedy called “Bugonia,” based on the 2003 Korean cult classic “Save the Green Planet!” Filming is set to begin soon, while Plemons will once again take on a leading role.

Back in the present day, the most important “kind of kindness” for Stone is honesty, which, as she points out, “is not always kind, but it is my favorite.” The witty artist – very direct and affable, ready at any moment to make a joke – also responds to the “accusation” that Lanthimos and his team were quick to capitalize on the success of their previous film, releasing another one in such a short period of time. “Yeah, we said we have to do this right away, now that everyone’s crazy about ‘Poor Things’ and they’re going to buy it for sure. ‘Poor Things’ however is a good example of how there is no sure recipe for success. I remember that we often finished filming, met with Yorgos and agreed that it would be a colossal disaster.”

The love scenes

As we now know, the “disaster” ended up receiving 11 Oscar nods and four awards for a film that, among other things, contained many sex scenes, the kind that are not at all common in modern American cinema. Something similar happens in “Kinds of Kindness,” and there is a hilarious scene of a love quartet, which Stone and Plemons recount: “We had an excellent intimacy coordinator with us, with whom we discussed all the possible aspects of these scenes. There was, of course, a closed set on the particular shoot, so from a certain point you feel comfortable. When there is someone else there whose only role is to make you feel comfortable, it all becomes like a choreography,” Stone says.

“[The coordinator] guides you throughout these uncomfortable discussions, which of course need to be had. Obviously it’s weird. But in the end it reminded me of a dance or a stunt in an action scene,” adds Plemons.

Cast member Emma Stone poses on the red carpet ahead of the screening of ‘Kinds of Kindness’ in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on May 17. [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]


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