When Ned Benson's The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby came late in the Toronto Film Festival program last September, the daring three-hour venture soon became the festival’s sleeper hit. The New York-set relationship drama following the break-up of a marriage after the death of a child, was made as two separate films, Him and Her, and giving both parents’ perspectives. While Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy possibly deliver career-best performances as the grieving Eleanor and Conor, Isabelle Huppert and William Hurt and Ciaran Hinds stand out as the respective parents.
Interestingly, after the film was snapped up by the Harvey ‘Scissorhands’ Weinstein for the US, Benson re-edited it as one film, Them, which screened on the weekend in Cannes. The Sydney Film Festival will show the Him and Her versions. In Toronto, the films were screened in varying orders and I saw Her, arguably the second film first. In many ways, it made it more interesting. Either way, it’s an intense moving experience I would gladly sit through again, no matter the order. Take your hankies.
Where did you first meet Ned?
Jessica Chastain: I met Ned because when I first moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago. I won tickets to the Malibu Film Festival and there was an incredible short that he acted in and directed. I ran after him in the lobby and I said, “Hi, my name is Jessica, I think you are so talented and I want to work with you some day. Can I have my manager send you my reel?” I think I’d only had a guest spot on ER, and we became very good friends. Along with Jess and Cassandra (Cassandra Kulukundis), our main producer, we lived for 10 years dreaming that some day we would make movies. We’d go to see Hitchcock movies and movies with Isabelle Huppert. We were like theatre geeks in high school who found each other after college.