Sitting across from me in one of the beautiful suites located at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills is Irish actor Jack Reynor. Sitting adjacent from me, Jack has an ease about him that instantly made me feel comfortable. That day, I was there to talk to him about his role as Christian in Ari Aster‘s highly anticipated sophomore film MIDSOMMAR.
In MIDSOMMAR, Jack’s character, Christian, is in a relationship that has begun to unravel. After a tragedy unfolds, they, along with Christian’s college friends, fly to a rural town in Sweden for a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival. Not long after they arrive, their trip unfolds into a hallucinatory nightmare that devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre situation at the hands of a pagan cult.
During our chat, Jack and I discussed everything from his character’s persona to the 40-minute sex scene, which convinced Jack to take on the role, as well as his experience working closely with actress Florence Pugh.
It’s such a pleasure to speak with you today. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character, Christian?
Jack Reynor: Christian is a young American man who is in a dissolving relationship with Dani (played by Florence Pugh) and just at the moment when it feels like their relationship is going to end, there is a profound tragedy in her life. Christian is faced with this choice…well, it’s not really a choice [he knows] he’s going to have to stick in this with her, it’s the right thing to do or at least society would dictate that it’s the right thing to do at that moment. He does what we would consider “doing the right thing” but Christian is not the right guy to do the right thing.
What was it about the Christian that drew you to the role?
Jack Reynor: I think that each of us has, at different moments, been Christian and Dani. We are all human beings and we are all capable of insensitivity and we are all capable of not being what our partner needs us to be and failing in our responsibilities as one half of a relationship between two people. Also, we can all relate to tragedy and we can all relate to emotional needs and we can all relate to trauma. I think that there are elements of both of the characters in all of us. For me, the interest was in trying to portray Christian in such a way where he’s not entirely one dimensional. Where you can see that he might be a well-meaning guy but he’s just maybe a bit self-involved. He’s ready to get out of a relationship and rediscover his own autonomy, that’s kind of who he is. The challenge is to find a way to not make him just somebody you completely write off as an antagonist.
There are a lot of themes, symbolism, and pagan-like rituals in MIDSOMMAR. Did you do any type of specific research to prepare for your role?
Jack Reynor: There are two parts to this. The reality of it is Christian and the rest of these guys that come to Sweden have never experienced anything like this before. [Because of that] I didn’t think there was a necessity to delve into research about Swedish paganism. As it happens I come from Ireland where pre-Christian paganism is a thing and there is a resurgence of it right now. A lot of my friends subscribe to that paganism and we do all kinds of really interesting pagan and seasonal festivals which I love. So, I’m well-versed in that culture but it wasn’t necessary to bring that to the role for me.
Christian goes through some interesting changes throughout the film, especially towards the end. Can you elaborate on that a bit and what that experience was like?
Jack Reynor: The sex scene was the reason why I signed on for the film. I watch a lot of movies, I’m a real cinephile, and there are not many instances in the history of film where a male character suffers through the same kind of expositional and humiliating fate that you see so many females experience in film. I go back to a couple of different examples but the one that really sticks out for me is The Last House on the Left, the Wes Craven film from 1973, which is just such a difficult watch. You’re thinking about how these two young girls actually went through this to film this and it is so explicitly expositional of their bodies along with this awful sexual violence that they suffer before their characters die. Ultimately, the pay off in the film, where the male characters who have done it to them are killed as revenge, is nothing like what those girls had to go through. For me, signing on to this film was an opportunity to portray a male character who was being humiliated for a forty-minute-long sequence. It’s a long sequence that gets worse and worse and gets really humiliating and expositional and difficult. That was the main reason that I wanted to do it. The full frontal nudity is, again, not something that you see very often in contemporary cinema that is going to open wide, so I was advocating for as much of that full-frontal nudity for that reason. It was something that Ari [Aster] always intended to put into the film and I think that was very important. It’s something that makes the film a unique experience.
For better or worse, depending on what outcome you want, Christian and Dani are what the main focal point of this film is about. That said, what was it like working so closely with Florence Pugh on MIDSOMMAR?
Jack Reynor: It was great, I love Florence, she’s such a good pal. There’s nobody I would have wanted to be in this film with more. She’s just a profoundly brilliant actress. We have a really great relationship with each other and a really warm relationship. I think that lent itself to the tone of heartbreak between the two of us in regards to portraying such a dysfunctional relationship. Every day we were saying, “God, it’s awful to be so callous towards you” (laughs).
Lastly, was there a scene when filming that you were excited to see finally come together on the big screen?
Jack Reynor: Yeah, the sex scene. It took two weeks to shoot it so I was living in that space for two weeks where it’s the drugs and the fear of a bad trip and then going into a bad trip with people who are behaving in a hostile way towards you. Then going into this really difficult sexual environment where it is exposition and all that humiliation and then pure unadulterated horror and then ultimately the paralysis and then all of the regret and difficult emotions. To try and play that all in the eyes, that’s a hell of a challenge but that’s why I wanted to do it.
MIDSOMMAR arrives in theaters July 3, 2019 and you can read our review here.