🚨 There are spoilers for Do Revenge ahead! 🚨
THEN: Someone Great obviously had a powerhouse cast of Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise. How was it working with those three to bring their characters to life?
I feel like it's just such an embarrassment of riches and riches, in terms of the women that I've gotten to work with in my career. It was a very similar experience to working with Cami [Mendes] and Maya [Hawke], which is it was really open and loving. There was a lot of mutual respect. There was a lot of creation throughout making Someone Great, so we were constantly challenging each other and evolving the characters, and digging deeper as a group, which I love to do. Everyone came to this — both in Someone Great and Do Revenge — with so much ferocity to want to tell the story.
NOW: What was it like working with Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke to develop the love-hate relationship between Drea and Eleanor in Do Revenge?
Working with Maya and Camila is one of the highlights of my entire career. What's great is that they're both very different. Like, they're so dedicated and they're so wonderful. They're such amazing artists, but they're so different. So it was really wonderful to be able to sink into each of their processes to create Eleanor and Drea with both of them.
How much of that was on the page before they got cast vs. what you developed alongside them?
There was a lot on the page before they got cast. The script that Celeste Ballard and I wrote is the script that's on screen. But there's the nuances and the complexities, and all the little things that really make them feel lived in. That was Cami and Maya.
I noticed Eliza Bennett from Sweet/Vicious has a fun cameo alongside Sophie Turner in Do Revenge. What was it like working with Sophie, as well as Eliza again?
So I knew that I wanted someone that could stand next to Sophie Turner and just sob her eyes out. Eliza was in Atlanta shooting Dynasty, and so I called her and was like, "Will you come do this movie for a day?" And she got there and she was like, "You just want me to sob?" And I was like, "Yes. I just need you to scream sob, and just fight with a security guard." She's like, "Say no more."
And listen, with Sophie, we got the Queen of the North in a tennis outfit screaming obscenities at Cami Mendes. It was a dream.
What was it like working with Sarah Michelle Gellar in Do Revenge? And how was it keeping her casting as the headmaster a secret until the very last moment?
I mean, it was crazy. It's also crazy that no one knew. I forget that everyone's really excited about the movie, but no one even knew that Sarah Michelle Gellar is in it, which is wacko to me. I mean, we Zoomed and she said something to me that I think is the coolest thing anyone's ever said to me in my entire career. She said, "When I read this script, I thought, if I was still a teenager, I would be hunting you down to play Drea or Eleanor." To me, there is no cosign more iconic than that.
Growing up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's still so wild to me to see her as an adult in a teen movie.
Oh, same. But she's still very Cruel Intentions in this. Like, I wanted her character to feel like Kathryn from Cruel Intentions is the headmaster of the school.
THEN: Someone Great also had an amazing soundtrack. Most notably, it gave new life to Lizzo's "Truth Hurts." What's it like getting to spotlight up-and-coming artists in your films?
I mean, I love it. It's so fun to put new artists' music in something and know that the world is going to discover it as they watch the film. I also could've never imagined the Lizzo moment taking off the way it did. It's incredible.
Is there an underrated or new song in Do Revenge you hope fans fall in love with?
The Jules Madrid song, which plays during the paint fight between Russ and Drea, is very special to me. I actually got that song before it came out, a friend of mine who produced it sent it to me, and I thought it was so fun.
The paintball moment had such a 10 Things I Hate About You and Princess Diaries vibe too.
Yes, you got it!
NOW: The soundtrack and music in Do Revenge are amazing and make the movie feel like a throwback to the classic '90s teen movies everyone loves. How was it choosing the music for the film?
So, Este [Haim] and Amanda [Yamate] scored the film, and working with them was awesome. We needed something that felt like it could live within all of the needle drops, which there are many. That baseline, that awesome Drea and Eleanor-themed baseline, it's so good. Having an Este Haim baseline in your film as the score? Like, iconic.
On the soundtrack side, I worked with Rob Lowry, who's our music supervisor, and it was amazing. I remember growing up and going to like Barnes & Noble or Best Buy and buying the CDs of the soundtracks to iconic teen movies, and I wanted that feeling. I wanted the feeling of, like, ripping off the plastic of a CD and devouring every song. I wanted Do Revenge to feel like that.
Having Muna and Billie Eilish on one film soundtrack is pretty remarkable. You nailed it.
Thank you! I was really crazy about the songs. I was like, every song has to be perfect and every song has to be more perfect than the last song. I really wanted every moment in the movie to be like, "Oh my god! This?! Oh my god! THIS?! No, this is my favorite! No, THIS is my favorite!" If that is how people feel, then I've done my job.
When you're directing, do you think about those needle drop music moments? Or does that happen a lot in post-production?
I write a lot of music into the script. The Olivia Rodrigo "Brutal" sync, I actually had in my headphones while Cami was doing the scene. I knew that I wanted the smash into the water at the beat after the violins of the song. So I timed Cami's performance to the song in my headphones.
Did you have a favorite movie soundtrack growing up that you loved that helped inspire the soundtrack for Do Revenge?
Oh, man. I think for this it was more about those classic teen movies, like Clueless, Cruel Intentions, 10 Things, Can't Hardly Wait, [and] Jawbreaker. All of those films have such iconic soundtracks.
THEN: When Someone Great came out, you revealed that 1989 by Taylor Swift inspired the film, and then Taylor Swift said Someone Great inspired her song "Death by a Thousand Cuts" on Lover. What was it like finding out your movie affected her in that way?
It feels like the likelihood of getting hit by a bus is higher than Taylor Swift liking your movie enough to write a song inspired by it. It's very out of body. For me, it's probably the most special thing in my career. For me, I don't even like talking about it too much because I feel like it's such a special thing that I want to keep for myself, if that makes sense. I'm just constantly so blown away by this full circle moment.
Was there a Taylor record that inspired Do Revenge?
I would say the Taylor album that inspired this the most is Reputation. Eleanor is big Reputation energy. But until there's a Taylor's version...*whispers* don't stream Reputation.
NOW: For Do Revenge, did you have any musical inspirations while you were writing the script and then directing?
Yeah, I think for me it was going back to those soundtracks. Going back and listening to those classic teen movie soundtracks. I did listen to Sour by Olivia Rodrigo a lot because I feel like Sour is a very Do Revenge record. I had a running playlist that was like new music and '90s music and that's really what I was listening to in order to immerse myself in the world.
THEN: Sweet/Vicious tragically only lasted one season, but what did you learn from working on that show and what, if anything, did you bring to Do Revenge?
I learned so much from working on Sweet/Vicious, and so much of it I learned from Stacey Sher, who produced the series. The best advice, and it's really simple, was always, "Go deeper." It was always just, "Okay, go deeper, go deeper, go deeper." And that's something that I've taken with me in everything that I've written.
NOW: Do Revenge really uses a high school setting to dive into some important topics, and you did it with a lot of humor. Where did the idea for the story come from, and how was it developing it into a movie?
It kind of stemmed from examining the movies that I loved as a young person that I came up with, and knowing a lot of them were reimagining and being like, Okay, what can we reimagine? And we got to Hitchcock. Then, from Hitchcock, we got to Strangers on a Train.
With the humor, it's definitely the hardest. There are a million different edits of this movie because, yes, you do it on the page, but it's really not until the edit that you've really got to find the tone of the movie and, like, where do you want to joke and where do you want to be a little more serious. The other ingredient that you really have to thread with stories like this is earnestness. This is not a very earnest movie, but you don't want it to be too acidic. You don't want it to be something that you can't connect with.
I found that in the edit, it was really about, like, Okay, where do we need to dial it up? Where do we dial it down? Luckily, I had these incredible performances from all of the actors, so I always had the vibe that I needed to create the film that you're seeing on screen.
Do Revenge also has a very specific aesthetic — from the hair and makeup to the clothes to the set design — how was it developing that look for the film?
It was so fun! It was really a partnership between not just between myself and the costume designer, Alana Morshead, but also the production designer Hillary Gurtler. The three of us became this brain hive of girl world. It wasn't just about costumes and production design, it was about creating frames. I really wanted it to feel like every bit of the movie was a little piece of art in its own right. It was just: What are the colors? And how do the colors work together? How do the tones tell the story and really wanting the film to kind of evolve. Yes, it gets a little darker, but it goes from pastels to jewel tones, like it really stays within this candy-coated world that we were creating.
I will say they both elevated the vision in such a really beautiful way. Alana has this encyclopedic knowledge of clothes and costumes. And Hillary, on the other side of that, every wacko idea and inspiration she turned into this absolutely gorgeous set. Sarah Michelle Gellar's office and the bathroom are two of my favorites. It's supposed to be this forgotten bathroom that hasn't been updated since the '80s. She killed it. It's gorgeous. Like, you want to live within her sets and you want to melt into them. It's like she made a bathroom aspirational. Also, it all feels like it goes together. It really feels like we were able to build a world as a group, so that was so exciting to collaborate with them on.
THEN: You recently cowrote Marvel's Thor: Love and Thunder alongside Taika Waititi. How was it being on that set and working with him?
It was amazing. Taika is a genius, and he also approaches things like the most creative, wide-eyed 8-year-old. I say that with so much love in my heart because the way he talked about writing Thor, and approached creating Thor, like when a kid dumps out their toy chest and you just play with all of the stuff that you've dumped out and create a narrative around everything that's on the floor. There's something really beautiful and freeing about looking at a landscape and being like, "Oh, okay, here are all the colors I can paint with, and how do I make a picture?" And approaching creativity in that way is endless. There are no bounds.
NOW: Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes memory from filming Do Revenge?
Oh, man. There are so many. It was a really, really fun set to be on, and the cast loved each other so much. So, what you're feeling on screen is incredibly real. So the energy was incredibly infectious.
You posted a video of Camila and Maya jumping on a trampoline and hanging out together on, like, day two of filming, right?
Yeah, that was the second day of shooting. Like, they got keyed in and became friends very fast. The cast was a lot of people who maybe ran in similar circles or had heard about each other, but were not necessarily friends. And they came out of it, honestly this is gonna sound so cheesy, but like family.
THEN: Looking back at Sweet/Vicious and Someone Great, do you have a favorite scene from either or both of those projects? Or one you're most proud of?
For Sweet/Vicious, I think the sixth episode of the show, which was written by Jared Frieder, is one that I think about often. And then, the seventh episode, which is the flashback episode where you see what happened to Jules and what happened to get us to where we are now. I really have such a special place in my heart for Sweet/Vicious. I feel like the moment that's probably the most iconic that I love the most is "Defying Gravity." I think that two girls singing "Defying Gravity" after killing a rapist, who is rattling around in the trunk, is definitely a career high for me.
And then, for Someone Great, I mean, that Lizzo moment. I did not know what it would become when we filmed it. I just loved it. But also with Someone Great, I love that final scene at the fountain, and then the poem is probably the most iconic thing from that film. The poem and her writing the poem on the train.
I love that your favorite moments for both shows connect back to the music too.
Yes! I will say that there's synesthesia, where it's like you can see colors when you hear music. I don't know what the film version of synesthesia is, but like I can hear a song and then create a scene in my head around it.
NOW: When you look back, do you have a scene or moment from Do Revenge that you're most proud of? Either because of the writing, directing, or how it turned out in the final edit.
The dinner scene. The grilled cheese scene between Eleanor and Drea. Eleanor's turn is probably my favorite scene in the film. I love both Maya and Cami's performances. I love the tonal shifts that the film takes. I feel like that, to me, is the DNA of the film and what I wanted to make, and what I was most excited to shoot.
That flip of a switch Maya does in this scene, even just with her eyes, is so brilliant.
She's amazing. She really channels her mom [Uma Thurman] in that scene.
And finally, looking forward, are there any fun projects that you're working on that you're excited for? I know a few years back you announced you were working on a TV adaptation of Center Stage.
Yes! I'm still working on that. I was busy doing a couple of things...
Oh yeah, just Marvel called in between. Super casual.
Yeah, I did an indie movie in Australia with Chris Hemsworth called Thor: Love and Thunder. Super chill.
The next genre that I want to tackle is horror. So there are two projects that are inching towards being announced. One that I think is a really perfect follow-up to Do Revenge. I can't say too much, but what I'll say is the next genre is horror and kind of two different avenues. One is a psychological, feminist horror that is way more dark and in the Get Out space. Then, the other is a very fun popcorn slasher.