When we cast the actors, we really worked with them, asking them every question, taking notes when they were privately speaking, asking them when we could use things they were saying to each other during the dinners, and also asking them to improvise.
I was never on TikTok, and unfortunately now I’m totally addicted. I was going on all these dating apps. I tried to really swim in the ocean of that whole generation.
Speaking of TikTok, there is a TikTok dance in the movie. How did that end up in the story?
I come from the theater. I’m a collaborator, so when we cast them, I said to them, “Listen, I’m going to make you responsible. You are part of the creation. You’re not just an executioner. You’re also really a part of what this is.”
I think Amandla [Stenberg] came up with that dance, and they all learned it. They made it their own and changed it a little bit.
It’s such a big part of that world. Even now, when we’re doing press, the cast is doing TikTok dances in the hallway.
There are three men in this movie. You’ve got the aforementioned Lee Pace, who’s one of the internet’s biggest crushes right now. You’ve got Conner O’Malley, who has made incredibly funny online videos for years. And then you’ve got Pete Davidson, who is, to some people, the voice of a generation. How much did you think about virality when you were casting those roles? Did you think, “If we get Pete, that will make more people talk about this movie.”
For me, it was very clear from the start that I wanted Pete’s character, David, to represent a kind of masculine toxicity, or being in a toxic relationship and the seduction of that.
I immediately thought of Pete because I always felt he was a little bit underused as an actor. He’s always goofy and great in these films where he has to be a funny stoner, but I thought, “I want to use his dark side.”
With Lee Pace, I just think that he is a great theater actor with proper experience, and he’s also beautiful and irresistible. He could also help us, because we have this very young group of actors, and he could also be a father or a guide or inspiration to all of us.
With Conner O’Malley, I mean, I think he’s the funniest guy. We needed someone who could, with very little screen time, do something important. He’s so dry too. I want to see him in a big role. He has so much talent.
While watching the movie, I couldn’t help wondering how the story would play out online. Like, when news of these murders got out in that universe, would Gawker track down all the characters’ social accounts? Would Alice’s podcast suddenly go viral? I’d love to know.
I was talking to Rachel [Sennott, who plays Alice] the other day, and I was like, “Should we just make the podcast at this point?” That’s the kind of stuff I fantasize about.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.