Filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo has depicted many extraordinary events in his work: time travel, alien invasion, bomb threats, the apocalypse. His latest, Colossal, tells a tale of giant-monster attacks.
“It’s always really exciting when you bring together the rules of fiction and the rules of reality, or rather the lack of rules of reality,” Vigalondo says. “So, I think, let’s put together half stuff that happens in the movies and half stuff that happens in real life, and there’s my impulse: putting together mundane dialogue with crazy situations.”
In Colossal, Vigalondo explores what happens when an alcoholic woman named Gloria (Anne Hathaway) discovers she’s mentally connected to a kaiju attacking Seoul, South Korea. As the film progresses, more information is revealed about Gloria and her life. The results are a wonderful mix of hilarious and depressing.
“All the other movies I’ve made deal with comedy at some point. They all have their funny side. But if you go to my flat in Madrid and see all my movies, they’re all kind of depressing,” Vigalondo jokes. “I don’t know why, but I love comedy and I’m condemned to make comedy, but I don’t believe in it by itself, just for the laughs.
“Jokes and comedy are perfect to join other flavors and make something really provocative. When I was a child, I wasn’t really into comedy, but the idea that you could place comedy in a horror film, for me, was the most exciting thing ever.”
Vigalondo also tackles deeper themes in his work: alcoholism, abusive relationships, toxic masculinity, and even domestic abuse. “The thing that frightened me most in the process of making this film was being aware that the movie had a lot of jokes while being a movie about [these] things,” he admits. “When you’re dealing with that and making ridiculous jokes, you can be scared. You don’t want to make a movie that is exploiting certain things while making people laugh. I didn’t want the movie to be frivolous or offensive to people who feel some kind of proximity to these issues.”
But Q&A screenings of the film have assured him that audiences are responding well and that this film, like many of his others, proves a great instance of self-reflection in how he approaches Gloria’s childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Asked why his career has so often explored male entitlement, Vigalondo laughs and says, “Well, I’m a male.
“It’s probably because one of the tools of fiction is questioning yourself; everything that you know and everything that you can apply to fiction comes through your brain, so you can’t escape from yourself. And questioning yourself, your point of view, your identity, and your actions is a really nice tool for creating fiction.”
That's why Vigalondo cast Sudeikis to dissect the trope of the “nice guy."
“He added a lot to the strategy," the director explains. "This movie was a comment on certain kinds of films. I’m never trying to make a comment on monster movies; I’m mostly talking about romantic comedies. I feel really lucky about having him there, because it’s not only about his skills and charisma on camera; it’s also about how his presence makes the concept really round.”
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But as serious as his exploration can be, it all comes back to the humor. “Something that happens when I’m writing is that every time I see a choice for pushing things in any direction, I can’t control myself. If I see something that can be potentially funny, I push, even if it comes after something terrifying or dramatic. Now it’s next to something ridiculous.
“I even like pairing a sophisticated joke with a fart. I can’t stop myself,” he laughs, “especially when you have someone like Anne Hathaway, who I think is a genius comedian.
“She can deliver comedy, and some of the biggest laughs are coming not from the screen but from her acting. Her writing was kind of normal, but the way she delivers it makes people laugh, and that’s part of being a comedian. Knowing that she can be funny in this open way but also deliver a really dramatic speech the next second gives you confidence as a director. It’s just gonna work. If it doesn’t work, it’s because I made the mistake.”
Colossal opens in Miami Friday, April 21.