Breaking The Girls, Camp, And Getting Natasha Lyonne to Drool: An Interview with Jamie Babbit
Cinema-Queerité had the chance to speak with director Jamie Babbit about her most recent film the camp suspense thriller Breaking The Girls, the cast, her VOD habits and plans to start watching Orange is the New Black.
A loose homage to Patricia Highsmith’s “Strangers On A Train”, according to Babbit the project came about when “Producer Kirk D’Amico [Kinsey] said I have a bisexual thriller written by Guinevere Turner, would you be interested? And I said YES I would definitely be interested.” Turner and Babbit have been collaborators before, Babbit directed her in Itty Bitty Titty Committee and both have worked in various roles on multiple episodes of “The L Word”. Turner messaged Babbit on Facebook and said “Our movie is the love child between Wild Things and Basic Instinct.” A sentiment I couldn’t agree with more.
On the subject of casting and directing the two leads, Madeline Zima and Agnes Bruckner, Babbit said “They both just came and auditioned. The only person that I actually knew was Kate Levering the woman who played Nina. She was actually a friend of mine so that part I always knew she was gonna play….Agnes Bruckner came in and auditioned and I always liked her and she kind of reminds me of Clea Duvall, you know like Clea Duvall at 25. She has that kind of tomboy look, that really you just can’t tell whats going on with her which I needed with her character, is she evil, is she nice, who is she?” Zima also auditioned for her role of Alex Layton, the poor little rich girl who eventually becomes unhinged. Babbit mused that “she reminded me of an actor that would be in a Roman Polanski Movie, there’s just something about her face. I love watching her.” A very fitting compliment for Zima who has excelled in leading roles with dark pasts.
Shawn Ashmore also makes a brief appearance in the film but his character never gets a chance to make an impression with the audience. Babbit can relate, “I used to be an actor and I would always get those roles, the sweet girlfriend.”
When I broached the subject of camp, a tricky genre to navigate, Babbit responded that “It’s definitely intentional, but I mean I always feel like with But I’m A Cheerleader, there were a lot of like ‘Oh it’s a camp movie and they’re really bad actors’ and I was like, I don’t actually work with bad actors. I always think thats what the dividing line for me is, that I get the actors to 100% commit. You know, Natasha Lyonne when she drools in But I’m a Cheerleader she says ‘I’m a homo!’ I definitely knew that was going to be funny.”
Speaking of Lyonne, I had to ask if Babbit was keeping up with the latest original series to hit Netflix “Orange is the New Black” where Lyonne features prominently as inmate Nicky Nichols. “I was actually going to watch it tonight! I was really excited.” While Breaking The Girls is not currently available on Netflix, its availability on VOD brings up an interesting point about today’s viewing habits. Breaking The Girls deserves to be seen in a group setting and there were many moments when I did wish I was watching with a bunch of friends. Babbit agreed, “For sure it would be really fun to watch with a group of people, it’s just like a fun ride. IFC is multi-releasing it on VOD which is perfect for lesbian Friday night or Sunday night, everyone getting together making popcorn and having fun.” - “Like an L Word viewing party.” I interject. - Babbit laughs, “no, literally.”
Babbit’s own viewing habits are in line with the digital audience. “I’m so into on demand. I watch everything on my computer so to me I’m excited,” she says about potential for streaming content. “Actually you know, But I’m A Cheerleader it played at Angelika and Sunset 5 in LA but mostly people saw it on TV… and so that’s really how people see your stuff and I’m always excited to get it out in any form.”
Breaking The Girls is available now on VOD.