All of Us Strangers director Andrew Haigh on casting ‘brilliant’ Paul Mescal opposite Andrew Scott
All of Us Strangers writer and director Andrew Haigh has spoken to PinkNews about his “personal” connection to the script, casting lead duo Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott, and filming “safe” sex scenes.
All of Us Strangers is loosely inspired by Taichi Yamada’s ghostly 1987 novel, and was even given the award-winning author’s stamp of approval in the lead-up to the film’s premiere. The adaptation follows screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott), whose encounter with his neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal) sparks a relationship that unravels his life.
Alongside their burgeoning romance, Adam regularly returns to his childhood home where he communes with the spirits of his dead parents (played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), preserved as the same age they were 30 years ago when they suddenly died in a car accident.
Filmmaker Andrew Haigh (Looking, Weekend) has told PinkNews why Mescal was the perfect person to star opposite Scott, who is already known for his tender and nuanced portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in previous roles.
“He’s just Paul Mescal so you’re like, yeah. Why wouldn’t you?” Haigh said while at the BFI London Film Festival premiere.
“Who wouldn’t want Paul Mescal as their boyfriend? Let’s face it, anybody would want Paul Mescal as their boyfriend. But also he’s a fantastic actor and I knew he would understand the role and he’s just brilliant.”
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Things clicked into place when Haigh and casting director Kahleen Crawford saw the two actors working together. “I love them both, I think they are brilliant actors but it’s about how they work together,” Haigh continued.
“Me and Kahleen spoke a lot about getting the right package. When I met them both to talk about the film, they completely understood their individual characters. And seeing them together, there was just chemistry inherent in their relationship. My job is just enhancing [that].”
Mescal and Scott appear in a handful of sex scenes together in All of Us Strangers – an aspect of filming Haigh grew familiar with during his sensual 2011 film, Weekend.
“We had an intimacy coordinator and she was great,” 50-year-old Haigh said about his approach this time around.
“You just work through those scenes. I’ve filmed a lot of intimate scenes before and you try and get them right and make sure everyone feels safe. And also I make sure they are saying something, story-wise.
“If they are not saying something story-wise, there’s no point in having them. So I made a real effort to make sure that each scene is definitely warranted.”
All of Us Strangers touches on powerful themes around internalised homophobia, childhood trauma, romantic vulnerability and the loneliness many LGBTQ+ people face when they experience rejection and lack of community. Although the original text does not centre a gay couple, for Haigh there was no question.
“I just love the central idea in the novel which is essentially meeting your parents again and I decided to expand that into something that felt personal to me. [I wanted] to talk about queerness and what it’s like to be different from your family and all those ideas.
“And so I always take each project and make it my own and that’s what I wanted to do with this novel and hopefully it works. The film is about a person in his late 40s, and I’m 50, about a person that is gay, and I’m gay.”
The parent-child relationships in the film are just as important to the film as Adam and Harry’s romance.
“[Adam has] a complicated relationship with his parents, even before they died, so I just wanted to unpick the complexities of that.”
“[On set there were] a lot of tears. [Foy and Bell] completely embraced those roles so the emotion you feel that comes out in those moments is genuine and authentic. I think they did a beautiful job about bringing that to the surface.”
As for what impact Haigh hopes All of Us Strangers has on LGBTQ+ audiences, he describes the film as a “compassionate love letter” to all the wandering souls trying to find a place to call home and love themselves unapologetically.
“I’ve always wanted it to be a compassionate love letter to anyone that is queer to say, ‘look I know it’s not easy’,” he added.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are, whether you are 18 or 50. It’s a hard journey and it takes time to come to terms with who you are and to feel comfortable in the world.”
All of Us Strangers arrives in UK cinemas on 26 January, 2024.
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