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Flower star Zoey Deutch & director Max Winkler on making the female Risky Business

Don’t mess with these girls.

The warrior women of Wakanda are joined this week by Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, but those aren’t the only powerful women in theaters. Zoey Deutch stars in Flower, playing Erica.

Erica and her friends Kala (Dylan Gelula) and Claudine (Maya Eshet) like to blackmail men who have sex with teenagers. Things take a dark turn when Erica’s mom (Kathryn Hahn) starts dating Bob (Tim Heidecker).

Bob’s son Luke (Joey Morgan) reveals that he’s been abused, so Erica and her friends turn to Luke’s abuser (Adam Scott) to avenge him.

Max Winkler directed Flower. The son of actor and director Henry Winkler, Flower is his second film after Ceremony. In between he has directed a lot of your favorite TV shows including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl and Fresh Off the Boat.

Deutch and Winkler spoke with Monsters and Critics in Los Angeles. Flower is in theaters this weekend.

M&C: Erica is such a high energy character, she’s laughing, she’s dancing, she’s smiling. Did you have to keep your energy up the whole time playing her?

Zoey Deutch: She’s definitely an energetic character. Yes, I did have to keep the energy up for sure but it was easy to do so around Max who is great at matching energy and providing an environment that was safe to do so.

M&C: Did you ever have to shoot the dark scenes and high energy scenes the same day?

Max Winkler: Very much so. We’d shoot about eight or nine pages a day.

ZS: So the answer to that is definitely yes.

M&C: This film was finished in April of last year to play in Tribeca. When #MeToo started happening at the end of the year, did you feel Flower was prescient since by the time it comes out, women are taking action against real life abusers?

MW: Yeah, it’s obviously been a badly kept secret for as long as the business has been going on and basically any business in which people in power abuse their power.

ZD: I think the crux of this film, the justice system has failed. People who are telling their stories and their truth, they had to find ways in order to take it into their own hands for many, many years.

MW: Teens are criminally underbelieved and underheard.

ZD: Not that these teens necessarily handle it in the most responsible way, but they do their damn best.

MW: Their intentions are pure.

ZD: Good intentions, bad decisions.

Zoey Deutch in Flower

M&C: Did this begin with the character of Erica, or the story and then her character?

MW: The original script was written by Alex McAuley. The script had been a Black List script which don’t always make great movies but I saw this and it reminded me of all the movies I used to watch growing up when I was a kid stealing movies from my brother in the ‘80s.

Those always had a made lead whether it was Risky Business or Loverboy or the Corey Haim and Feldman movies. The girl is sort of an object of affection that they win in the end.

What I loved the most about this was the fully fleshed out character of Erica who does whatever she wants when she wants on her own terms. It felt to me like almost one part Travis Bickle, another part Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause in this tiny 17-year-old frame.

So whenever you see a character like that and you realize it’s never been done on film before, it really makes a case to be made.

 

M&C: Was the banter between Erica and her mom a tricky balance?

ZD: I think it’s a very boundaryless relationship. I think they’re always struggling with who plays the mom and who plays the daughter. It sort of flips back and forth.

MW: I think the mom carries a lot of guilt about not being able to make her marriage work. Because of that, she can’t give Erica the structure she wants. She always caves into it.

ZD: And Erica is just desperately trying to keep her mother to herself.

MW: It’s like she can start to feel her mom slipping away. I’m sure there’s been a lot of men in the past that Erica scares away when she can start to feel this guy’s serious and he’s moved his things in.

When he’s moved in his Tommy Bahama collection, she knows she really has to turn up the heat.

Kathryn Hahn and Tim Heidecker in Flower

M&C: In earlier cuts, did the dark turn ever come earlier or later?

MW: No, it was always right there. It was always at the exact midpoint of the movie which is when she walks into Adam Scott’s house.

I think it’s important that you start to lay in some stuff and everyone’s dealing with their own sh*t in it. The way the girls are living the high life and having fun at Fashion Square can’t last forever when they’re engaging in stuff way out of their capacity. So it’s always been there.

M&C: How quickly did you have banter with Dylan and Maya?

ZD: They’re such great actors, it was easy to have chemistry with them. And they’re awesome people so we had a really good time.

MW: You guys hung out before, right?

ZD: A little bit. We didn’t really have that much time but we did our best.

M&C: Did you test different groups with Zoey?

MW: You read with them, right? Did you read in Rich’s office with Dylan and Maya? We read a ton of people for Joey’s character and Dylan and Maya stuck out as being special.

ZD: You had sent me Maya and Dylan’s tapes.

MW: Fully formed personalities that you can feel existed way before this movie starts and way after the movie ends.

M&C: Did directing episodes of Lady Dynamite and Crazy Ex-Girlfriends help you learn ways to deal with balancing different tones?

MW: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was after. Not really. Those tones are so set up and run already.

They’re finely tuned machines run my Pam Brady and Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom that doing that is a pleasure because you can always rely on them to guide you.

This was more helpful to me to have the producers, Rough House, Danny McBride, Jody Hill, David Gordon Green. This is their wheelhouse.

To rely on their guidance, and they’re all filmmakers to begin with, and rely on their guidance in the editing room was really helpful.

M&C: Was it by design that you did a lot of TV between Ceremony and Flower

MW: No, just life is crazy. I was really lucky to work with a lot of my friends who all had shows. It enabled me to not have to make a movie that I wasn’t really passionate about. I’m really grateful for all of them.

M&C: What would you like to do next?

MW: We both want to keep making stuff that we like hopefully.

ZD: We’re really good friends now after making this movie. We’re both constantly supporting each other and helping each other make decisions that week now are best for our mental health and our careers and for each other.

It’s really neat because we have become such partners in that decision process, I think.

MW: I think so too.

ZD: I can’t decide on a movie now without him. I need his opinion.

M&C: You don’t always get to stay in touch with people in this industry. Have you spent the year together taking Flower around from Tribeca and on?

MW: Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time together. It’s really a pleasure to have a partner in this. Zoey was so instrumental in the making of the movie that to have her in my life is really a plus.

M&C: How so instrumental?

MW: She is in every fiber of DNA in this movie, every frame. What every crew member tried to do is match her commitment and energy and work ethic. The more it drove the production design, everything, we tried our best to match her and do her justice.

ZD: I did my best to match you guys, trust me.

Fred Topel has been a journalist since 1999. Over the decades he’s written for About.com, Hollywood.com, CraveOnline, Rotten Tomatoes and Slashfilm. Fred brings Monsters and... read more

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