Kristen Stewart falls for a bodybuilder in “Love Lies Bleeding,” an electric (and violent) romance thriller that premiered Saturday night at Sundance Film Festival.
Rose Glass (“Saint Maud”) directed the movie, which co-stars Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone and Anna Baryshnikov.
O’Brian is no stranger to the world of bodybuilding, having done competitions in the past, so she didn’t struggle with the physical aspect of playing Jackie. She found it more difficult to get into the mental headspace.
“This role scared me. It was something I’d never done before. It was an intense part,” she told Variety On The Carpet presented by DIRECTV. “I worked with an acting coach, and we broke down the character.”
Jena Malone, who plays the sibling of Stewart’s character, detailed how they formed their sisterly bond.
“We tackled each other a lot. It was very tactile,” she said. “We have a kindred spirit.”
Dave Franco, who has played degenerate characters in comedies like “Neighbors” and “21 Jump Street,” says JJ — who is married to Malone’s Beth — is the worst of them all.
“He’s a very bad person. He’s a degenerate,” Franco said. “You should not sympathize with this guy.”
Glass, who wrote and directed the film, said she wanted to send up the idea of a “strong female character.”
“It’s a very oversimplified, slightly hollow term,” she told Variety. To subvert that particular trope, she started with having “this very literally strong woman, and then find ways of peeling that apart. Strength for strength’s sake is kind of meaningless and the messy reality is more interesting.”
During the Saturday night premiere, held at the Eccles Center, the audience cheered several times for triumphant character moments, laughed at the dark humor and squirmed in their seats during the many ultra-gory scenes.
Following the screening, Glass and the cast gathered for a brief Q&A, where one audience member asked about the use of violence in the film.
“It is a violent film,” Glass said. “Violence can be great fun in films. There are so many different people whose jobs and expertise go into it: we had amazing VFX and stunt coordinators, and the sound design is genius and had a particularly good effect. Every department, you just have to try to push it to the max.”
Malone spoke about the joy she felt watching the film with the Sundance crowd, saying, “I’m just so incredibly moved by the film. I think it is so beautiful and powerful to see with this incredible audience, and it was the best script I ever read, hands down.”
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the Q&A was when Franco, who plays a character he referred to as “the biggest fucking asshole of all time,” talked about trying to figure out backstory and motivation with Glass, even if it didn’t end up on the screen.
“We talked about, ‘Yes, this guy is terrible, but why is he like that? What happened in his childhood? He probably experienced his own violence’…” at which Stewart interrupted him, grabbing her mic to jokingly tell him to “Shut the fuck up!” The theater erupted in laughter, but Stewart encouraged him to keep talking about his process after the ad-lib.
“Love Lies Bleeding” is opening in theaters on March 8. Watch Variety‘s interview with Glass at the premiere below.