Susanna Fogel talks making The Spy Who Dumped Me, directing big action sequences and her hopes for a sequel…
One of 2018’s finest comedies arrives on DVD shelves this week in the shape of the both thrilling and hilarious The Spy Who Dumped Me.
The film, which took $75 million at the box office back in the summer, followed Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. The pair play best friends Audrey and Morgan, who somehow get involved in an undercover mission after Audrey’s unassuming ex-boyfriend Drew shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail...
Starring alongside Kunis and McKinnon are Gillian Anderson, Sam Heughan and Justin Theroux, with Susanna Fogel, director of Life Partners, taking charge of this one.
As the film arrives on DVD shelves, we spoke to Fogel about how she made the film and her plans to make another...
The film has been out for a few months now, were you pleased with the reaction it got?
“It’s been interesting. I was thrilled at the audience and I was so happy to have made the movie. Making a buddy comedy with funny women was something I wanted to do for a long time and lots of people have told it was something they’d been waiting to see.”
“What surprised me was the critical response. Some critics were surprised by the action and how brutal it was, and did that play into gender politics? That’s been interesting. But I’m mostly very, very happy.”
This isn’t your debut film, but it’s certainly a whole new scale for you. How was the experience of making the film?
“It was wonderful. It was all the things you’d expect to be challenging. The shooting schedule was tough, but it was so much fun. Everyone was so excited about what we were doing. I’d psyched myself up to believe it would be a battle, but if you’re well prepared and do your homework, you’ll be fine.”
You talked about the action sequences and how brutal they are. Those look fun, but they must be stressful to direct and take a long time…
“It’s intricate ballet. You’ve got to make them safe and interesting. We weren’t going for slapstick comedy, they’re not stupid. We had a stunt collaborator from the James Bond movies and that was the vibe I wanted. I wanted those sequences to be fast and feel real. They take a long time to do and it’s a lot of planning. But it’s so rewarding when you get it right.”
In a lot of Hollywood comedies, directors like to leave space for improvisation on set. Given the background of some of your actors, especially Kate McKinnon, did you incorporate much of that?
“It was a real mix. There are scenes in the movie with a lot of improv. You can’t open up the big set pieces or the action scenes to improv. That would be hell. But we did leave some room for it. I’m not a director who believes that any improv you come up with on the day will trump the script, but I want to leave some room for it. For Kate, this is her biggest role and I didn’t want her to think she had to come to set every day with some new riff on the script. I wanted her because she’s a brilliant actress.”
It’s a great cast, you must have been delighted with who you ended up with…
“Everyone was so hard-working and just nice people. There was no negativity. This film felt like an opportunity for a lot of people. It was for Sam Heughan, it was a big role in a movie and his first comedy, for Kate it was a chance to do something that wasn’t just comedy, a really dramatic role, and for Mila, she had been able to show off her passion and how funny she is. It made for a really positive set.”
Have you said goodbye to these characters? Or can you see a path to a sequel?
“I would love to make a sequel. It depends on algorithms that go beyond my knowledge, but I would love it. We have the story all mapped out, I know exactly where the characters are and hopefully, we can do it.”
Finally, is your next project locked and loaded?
“David (Iserson, co-writer) and I are working on a slightly strange kind of superhero movie. That’s a long road. I’ve got some television in development too. I think for female directors, there are fewer opportunities to broaden out. There are lots of men who get the chance to do everything, they do action, they do drama, they do comedy, and for women, it does feel a bit like you get your lane and that’s where they want you to stay. I want to do as much and in as many genres as I can.”