What is the plot of ‘The Royal Hotel’?
Americans Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) are best friends backpacking in Australia. After they run out of money, Liv, looking for an adventure, convinces Hanna to take a temporary live-in job behind the bar of a pub called ’The Royal Hotel’ in a remote Outback mining town. Bar owner Billy (Hugo Weaving) and a host of locals give the girls a riotous introduction to Down Under drinking culture but soon Hanna and Liv find themselves trapped in an unnerving situation that grows rapidly out of their control.
Who is in the cast of ‘The Royal Hotel’?
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Kitty Green about her work on ‘The Royal Hotel,’ the inspiration for the movie, what she learned from making ‘The Assistant,’ reuniting with Julia Garner, casting Jessica Henwick, rehearsal time and budget, filming in Australia, and the challenges of shooting on location.
You can read the full interview below or click on the video player above to watch the interview.
Moviefone: To begin with, the movie was inspired by the 2016 documentary ‘Hotel Coolgardie’ by Pete Gleeson. Can you talk about getting the spark of the idea for ‘The Royal Hotel’ from that film?
Kitty Green: I mean, I guess it always takes a few things. It’s not a one thing. It’s always a few confluence of things, and I think I was on a jury, and I watched 10 documentaries, and I watched ’Hotel Coolgardie’ in amongst that 10. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. I’d seen a lot of things set in the Outback, but not through a female lens or through a woman’s perspective on a place like that. So I thought that was really interesting and felt fresh to me or it hadn’t been explored. My mother wanted me to come and make a movie in Australia so I could spend more time with her. That was the second thing, and then I met a production company that had an Australian arm, and they said, “If you ever want to do anything in Australia.” So it lined up in a way where I was like, “Oh, I’ve got this idea,” and they thought that that was interesting. I knew it was a role Julia could play, and I just had this beautiful collaboration with her through ‘The Assistant.’ So the stars aligned, and it seemed to work out.
MF: Besides reuniting with actress Julia Garner, was there anything that you took from making your last film, ‘The Assistant,’ that helped inform you while making this movie?
KG: I mean, so much, but I think the biggest thing is it’s Julia’s face. Julia’s got this really beautiful expressive face, and you can plunk her down in anywhere and just watch her react to the environment. With very little movement she can convey so much. Fear, tension, all of that rests in her perception of the events, I think. So, to me, that’s the link and something that I knew I could rely on. I wrote the script with that in mind, knowing that she could deliver. Whatever I threw at her, she could deliver.
MF: Can you talk about casting Jessica Henwick opposite Julia Garner? Why was Henwick the right actress to play Liv?
KG: So there was a few things we needed with Liv, which was someone who energetically brought something different to what Julia brought. But also, the biggest thing for me was someone that Julia and I would get along with because all of a sudden, our little duo was becoming a trio, and it was really important that the three of us just clicked, and that was what I was searching for. It feels more like searching for a relationship, looking energetically for something more than any CV. You know what I mean? It helped that she’s brilliant and was in brilliant movies, but I was really just looking for someone who would get along with us. Who felt like we could trust, and who was down to earth, and playful, and was excited about the role. I met Jessica, and within a few minutes, I knew she was right. There was something about just her energy that she’s really brilliant and serious, but also goofy and strange. It just fit. So, immediately, I thought, “Oh, yeah, the role is yours.” So, really, it worked well, and the two of them just got along so beautifully. The film rests on their chemistry as well. Somehow it’s one of those rare times where I look back on this movie, and I wouldn’t have recast anyone. I feel like everyone is who they should be, played the role they should play, and everyone seemed to deliver what they needed to. I was really excited by the cast.
MF: As a filmmaker, can you talk about the challenges of shooting a feature film on a limited budget?
KG: I mean, mostly, I have the plan because I don’t really get the budgets to play. We shot this in 25 days, and it’s not enough time for everything. There’s so little coverage. Basically, anything you see in the movie is all we shot. There’s no additional stuff sitting on the floor somewhere. It’s really what we got.
MF: Did you have the luxury of rehearsal time with Julia and Jessica?
KG: The thing is about Julia’s process, and maybe it’s because she has done a lot of television before, she doesn’t like a lot of rehearsals. We discuss, a lot of discussion, but she doesn’t really like to play it out as much. We do bits and pieces of things, but it’s not something where we sit and really rehearse. A lot of what she does is from her gut instinct, and that’s why it’s fabulous and feels real and authentic because it really is in the moment. So she didn’t work that way, but they were around for a couple of weeks. I got them to tend bar at a little pub in Adelaide, and they did a bunch of stuff like that to try and get just used to the rhythms of things and how to work the space. But Hugo and Ursula, who played Bill and Carol, they love rehearsals. We spent a lot of time rehearsing with the two of them, which was great because it was wonderful, and it’s so comforting to know the scenes nailed before you even go and do it. Whereas with Julia and Jessica, it was a bit more of a highwire act, hoping it worked out. Everyone has their process, I guess, and you just figure out what works for them and what will get the best out of them, and I make it work somehow.
MF: What was it like returning to your home country of Australia to make this movie?
KG: I mean, pretty great. I got to work with my collaborators that I worked with in film school, essentially. So there’s something nice about that history and having knowing each other for a long time, which made us very comfortable. Australians are very easy. It’s very relaxed, probably too relaxed at times, and probably not what the girls were used to, but it’s a nice atmosphere. It was a nice energy. We cut the movie in Sydney, and Sydney is beautiful. I haven’t spent much time in Sydney. I’m from Melbourne, but it was beautiful to just be in that environment and its lovely beaches. I can’t complain.
MF: Finally, you shot specifically in a small South Austrailian town called Yatina. What were the challenges for you shooting in such a remote location?
KG: It was a nightmare. It was so hard. It was really in the middle of nowhere. It’s a town of 29 people, and we were split because there’s no towns around where we could all stay. All the crew was split over all these towns nearby, and it was just a real challenge. We had a lot of weather issues. It was always raining. It was hard. I think the girls were a bit freaked out, and so the first thing we did was send them out there. They were like, “What have we signed up for?” But it got a lot easier. That was the first two weeks, and then we were in the studio for the interiors for three weeks. I feel like everyone calmed down once we got inside. It was also freezing. We shot in winter, and it was zero degrees. It was really cold. It was just a hard few weeks. I think it all adds to the tension. People ask me about the tension, and I’m sure it comes, partly, from how hard that set was.
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