Martin Wood is the director of the new crime thriller Double Life starring Javicia Leslie and Pascale Hutton. The story follows a widow who finds out from her late husband’s mistress that his death was not an accident. Both women work together to unmask the truth behind the man they both loved.
I got to chat with Martin about the film.
What was it that drew you to the script for Double Life?
I was offered a thriller for Paramount and was given three scripts to look at and this one was head and shoulders above the other two; the other two were good scripts. But what drew me to this was two female warriors, two female protagonists and the ability to be able to put them into a situation that was not predictable. It kept the audience on the edge of their seats, and kept you rooting for both of them, even though they fall in and out of a relationship with each other. That’s really what drew me to this one.
Generally, what do you look for in a script to be interested in directing a project?
What I look for in a script is often something different. I’m looking for something that appeals to me on an emotional level, for one thing, that’s a big important part of it. To a lesser extent, something that I can visualize, right off the bat, when I read a script. I read scripts all the time, when I’m reading it, if I can see the scenes happen in it, and I’m engaged with the characters and things, those are the kinds of things I look for in a script. In a case like this with Double Life, I was looking for how different it was than most thrillers. The fact that it takes us back to a type of thriller that we all grew up with, but we don’t see that often anymore, that I really appreciated and can find joy in making. So yeah, I think it’s first on an emotional level that it appeals to me. Then secondly, I can see how I can make a cool movie out of it.
Pascale Hutton was wonderful as Sharon making her immediately sympathetic and real. Why was she the perfect choice for this role?
That’s an interesting story. Because Pascale and I have done lots of stuff together, we’ve done three series together. We’ve done a number of movies together and have known each other for almost 15 or 16 years. Pascale was not in this movie until a week before; we had originally gone out to Tricia Helfer with this and it was because I saw a different type of character in this. I saw her as a little less vulnerable and a little bit more capable of dealing with what happened to her, and then having this other monumental warrior woman come into her life with the two of them having to be with each other for the entire duration in the movie. Tricia got hurt just a week before we started shooting, called me and said, “Look, I can still do the movie, I think I can still do it”. But when you look at it, you go, this is a running jump, you can’t have a bad knee with this and any other time, Pascale would have not been this character. When Trisha very graciously bowed out because she realized that it was a run and jump movie, and she wasn’t going to be able to do it until she healed.
What ended up happening for me was I ended up scrambling and going “I know who could do this” and quite honestly, Pascale was in the back of my head when I read it the first time. She and I had done a series called Arctic Air where I had a situation where it was this devastating thing that she had to deal with. I put her in these terrible situations that she beautifully acted her way through. When I called her and said, “Hey, what are you doing for the next month? want to do a movie? (laughs)”. She read it and just jumped at it immediately and said “yes, I do and this is great role for me”. That’s when she came into it and I effortlessly plugged her into that movie in my head. It was fun to do once I had the two women in mind for it.
I love Javicia Leslie as Jo, she could really take care of herself in the action scenes. Did her previous experience in Batwoman help with that and did she require any extra training for the role?
Javicia absolutely didn’t require any training for this. In fact, I had to take her ability and dumb it down a little bit because she was too good at it. We ended up putting lines into the film to explain how come she was so good at it. When we got into the fight sequences, I very much saw where her Batwoman training came in. She was loving it and wanted to do more, I had her some woman from that woman here to do some of the work. Quite honestly, Javicia Leslie kept saying, “no, no, I’m gonna do it”. Then when I did the first cut, the studio looked at it, and they sort of went, “she’s too good at this to be who she is”. I realized that as well and had to recut it and put more lines into the script about “how did you become so good at this?”. “It was because my boyfriend taught me and showed me how to punch and shoot” but Javicia given her natural bent as Batwoman would have taken both their heads off either with the punch or a bullet the first time around so, that had to be dumbed down.
Following on from that, I thought the fight on the stairs was awesome. Can you talk us through creating that?
Well, you never saw was the fight in the stairs the way I saw it (laughs), because it was this beautiful ballet between this woman who knew how to fight and these men who knew how to fight and there was a lot of rough and tumble that you didn’t actually get to see in the movie because Javicia is so good at fighting. So, what I had to do is make it that he had the upper hand on her. Quite honestly, if you saw the way that we choreographed it (because it was very heavily choreographed) I could use Javicia or her stunt double to do some of the bigger moves. I would say you’re only seeing probably about half of the fight that actually happened. In order to take some of the best moves out of it just because it was something that the Jo couldn’t know, without having a lot of training. So, there is a lot of choreography that goes into a scene like that, in order to A) create a cool fight scene and B) tell the story of who these two characters are and C) not hurt anybody. Not that safety’s last, I’m saying that those are the three elements that really have to go into it. So, it was fairly heavily choreographed. Our stunt coordinator did it with our stunt men and with Javicia and with Javicia’s stunt double, and almost everything you see in this movie is Javicia doing those things because again, she’s had lots of training in it.
I thought Javicia Leslie and Pascale Hutton made a great team. Why do you think they worked so well together?
I think because they are so opposite and I think that there’s two elements here; one is talking about the reason that the two of them fit together so well, you have to talk about Jo and Sharon, who need to be exact opposites. Then you talk about Pascale and Javicia who are not opposite, and who really enjoy each other from the second that they sort of sat down with each other and come from slightly opposite places but found great community and being with each other. The difference between Jo and Sharon is exemplified in the production design of Jo’s apartment where she’s this artist with this very freeform kind of thing then you see Sharon, who’s this very regimented, all clean lines and things like that. Jo has all these compound curves in her life metaphorically and emotionally and you put these two women together and the audience is way ahead of them, knowing what the truth is. But you see these two people come together in dire circumstances. You see the friendship almost immediately in that scene in the cemetery. You see it almost immediately that there is a friendship that could happen here and we all know how dangerous it is. “Did you know my husband?” “Yes”. “Want to go for a drink?” “No… Yes” and the audience is going “nooo (laughs)”.
I would love to see more of them possibly in future investigations. Would you be interested in returning to these characters at all?
Absolutely, absolutely. What’s funny is that near the end of shooting this movie, I was thinking about where they could go next and why they would be together. I have a number of scenarios in my head for why that would happen. I would love to put those two together again, I’d love to put Javicia and Pascale together. We had a ton of fun making this movie and I would also like to put Jo and Sharon together because that relationship as much as it starts out fire and water, it becomes something much different. You kind of want to see what happens tomorrow on it. So yes, absolutely. I would love to do that.
How did you work with the composer to get the right music for the film?
This composer I’ve worked with a great deal Hamish Thompson, and we have done any number of genres together. Hamish and I have a very specific way of working with each other where I have an initial meeting with him. Generally, when we’re into prep of a movie, where I say, “this is the tone that I want. This is what I’m talking about in terms of tone”. I tell him a tonal quality of the movie; this is the relationship I want. I want Jo’s voice to be this, and I want Sharon’s voice to be this musically, but not ever being specific because I’m terrible with that. I can’t say, “oh, use this instrument to make his voice work”. All I can do is act out who they are for him and he has a way of taking this visual that I’ve given him and turning it into what you hear. He experiments a lot with different world music and all that kind of stuff. I very much appreciate that Hamish’s talent lies well beyond mine. I am Saliery to his Mozart in this kind of thing where I know what I want to hear in this kind of tonal balance and he knows how to put it actually into tones. There’s a lot of prep that goes into it for him on his end and for me on my end. But generally, what happens is, he comes up with stuff and I sit down and listen to it and always the very first time I go in and sit in his studio with him. The first time I’m able to hear the things that he does I’m overjoyed. Every time I have never been disappointed “Oh, that kind of fell flat for me”. That’s never happened, and I hope it never does because he’s a genius.
Lastly, what would you like audiences to take away from the film?
That’s an interesting question to ask a director because what I want them to take away is the joy of the journey between these two women; the audience starts out in the first five minutes of this ahead of the two characters. Generally, there’s no joy in that for an audience to be that far ahead but the thrill of this thriller is they can’t see what’s coming. They know what has to happen, but they can’t tell when it’s going to happen, or how it’s going happen and they’re constantly on the edge of their seats going “Now, are you gonna tell you the truth? Now is it’s gonna happen. Now she’s gonna find out”. Right after that happens there’s this other thing that’s happening where people are trying to kill them so let’s figure out the rest of that. It’s just a fun romp. It’s a great way to follow these two absolute warrior women into battle, that don’t have any reason to be together, and they are. So, it’s the enjoyment of that that I’m hoping audiences take away.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat and all the best with the film.
DOUBLE LIFE hits Theaters and on Digital May 5 and On Demand on May 19.