As the distracted-but-doting father in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin,” John C. Reilly plays an affable, warm man who may not have all the facts; as the title teen, Ezra Miller is magnetically malevolent. But sitting down to talk about the film, the two laughed and complimented each other on their press-day wardrobes. Reilly, in a blue jacket and straw fedora, laughed as Miller flipped over copies of that day’s “Metro” paper that featured Miller’s face on the cover: “I’m just a little perturbed by sitting and looking at what looks like a jury of my peers that are myself staring back at me. It’s a little strange to me still; I guess I’m not acclimated.” Reilly explained how “I prefer to be overdressed than underdressed. My self-esteem is low enough; I don’t need to drag myself down further.” He nodded towards co-star Miller: “You don’t know what that’s like: You’re a golden child.”
Reilly felt lucky, though, as he explained coming on board the film: “I was obsessed with Lynne Ramsay for years and years. I loved ‘Ratcatcher’ and ‘Morvern Callar’ and it’s been some years since ‘Morvern Callar’ came out. I was like, ‘What happened to that woman? I’ve got to find out what happened.’ I called my agent at the time, and I said, ‘Here’s the directors I want to work with.’ The first person I said was Lynne, and he said, ‘Actually, it’s funny you mention that. She’s just written the script, and she wants you to do it.’ And here we are at Cannes.
Reilly and Miller both praised how Ramsay and co-writer Rory Kinnear transformed Shriver’s original novel — which is written as a series of letters — into, as Reilly put it, something new, “Instead of this corny voiceover treatment of a diary kind of thing.” Miller shuddered: “The horror of voiceover.”
Reilly didn’t take a Cannes debut for granted, but he also didn’t think it was that unlikely: “We had high hopes, and Lynne has had good success here at Cannes in the past; Tilda is beloved here. I knew — if the movie came together in the way that Lynne wants it to — ‘I think we have a shot there.’ When the news finally came — and it came late; they don’t really let you know until right before — it was much celebration around the world, because all of us are scattered all over the world right after we shot it.”
Less happy, for Miller, was trying to get into Kevin’s toxic mindset. “For me, it was about really trying to create the internal conditions of someone who’s, in a certain way, neglected, and how that development tracks from an incredibly young age. Adolescence — which is where my Kevin appears — is the moment when everything you felt throughout your childhood takes on this very distinct black-and-white clarity and you feel so righteous and certain in your course of action. Kevin is furious that there’s so much inauthenticity that he’s been treated with his entire life. Essentially for me the most important thing was really having no judgment of him whatsoever, just fully feeling all of that constantly — which was, indeed, a little traumatizing.” Miller laughed: “But in a good way.”