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Warning: this post contains Girl on the Train spoilers! Many of them!
I interviewed a bunch of the cast members and the director a couple of weeks ago, and got some amazing, long quotes from actor Justin Theroux and director Tate Taylor that really delved into the emotional core of the movie, but I couldn’t publish them then because nobody had seen the movie yet. Now that the movie has been out for two weekends, I’m ready to spill the beans.
I’m presenting these without much context because I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you saw the movie!!
In the movie Justin Theroux plays an absolutely reprehensible bastard. But you don’t find that out until towards the end. And it’s a tricky needle to thread, because he can’t telegraph what an asshole he is as he’s trying to keep suspicion off of himself, but his behavior towards the end of the movie can’t come from absolutely nowhere, either – that wouldn’t really be believable. Given those two factors, I asked him how he approached the role of Tom.
“[There was a] question mark that was over my head as well when I read it, and I was like oh, my God, because he’s not…he’s not sort of that mustache-twisting, like, fucking psychopath, or, you know, he’s not sort of a traditional guy whose life is miserable and then all of a sudden decided to turn to the dark side.
“So, I kept thinking of him as being just obviously incredibly selfish. Like, if you look at the narrative of what their life [was] before we picked them up is, he was in love with a woman who, for whatever reason, their marriage was not working out, whether it was she was having fertility problems, drinking too much, et cetera.
“He was a narcissist that would blame other people for actions that he took. So, if Rachel was stalking him and whatever or his wife was giving him grief about something, he would blame them. You worked with the baby all the time, or you were this, or you were always drunk, so, he never took on any responsibility.
“And that weirdly made it easier because then you can play him just sort of straightforward, as just a white suburban dad in the country who drives a Volvo and doesn’t take in anyone else’s feelings or emotional point of view.
“So, then obviously when he’s presented with the situation that Megan finds herself in, it’s an opportunity killing. It’s a selfish killing when she’s sort of like I’m pregnant. I want to raise the child.
“So, that became pretty straightforward up to that point and made it easier. So, it wasn’t one of those roles where you’re sort of like I’ve got to learn the mind of a serial killer something. It’s not Charles Manson. It’s actually more terrifying that he’s just a normal guy who does something terrible.
“It’s anything you would read in a tabloid daily news type newspaper, you know? Just those horrible stories of people who do a horrible thing.”
The director talked a lot about going from book to movie, how he fleshed things out.
“When the script came to me, I realized that there would be some emotional holes that needed to be filled, that Paula [Hawkins] was able to do things and Erin [Cressida Wilson, screenwriter] had done such a great job at cracking the code of how to begin to structure this. But, my job is, I got to focus on these characters.
“For Megan’s character, I went back to the book a lot. And it was all there. It just wasn’t played out in the full scene. And then with Megan’s character, I knew people would judge her unfavorably. I knew she had big issues.
“But, I was like, you know, what’s the root of everybody’s pain? Why do I think people act out? It’s always something. And I came to the realization that I needed to show what happened to her when she was 17, to really feel that. I mean I said, ‘Hey.’ I said, ‘You’re going to need to just flee, you know, nude in the rain. And it’s not going to be gratuitous. No one’s going to be looking at your body. We got to know why you are like you are.’
“And she agreed.
“And then the biggest one was the gas lighting and realizing that [Rachel] had been lied to. And essentially, I knew the audience had to be really pissed. And we had to have been lied to. And I knew I would really have to create something that just seemed like it was very real.
“And in the book, Paula says simply, ‘Rachel remembers.’ I can’t do that in a movie. So, I went back to the book, and I was reading it. And found this quick little sentence. Rachel simply said–I’m paraphrasing–something to the fact of, and Tom would tell me what I would do at his parties at work. And I went, okay, she is going to really fuck up at a party.
“And I created Martha [Lisa Kudrow] and I just needed that moment where we, for 40 minutes, I wanted people to think, you know what? I kind of understand why Tom, you know, cut the rope. I mean she’s pretty bad.
“So, to have that and then be confused by the fact that you do somehow like her because it’s Emily Blunt so great, then to find out that that was a lie. My idea was that you would be so betrayed and so pissed off, then you would go back and go, oh, but she didn’t and she wasn’t and he–you know, and just to make it messy.
“So, those were the main emotional parts of the story that I had to figure out and create.”