Zoë Kravitz on Kimi and Future in Directing
Zoë Kravitz Says "Kimi" Taught Her to Embrace Anxiety: "There's Something Liberating There"
"Kimi" is a nonstop, stress-inducing psychological thriller, but it's also a valuable lesson on humanity. The HBO Max film tells the story of tech employee Angela (Zoë Kravitz), who discovers a recording of a violent crime while reviewing data streams from Kimi (think Siri and Alexa). As she seeks to bring the victim justice, the agoraphobic tech worker has to venture outside of her apartment in Seattle amid the COVID-19 pandemic. POPSUGAR spoke to Kravitz about the obstacles she faced while making the film, what lessons she learned from Angela, and what it was like getting a front-row seat to Directing 101 with Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh, the director of "Kimi," also explains the way the ongoing pandemic advanced the movie's storyline, written by David Koepp.
Koepp's "Kimi" screenplay was written prepandemic and leaned heavily on a science-fiction plot and Angela's overall anxiety. But he and Soderbergh were able to pivot and adjust the story to fit current times in a way that artistically helps advance the plot. "The premise that David pitched me was pre-COVID, and the story works without it, but it turns out to work even better with it. For most of us, lockdown was a real psychological struggle. For Angela, [I] couldn't ask for a better excuse for her to not leave the house. . . . So it turned out just to be this weird collision of the idea and the real world, and it enhanced it, fortunately," Soderbergh shares.
"The tricky part was how do we play, for a movie that's going to come out in 10 months . . . How many people are wearing masks? How many people are not wearing masks? What is the world going to look like in 10 months? That was a tricky thing to come to an answer with," the director, who is also behind the pandemic-based film "Contagion," says of the logistics around filming.
"There's nowhere to hide, and that can be really vulnerable, and not only is it daunting to carry a film, but to try and make each scene different than the next is an interesting journey."
Most of the film takes place in Angela's apartment, which presented itself as an acting challenge for Kravitz. "There's nowhere to hide, and that can be really vulnerable, and not only is it daunting to carry a film, but to try and make each scene different than the next is an interesting journey," Kravitz says during a roundtable.
In fact, real-life elements — like never meeting your coworkers in person due to a remote workplace — were things Kravitz was challenged by, as many scenes were Zoom chats. "They were on Zoom in the other studio. I didn't even meet some of the people that I had scenes with. So it was really, it felt like a science experiment of a film in some ways," she adds. "I had never approached anything like that. It was really interesting."
In addition to the pressure of being the primary subject of "Kimi," Kravitz's character, Angela, brought on increased anxiety for her. "Angela made me weird. She's got like this very buzzy energy, and I think it comes from being inside all the time and containing that energy. And she gave me a lot of anxiety," she tells POPSUGAR.
"When I have a fear or a thought and my instinct is to just push it away and call it just a moment of anxiety, [I] actually [explore] that it could be based in something real."
Kravitz goes on to share how she reflected more about the concept of anxiety as the production unfolded. "We call it anxiety because it's this idea of like, 'It's all in your head.' But what's interesting about this story is [Angela] leaves the house, and the world is just as scary as she thought it was. And there's something I find comforting about that — leaning into your anxiety and looking at it," she shares, adding, "I think when we're able to do that, there's something liberating there. When I have a fear or a thought and my instinct is to just push it away and call it just a moment of anxiety, [I] actually [explore] that it could be based in something real. [It] helps me move past it in a deeper way. Acknowledging the realness of our anxiety is something that I think is helpful."
As for if Kravitz would react the same as Angela if she heard a violent crime through a data stream, she says, "What's really interesting is we live in a world where living in New York, for example, you can see some gnarly sh*t. You can see someone get mugged, and people will just pull out their phones and record it, which is crazy." She continues, "So, I would like to think that I wouldn't be that person and that I would follow through and try and make something happen. . . . She's doing the human thing and being treated like she's doing something outrageous. I think the gaslighting part of the story is really unsettling."
Exploring deeper into themes of anxiety, fear, and humanity's aptitude for goodness was just the tip of the iceberg of Kravitz's on-set learning experience: she also got a front-row seat to Soderbergh's unique approach to directing. Kravitz is making her directorial debut in the upcoming movie "Pussy Island," starring Naomi Ackie and Channing Tatum. Of working with Soderbergh, she says, "It was like a master class. I've never seen anyone work like this before. He's so involved. . . . I was picking his brain a lot about directing because I'm getting ready to do that myself and asking him about [his approach]. Some people [have a] storyboard and things like that. He has every shot in his mind."
"My favorite moments on set with Steven is watching him actively find each shot of the film, and he's editing the film in his mind as he goes — because he also edits the film. It's incredible. . . . He doesn't waste time just getting coverage he's not going to use for no reason," she explains. "And that's a really, again, efficient way of filmmaking. And I hope to one day be able to think that way and to visualize so clearly what I'm attempting to make in my mind." We certainly look forward to Kravitz's directorial debut. While we wait, check out "Kimi" on HBO Max on Feb. 10.