Spontaneous is an outrageous high school love story about growing up and blowing up! The film stars Katherine Langford (Cursed, 13 Reasons Why), Charlie Plummer (Looking for Alaska, Words on Bathroom Walls), Yvonne Orji (Insecure, Night School), and Hayley Law (Riverdale). Together, these actors form a cast of convincing characters caught up in a pandemic of a very different nature as their classmates start spontaneously exploding. Everyone’s focus is quickly shifted from graduation to survival, as Brian Duffield’s directorial debut unfolds.
Spontaneous is now available for Premium Video-On-Demand and Digital purchase from Paramount Home Entertainment. A DVD release is due on November 10th.
Duffield is one of the most exciting screenwriters working today. His writing credits include Insurgent, Jane Got A Gun, The Babysitter, Underwater, and Love And Monsters. Duffield is currently in pre-production on an untitled horror comedy he is producing with Lord Miller for Universal Studios this coming spring. Spontaneous is filled with exciting potential, showcasing a first-time director finding a voice. Years from now, people will be looking back on Spontaneous in the same fashion that film-buffs currently look back on the early works of Richard Kelly, Rian Johnson, and Denis Villeneuve.
Hayley Law (Tess McNulty) took out a few minutes from her day last week to talk with us about the explosive film. The audio from the interview is also included via SoundCloud.
Congratulations on Spontaneous. It’s a pretty cool film.
Hayley Law: “Thank you, thank you.”
Were you provided with much in advance? Did you get a full script before you engaged in production on the film?
“Yeah, I got the script when I auditioned for it. Which is great because it would have been very weird to go into it with no contact of what’s happening when there’s so much happening in the movie.”
What was your opinion after you did your first read-through? It’s a pretty high concept.
“Yeah, I was quite shocked. I had to read it a couple of times to see if what I thought was happening was (actually) happening. And it was, in fact, happening. I’ve never read anything like it. I was shocked.”
So what was your first day on set like?
“It was really great. Charlie and Katherine and I had gotten together a couple of times before we first started shooting, so by the time we started working, the three of us and the director Brian were all quite buzzed. We became fast friends, which was really nice. It felt like a bunch of friends making a movie.”
Do you remember what your first scene was?
“I think it was at the beginning it’s the one that’s in the trailer when she comes out and she says that Katelyn exploded, and I’m wearing the green sweater. I think that was the first one. Oh, it was so long ago, I don’t even remember. but I think that was the first one.”
Can you talk a little bit about Brian Duffield? How his set was, and how he likes to work?
“Yeah, Brian is extremely hands-on and so approachable and kind. And he was always open to hearing our thoughts and opinions on the characters and wanted everyone to be really authentic. It’s great to work with someone like that. And he’s so passionate about this movie, which is another amazing thing to have; hopefully, the director is passionate about the movie they are directing (laughs). Brian was just so great and cute, he let us play around, and it was really fun.”
So how sticky was the blood that they used on set during some of the more explosive scenes?
“Oh my God, it was SO sticky. It would be slippery at first on the ground when we were running, and then it would just get so sticky, and I just felt so bad for the wonderful team that had to clean up the classroom that was just dripping. It was so gross. And hard to get off your skin and hair too. It was nuts.”
As violent as this probably read in the script, most of what happens is off-camera, which I found interesting. Were you cognizant of that prior to shooting? Did Brian say, “a lot of this is going to be done stylized?”
“No, I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen until it happened. I was curious about how they were going to make a person look like they were exploding. But it was very technical, and I think they found a really effective way to do it. It definitely didn’t feel like a lot of it was off-screen, because we were still getting blasted with the blood canons. It was really interesting to watch them work out how they were going to do all that.”
So when you saw the final version of the film, did you look at it and say, “Wow, a lot of that was off-screen. It’s not as exploitative in that sense?”
“No, I didn’t think about it. When I was watching it, I was just kind of taken back to shooting it, and I was like, ‘Oh, I remember that. Oh God, that was a mess, that was so bloody.’ I didn’t think about how a lot of it was off-screen, but I do like that it gives a kind of a point of view of the characters by having it off-screen.”
I was wondering how easy it was for you and Katherine to fall into that ‘best friends vibe’ that you share throughout the movie?
“It was really nice and smooth because we met before we started shooting, and we just became fast friends. Katherine is so great, and we got along so well. So by the time we started shooting it, it felt like I had known her for years, and I had only met her twice.”
Cool. I like that Tess and Mara share a ‘friends forever’ retirement plan together. I thought that was a cool touch, right?
“Yeah, I loved that. It made me think about my friends and my retirement. Well, it’s just me right now, but I like that retirement plan.”
Have you ever thought that far ahead in real life? Do you have a game plan for what 66 is going to look like?
“Yeah, what I want my 66 to look like is what I want my 35 to look like. I want to have one. I want to be 66 in like ten years. I want to live that way in ten years.”
What I found interesting watching Spontaneous was how aspects of it mirror current events right now; the isolating of students, the fear of contagion, and the fear of group gatherings. That couldn’t have been planned? You had no way of knowing that the world was going to go the way it went, right?
“No way. I never thought that anything in this movie would be relevant. And I hoped that it wouldn’t be. But I think it’s crazy, but kind of nice to have something to watch and see how (obviously it’s a movie) but it’s nice to see how young people react to a situation like this. But I definitely never thought anything in this movie could be relevant at all (chuckles).”
This could just be me, but I felt like there was a dreamy element to Spontaneous. Maybe that was in part due to the music by Joseph Trapanese. But also in Duffield’s direction. It was very voyeuristic.
“Yeah, I felt that way too. Also, the subject matter is quite unrealistic. It was certainly unrealistic a few years ago, and now it seems like it’s not. But yeah, I think it has kind of a dreamy element to it. Some of the shots, too, I feel like the angles and stuff kind of take you into a dreamy place for sure.”
Yeah, slow motion, and kind of hypnotic. It was cool. While I was watching it, I felt it was kind of destined to be a cult-classic in the way that films like Heathers and Donnie Darko and even Brick have sort of become revered in the decades since those movies have dropped. Would you say the same thing?
“Oh man, I hope so. It’s hard for me to think that way when I’m working on it. I feel like I view it differently. I love that you say that, and I really hope so. I love the movie, but it’s just hard for me. Anything that I do, I’m always like, ‘Yeah, this is cool.’ I can’t see it how the audience is seeing it, but if that’s how people think of Spontaneous, I’m so honored.”
I guess time will tell.
“Yeah, time will tell.”
Do you have a personal moment where you felt like pursuing acting was going to work out for you?
“I still haven’t had that moment. I feel like I’m always worried and constantly questioning. This career choice has been a crazy rollercoaster, and I’m always praying for the next job. I haven’t had that moment yet, but I hope it comes because I’m tired of stressing about work.”
Interesting. Lastly, I’m curious if you are still active as a musician. Do you still perform?
“Mm-hmm. Perform? No. I’ve done some virtual things, but I definitely have music. I’m putting a song out on the 22nd (of October), and I have a lot of finished music ready to come out. I love performing so much. I’m so bummed out that I don’t get to do that. I have to find ways to be creative and do a virtual concert or something like that. I’ve definitely got to get creative.”