'I Think We're Alone Now' director Reed Morano on shooting the apocalypse with Peter Dinklage

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Peter Dinklage as Del and Elle Fanning as Grace in I Think We’re Alone Now (The Movie Partnership)

After wowing the indie crowd at Sundance Film Festival in January this year, Reed Morano’s off-beat dystopian drama I Think We’re Alone Now is finally available to watch in the U.K. on digital download.

After a mysterious event wipes out the world’s population in one day, last man standing Del (Game of ThronesPeter Dinklage) takes it upon himself to clean up his home town, house by house, burying the town folk in a makeshift cemetery, mainly to alleviate the boredom, but also to clear up the bad smell.

One day Grace, a mysterious stranger played by Elle Fanning, arrives shattering Del’s peaceful solitude, but the pair begin to forge an unlikely friendship in the most unusual of settings. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale, unlike any other film in the genre, with the emphasis being on the post, rather than the cataclysmic event itself that is only ever hinted at in the film.

This is one of the key things that attracted director Reed Morano to the project, as she told Yahoo earlier this week.

The acclaimed cinematographer-turned director, who also serves as executive producer on The Handmaid’s Tale after directing the hit drama’s first three episodes, took time out of editing her next film, Eon’s spy thriller Blake Lively-led The Rhythm Section, to talk to us about her low-key take on the apocalypse and fulfilling her dream of working with Peter Dinklage.

Yahoo Movies UK: How did I Think We’re Alone Now come to be and how did you first get involved?

Actress Elle Fanning, left, director Reed Morano and Peter Dinklage attend the “I Think We’re Alone Now” cast party at Chase Sapphire on Main on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision for Chase Sapphire/AP Images)

Reed Morano: It came up really fast, and was probably the fastest project I’ve had that came together. Basically it started off when my agent said they had something that had come from producer Fred Berger and Peter Dinklage, and Michael Makowsky, the writer.

They had something they wanted to get to me and my agent sent it on as something they hoped I would want to do, something a little different. It was such a small project, in terms of budget size, it’s very intimate.

My agents were like ‘we know you’re going to love this one’, so we had to set a deal. It was really good. As soon as I heard Peter was involved, I was like ‘whatever it is, I want to do it’.

There’s a lot of people I want to work with and he was at the top of that list. I just remember how weird and unapologetic it was, and how it did things that were unconventional. I liked what it did in terms of – I didn’t see it coming, it was unexpected.

I read so many scripts and you always know what’s going to happen, and then you feel more or less let down because it does exactly what you imagined it would do, before it happens.

I Think We’re Alone Now UK poster (The Movie Partnership)

So what I loved about Mike’s script is that it didn’t go where I thought it would go, and I appreciated his off-branch humour. He has a very interesting way that his mind works and I just thought, ‘well this is a really fun, interesting take on the apocalypse’.

I also just appreciated that all the movies that deal with the apocalypse typically do, which is focus on what it’s like when the apocalypse happens, finding other survivors, and things like that. Mike’s post-apocalyptic vision didn’t do that.

I thought ‘it’s interesting, it’s a challenge, it’s different’ and I really appreciated it. I love anything first and foremost that gives you an opportunity to do a character study and this is like the ultimate character study, not only of Peter’s character, but also an opportunity for Elle’s character too. It’s two people trapped, and you can’t get more intimate than that.

Was it written with Peter in mind?

Elle Fanning as Grace and Peter Dinklage as Del in I Think We’re Alone Now (The Movie Partnership)

No. What happened was it came to Peter the same way. He was looking for something to produce, and I think initially it came to Peter as something he could possibly produce, maybe star in, but I think maybe not, but when Peter read it, I don’t want to speak for him, but I’ve heard this story a few times, he read it and he felt like, ‘yeah, I want to make this about this, there’s something interesting about it, it breaks rules and conventions’.

And then he kind of fell in love with the main character, and he was like ‘you know what, I’m going to play this guy’. And course, Mike was a bit moved by that. He didn’t actually write it for Peter, but Peter was kinda perfect for that character.

So that’s how it ended up being that. I think that Peter’s trying to produce more. I know the projects he’s keeping for himself to do, are producing projects that he will usually have a role in.

We have some other stuff we’re hoping to do together, and he wants to keep producing. And I tell you what, it’s very nice having him on as a producer. And I’m glad he’s doing that, because that means he’s doing the things he wants to do, the way he wants to do them.

If it came together quickly, does that mean you didn’t have much time to rehearse?

I Think We’re Alone Now filmed on location in New York State. (The Movie Partnership)

I don’t do a lot of rehearsals, particularly on a project that’s so small.

It depends actually, I’m kind of accommodate it towards the subject matter, and the actors. Certain actors like to rehearse. For example one of my projects coming up I have Jeff Bridges, and I don’t want to rehearse too much, unless the actor wants to, and Jeff really wants to rehearse.

He wants to have the opportunity to riff, before he’s on set, so he knows how far he can take it on set.

On the movie that I just did – The Rhythm Section – we happened to have set rehearsals, which is a different thing. And the thing that I do the most probably, which is what I did on I Think We’re Alone Now, which is we rehearsed in the sense of we meet and talk about the project.

Actress Elle Fanning, left, director Reed Morano and Peter Dinklage attend the “I Think We’re Alone Now” cast party at Chase Sapphire on Main on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision for Chase Sapphire/AP Images)

And we go through the scenes, but we’re not necessarily… they’re not acting out the scenes. And that’s probably the most common thing I do on movies with the actors I work with. We just get together, we analyse the script and the scenes, and we make sure that everything that’s happening has motivations, and the dialogue all feels in line with the characters full stop, and feel honest for the characters.

What their needs are in that moment. That’s really the main thing. And I Think We’re Alone Now, Peter and I got to meet a lot, and Elle and I were able to Skype a bunch because she was off in different places, and we all started texting, just keeping checking in, talking about important stuff.

Typical rehearsal time is not really something we had on this movie, but it came together quick. It didn’t need a lot of money to get made, and it didn’t have a huge cast to get together, so it was like what came together was that everybody was like ‘OK, we have all the elements’ and then there was a window.

And when Pete has a window, you’ve got to take it, and I had a window and so we were just like ‘let’s do it now’ and we went for it.

Talking of windows, and seizing opportunities, I imagine you only had narrow windows to shoot the shots of the big empty towns?

Oh yeah, that was like a very big challenge. Huge credit to my crew and my assistant director Matt [McLoota], and his team, because we have credit the people in the AD department, because they were responsible for creating that look in the sense of locking up the towns and make sure no-one walks into the shot and breaks it.

Peter Dinklage’s Del uses the library as his base. I Think We’re Alone Now (The Movie Partnership)

It’s very hard to get people to listen! But we had a lot of cooperation from the towns that we shot in. And what helps was that we actually broke the town that Del lives in, it’s actually made up of five different towns, and that’s what you have to do. You have to like wing it with… you expect as little time as you can in each town, because they can cope with a couple of days of this, but they’re going to get tired of you.

They’re like ‘get these people out of here! I want to be able to get to the train station in the morning to get to work!’.

So the towns were really patient, and how they cooperated with us was really cool, particularly Hastings-on-Hudson and Haverstraw in New York, which are two places. But Hastings was where the library was, it has this amazing library, and they never – they’re weren’t big on having people actually shoot in their library, but somehow they hooked us up and let us do it, and I think they were fans of Pete’s and they thought the script was interesting, so that was a very key location.

I Think We’re Alone Now is available on digital download now.

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