Maggie Gyllenhaal discussed her motivation and inspiration for choosing drama The Lost Daughter as her directorial debut at the film’s touching Venice Film Festival press conference (whose live stream died toward the end).
Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard and Paul Mescal star in the story of a woman whose beach vacation takes a dark turn when she begins to confront the troubles of her past and the nature of parenthood.
Oscar nominee Gyllenhaal also produced the project and adapted the script which is based on the eponymous 2006 novel by Elena Ferrante, the acclaimed, anonymous author with whom Gyllenhaal corresponded by letter ahead of the film.
Gyllenhaal said that she first read Ferrante’s books years ago, connecting with the main characters. “I thought ‘Oh my god this woman is so fucked up. Then a millisecond later I thought, ‘Oh no, I really relate to her, does that make me fucked up? Then I realized that many people have this experience and nobody talks about it. These are secret truths about a feminine experience.”
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Gyllenhaal said that she learned during the filmmaking process, “That I’ve always been a director, but I didn’t feel entitled to admit it to myself. Weirdly, it was playing porn director Candy on The Deuce when I said ‘this is me actually, this is a better job.’”
The actress and director noted Mike Nichols as a filmmaker she “holds up”.
Given the film’s themes, Gyllenhaal’s husband Peter Sarsgaard was asked to comment on the challenge of parenthood but, in an emotional speech, instead took the opportunity to praise his wife.
“We are both parents of two lovely children….I think it was such an enormous pleasure to see Maggie really fulfil her talent…I think that’s all I have to say or I’ll cry…For so long people have known what an excellent actress she is. But being around her is truly inspiring. These actors know she has an eye for an unconventional truth. There’s the easy truth we use every day. But then there’s what is actually going on. She is unbelievably inspiring. That’s about it.”
Gyllenhaal was asked about casting her husband in the film: “To be completely honest, there was a moment when I thought maybe it’s not such a great idea to have Peter play the object of desire with an exquisite, gorgeous, intelligent young actress. I felt that way for around six weeks. Then something exploded in my mind and I thought, ‘you’re so bourgeois’. I’ve been with Peter since I was 23 and I know he loves me and I thought ‘there isn’t anyone who could play that part like he could’. Peter did exactly what I thought he would do. He surprised me at every turn.”
In response to a question as to whether she would like to direct her brother Jake, she said: “Yes, it would be great. I’d love to.”
The Lost Daughter will be released by Netflix in many markets, including the U.S. and by indie distributors in others. Rounding out the cast are Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ed Harris and Dagmara Domińczyk.