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Hurt People Hurt People: Neil LaBute & Alice Eve On The Intricate Roleplaying Of ‘Some Velvet Morning’

The Playlist By Kristin McCracken | The Playlist December 13, 2013 at 3:05PM

Since his award-winning debut feature “In the Company of Men” in 1997, Neil LaBute has developed a diverse career that spans writing and directing for both the stage and screen. Depicting unsettling and often cruel relationships between men and women, his work can be difficult to stomach, but there is no denying his unique voice. Over the years, LaBute has experimented with directing other people’s work, venturing into the horror (“The Wicker Man”), thriller (“Lakeview Terrace”) and comedy (“Nurse Betty,” “Death at a Funeral”) genres, to varying degrees of critical success. At the same time, he is a prolific playwright, with “The Mercy Seat,” “Fat Pig,” “reasons to be pretty,” and “The Shape of Things,” among others, making theatrical waves.

Some Velvet Morning, Alice Eve
Neil, the buzz around the festival is that this is a return to form for you, to the more theatrical dramas that we first knew you for. What was the detour all about? Or do you see it as a detour?
Neil LaBute: It’s my journey. I started making these films that had almost no money to start, and they were original stories. And then I got an offer to do something bigger—somebody else’s movie—and to direct. I had always done that in the theater, directed other people’s material, so I thought, “Great, I’ll do that.”

I think ultimately, I stretched myself very thin. I tried to do films, and theater, in L.A. and New York and London, and keep all those plates spinning. It was often much easier to have someone come to you and say, “What about this?” And you think, “Oh, I haven’t done a comedy; I’ll try that.” And all of these stories that were my own found a home much easier on stage—cheaper, faster—it’s just so hard to raise money these days. This was a bit of a fluke, the way things came together, and I hope it flukes out a number of times in the future...

Alice Eve: [This movie was] built on a different type of economics, so we made it like a little family. There was no pressure. We shot in sequence...

Neil LaBute: It happily worked for this piece, because [the characters] haven’t seen each other for so long. At first, there’s a little bit of a reticence, and an emotional distance between them, that thaws as the movie goes along. And that’s happening in sequence with the time you guys have spent together. Suddenly you are pitched into this thing where these two actors are constantly on screen. They were a little shell-shocked.

Alice Eve: We were, weren’t we?

Neil LaBute: It kind of worked in an emotionally draining way. It exhausted you in the right way… Everyone’s been in that place where it’s like, “I can’t live with this person. I can’t live without them.” It’s just crazy love.

Stanley is instinctive… [There’s a scene where] you can see how sweet he is, and as soon as she says, “I don’t love you the same,” this cloud comes over his face.

Alice Eve: But in that moment, she’s not necessarily telling the truth; she just smells that she has the power, and she has the chance to wield her own axe, after he’s been wielding his. She’s like, I don’t even fucking care if I do love you. Right now I’m going to get you down and I’m going to put you on your knees.

The title of the movie is the name of a song, and a band…
Neil LaBute: There is a band that took the title of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s song. I knew I wanted to use that title, and then it just kind of transitioned into using it as her name.

Alice Eve: But don’t use the song!

Neil LaBute: Well, then, perversely we didn’t use the song. [laughs] No, there’s just 2 pieces of music in it—I love the silence and the sounds of the environment, and them. And when it gets quiet, it’s great, I think. I just didn’t see a score for it. The first piece is from a Truffaut movie called “The Soft Skin,” which is also about a man having an affair, and an affair that ends quite violently as well.

And then I’d always heard that Turtles song [“Happy Together”] in my head at the end. I didn’t know if it would ultimately work, but seeing her as she was after he left, and what the cost of what she’s doing is… The juxtaposition of that with the weird little vibe running through that song is kind of haunting. I thought the repetition of “me and you, and you and me”—it all sounded like the right thing to do.

Isn’t that song in the trailer for The Great Gatsby” trailer now, too?
Neil LaBute: Yeah! A really weird version of it, like a Trent Reznor, crazy version of it.

Alice, switching gears, what can you tell us about “Star Wars Into Darkness,” which opens in a couple of weeks?
Alice Eve: I play Dr. Carole Marcus, who is in the canon. She’s a weapons specialist, and she has a Ph.D. She’s incredibly capable and pretty much as smart as all the boys. It was a great experience—very different from this experience!—and it was nice to come onto this, right off of that, because this was so intimate. I’ve seen the film, and it’s an epic juggernaut of a movie. It’s great!

Is this the first sort of blockbuster you’ve been in? Aside from “Men in Black”?
Alice Eve: Yes, I was in “Men in Black,” but not in the same way I’m in “Star Trek.”

“Some Velvet Morning” is now playing in limited release and is available on iTunes and VOD.

This article is related to: Neil LaBute, Alice Eve, Stanley Tucci, Some Velvet Morning, Interviews, Interview, Tribeca Film Festival, Star Trek Into Darkness, Interviews