There are lots of Atom Egoyan trademarks in Chloe, including explorations of voyeurism, identity theft, family tension, and other ice-cool perversities. But the film, which opens on Friday (March 26), marks the first time the Toronto-based filmmaker has directed a movie he didn’t develop on his own.
Watch the trailer for Chloe.
“When you work as a director, as opposed to a writer-director, things can happen pretty fast,” Egoyan explains, calling from his family home in Victoria, the city where he grew up. “And it’s a whole different relationship. It’s not like going through the regular channels in Canada. I think it was fast because this cast came through, and it was either going to happen or not, based on that.”
The cast in question is principally Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson. (This is what the Irish actor was filming in Toronto when wife Natasha Richardson had her tragic ski accident in Quebec.) They play married professionals who go through an unusually bumpy midlife crisis when the wife hires a classy prostitute to test her husband’s fidelity—and you can imagine how well that works out. The wild card here was Amanda Seyfried, whose success in HBO’s Big Love and the film of ABBA musical Mamma Mia!, followed by Jennifer’s Body and the current Dear John (insert your own hooker jokes here), suddenly made her a viable draw. She plays the manipulative call girl who, given the switchback plot twists, is actually more “Mamma mia!” than “Who’s your daddy?”
For Egoyan, who turns 50 this summer, the elements added up to a much more commercial enterprise than that of his own, more typically small-scale Adoration, which failed to find an audience last year.
“It was great being able to get her at this point, but part of the trick to making movies in this particular climate is that they need to be pitched at a particular audience. Will Amanda Seyfried’s fans accept her in an erotic drama? I really don’t know. Also, the trailers make it look like a scary thriller, so there’s the expectations game as well.”
Yes, Egoyan has adapted other people’s stuff, including his best-known work, The Sweet Hereafter. But he initiated those projects, and this property was brought to him by other producers, including the father-son team of Ivan and Jason Reitman, the latter currently flying high with Up in the Air. Chloe’s script was an adaptation of Nathalie”¦, a French film cowritten and directed by Anne Fontaine (who more recently brought us Coco avant Chanel), as Anglicized by Erin Cressida Wilson, who previously shaped Mary Gaitskill’s short story Secretary into movie form.
Dancing between Hollywood and the Canadian system has been instructive, although mostly in troubling ways.
“We’re used to making films for no money, but they’re not. The sense of what films can be made for down there has become so ridiculous, most people can’t really make a livelihood from them anymore. In this case, Studio Canal has already recouped their investments just from presales of Chloe. Now the question remains: how much are distributors willing to spend on it?”
Maybe they should engage some, um, professionals to test how viewers are going to feel about the movie.