April 25th through 29th is the 4th Annual 2018 New French Cinema Weekend. Join us at the AFS Cinema to enjoy a diverse and provocative line-up of award-winning French language films.
Below, Xavier Legrand, director and winner of the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival, discusses the story and casting CUSTODY plus future plans.
Austin Film Society: Tell us what led you to discover that the subject of a divorce had so many dramatic possibilities.
Xavier Legrand: When I discovered the problems associated with domestic violence, I detected a lot of pain that could bring families into terrifying situations. Spousal abuse is not just beatings, but a formidable psychological hold, constant manipulation, sick jealousy and an obsession to want to own the other. And unfortunately, children are not spared in these conflicts and are all too often forgotten victims. In France, a woman is murdered by her spouse or ex-spouse every 3 days. In 2016, 123 women were murdered and 35 children died as a result of domestic violence. These murders occur in most cases at the time of separation or just after.
AFS: The film owes so much to the performances of the actors, as so much of the tension comes from the fact that we are learning critical details about the characters as the story progresses. Can you tell us the secrets of your phenomenal casting work?
Legrand: Any small role must be useful to the story and must be built with a lot of detail. Right from the writing stage, I made sure that each role could contribute something to the issues and the plot. Besides, being an actor myself, I know actors well. The majority of the cast is made up of theatre actors who are rarely seen on screen. I have seen them in the theatre and know how they all work. Finally, since the subject of the film is family, I made sure to find a coherent resemblance with each other.
AFS: You have been celebrated in the US with an Academy Award nomination for a short, plus named this year as one of Variety's 10 Directors to Watch. Any plans to make films in the US?
Legrand: That's not in my outlook right now. But maybe someday, if the subject of the film asks.