“When you start with the premise of teen assassins who want a dress created by their favorite pop starlet, you’re starting in a place that creates a lot of room for a heightened reality,” starts Geoffrey Fletcher as he begins to explain the world he strove to create with his feature directorial debut VIOLET & DAISY.
Heightened indeed, the film stars Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan as contact killers who need the commission off their next hit to purchase a dress from a pop star’s new fashion line. The trajectory changes upon meeting their target, a dying man who welcomes death, played by James Gandolfini.
Fletcher began writing VIOLET & DAISY before getting the opportunity to adapt the novel PUSH by Sapphire into the screenplay for the acclaimed film PRECIOUS, which won him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2010. Shortly after completing PRECIOUS, the characters that were born in his mind before his big break revisited him.
“The characters started speaking back to me and I always think that’s such a great place to find yourself or such a great place to be,” remembers Fletcher. “ I’ve always been fascinated by the crime genre and the coming-of- age genre and I thought combining those and experiencing them through the perspective of two lost young women provided a wealth of opportunities for both entertainment value and humanity.”
With VIOLET & DAISY Fletcher uses a medley of genres, themes and styles to illustrate the story, characters and worlds that evolved within him, and he knew that there was no possibility of him handing over this grim and surreal tale of friendship, crime, hunger, materialism and fame-worship to another director.
“This world is so specific,” explains Fletcher. “[…] I really had a clear idea of how every moment would be portrayed. It requires one to really know this story from the inside out and while shooting it really helps to be immersed, and feel that you understand every square inch of the universe you’re creating.”
While the writer and director immersed himself in a universe that was his brainchild, and which he describes as sometimes strange and wild, the cast (including Danny Trejo and Marianne Jean-Baptiste alongside Bledel, Ronan and Gandolfini) might have experienced some wonderment coming into this new and interesting territory.
“To me the most important thing was that however unusual situations may seem that they find the truth in them,” says Fletcher of his actors. “There’s a fable-like aspect [to the film]. Fables are rooted in very real issues in humanity, and I think that all of the actors in this piece found the souls of their characters.”
However challenging, Fletcher says that eclectic collection of actors stepped up to the plate and excited him as a filmmaker. “The notion of Saoirse Ronan and Danny Trejo sharing a scene was thrilling,” he says. “And, the notion of Alexis Bledel finishing off James Gandolfini was thrilling. I think that you’ll see different sides of all of these actors.”
With PRECIOUS, and now VIOLET& DAISY, the former Columbia University and NYU adjunct film professor has written compelling and moving narrative about real, complex and interesting female characters. He doesn’t feel it is a stretch for a man to tell a story about a woman, and that it is the story, combined with a storyteller’s passion and sincerity that really matter. “I think so much has been done in the boy universe and there’s so much left to do in a girl universe,” explains Fletcher. “Men and women go through this life side by side, so I’m often curious about things that aren’t explored …”
Fletcher’s bold explorations through this film have surprised many, and upon showing a former film student an early cut of VIOLET & DAISY he was asked if he was scared to take so many chances. “I think that a degree of fear is healthy,” he says. “But, ideally you’re motivated primarily by desire and curiosity and wonder about what can work instead of what might work. To me any film that takes inspired chances that are in search of something is a success.”