“Black Rock” hits theaters this week, starring Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and director Katie Aselton. The latter two sat down to talk to us regarding the making of the thriller, set on a deserted island where three friends have to fight for their survival. Bell and Aselton forged a quick friendship, with Bell taking on a character far different from the one she plays on Cartoon Network’s “Children’s Hospital,” while actor/director Aselton faced off against the elements and sometimes husband/screenwriter Mark Duplass in her creation of a true labor of love.
BULLZ-EYE: Katie, could you tell me the genesis of the story?
KATIE ASELTON: It’s the story of three childhood friends who have grown apart, and in an effort to reconnect, revisit an island that they used to frequent as kids. The movie really starts off as a chick flick/romantic dramedy and takes a severe turn when they learn that they are not the only ones on the island. There are three men out there hunting. After a series of unfortunate events, they find themselves in a fight for survival in an effort to get off the island alive. My first film, “The Freebie,” was a very quiet, intimate, emotional, talky-talky movie that was all inside a very small, Spanish bungalow. I felt the need after that to get outside, move my body and maybe kill someone. It’s just something I had to do. I don’t know why.
LAKE BELL: You had to express yourself.
KATIE ASELTON: Honestly, I’m new at this whole filmmaking thing and I’m trying some different things out and experimenting with different genres and seeing what I like. This type of thriller, this approach to a thriller that is very reality based, very truthful and simple in story and concept is something that excited me. It’s the kind of movie that I love to watch. I love “Deliverance.” I love “Misery,” even “The River Wild.” I used those as my points of reference. I also loved the idea of working with women. The TV show that I am on, I am the only girl with five guys. So, it was really exciting to get the chance to sit with two girls and kick some guys’ asses. That was fun, too.
LAKE BELL: Including the crew.
KATIE ASELTON: Including the crew. I kicked their asses too. And I had female crew members as well. It was a movie about strong women made by strong women and female producers. I had a female DP. I, myself, am female.
LAKE BELL: She is female.
KATIE ASELTON: And I had Lake and Kate [Bosworth], who are super rad ladies. It was a really, really fun experience and something that I had never done before and something that I’m very glad I did.
BE: With this being your second feature, what advice did Mark give you?
KATIE ASELTON: Well, we came up together. We made all of the movies together. He is wonderful about letting me have my own independent voice that is not his movie. What’s special about our collaboration professionally is that he really lets me do my thing and tell the story I want to tell the way I want to tell it. He got to write a script that’s very different than what he’s ever written before. He’s just really supportive. I will definitely run things past him. There were certain things he was very supportive of and certain things he was very critical of and I will take it or leave it. (laughs)
BE: Did he let you practice your stunts on him?
KATIE ASELTON: Absolutely not. (laughs)
BE: Was Mark supportive of the arc of Kate Bosworth’s character, who brings you two together?
KATIE ASELTON: Absolutely. As a filmmaker, you have an idea in your head of what it’s going to look like and hopefully you can pull it off. That was definitely a moment that gets a response from a theater. It’s thrilling as a filmmaker when you can surprise an audience. It’s a really great moment and I’m really happy the way Hilary Spera, my DP, decided to shoot it and light it. I was really excited. Part of it was Ben Lovett, the way he did the score. It almost emotionally tricks you as to what’s about to happen. Everyone in editorial was like, “Oh, that’s a good one.”
BE: Was it a tough shoot filming outside?
KATIE ASELTON: No, it was really easy. (laughs) It was so hard. It was hands down, the most challenging shoot I could have ever conceived of. Everyday was a new challenge. Whether it was the weather… it rained when it was supposed to be sunny. It was sunny when it was supposed to have rained. The fog was so intense that you couldn’t even see where the characters were. The temperatures were super low. The water is as cold as we claim it to be in the story and colder. I almost killed Lake. Tides coming in and never going out.
LAKE BELL: Six hour night shoots.
KATIE ASELTON: Yes, we were shooting nights on the shortest nights of the year.
LAKE BELL: And naked.
KATIE ASELTON: And naked with no clothes on. That was my own fault. That was something I couldn’t control, but something I did encourage. (laughs)
LAKE BELL: Did Mark write that in as a goof?
KATIE ASELTON: He did. He was like, “Hey babe, take your clothes off.” It was a challenging film from start to finish. It was not like “The Freebie,” which we went in and pre-lit… where we could literally go in, plug in the plug and just start shooting. This was very different. Honestly, the logline for the film, “The fight for survival,” became a metaphor for our experience making the movie. We just needed to get out of the month of June alive. The fact that we have a movie that I love to show for it is really exciting and I’m very proud of that.
BE: How close is the film to the original concept of the film, and was it difficult shooting the nude scenes?
KATIE ASELTON: It’s hard to say if the movie was close to my original conception, because it took so many versions. I don’t remember. I know I loved the final product. I know there are scenes that far exceeded what I hoped they could be. I think you’re always critical of your own work and you always feel that you could do better, but I’m really proud of what we did. I don’t remember what I hoped it was going to be. As far as nudity…
LAKE BELL: I think because we shot it chronologically, preparing ourselves for certain moments to attack, literally and emotionally. That sort of cold, vulnerable, nude, very emotionally raw scene became just another thing to tackle. At that point, we had already done the water stuff.
KATIE ASELTON: Which, on a sidenote, she literally almost died. She went into a 24-hour panic attack. It was really cold temperatures and really scary. Anything after that was a win, because she was alive, clothes or no clothes.
LAKE BELL: Clothes, smothes. (laughs). I was like, “I can’t breathe.”
KATIE ASELTON: The way it was shot and how it was treated. We were joking that we would close the set for privacy.
LAKE BELL: Except we had, like, a four person crew.
KATIE ASELTON: Everyone had a job to do and you couldn’t tell them not to do it. It was very easy in a way.
LAKE BELL: We definitely had a moment of, “We’re doing this.” We took the robes off and it’s cold. We did the first scene and hair and makeup came over. It was one person. (laughs) They came over with the robe. We cover back up again and by the third take, it was like, “Let’s just keep it that way.”
KATIE ASELTON: It’s just a body. Everybody can see it now.
LAKE BELL: Everyone’s seen it now. The bugs certainly have.
KATIE ASELTON: We were sitting bare-bottomed. Initially, we were going to sit on a blanket, but you could see it on camera.
LAKE BELL: So, we lost that blanket.
KATIE ASELTON: A lot of ticks.
BE: Did either of you have any prior experience in the outdoors?
KATIE ASELTON: We shot, literally, in my childhood backyard. The woods that you see in the film, I played in as a child. The fort that we were in was a recreation of something that I had built with my best friend when we were five. It was horribly constructed, but it was all doodled. That was my playground. My closest friend lived three miles away. A lot of time I spent by myself in the woods. I knew them very well and the beaches that we were on. It was all very interesting and special to sit there and take a quiet moment and think that if anyone had told me that when I was six years old, and playing on this beach, that I would come back and make a movie that would end up premiering at the Arclight and playing at theaters across the country, I would think you were crazy. It was really special. My family was a huge part in making the movie. Lake and Kate became a part of my family. As far as drawing on nostalgia, yeah, because for me, it was really like going home. The town dock was my town dock. The guys on the docks were my friends’ dads from childhood.
BE: What did you guys do to keep yourselves occupied in the middle of Maine?
LAKE BELL: I have an iPhone full of weird pictures. (laughs) We would go over to her parent’s house. We lived in separate cabins. The girls lived in the girl cabin. The guys were in the guy cabin. We would go over to her parents house to the basement where we would find a VHS to play. It was like “Gee, what VHS did you get?” We had “Ghostbusters,” “The Right Stuff”… it was funny.
KATIE ASELTON: It was funny, because we shared a home together. We had a special summer camp-like experience. We’re lucky if we get a girl’s weekend all together. To get a whole month with girls that you really, really click with was great.
LAKE BELL: I went to boarding school, so I had moments and flashes of that where you’d go, “Did you see the label on my Tupperware, because that was my couscous. You can have some, obviously, but just…” It was vegan and weird.
KATIE ASELTON: There were moments where Lake and I would walk into the kitchen and Kate would be eating was eating a thing of ice cream and we’re like, “Of course you’d just eat a whole container of ice cream.”
BE: Lake, how was the chemistry with the women, and had you worked with them before?
LAKE BELL: Katie and I knew each other as sort of social acquaintances for a while. Obviously, during and after making this movie, I feel we graduated to family status. I do feel a sisterly bond. When you’re naked and in the woods with someone, embracing, shivering, crying and hitting each other, there is a certain bond that’s forged. Then, Katie was like, “In your opinion, who comes to mind when you think of Sarah? Who would be another comrade who would be super game, really cool, and a real girl’s girl?” Kate Bosworth came to mind. I knew her socially. We were pals. I really liked her, but I never got to socially hang out with her that much. So, I brought her up and told her about the script. She was interested, read it and was super jazzed on it. They met and fell in love. (laughs)
KATIE ASELTON: It was a bizarre three-way love affair. We just clicked in a way that doesn’t happen often.
LAKE BELL: You’d need to be bonded to take on this kind of endeavor.
BE: Did you guys get hurt during the filming of the movie?
KATIE ASELTON: Yes, we did. A lot.
LAKE BELL: Absolutely.
KATIE ASELTON: Thankfully, my producer’s dad came up to visit. He’s a chiropractor. In the very first fight, where they grab the girls in the dark, I wonked my back. I get whipped around and bodyslammed down numerous times. My back completely compressed and went crazy. He came in and he was like, “Are you okay?” and I’m like, “I’m better now!” It was intense. It was really intense.
BE: Could you discuss the choreography in the very intense last scene?
KATIE ASELTON: We didn’t do a lot of choreography and I think that was the key to making it look that way. I, very specifically, approached all of the fight scenes with as little training as possible, because I wanted these girls to be very relatable and very real. As an audience member, I automatically separate myself when I see someone throw a roundhouse kick I don’t know how to throw a roundhouse kick. That’s crazy. I’ve never personally thrown a punch in my life until I did this movie. Then, I was like, “Oh my god.” But they were all very sloppy and very gritty, and awkward. I wanted it to feel like these girls had nothing but their passion to survive. That’s their weapon. I think women are ferociously strong when they need to be. They’re the people who lift cars off of babies. They keep telling me that. I keep referencing it like I know it as a fact. (laughs) We have an incredible inner strength and that’s what I wanted to blast open and I wanted to really see. And that’s what happens. It becomes a battle of who wants to live more.