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James Gunn & Elizabeth Banks Interview: Brightburn

There have been plenty of stories written about what would happen if Superman turned evil. Brightburn seeks to answer the question about what would have happened if he was born evil. Elizabeth Banks stars as Tori, who takes young Brandon into her home and raises him as her own after finding him and his ship crashed in the woods. We got the chance to sit down with Elizabeth Banks and producer James Gunn to discuss how they approached the film.

I loved this movie. I gotta ask: did I see a small Super reference at the restaurant, by chance?

Elizabeth Banks: Yeah!

I did? Just making sure. A little Easter egg there. But this movie, at the center of it, is about a family. And behind the scenes, you and your family helped create this. What brought this on?

James Gunn: Well, my brother Brian and my cousin Mark wrote a script about a family that finds a baby in the forest in a rocket ship and brings it into their house, and it started doing a lot of creepy things. And it wasn’t quite as much of a horror movie as it ended up being. They gave the script to me and David Yarovesky, the director, and we said, “This is amazing. Let’s push it more in a horror direction and craft it in that way.” And so we did, and we worked on the script for a while, and then we brought it to Elizabeth and we said, “You’re perfect for this lead. You may have other things going on, but we don’t care. You need to play Tori Breyer.”

And you are perfect in this lead as Tori. Tori longs for this child, and sees her son go off the rails. Can you talk to me about the relationship between Tori and Brandon?

Elizabeth Banks: Yeah. I mean, I think they’re really kind of co-dependent on each other in a lot of ways. You know, she – like we all do, like every parent does – we put a lot of our hopes and dreams into our child. He is very much a wanted child. She wished for him, for sure, and wanted to be a parent. And I think all parents struggle with nature vs. nurture, and also that moment when you know your kid is pulling away from you. And also when they surprise you, and you think you know them and there’s always a surprise. There’s always something new, there’s always something that is unanticipated about your kid. I mean, I have younger kids than Brandon is in the movie, and I still see that all the time. Like, “Wow, you have that in your personality? Okay, cool.” I just think, for me, it was about the testing of unconditional love and what are the limits of it.

Elizabeth Banks in Brightburn

And Brandon’s kind of downfall starts when he’s going through his adolescence a little bit. Can you talk to me a little about the subtext there, too?

Elizabeth Banks: Well, there’s a great tradition in horror, right? When it comes to adolescence, that moment when we get all of our hormones and change.

James Gunn: Yeah, it’s just usually that it’s a 27-year old actor pretending to be in high school. And not actually a 13-year old.

Elizabeth Banks: Exactly. And getting punished for wanting to, you know, touch themselves. I think that there’s something really – there’s just so much uniqueness in this movie, because he is finding things out about himself as we all do. But the things he’s finding out are extraordinary. He has a sense of his own power suddenly, which usually is a good thing for kids to figure out. And for him, it’s good for him and the alien nation he comes from, but it’s not so good for the humans in his life.

And James, you’re familiar with superhero movies and the superhero world, both Marvel and DC. Do you think Marvel and DC can take a chance like this by making something like a Brightburn and taking that risk?

James Gunn: I don’t think that big studios are set up to make a movie with a budget in the mere millions. I think a big risk for Marvel and DC would be, like, a $50 million R-rated Punisher movie or whatever. I think that would be great. But I think that to do something like this, once you get that studio thing happening, it adds another $20 million – which we couldn’t afford with this. This was a very low-budget film, and luckily we had great people working on it. A company by the name of Trixter who did the visual effects and were amazing, who did a lot of the visual effects for Guardians 2. But I think they’re just not set up to do it.

More: Watch the Brightburn Trailer

Key Release Dates
  • Brightburn (2019) release date: May 24, 2019
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