Art

‘Deep Water’ director Adrian Lyne: ‘When your actors fall in love, you pray they don’t fall out of love before the end of filming’

DInside parties must have been so boring before Adrian Lyne. The British filmmaker is the king of provocative scenarios, each of his films is based on a central question. are you having an affair Would you totally submit to someone else’s desires? Would you spend a night with a stranger for a million dollars? A former ad executive – he shot jeans and candy bar commercials in the 1970s – Lyne is also unbeatable when it comes to striking imagery: Fateful attraction‘s Boiled Bunny, Mickey Rourke feeds Kim Basinger various gloop in front of the fridge in 9½ weeksJennifer Beals drenched under a bucket of water lightning dance, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson roll over on a money-covered bed Unmoral offer. This pop video pomp is one of the great joys of his work.

But where the hell was he? It’s been 20 years Unfaithful, Lyne’s last film, and the kind of big-budget marriage pot boiler that’s set to disappear from theaters with it. Since then, American studio films have been in an erotic drought. Lyne may have always been at loggerheads with US censors, but his exodus — which was finally broken with the Ben Affleck/Ana de Armas romp Deep water, which arrived on Prime Video this week, had less to do with puritans and more to do with tanning. “I have a farmhouse in southern France and I love it,” says the 81-year-old today with the inexplicable baby face. “I’ve lived there, written there, worked on projects that didn’t happen.” He shrugs at his zoom camera, zebra-patterned pillows giving a glimpse of the decor in his Manhattan apartment.

At first he was nervous that modern cinema might not have a place for him. As he prepared for it Deep water9½ weeks weighed on his ego. There are two versions of the 1986 film: a neutered cut that was released in America and was immediately bombed, and a perverted, more harrowing cut that was released in Europe. It ran in theaters there for years, inspiring an entire generation to invest in blindfolds and whipped cream. “It was gutted in America – it didn’t mean anything because every trace of sadomasochism had to be removed,” he recalls. “So I was worried [about Deep Water]. People tend to want to take the bumps out of the script, and the bumps are always the most interesting thing.”

Loosely inspired by a novel by Patricia Highsmith, Deep water is a kinky melodrama about a married couple who despise each other. Affleck’s Vic is a horned scientist with a collection of pet snails in his basement. Melinda from De Armas is a bored seductress with a litany of lovers who all seem dead. There’s something exciting about Lyne returning to this narrative after such a long time, but his involvement is also a bit of a monkey paw situation. Yes, he did a movie again, but Deep water is about as arousing as a case of syphilis, while there is little of the stylish glamor that characterized his earlier work. Critics are divided. The audience will likely follow suit.

However, Lyne is proud of it. “It’s a very bizarre film—certainly the weirdest film I’ve ever made.” He was drawn to Highsmith’s novel because it was a “great read,” but was quick to deconstruct it. For one, it’s set in the present rather than the 1950s, while Lyne heightened Vic and Melinda’s mutual animosity. It’s more of a balanced affair, albeit lacking the queer subtext that made the source material so erotically charged. Highsmith’s violent ending was also scrapped, Lyne decided to round out his film on an ambiguous note. Some early viewers have speculated that an entire third act may have been lost in the edit, but Lyne says they finally cut the film, leaving the few scenes on the cutting room floor – none of which would have led to another climax – sound like they’re not that important anyway. If he could, he admits, he would edit his own work “forever.”

Affleck and De Armas at least have some wicked, combustible chemistry. Their well-publicized off-screen affair also gives the proceedings a nice, fresh look. The couple met on set in 2019 and then dated for just over a year. Affleck got back together with his ex, Jennifer Lopez, shortly after their split, and he and De Armas haven’t publicly (or for the most part) known each other Deep water) since Affleck’s brother Casey was photographed toss a life-size cardboard cutout of De Armas in a trash can. It was a relationship with far crazier twists than the film they made together. Lyne wasn’t too concerned when they eventually broke up. “Any movie where your actors fall in love, just pray they don’t fall out of love before the end of filming.”

He felt they shared a common attraction from their very first screen test, which Lyne filmed at his Los Angeles home. “There was a sweetness between them, but with an edge,” he recalls. De Armas was in the role while Affleck watched from the sidelines. “She was sitting on the bed putting lotion on and swearing at him and Ben was so mesmerized by her. He watched, and she could be good, you know? On the third or fourth take, they just said, ‘I’m going in.’ He wanted to be a part of the scene and engage with it. It wasn’t a love scene or anything. He just wanted to be a part of that chemistry.” The rest, much like that poor Ana de Armas snippet, is history.

Adrian Lyne directs Ben Affleck on the set of ‘Deep Water’

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Adrian Lyne directs Ben Affleck on the set of Deep Water

(Amazon)

Despite his initial concerns, production is on Deep water went smoothly, although the presence on set of an intimacy coordinator — an impartial expert who oversees and advises on the physical interaction between actors — initially confused Lyne. “It implies a lack of trust, which I loathed,” he explains. “That’s all I have with my actors – they trust me and I trust them completely. But in the end it wasn’t a big deal.”

It’s a far cry from how it used to be. In her 2019 memoir from the inside to the outsideDemi Moore recalled Lyne directing her in a sex scene with Woody Harrelson Unmoral offer. “He literally wouldn’t stop talking – practically yelling – while we were filming the sex scenes,” she wrote. Lyne would say things like “F***ing raunchy!” and “Oh god, have a boner on it!” Moore was thrown off, but only first. “Here was this guy who was sweating all over and getting upset and yelling about boners. But once I got used to it, I saw its benefits: letting Adrian continue like this took the focus off my own awkwardness.”

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When I tell Lyne Moore’s anecdote, he blushes. Got the idea? “Yes,” he replies shyly. “But I’ve always hated it when actors act in such silence. Or very grumpy and then wondering if her butt looks good or if her thighs sag. So I’m always kind of a cheerleader. Sometimes I say, ‘It’s good! That’s good!’” He claps his hands like an enthusiastic judge at the Sex Olympiad. “You can feel her confidence stepping up, so it’s a better scene. I do that a lot.” He once described his relationship with Glenn Close and Michael Douglas on the set of Fateful attraction as “menage a trois”. “Not really!” Lyne gasps. “But what’s really important is getting that close, like you’re like her husband, her wife and her psychiatrist – that’s when it starts to work.”

He wants to do it more often. He promises that there won’t be any longer breaks. He stares at the camera lens and smiles crookedly. “I mean, I dare not.”

“Deep Water” is available to stream on Prime Video starting Friday, March 18th

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