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Tracy Letts Explains His Wild Role in ‘Deep Water’: ‘So Much of It Shouldn’t Be Taken Seriously’

deep water tracy letts
20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tracy Letts seems to have no regrets in being involved with “Deep Water,” Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas’ erotic thriller that left many viewers bewildered when it premiered on Hulu in the U.S. on March 18. The film, with its narrative corkscrews, blunt cuckolding and odd character quirks involving snails and lobster bisque, was largely rejected by critics and threw social media into a frenzy upon its debut.

Though its streaming release may have made it seem like the peculiar movie emerged from thin air, “Deep Water” is the latest entry in a tradition of preposterous erotic thrillers for Adrian Lyne. The director could be considered synonymous with the genre, having helmed such staples as “Fatal Attraction,” “Indecent Proposal” and “Unfaithful.” “Deep Water” marks his first directorial effort in two decades.

In a discussion with Variety, Letts recalled his excitement over the opportunity to work with Lyne.

“I was born in 1965, so I knew Adrian Lyne’s work really well. It’s one of the main reasons I did this goddamn thing. I loved Adrian’s work,” Letts tells Variety. “I love working with those old dudes, man. They’ve got a lot to offer, especially Adrian. He knows what to take seriously. And so much of it shouldn’t be taken seriously. He’s a great spirit with a great sense of humor. Oh man, we laughed on that thing. We had a great time with each other.”

Letts also recounted his experience working on the film, explaining how the New Orleans-based production led him to bring his wife, actor Carrie Coon, and their then two-year-old son to live in Louisiana during the shoot. Letts stated that he had a moment of doubt regarding his role before photography began.

In “Deep Water,” Letts plays Don Wilson, a writer who begins to suspect Affleck’s Victor Van Allen of murderous tendencies. Wilson hires a private investigator while carrying the selfish ambition to transform the events around him into a screenplay.

“I’d learned the lines, done my costume fitting, it was all set to go. I knew the story we were telling. And I was leaving, I mean the car was pulling up to take me to the set, and I turned to Carrie and I said, ‘It’s never occurred to me that I don’t know what the hell character I’m playing,” Letts explains. “She said, ‘Well just do so-and-so.’ And she named a writer that we both know, who is a bit of a blowhard, who shall remain nameless… And I said ‘Got it! See ya!’ I never had another question for the rest of the shoot. I knew exactly who I was doing and what I was doing.”

“Deep Water” was largely maligned by critics upon release, though some defenses have submerged for its retro-brand of grown-up moviemaking. In Variety’s review, chief film critic Peter Debruge hailed Lyne’s direction for “[keeping] us invested, even in the lunatic last third. If anything, he doesn’t push things far enough. In other words, he’s still great at what he does; he just doesn’t do enough of it.”