×

A24 Plants Oscar Season Seeds for Toni Collette in Horrifying ‘Hereditary’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Indie distributor A24 rarely leads a marketing push with awards at the fore. After all, movies like Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina,” Lenny Abrahamson’s unsettling adaptation “Room” and Barry Jenkins’ micro-budgeted intersectionality drama “Moonlight” don’t exactly scream “Oscar!” from the outset. But the New York-based company nevertheless found an awards-season stride with those films and more.

The plan with “Hereditary,” Ari Aster’s terrifying Sundance entry that has been hailed as a new generation’s “Exorcist,” is to launch the film on June 7 as a summer horror movie, seek out its audience, and if all the pieces fall into place, establish the foundation for a campaign in the fall. With a stack of glowing critical notices already fanning the flames, and on the heels of a year that saw genre embraced by the Motion Picture Academy in interesting ways — from best picture victor “The Shape of Water” to somber superhero entry “Logan” to zeitgeist-tapping satire “Get Out” — it’s easy to see how something like this could find its mark.

And there is a lot to work with here. Aster’s craft — it’s a debut feature — is impeccable. His short films impressed A24 brass so much they opted to make the film with him, as they did Trey Edward Shults’ “It Comes at Night,” Azazel Jacobs’ “The Lovers” and Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” as well as Robert Eggers’ upcoming “The Witch” follow-up, “The Lighthouse.” The company was fully invested from the beginning and came to Park City in January ready to flaunt a new artist’s compelling vision.

The focus will likely shift, however, to Toni Collette’s shattering portrayal of a woman besieged by an heirloom-like evil. It will no doubt remain one of the superlative performances of 2018, and for a beloved, yet somehow undervalued actress whose only Oscar nomination to date came for another horror film (1999’s “The Sixth Sense”), getting out there early makes all the sense in the world.

To that end, a new television spot for “Hereditary” stops short of asking for voters’ “consideration,” but showered with pull quotes that set Collette’s performance up as a can’t-miss event, and being built around a key sequence that sends sparks flying, it’s clearly designed to plant those seeds.

Aster says the role Collette tackled needed total commitment. “In a way, it’s almost unfair to ask what I wanted of anybody,” the 31-year-old writer-director says. “I basically wanted a kamikaze performance. I wanted somebody to jump off the deep end. From the beginning, Annie is a deeply tortured character, and then she’s just thrown into hell. I needed somebody who was willing to go all the way, and Toni really did.”

Aster marveled at Collette’s discipline, her lack of ego, and how game she was to dive into his pitch-dark vision. He had never seen her tackle something so primal before, yet when her name came up, he says it felt like a no-brainer. “She’s such a chameleon and so reliable as an actress,” he says.

And the dinner table sequence featured in the new spot? Everyone on set was steeling themselves for its moment in the production schedule, and on the day, Aster says you could hear a pin drop. “It is the heart of the film,” he says. “I tend to get very stressed out on days like that because I want to make sure the actors are totally comfortable and that the environment is bending to them and whatever they need, but you also feel when you’re on the set with Toni that she doesn’t necessarily need that. After take one it was very clear that I had it, and I was just going to have fun from there and be a fan and watch her go and greedily gather up my options for the cut.”

By the way, Collette’s isn’t the only performance worth pitching for awards notices. The whole ensemble delivers, but 20-year-old Alex Wolff’s (“Patriots Day,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) supporting work in particular really stands out. It all depends on what kind of a foothold the film can maintain in release.

Ultimately, Aster’s film promises to be an interesting arrow in A24’s quiver this season. The slate hasn’t filled out yet — at this point last year the distributor still had not acquired eventual Oscar players “The Disaster Artist,” “The Florida Project” and “Lady Bird” — but there are a few options already on the table. Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed,” featuring one of Ethan Hawke’s finest performances to date, hits theaters next month. Around the same time, David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows” follow-up “Under the Silver Lake” will bow at the Cannes Film Festival. Jonah Hill’s directorial debut “Mid ’90s” will also be released this fall.

But for an ever-evolving Academy, “Hereditary” is the true X-factor here.

Check out the new TV spot above.

More Film

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content