“It wasn’t immediately that we knew we were going to try to make it into a film,” Seghatchian said, relating that writer-director Jane Campion “found that it started to haunt her, and then she looked into whether or not the rights were available.” Although the rights were about to be sold to someone else, “After a brief meeting together, [book author Thomas Savage said] ‘You can have it if you want.’
“I think that’s part of the charm of Jane Campion: If you’re with her you will fall under her spell immediately and you can’t see the world the same way after that.”
In the adaptation of the novel, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as wealthy Montana rancher Phil Burbank. He runs a ranch with his brother George (Jesse Plemons), whose decision to marry Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and raise her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) causes turmoil between the brothers as Phil torments the mother and son.
When asked about what part of the story haunted Campion, Seghatchian said, “All of Jane’s work, she’s fantastic at embodying the outsiders, the mute, the people who are not heard… and I think here with Phil, she saw this very very complex character who presents one way, and is another way, that the secrets have turned him into the monster that he is but that there’s a deep vulnerability in there too which she is able to access because she knows how to access desire.”
Although the film takes place in Montana, it was shot in Campion’s home country of New Zealand. “It’s incredible kind of serendipity that Jane read this book and fell in love with this story,” said Wegner, “and then it just so happens that the country [New Zealand] where she lives and works and has so much support is an incredible match for Montana, where this book is set. We scouted, Jane and Tanya had been to Montana and then it was just choosing the shots, choosing the angles and spending enough time in the place to be able to shoot it in a beautiful way. The light in New Zealand is incredible.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.