Katie Aselton: Like a Rock
Scott Kirkland, PictureGroup
For five seasons, Katie Aselton has been a regular on the FX comedy The League, playing the sole female member of that show’s furious fantasy football clique. She’s also acted in a number of movies, both with and without her husband (and League co-star) Mark Duplass.
But she’s also been striking out on her own as a filmmaker, writing, directing and starring opposite Dax Shepherd in 2010’s tangled dramedy The Freebie. Three years later, she’s followed it with Black Rock, written by Duplass from a story by Aselton.
The movie is a stripped-down psychological thriller about three estranged friends – played by Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth – whose already-contentious reunion turns into a battle for their lives after an encounter with three men on a hunting trip.
“I wanted to do a thriller,” Aselton says over the phone from her movie’s Los Angeles press day. “I wanted to dip into that genre and play around in that space. But I wanted to do it on my terms, [so] it kind of feels like a chick flick in the beginning, in a way, and then it sort of knocks you off-balance when the guys come, and then hopefully you never really regain your footing again.”
What’s most impressive about Black Rock, at least to me, is how utterly different it is from The Freebie. Aselton describes that film as “a very small relationshippy talky-talky movie – just small and naturalistic and simple and honest, and character-driven, dealing with people and their relationships.
“I loved the idea of taking that and bringing it to a genre [for Black Rock], and then working within the confines of a genre and following the rules that exist for that kind of movie.”
Casting Black Rock was half the battle, Aselton says – and it started with reaching out to Lake Bell.
“I knew Lake socially; we had mutual friends and sort of ran in similar circles,” she says. “She’s a very strong, confident woman, and that’s the prototype I was looking for. I wanted these girls to be the anti-mousy-librarian girl that was so cool for so long – those girls who, like, hunched their shoulders and apologized for being pretty or smart, and tried to be awkward to make up for that. I’m so over that, it’s so annoying to me.
“I like girls who stand up straight and don’t apologize for being pretty,” she continues. “They can still be funny without losing their femininity, and they can be strong and sexy at the same time. I like those girls who are like, ‘This is who I am, and if you don’t like it, f--- you.’ And Lake felt like that kind of girl to me; she’s very strong and awesome.”
It was landing Bell that led Aselton to her third leading lady, Kate Bosworth.
“She knew her in the same way that we knew each other,” Aselton says. “They had never spent a ton of time together, they saw each other at parties, but [Bell] liked her vibe and really thought she was cool – and I really like Kate’s work. She liked the script, so I sat down with her [and] she kinda knocked my doors wide open. I fell in love with her immediately.”
Aselton was similarly careful in casting the male roles, making sure she was creating a safe environment for all of her actors. She picked Will Bouvier, “a dear old friend who I went to theatre school with,” to play the character whose assault of Aselton’s Abby sends Black Rock spiraling into darkness.
“Part of the reason why I cast him is that I did have such faith dealing with him,” Aselton says. “He’s also a ballet dancer, so I knew he knew his body very well – because we’re not trained stunt people, you know. So I wanted to make sure that I was going to be taken care of in those moments. It is scary when you work with actors, ’cause emotion can take over, and if they are not fully aware of their bodies I think you can really lose track of where you’re at physically and really get hurt.
“But the saddest thing was that, you know, I’ve known him for ten years now, and he was like, ‘I don’t think I can hit you.’ And I was like, ‘Well, you’re just gonna have to.’ [Laughing] ‘You’re just gonna have to figure it out.’ But I would say even scarier than that was having a gun pointed at me for the first time.”
Black Rock is now available on DVD from Phase 4 Films.