Simon Stone interview: The Daughter
We talked to one of theatre’s young stars about his debut as a film director
But chatting on an unseasonably sunny morning in Mayfair, we found him anything but, laughing about his interviewer’s inappropriate sartorial choices (a wool coat in 20-degree heat, in case you were wondering), before gleefully ordering a mid-interview flat white.
We’re talking about The Daughter, Simon’s debut as a film director. Adapted from Ibsen’s The Wild Swan, the whole project has its genesis in theatre. Simon staged it a few years back at Sydney’s St Belvoir Theatre (and later brought it to the Barbican), taking a rather cavalier approach to casting constraints. ‘I read it and it had 36 characters in it,’ he says, ‘and I thought "oh that’s the show I can do with only six actors."’
Simon Stone, Photograph: Mark Rogers, Metrodome
Following the production, Simon was approached by producers Jan Chapman and Nicole O’Donohue to turn Ibsen’s play into a film. Naturally, he agreed.
‘I’d always wanted to do a film. I went into the theatre assuming it was going to be a bit of a practice for making movies. It then didn’t become that. I thought I was going to do a couple of plays in a couple of warehouses, just to practice for making some short films and then make a movie. Because at that time, the theatre world was a very closed shop… but then I did get a few gigs, and then a few gigs turned into a lot of gigs.’
There you have it; one of the rising stars of theatre fell into the job by happy accident.
As a first foray into cinema, The Daughter is an impressive piece of work; set in a small logging town, it follows a family whose idyllic life is threatened when a visitor comes to town, dredging up an old secret.
With shots of mist-shrouded mountains and vast forests, we suggest that the whole thing looks like a Scandinavian noir, and Simon agrees. ‘Yes! But we shot it in Australia. And the funny thing is, in Australia people think of it as a very Australian film.’
But Simon himself worries about attempts to pigeonhole the film. ‘The intention was that it didn’t define itself through its landscape as an Australian movie. It’s Australian because of the Australian talent that’s gone into creating it. But it has a universality in resonance.’
‘It’s a story that is taking place, in any western, decline-of-capitalism, world,’ he says, gesturing to equivalences between the recklessness of a certain character in the story and the unbounded growth of capitalism.
‘The character who created a long time ago the core problem in the film represents this notion of not thinking about the consequences. Not caring, and then letting it be someone else’s issue and then moving on. It’s not the American companies that are suffering, it’s the people who used to be working for them.’
Photograph: Mark Rogers, Metrodome
Now we start to see Simon’s more serious side. ‘I thought it was wonderful that not only could we take a late 19th century play and find the modern context for it, we should also take the original 19th century context and find the consequences of that, which is that the dream of industrialisation, alive and well during Ibsen’s time, has run aground.’
With that the interview draws to a close, and we ask what his plans are for the coming months. He offers this as a parting salvo:
'I am preparing a couple of movies. I’m writing a TV show here in London. I’m directing five plays-slash-operas a year so that’s keeping me pretty busy. I’ve got a show opening here at the Young Vic on the fourth of August, and I’m just quickly going to pop over to Amsterdam and do the world stage premiere of Husbands and Wives by Woody Allen'
A busy man, then.