The biggest star of A Ghost Story isn’t Casey Affleck or Rooney Mara, but a gluten-free, chocolate cream pie.
The almost-sugar-free baked good makes a prominent appearance in David Lowery’s evocative new drama (in theaters Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expands to additional cities through July), in which Affleck dons a white bedsheet to play the specter of a recently deceased man known as C. Mara co-stars as his lover, M, who mourns his death by woefully wolfing down almost an entire pie in one uninterrupted nine-minute scene.
“I wanted a representation of grief that we haven’t seen before … that felt unique and uncomfortable and profound,” says Lowery, who previously directed Mara and Affleck in 2013 romance Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. “I thought about how sometimes when I’m upset, I just eat a lot. I thought that would be a really powerful image.”
The writer/director says it’s the scene he’s “proudest of” in his short career so far, which also includes last year’s Pete’s Dragon remake. It was accomplished in one take and two shots: four-and-a-half minutes of M standing in the kitchen picking at the pie, gifted to her by a friend, before she sinks to the floor and ravenously devours it for another four minutes. It was Mara’s idea to lean against the cabinet and somberly chow down.
“I asked her as we were walking through it, ‘What would you actually do?’ ” Lowery says. “She said she would probably just want to collapse and sink into the floor, because that’s where she was emotionally.”
Ghost Story producer James Johnston brought in a few pies from the vegan restaurant chain Spiral Diner & Bakery that he and his wife own in Texas, where the film shot last summer. Mara tried all of them and picked the chocolate one, which she pukes up at the end of the mostly silent scene.
“In the script, the description was, ‘She sits down and eats the entire thing.’ It was just one line,” Lowery says. “I told her, ‘Try to eat the whole thing and when you can’t eat any more, get up and run to the bathroom. You don’t actually need to throw up. But if you need to, go for it.’ It was up to her to bring the scene to an end at the time she thought was appropriate, and she knew what the emotional intent behind the scene was, so there wasn’t a lot of talking about it.”
The melancholy binge-eat became a huge talker at Sundance Film Festival in January, where Ghost Story premiered to rapturous reviews. (USA TODAY movie critic Brian Truitt awarded it **** out of four.)
“I knew that it would be a defining moment in the movie, but figured that’d be the scene everyone would walk out during,” Lowery says. “I thought there’d be a mass exodus about two minutes in once people realized it wasn’t going to stop. Definitely when we were editing it, there were (some) people that said, ‘Yeah, movie’s pretty good. Pie scene could be a little shorter.’ But I remained firm in my resolution that it would be exactly as long as it was in real life.”
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star as a married couple forever changed by a car accident in the drama ‘A Ghost Story.’
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