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Sadie Sink & Darren Aronofsky Break Down 'The Whale' Scene

Sadie Sink and director Darren Aronofsky break down a scene from their new film 'The Whale' starring Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink and Ty Simpkins. Director: Adam Lance Garcia Director of Photography: Brad Wickham Editor: Jordan Calig Celebrity Talent: Darren Aronofsky, Sadie Sink Producer: Madison Coffey Line Producer: Jen Santos Production Manager: Mark Bond Director, Video Talent: Lauren Mendoza Camera Operator: Zach Eisen Audio: Sean Paulsen Production Assistant: Rafael Vasquez Gaffer: Gautam Kadian Post Production Supervisor: Nicholas Ascanio

Released on 01/09/2023


My favorite part of Ellie's character

is her untied shoelace.

Oh, yeah.

Which no one's commented on yet.

And I'm really upset

because I had made us re-shoot a scene

after I got the idea about her untied shoelace.

'Cause, for me, it's like,

whenever you see someone's untied shoelace,

you get a little nervous, maybe?

Yeah. That they're gonna get hurt.

People were nervous on set too.

They were all saying, Yeah, were they really?

Sadie, your shoe. I'm like, that's-

No, Darren's making me

have it unlaced. It's Darren.

Hi, I'm Darren Aronofsky.

Hi. I'm Sadie Sink

and this is And this is

Notes on a Scene. Notes on... a Scene.

[Sadie laughs] [screen beeping]

This is Notes on a Scene...

For The Whale. For The Whale.

Maybe someone else finds you attractive.

Maybe my dad finds you attractive.

I really wish that-

You know, it is so easy

to make you uncomfortable.

It's honestly, it's a little sad.

The scene we're gonna do today

is Sadie is totally toying with Ty, Thomas,

who is a missionary visiting her dad.

She knows a secret about him.

And I think this whole scene

is just her being a master manipulator

and trying to get that secret out of him.

Do you find me attractive?

Uh... Um.

Because I'm not attracted to you at all,

just let you know.

I'm not trying to be mean or anything.

I just don't think you're very good-looking

or interesting or intelligent.

[Darren] Do you remember we added that line?

[Sadie] Mm-hmm.

Was it your idea or-

Do you remember how that- No, Sam added it.

Sam Hunter, our writer.

At the end of it.

I don't find you intelligent

or very good-looking.

Yeah, yeah.

But I love it 'cause Sadie

is one of the really nicer people I've met

and she plays such a mean, mean person.

Do you think your character's mean?

Yeah, but it's...

I think she's just, she's honest.

Yes. It's interesting.

I think, as an actor,

you have to like your character.

When I did Requiem for a Dream with Ellen Burstyn,

I said her character was stupid,

which was a bad word to use.

And she said, oh, she's not stupid, she's simple.

And she taught me, with that lesson,

that's very important,

that the actor actually has

to have compassion for their own character.

Or intelligent.

Oh my God, grow up.

Maybe someone else finds you attractive.

Maybe my dad finds you attractive.

For me, one of the big challenges in the movie

was how to keep the film moving and interesting.

Charlie, who's here and plays a guy

who doesn't move that much,

he's kind of the sun of the movie

and everyone else is kind of a little moon

or a little satellite.

And so I knew the whole time

that there would be tons of movement

and how we would, basically,

want to capture all of these different characters

moving around the sun.

Oh my God, grow up. But you could see,

so, when she does a big move,

we cut out to a wide shot

and the camera does a huge slide across.

What that does is sets up a new line

between the characters.

Kind of the brilliant thing

that the production designer did early on

was by putting the couch

in the middle of the room.

If you think about most living rooms you go into,

the couch is up against the wall,

but the designer somehow figured out,

okay, let's put the couch in the middle.

And that allowed us to circle him,

you know, back to that sun and satellite metaphor.

From the moment Ellie first steps

into Charlie's apartment,

I think she just makes herself right at home.

Charlie would be on this couch

and we staged it to where Ellie

would kind of walk behind the couch,

where he couldn't necessarily move to see her.

So it was, like, Kind of

tease him. really interesting

'cause it was like- You could do it.

It was like- Like, you were there.

Yeah. Yeah. And so-

But he's a big guy And then I'm back here.

and it's like there and then-

And I'd linger here.

And it became- [Sadie laughs]

And she kind of just kept taunting him

over and over again.

And that was some blocking we figured out

in the rehearsal room.

Basically, we set up the camera back here

and was, like, kind of moving around,

as if we were her POV.

And he was barely able to see her the whole time

and it was just very, very uncomfortable

and a great moment.

Ellie, she was a cat playing with yarn.

This was like one of my favorite Ellie scenes

just 'cause all of her scenes before this are with Charlie

and their dynamic is very specific.

With this, it's kind of like

you get to see her in the wild.

Maybe how she interacts with her peers

or just anyone.

Oh my God, grow up.

Maybe someone else finds you attractive.

Charlie's an English teacher and very educated man

so the bookshelves were really important,

but also, super important to us,

were the books themselves.

Our set dresser actually brought her library

which was so super impressive library.

And decorate. Normally, when you do a movie,

you just rent a bunch of books

and they're just nonsense books.

But actually, all of this was the great literature.

So it was kind of fun,

as the crew was setting up,

you could kind of grab any book off the shelf

and read a really fantastic poem

before putting it back.

Maybe someone else finds you attractive.

Maybe my dad finds you attractive.

I really wish that-

You know, it is so easy

to make you uncomfortable.

We had to figure out a way

to not allow Thomas to escape the scene.

So that's why we did this

kind of crazy, fast move across was to-

Maybe my dad finds you attractive.

Basically, cut off his escape.

And this was one of my favorite things you did,

was, like, your total dissent and attack.

This is the lioness coming after the baby zebra.

You know, it is so easy

to make you uncomfortable.

[Darren] It's honestly, Zebra.

it's a little sad.

You can cash that out.

[lighter flicking]

[Darren] Then she slowly-

The music cues in as she starts

to do her dissent on the zebra.

Here she comes.

And she knows exactly what's going on

and he's clueless.

If my parents knew I was getting high.

Getting high while out witnessing for the Church.

[Darren] Didn't you figure that out?

The leaning in? I was probably-

You know what, I was probably, like,

leaning over it, like,

in between a scene or something and maybe-

Right. And maybe I saw that

and was like, let's use that. Yeah.

And yeah, and how I shot it was, you know,

we put the camera over your shoulder

so it's like the dissent, your POV.

And then of course, there's a camera

tracking back on your closeup.

That was all the coverage we wanted.

[Thomas blowing]

Before Thomas shows up,

she's given her dad some Ambien,

so he's asleep and she's smoking pot

in his living room.

Thomas comes in and he expresses to her

that he's had an issue with pot in the past

and Ellie's like, okay,

I'm gonna make him smoke then.

And that's kind of her mission.

It's interesting 'cause the play

was written 10 years ago.

Wasn't the line originally was-

Oh, I know what it is, It's not like-

It's not like I'm

smoking crack or anything. Smoking crack.

It was originally crack in the script.

And I was like [sharply inhales],

you know, it's 10 year-

Crack is really not, you know- [Sadie laughs]

Crack is whack doesn't exist anymore.

If my parents knew I was getting high.

Getting high while out witnessing for the Church.

You're not from New Life.

So that's his big secret

that she has known this whole scene

and hasn't revealed to him.

So the whole scene, she's playing,

waiting to crush this.

[Sadie] Find the right moment.

You're not from New Life.


There's a kid in the grade below me

who goes there.

He told me that they stopped

doing door-to-door stuff last year.

Thomas is a missionary

from a church called New Life

that's based on Sam Hunter's upbringing in Idaho,

where this is based.

Sam Hunter's our writer.

New Life, I guess, is a little controversial

amongst a lot of the players in the movie.

Some people think it's kind of culty.

Charlie has a real big history of it.

That's part of the discovery of the film.

And Ellie also knows what is-

She just has strong opinions on religion,

I think, in general. On religion.

He told me that they stopped

doing door-to-door stuff last year.

And some woman was out preaching or whatever

and a guy answered the door with no clothes on.

There. The ring. The ring. Okay.

So there's this ring that I got to keep.

It's like a bird's claw

kind of like wrapping around. It was kind of a talon,

[Sadie] wasn't it? Yes.

And it, like, wrapped around on both ends.

[Darren] Right, yeah.

[Sadie] Danny had this whole, like,

kind of like reference

to Ellie's character as a whole.

[Darren] Danny Glicker.

[Darren] The costume designer. Yes.

He had so many amazing ideas

that she was this, like, siren of some sort.

Oh, wow.

That was on all of his mood boards.

And then he had this ring that was, like,

a siren's claw.

Right. Taking down.

Well, but that's also the cat

playing with the yarn.

Do you remember anything about the plaid,

where we came with that or any of that?

With every scene really,

I think, Ellie is kind of emotionally,

maybe, shedding a little bit of a layer

and then, also, with the clothes, of course.

So like, she keeps her jacket

and her backpack on in the first scene.

By the second scene, she has, like,

the jacket off but she's still

in dark clothing, mostly reds.

And then in this scene,

she brings a little bit more warmth.

There's a little bit of the yellow.

And one thing Matty Libatique, our DP,

was doing is she's-

If you look here,

she's very much lit with cold light,

while she has a bunch of warm light here.

And he was really conscious of

keeping her in the cold lights,

meaning cooler blue, less friendly lights

early in the film and moving her

more and more toward the warmth.

And some woman was out preaching or whatever

and a guy answered the door with no clothes on.

I gotta go.

Who are you really?

That was one of the last shots that I did

in the movie.

I think that Who are you really?

Like, we went back Well, we had

and redid it. to come back to it.

Well, we didn't have that moment.

I gotta go.

Who are you really?

So that was actually shot out of order.

It was a pickup.

And this closeup on Ellie and like

the Who are you really?, that line

and then you do it from this angle

and with the music and it feels like, oh,

like, suspenseful and like-

[Darren] Right, right, right, right.

So this shot, like, scared me

when I saw it, [Darren laughs]

I was like, geez.

I gotta go.

Who are you really?

[tense music]

I love this.

I love- I'll tell you.

Ty has a very good comedic sense.

And there's a lot of male actors

that won't act silly and vulnerable like that.

And he's very, very openhearted

to embarrass himself, basically.

If you look at that little waddle he does,

[Sadie] it's just so funny. It's so good.

It's so funny. It's so good.

It's just perfect.

Finding Ty was really hard.

We were really struggling with it

and we had some other good actors,

but they were older,

they were in their late twenties.

And the potential of a romance

between Thomas and Ellie,

I think, was important.

So I wanted to find someone

who was a contemporary.

Right before we were about to start, rehearse,

Mary Vernieu, our casting director,

was like, oh, there's this one guy,

Ty Simpkins.

He was a child actor,

but he hadn't acted in a while.

He was kind of taking a break from it

for a while.

But he got on tape and the next day,

he got on a plane and joined us in New York

where we shot the film and he was great.

Come on, just tell me.

[footsteps tapping]

[Thomas] Why do you care?

Because I think we have a blossoming friendship.

At this point, you have two actors

on either side of the door.

It was really a lot of fun to shoot.

So you have, basically,

they'd both sit down and they kind of

are on opposite sides

where actors are communicating

in a very, very kind of intimate conversation

that's very, very close

but never look at each other

and they're not in the same room, which is fun.

I challenge you to find another role like that,

in your long career yet to come,

where you get to do that again.

Got it. [Darren laughs]

[footsteps tapping]

[Thomas] Why do you care?

Because I think we have a blossoming friendship.

One of the most impressive things

that Sadie Sink does in The Whale

is she is at a different speed

than every other actor.

She's, like, working so quickly.

Her mind is so rich and so complicated

that, you know, you watch a movie

maybe a thousand times.

I'll still be watching the film

and see little moves and surfs

and weaves and bobs

that her character does and takes.

That was impressive as to

just to see that the character could be played

with that much sensitivity and variation.

With Ellie, she kind of turns

to, like, aggression

as this sort of kind of coping mechanism.

Justifying that,

that was probably the biggest challenge,

especially with some of her scenes with the dad.

Like, you know, she drugs him.

Why did she do that?

Oh, it's because he was complimenting her,

telling her how amazing she was.

And I remember, like, reading it

and getting so frustrated with it, at first.

It was like,

he's such a great, like, guy,

he's so amazing and-

Oh, she was hurt by him in a real way.

And he was incredibly selfish father.

Justified why you're upset. Justified, for sure.

But definitely-

I get very defensive over Ellie.

As you should.

But I think, by the end,

you see Ellie is changed by Charlie

and that's why the film has hope

and the film delivers, I think, on hope

through what Charlie gives to his daughter.

Starring: Sadie Sink, Darren Aronofsky

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