Tuesday, November 28, 2023
HomeInterviewsThe Good Nurse : Q&A with Actors Eddie Redmayne, Jessica Chastain, Nnamdi...

The Good Nurse : Q&A with Actors Eddie Redmayne, Jessica Chastain, Nnamdi Asomugha and Director Tobias Lindholm

Synopsis : Suspicious that her colleague is responsible for a series of mysterious patient deaths, a nurse risks her own life to uncover the truth in this gripping thriller based on true events.

Rating: R
Genre: Crime, Drama, Biography
Original Language: English
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Producer: Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Michael A. Jackman
Writer: Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Release Date (Theaters): Oct 19, 2022 Limited
Release Date (Streaming): Oct 26, 2022
Runtime: 1h 56m
Distributor: Netflix

Q&A with Actors Eddie Redmayne, Jessica Chastain, Nnamdi Asomugha and Director Tobias Lindholm

Q: The film is gripping and intense in so many ways. How did you approach adapting this amazing and intense real-life story through Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ adaptation of the book [The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber]? What did you see thematically that resonated with you?

TL: I read Kristy’s script about seven years ago. I realized that she had put out stepping stones for a story that I hadn’t seen before: a serial killer movie that reminded me of my mom [laughter]. It’s a movie about kindness and insisting on true human values. That became my way in. I read Charles Graeber’s fantastic book, and then called the real Amy. I had to get something confirmed. In many ways it almost seemed like it was too good to be true. Not too good in the sense of what Charlie Cullen did, but too good in the sense of why did you do this, with Redmayne’s character, you’ve just seen how she gets him to confess by reminding him of his own humanity. It felt too perfect. The devil is… she confirmed it was the truth, and I called Krysty.

Then what we did — and this is why it took us seven years to get here — was to get rid of all the clichés from the series and the movies. [That’s] all the scenes we had that were references to other movies, that would prove we were slaves to this structure; instead [we found] the real-life scenes. The scenes at the hospital, for example, and the scenes that would tell Amy’s story — the scenes that would introduce Charlie as the friendly person he was to Amy and build it from there. It became a hero’s journey, most clearly [with] Amy as the hero, [showing] her journey from being a very frightened person to becoming a hero who stops the hero’s special friend.

Q: Jessica, what was your approach for getting into the character of Amy? I’m sure she was interested to meet you. Did you talk to her as you were researching, and dealing with the process of it all?

JC: I had the great fortune of talking to Amy. I’ve played a lot of real characters in true stories. I remember I’ve acted one — you know, playing a scene from someone’s life, while they were at the monitor watching me do it. Ohhh, that was very stressful.

Eddie and I went to nursing school. We spent two weeks doing that, because it was very needed. I asked a nurse, “What’s the one thing Hollywood always gets wrong? Machines right away?” “Yeah, that’s the number one thing here they get wrong. You’re never supposed to nick your elbows. keep them straight, use your core.” So yeah, I went to nursing school, read the book, did all of that dry research learning about cardiomyopathy from medical professionals.

I asked Amy early on, “Why were you working as a night nurse?” And she said, “I wanted my girls to think they had a stay-at-home mom.” It was like the heart of the movie for me. She works all night taking care of other people, she comes home, and while her kids are at school she’s cleaning the house, does the laundry, shopping, and when they come home, she’s taking care of them. Never is she able to take care of herself. Also we’re not taking care of her. I thought it must be so beautiful, [to be] a person with compassion for others, the way she looks after others. It was a huge break and I kept thinking about her heart. Her heart wasn’t doing well, and yet she has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve really ever known.

Q: That’s the thematic complement in the film and most beautiful, too, such that the long hours and crazy stress on caregivers and nurses like Amy. As they have other people’s lives in their hands, they are trying to find a work-life balance, often doing it as best they can but it’s hard on them. They’re trying to find that way into it. It’s a very honest and emotional demand.

JC: Oh, absolutely. We made it somewhat near to the end of the pandemic, and Tobias really knows how to stick actors’ feet to the fire, because he put a lot of healthcare workers in the scenes with us. We really used them to look like we knew what we were doing. It was an acknowledgement and  tribute to them. We were really moved by the work that they do.

TL: Amy enters Holly’s room, fluffs her pillows, turns around and leaves. I could see that as another beat in the life of this hospital nurse. There’s a whole story about how Jessica would have my back as well, because the interest really bears on us seeing these actions.

JC: [Holly] was the one in a coma.

TL:She was in a coma, as Jess just said. Then I would find a monitor; I wanted this to be quickly done so we could move on. Then Amy enters and she starts to speak to Holly. “Hey Holly, it’s Amy. I’m just going to turn you around.” And for a minute they were like, “What?”

Then I realized how magical it was, how true and real it was. It humanized both our patient Holly but also Amy. We understood that she brings humanity to work every day no matter how hard she’s working or how much pressure she’s under. That all came from under a little bit, slightly, if you hack the two monitors that we have on set like that.

Q: There’s so much to Charlie. How did you get into the mindset of this very upsetting serial killer in a way that the story calls for? We have to feel comfortable with him and find his truth to be surprising, obviously, as Amy does. What was the process of getting into that and finding the roots of Charlie?

ER: I can barely think I expected to play against someone lovely. I believe that the starting point was the book by Charles Graeber, the last third of which is our story, that you saw this evening. The other two-thirds are a kind of actor’s dream, in a sense: an intensely detailed biography of Charlie’s life, his childhood and his trauma and all of these extraordinary things. If you’re interested in his story, it really is worth reading this book. You can’t believe that this man was ever left alone with people.

But for me, I started then, and we had footage and psychiatric reports, all of this unfurled, and [it was] so much to work with. [I went to] Michael Buster, a dialect coach in Los Angeles who worked with me on Charlie’s voice specifically. I’m one of those actors that needs a long runway. I’m not one of those actors who can jump into accents every day. It takes me a lot. I have to learn it like music.

And [Charlie] had a very specific physicality and it’s hard work. This wonderful woman, a doctor who I first worked with on “The Theory of Everything” named Alexandra Reynolds, who referred to this beautiful image that’s in the book of Charlie looking like a question mark. From that we watched all the footage together. We did days of work in London before we came over. And she said this stunning thing, “It’s almost like all of his tension is being held up by the nape of his neck” — which was a wonderfully written physicalizing of him. But we did all of that prep, which is a joy to play. Then Jess and I went to nursing school. Tobias is one of those very rare directors who demands a month of rehearsal from his producers, so that’s carved out so that we had the time to rehearse very thoroughly.

Then I got to meet the real Amy and she was extraordinary. She said, “Listen, this man was my friend. I loved him. He was kind and empathetic, he was a fastidious nurse. He saved my life. And then I met another human being twice. This man was…” She describes him as being arrogant, and it’s like something shifted over in his eyes and he turned into a different human being. [She was] describing him as dissociative. It meant that Jess and I could lean into the truth of the friendship. Like with the real Amy, that friendship was everything and is everything. Tobias, Jess and I discussed that.

Q: Your physicality is in the role. You mentioned the question mark, how you bent in on yourself and [showed that] quality Charlie had of blending into his surroundings. Talk about that physicality and the feeling that there’s a danger you don’t see in him [at first] and in the way he walks through those halls is a danger signal.

ER: Tobias and I talked. There’s a James Dean film, “Giant”, which I think is extraordinary. There’s an amazing moment in it when he’s plotting out his area of land. It’s shot from below, and you see his physicality. Everything bleeds out of that image, and you get a real sense of someone’s character from it.

What I loved about this script is, even though Charlie had this gigantic, very filmed biography, this is not the story that we’re telling. This wasn’t the story that Krysty meant to write. She is one of those wonderful directors who believes in actors and in the space around things to overwrite that allows you to find, certainly, the idea that you were going to see this man in these hallways. You need to read from that, which was really important.

Q: Nnamdi Asomugha plays Danny Baldwin, one of the detectives investigating the serial deaths. What did your character face as the real Danny, and was there something for you to hold on to in how the police found the story?

NA: Tobias said we were going to go to detective school but [we didn’t], we never had any [training]. I blame it on Covid. I blame it on my partner, Noah Emmerich, who plays the detective Tim Braun. I did a lot of research for the detective work, but didn’t get to meet Danny until two weeks into the shoot. I developed the character and read the book that everyone else read. The first day he showed up, he comes up to me and starts crying, saying, “You look like my son.” That’s heavy. He said his son had passed away. He was a lacrosse player in high school, and it was a warm day and he was running around, and collapsed on the field. The ambulance comes and they go to the hospital, and an hour later, he’s passed away. And he couldn’t believe it.

The fact that he felt that connection was enough for me. I spent time with him talking that day and some days after. I think having Amy there on set also really helped. We all pulled something from her in terms of how the detectives worked with her, the doors never getting shut in their faces, and what they did from their places. There was a lot of research, but meeting Danny was, I think, the big one for me.

Q: We could really see Danny Baldwin thinking through the problems, like so many great detectives in our culture. There’s moments when you’re talking to hospital administrators about making decisions and working things through. You were seeing people coming over even as they’re stonewalling you — they’re not telling the truth. You can see beyond what they’re saying.

NA: Yeah, but that is not something I learned. I remember there was a scene — I believe with the three of us — at the end when [Charlie] is confessing and I’m just in the background. It’s like a 10-minute scene. One of the most difficult things I’m learning is to just be in the moment. I don’t know if I said anything in the entire scene, but they turned the camera on me and I saw that I would have to listen for 10 minutes. It’s got to be interesting because it’s very surprising.

We finished, and Tobias turns to me and says, “You’re a great listener.” It meant a lot to me in that moment. When you don’t have words as an answer — words are a threat sometimes, and you can’t use that. When you don’t have that, you really have to show that you can be in the moment to do that, to get that encouragement.

Q: As much as the film is about a killer, there’s other themes going on like how institutions are. There’s a sense that Charlie is saying, “I did it because they couldn’t stop me.” It’s about letting Amy down because she can’t take time off for her condition.

TL: Thematically, I’ve always been drawn to these stories about how individuals show up. My father taught me one thing about it: once in a while, life gives you opportunities to show who you are, and you’d better meet those moments. In this case, Amy met that moment and this story is about that. For me, this story is about a system that’s failing, and about how everybody tries to push the problem away, not necessarily because they’re aloof, but because they need to protect whatever they have in this life. There is suddenly, the weakest one of us all on paper: a struggling single mom with a heart condition working nights — and she’s the one taking responsibility?  That became my reason to do this, and that’s the overall theme of the film.

I always think that these systems were built together — institutions, societies, medical systems —  and seem to turn on us if we, as individuals, don’t live up to our responsibility in them. They insist on that. That’s the theme of our historian, and she’s not here. But I’d love to give a shout out to Kim Dickens for her [work]. She had so little to play with. I remember our first Zoom. She was a little hesitant because she didn’t know what I wanted to do. She didn’t want to play the devil in this “institution” — which I get. But we didn’t want to portray the devil, we wanted to portray an institution and she was basically just being a human caught in the same system as everybody else.

Kim came up with a wonderful way of looking at the scenes. She made a drawing for me. At the point when we had this conversation, she had five big scenes. In the first one, I know I’m in trouble but I’m swimming, and I’m fine. In the next one, okay, there seems to be a pattern, I think  I’ll make it. The next one, uh-oh — this might be dangerous, can somebody please help me? And then I realize that I’m going to die. I’m going to go down with the ship, I can do nothing. And there she sits at the end, when she has fired Charlie and is accepting her own death [figuratively]. I felt that that was such a brilliant way of looking at this character because what will they do, which is so important, is that, even though she did play a bad part of this, we have to defend her humanity. We have to understand it, and Kim brought [out] that humanity.

Q: What do you want people to take away from the film?

JC: What really got me so excited to be a part of this story is [that] I love telling women’s stories,  celebrating incredible characters and what they did. I am so grateful that I get to do that in my career. In addition, to acknowledging Amy and her own system and that kind of superhero which we don’t get to see in the media, I was also excited to work with this guy right here [indicates Tobias]. I have seen Tobias’s work and I know his sense of humanity. I’ve seen investigations — I don’t know if any of you have seen his new series “The Investigation.” I highly recommend it, it’s incredible. He’s tackling the genre but being really rebellious with it. I find that we need to do that sometimes, because we get stuck in patterns, and we’ve been stuck in a “true crime” pattern that satisfies the silent.

The media talk about shootings. There’s so much attention put on the person who committed the violence, and very rarely, is it equal to the attention on some person who stops violence. Not only did Amy stop the violence, but she did it in a way that we also don’t acknowledge in the media. She did it with love and compassion.

We’re used to seeing the shootout at the end of the movie, where the bad guy is stopped with a bullet or an act of aggression. She talks to him, and reminds him of his humanity when everyone else is treating him as a monster. {Even with] the lives he has taken, she acknowledges the person that he also became, separate from the terrible things that he also did.

I think I was a healing bomb for our society what with the complicated time we’re living in. I do think it’s our responsibility to look at what we put out into the world and would have been normalized. I look at a filmmaker like Tobias and I’m so inspired that we’ve stolen him from Denmark! I’m so excited and happy now that we’re telling these stories in a responsible way. That’s what I hope people will get from it.

ER: I can’t really add anything to that. I do agree with her. This is a film in which violence is no match for compassion and humanity. That’s what I found astonishing about this. And what Tobias was saying earlier as well, that it’s our responsibility as individuals to find those moments when each of us has to step up.

As to what to take away from the film — I would like to take this moment to say, not only what Jessica was saying about Tobias — he’s a Danish director — but [to note] he did a film on the making of this film that was so unusual and so human in the sense that every week he would call together the cast and the crew and would talk about the week’s work, the storytelling and what the work week was going to involve.

He did this thing, at the end of the first week, he gave a present — I think it was a bottle of wine — to someone in the crew or cast who had specifically helped him with something that week. It shone a spotlight for a moment on that crew member. At the end of the following week, that person gave something to [someone], it could be a gaffer giving something to a costumer. The following week, that person [gave something to another person].

It did this amazing thing — quite often I feel like the fact that we had much more of a sense of theater, of company, of being a group of people working together to tell a story. I’ve never had that before on a film and it was a most extraordinary experience, It’s such an eye-opener to me about how film sets could be. That’s not in any way what should be taken away but I just wanted to say it for the record.

Check out more of Nobuhiro’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.


Nobuhiro Hosoki
Nobuhiro Hosokihttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Nobuhiro Hosoki grew up watching American films since he was a kid; he decided to go to the United States thanks to seeing the artistry of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange.” After graduating from film school, he worked as an assistant director on TV Tokyo’s program called "Morning Satellite" at the New York branch office but he didn’t give up on his interest in cinema. He became a film reporter for via Yahoo Japan News. In that role, he writes news articles, picks out headliners for Yahoo News, as well as interviewing Hollywood film directors, actors, and producers working in the domestic circuit in the USA. He also does production interviews for Japanese distributors of American films and for in-theater on-sale programs. He is now the editor-in-chief of Cinemadailyus.com while continuing his work for Japan.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments