Beau is afraid: Ari Aster, Emma Stone Q&A at the surprise screening

Emma Stone moderated the surprise world premiere of Aster’s new film, a Freudian odyssey that takes on Phoenix as much as the Joker.

“He’s sick in the head. Is not well.”

Emma Stone talks about her role as Joaquin Phoenix in Ari Aster’s ‘Beau Is Afraid,’ which premiered to the public and press at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn on Saturday, April 1. It’s fitting, because on April 1, distribution partner A24 jokingly billed the event as a director’s cut for the theater chain’s “Midsommar,” ahead of the first screening of Ari Aster’s nightmare comedy, which stars Phoenix as a guilty and repressed man on a deranged odyssey to reunite with his mother.

But Stone also describes the film’s director, the man behind “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” Although she never worked with him, Stone was a surprise moderator at the event — briefly introduced by Joaquin Phoenix, skin-and-bones and still in “Joker 2” character mode — alongside Ari Aster, who said it was “really terrible” because “I started pushing… and I don’t know what to say about this movie.”

In fact, telling “Beau Is Afraid” for three hours is like trying to map someone’s dream. In this existential epic that combines Freud, Kafka and Charlie Kaufman, as well as Aster’s signature touch for a family dynamic rotten to the core, Beau (Phoenix) lives in a chaotic world, well beyond the edge of apocalyptic destruction. The streets were overrun with psychotic people. Dystopian headlines (“Dying Wish: 15 Celebrities Who Asked to Be Buried Face Down”) and advertisements (“Death by Anal, Murder by Fuck”) are everywhere.

The film was shot in Montreal, but with its huge Hieronymus Bosch urban soup, it looks a bit like downtown LA. After escaping his crappy apartment, Beau travels far and wide to find his mother, played in a flashback by Zoe Lister-Jones, and in the present day (if you can call it that) by a feisty scene-chewing Patti, in many strange settings. LuPone.

“I want you to go through his guts and get out of his ass,” Aster said of his hero’s journey.

The film’s relentless first half is excruciating and hilarious, with Phoenix pulling off many wild stunts in one of the most physically challenging turns to date. And along the way, everything can go wrong for Beau, from having his house keys and suitcase stolen on the way to the airport, his apartment being ransacked by feral vagrants, and being drugged and held hostage by a loopy couple (Amy Ryan and Nathan). . Lane) want to replace their dead son.

“I contacted Joaquin in the summer of 2020,” Aster said of their first relationship. “It was a really long courtship where Zoom was on the phone and he was like, ‘Why the hell would I ever do that?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, don’t ask.’ “Oh, you have to.”

Phoenix gets stabbed, shot, broken through glass, run over by a car, and endures every moment that mixes bone-chilling body horror violence with stringy physical comedy. And his character has a great need for ejaculation, which he has been putting off all his life because of a family curse when his father, grandfather and great-grandfather died during their first orgasm. (And in the case of Beau’s father, at the moment of conception.)

Ari Aster, Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix and Ari Aster on the set of Beau Is Afraid


“Every dangerous thing that Beau does, Joaquin did,” Aster said. “The surprising thing about him.” I thought he could do everything once and then not do it again, but he’s so technical and what was amazing was the fact that he had to feel himself through everything and everything had to be honest.”

At one point, “Beau Is Afraid” pushed Phoenix to debilitating physical exhaustion, and the actor passed out during the production.

“At the end of the movie, it was the last week and he was working with Patti, and there was a scene that was very intense for Patti, and it was a shot that was about Patti, not her. It suddenly went out of frame and I was really mad because it was a really good catch,” Aster recalled. “It felt confusing so I went around the corner to the monitor and it collapsed. He passed out. And I knew it was bad because he let people touch him. People took care of him and he allowed it and was very confused. He passed out. He was passed out by someone else. The shot was for them, not for him, he was helping them. He was in it for them, to the point where he collapsed. It’s very poetic that he collapsed on somebody else’s shot.”

The amassed cast includes Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane and Parker Posey, with Aster saying he was “mostly the first choice”. As for LuPone, the Broadway legend who rarely appears on the big screen: “I saw Patti in a David Mamet play like 10 years ago and I was really impressed, and when we were thinking about who Mona could be, I saw her. a red carpet photo of her looking awesome. It was very clear that she was going to be Beau’s mother.

Beau is scared

“Beau fear”


“Beau” was actually Aster’s first film after graduating from the AFI Conservatory, where his disturbing short “The Strange Thing About the Johnson,” about an incestuous and abusive relationship between a son and father, went viral and announced Aster’s sick gifts certain brand. But instead he made Hereditary on A24 for $10 million and then Midsommar for $9 million. At $35 million, “Beau” is its biggest canvas, on par with Orson Welles’ “The Trial” or Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” in terms of ambition, scope and world-building. Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” this is also a fair comparison.

“I can’t imagine it was the first because I wouldn’t have had the resources to do it,” said Aster, buoyed by the runaway box office success of his earlier films. (Surely one of the film’s more expensive features? Clearing the rights to a certain Mariah Carey song whose use in the film sends people into overdrive.)

“Every morning is like a funeral procession,” said Aster, who remains self-deprecating and even uncomfortable talking about his work. “It’s just like, why would I do this? People look at you, they don’t want to talk. There’s nothing like finishing something that’s behind you, it’s very beautiful, and it’s a special film for me in that it’s been open to a lot of ideas for a long time… a sense of ambivalence, or anxiety about the journey. Should I go on Monday or Tuesday? Even like lunch, it’s horrible. At every lunch in Los Angeles, you have to choose where you’re going to drive.”

“Beau Is Afraid” opens April 14 in New York and Los Angeles, followed by theaters everywhere on A24.

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