What can cinema-goers expect when they go to see Rabbit Hole?
I think they can expect to laugh. I think they can expect to be moved, and I think they can expect to, I would hope, glimpse a period of time in a couple's life who they feel they love and know. That it is a little voyeuristic and because of that, I think we realise we're not alone and hopefully that takes away some fear of the worst things that can happen to us. You can survive, and I hope that's what this film says.
What attracted you to Rabbit Hole?
I'm always interested in films that are about extreme subject matters. The theme underlying most of the films I make is love in all its different forms. So I'm interested in people when they're yearning for love, when they're losing love, and the loss of a child is the most terrifying place for me to go. That's where I tend to go creatively, places that terrify me.
Tell us more about the story of the film...
It's eight months after they've lost their child, a six year old boy, and it's dealing with "How do you live? How do you continue your life when you've been given this blow that sort of, I think, takes away your desire to live?". On one level it's about marriage and it's about family, and then it's about survival. And hope ultimately. I think that's what's very beautiful about this story, its delicacy and the way in which the dialogue is so sharp, but at the same time you're incredibly aware of everybody's pain. It's almost like a minefield, but through it shines moments of the future and the reason we are all together. I think a lot of times we fuse through pain as people.
Aaron is fast establishing himself as one of Hollywood's finest leading men. What was it like starring alongside Aaron?
Aaron Eckhart was always our choice to play Howie, I mean he was the number one choice. I called him, but I'm not great on the phone, I'm quite shy as a person and I'm not someone who can sell something to someone so I was hesitant whether it was a good idea. But I've met him a few times and I just wanted to let him know that he would be so appreciated and that I felt he would be an amazing man to play opposite and a wonderful, wonderful husband on screen. So, he said yes!
Dianne Wiest is a screen icon, having already won two Oscars. How did she become involved?
I've worked with Dianne before. She's one of the greatest actresses that we have and it was a dream to get her to play this role. I think, the thing for her is that she gets to deliver probably the finest speech in the film, the soliloquy about "How do you live with grief, with loss? How do you do it, how do you actually do it?". It's also where my character is asking my mother, "How does it ever get any better than this?" She is just sublime in her response, and I think that probably, you know...I could see Diane saying it and it was beautiful that she could see herself saying it. We were very lucky to get her cast.
This is quite a departure for director John Cameron Mitchell. Why do you feel John fitted so well with the film?
John believed in it. I spoke to him on the phone at first. He also has things in his personal life which put him in this place of knowing this material, and knowing these emotions [John's brother died when he was young]. He's a raw man, he's very open, and that's a great thing for an actor to work with a director who is incredibly open. He's also an actor, so he understands what it takes to give a performance and, as much as he is open, he's also got some restraint, which this film needed, because the subject matter is so ripe and raw. To have a director try and manipulate that wouldn't have been good. He was very much about keeping it in check so that it wasn't histrionic.
Oscar and BAFTA Award winning Costume Designer Ann Roth is something of a movie legend in her own right in the industry. Tell us about her involvement.
In a movie like this, you have to dress people so there is no attention on any wardrobe, on any item of clothing and it all just becomes something that doesn't draw the eye. That's the hardest thing, and especially for someone like me. Ann would say, "You're a 5 foot 10 blonde movie star and we've got to make you look, suburban", and I would reply, "But I do, I do" and she kept saying, "No, no you don't!". I just thought she was great for that.
Rabbit Hole will be relased in cinemas on 4 February. Take a look at the trailer below to see what's in store.