Patricia Arquette encouraged her cast to get a little gonzo on the set of “Gonzo Girl.”
Arquette makes her feature directorial debut with the adaptation of Cheryl Della Pietra’s 2015 novel of the same name, which is inspired by journalist Pietra’s experience working as Hunter S. Thompson’s assistant. Willem Dafoe stars as the Thompson stand-in, named Walker Reade in the book, with “Daisy Jones and the Six” Emmy nominee Camila Morrone as the author-slash-aforementioned assistant, Alley Russo. The film is premiering at TIFF and also stars Ray Nicholson and Elizabeth Lail, as well as director Arquette.
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Morrone told Interview magazine that Arquette cast her after a single audition tape and before meeting via Zoom or in-person. Arquette encouraged co-stars Morrone and Dafoe to do “crazy experimental rehearsals” to hone in on the tumultuous relationship onscreen.
“Willem is such an experienced artist. I just thought, ‘How the hell am I going to show up with these professionals and make them proud?'” Morrone said. “I saw them both the first day and said, ‘You guys, I’m so terrified and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing so please just bear with me while I figure it out.’ Patricia put me and Willem in a rehearsal room and we did trust exercises and crazy experimental rehearsals.”
She continued, “We broke the ice on the first day. I walked into rehearsal and she was like, ‘Will and Cami, let’s do this.’ And we just started doing the hardest scenes in the movie, screaming, chasing each other around to loosen up and get comfortable. I learned just by watching Willem. It’s freak-of-nature how good that man is at connecting.”
As for working with Arquette as a director, Morrone added, “I can’t put her into words. I’ve never met a more soulful, unique person in my life. She’s more than just an actor. She, as a human, is the most worldly, the most cultured, the most intelligent, the most articulate. I’ve learned a lot from just asking her about life and listening to her point of view. And then it’s always interesting when an artist who is so established in their field already tries a new field. With this, she was tapping into another part of her artistry, and I think that she made a really special film.”
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