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Pierce Brosnan & Director John Lee Reveal The Truth About False Positive - Exclusive Interview

June 25 saw the release of "False Positive," a new horror flick out of indie powerhouse A24. It's the story of Lucy (Ilana Glazer of "Broad City" fame), a woman desperately trying to get pregnant. She recruits the help of fertility specialist Dr. John Hindle (Pierce "007" Brosnan), a former colleague of her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux). With Dr. Hindle's help, she gets pregnant ... but realizes that something strange is going on.

Looper spoke with Brosnan and director/screenwriter John Lee about the movie. "It's great to be here with John Lee there," said Brosnan, "my director and good friend now, having made 'False Positive' and my playing the part of Dr. Hindle and seeing the results of the film. It's quite exhilarating." The two told us about working with Glazer, the similarities between comedy and horror, and the inner workings of Dr. Hindle.

Be warned: spoilers for "False Positive" follow.

From comedy to drama

John, you wrote this movie with Ilana Glazer. According to your production notes, half the staff comes from comedy and you come from comedy too, if I'm not mistaken. So why horror?

John Lee: I feel like horror and comedy are brother and sister. The difference is how seriously you take the punchline. The classic joke is "I walked past a guy and he said I haven't had a bite in a month, so I bit him." So that's a bad comedy joke, but in the horror, you would actually see the person biting that guy, and that's the difference between comedy and horror, is like actually then filming someone biting another human. So there's very little difference, I think, ultimately. They're all about tension and they're all about buildup and psychology and then a release. Whether that'd be scary or a punchline, it's the same structure ultimately. I've made other things that were horror-oriented previously.

So what was it like working with Ilana Glazer on this? I think this is the first drama she's done, or at least the biggest one so far.

John Lee: Yeah, I think so. She's a real artist. She wants to use whatever skill she has to say something larger than her own ego or her own self or her own desires for whatever she wants to do. It was thrilling when she read the ... I wrote a tone poem of 70 pages or so, and she wanted to do it and I was like, "You really want to do this?" And she was like, "Yeah, I like this weird mood. I like the heaviness of this subject. I like the feeling of it." Then she and I just formed a more structured story, gave it some anchor points and developed the characters. So it was a really easy, fun collaboration.

Pierce Brosnan: How long did that take, John? How long did that collaboration go from the poem?

John Lee: We were also working on a bunch of things, so we would meet maybe once a week. Overall, probably two months concentrated, but it was over six months of time. Then we went to A24 with this script and with her and they immediately said yes.

Getting into the mind of Dr. Hindle

Pierce, I've noticed in recent years you tend to be in bigger, flashier movies. This is a very small movie compared to a lot of your recent work. What attracted you to that?

Pierce Brosnan: Well, the work that John had done and work that Ilana had done, her character as an actress and the script, the story. The story was very engaging. It was very weird, elliptical, disturbing, and it was in my wheelhouse as an actor. I knew exactly what needed to be done. I knew the charm and the joke of having me or the humor of having me play this vain, comforting, wise man, but it's really just this rather twisted human being. The work of A24 has been very engaging and I've watched their movies for some time now and it fit into the time schedule of life and planning and making movies.

So how did you get into the mind of Hindle?

Pierce Brosnan: I read the script. I read the script and I looked at the lives of some of these men who have created chaos in people's lives. You watch the footage of them and you read the scripts and you read it and you read it till you fall asleep reading it, and you wake up reading it and you begin to use your imagination. Then you meet your fellow actors and you get on the set and you work with the director that you've never worked with before, but you have an understanding and you trust and you slowly ... It comes to you, really. It's about leaving yourself alone to have some creative input, but the voice was important. James Mason came to mind. His voice is very soothing.

Oh, I hear that! I hear that! I clearly hear that now that you mention it.

John Lee: I remember Pierce, I gave you the assignment to write your acceptance speech for the award. I was like, "We're never going to film it. Don't worry about it." You were like, "I hate award speeches." I was like, "But Hindle doesn't. Hindle loves an award speech." Then secretly, I was like, "We're going to film it to everyone else." [Laughs] Then I had it on the teleprompter and stuff and then, yeah, you did it.

Pierce Brosnan: Thank you.

John Lee: I thought that was a good way for you to get into this, the ego of Hindle —

Pierce Brosnan: Yes.

John Lee: — because you're surprisingly a humble person for a lot of actors. But Hindle is not a humble person.

Pierce Brosnan: No. [Laughs]

John Lee: I wanted to make sure you embrace the celebrity of yourself through him.

Pierce Brosnan: Yes, yes.

John Lee: I thought that was important to do for you.

Pierce Brosnan: It was. No, it was a wonderful exercise. I truly enjoyed it once I let myself go and embraced the joyous loneliness of his ego. But thank you.

John Lee: No, thank you.

The Rosemary's Baby comparison

So this is for John: When this first came out, Production Weekly said this movie was considered "a contemporary take on 'Rosemary's Baby.'" There are obvious similarities with that movie. What would you say? Would you say "Rosemary's Baby" was an influence? Were you trying to do something different? What was the relation of "Rosemary's Baby" to this?

John Lee: The relationship is they're both about fertility. That's very obvious on that point, but other than that, I don't think they're that similar. There's little Easter eggs throughout the movie about "Rosemary's Baby." Most of it was trying to avoid what they had said about "Rosemary's" ... what we were approaching when we were writing the movie when we get too close to "Rosemary's Baby." Then in contrast, I just tried to get into the head of the female character. "Rosemary's Baby" has a very removed ... Mia Farrow was kind of a prop throughout that movie. Her biggest character change is she cuts her hair. Then not until the very end of the movie, does she go like, "Oh my God, there's this whole world." I just wanted to approach it, that psychological torture a lot differently and be in the head of the female perspective, which I think hasn't been done before in this genre or in this topic of this genre. Other movies have done that. So I really wanted to make sure it was distinctly different in that way. This is more from Lucy's perspective than "Rosemary's Baby" is. It's equally a Cassavetes movie.

Working with Ilana Glazer

We touched on a little bit earlier, but what's it like working with Ilana Glazer?

John Lee: Pierce?

Pierce Brosnan: Ilana, John just reminded me of my first meeting encounter. I went down to set one night in Brooklyn to just say hello to everyone and John was shooting with Ilana. She was butt-naked. I mean, naked and covered in blood and that's how she greeted me. She said, "Hello, Pierce. Hello, darling." I said, "Oh, my." Where do you look when you have a beautiful woman who's curvaceous and gorgeous and she's covered in blood? So I thought we're off to the races here. Just triumphantly courageous and spontaneous and funny and warm and vulnerable. We had a good time. We had a lot of dinners and then to play intimate scenes, to be a gynecologist and have to play the scene with the woman, the actress is there, vulnerable in such a position, it was easy to do. When you work with wonderful artists like that, then you're free. It's exhilarating. You can go anywhere.

John Lee: Yeah, because she trusts everyone around her. She creates an environment of trust that lets her be vulnerable enough to give to the people like me or Pierce. But then also, you give that back because that's the point of it, is creating this system of respect. I think the great thing about Ilana is she's such a ... Her hair represents who she is, her natural hair. It's just this curly, frizzy mess of energy. In this movie, it's all straight and I had to contain all that. I had to take away all your expectations of who Ilana Glazer is or who you think Ilana Wexler is. You open up with her bloody and walking down the street with determination so your expectations are debased. All that is gone. So you have to recalculate or calibrate how you might feel about her.

It was a tense experience for her to take away her gifts, really. Her gifts are naturally energy and jokes and spirit. You meet her and she's just a ball of love. Then I had to go like, "I'm removing all of that from you." I think for her, it was hard work because she was tortured. We save the scene where she punches you until the end for a reason, because you can't let her have any gratification for a month. So all that tension, it just builds and builds and builds. Her identity is just so different than what it normally is. But she carried that water so well. The reason I'm so glad I'm not an actor is because I couldn't handle that, but she more than handled it. She kept it also good and safe and sound for everyone on set where everyone felt comfortable to do this, to do and push and play and inspire and be inspired.

"False Positive" is now streaming on Hulu.