In person, Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are buds. They don’t get along so well in “Colossal.” In the sci-fi comedy-drama, the Oscar-winning actress plays Gloria, a 30-something hot mess who’s forced — thanks in part to a considerable drinking problem — to ditch New York and return to her middle-of-nowhere New Jersey hometown. There she reconnects with Sudeikis’ Oscar, an old friend from school, and learns something truly bizarre: She has the power to control a giant kaiju monster that wreaks havoc in South Korea. Dubbed “the Anne Hathaway Godzilla movie” when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, it’s also a dark look at friendship, particularly once Oscar turns out to be not as nice as he seems.
We talked to Hathaway and Sudeikis, 34 and 41, about why people should see “Colossal” in the theaters and how parenthood — and making the movie — has made them more empathetic.
This is a crazy movie, and not just because of the plot. It’s a really dark look at two characters who are emotionally violent towards each other.
Anne Hathaway: The thing about this movie is you can have a totally surface relationship with it. It’s a fun monster movie. Or you can talk about it for, in our case, two years and not be bored with it.
Jason Sudeikis: I literally love hearing people’s takes on it.
Hathaway: Not that I’m trying to put ourselves in incredibly lofty company, but I just saw “Get Out.” If you don’t want to think, it’s a good movie, and if you want to think, then it’s a great movie.
It’s a conversation-starter. One thing people can talk about is Oscar’s character. He’s a “nice guy,” but like some “nice guys” he can be as twisted and evil as any sexist pig. If he were on the Internet, he’d be a Men’s Rights Activist.
Sudeikis: If you really follow the Internet troll from their Twitter avatar to who they actually are, I don’t think all of them are going to be 400 pounds and living in their parents’ basement. I think they might be in the cubicle next to you.
Hathaway: Or coaching your kid’s soccer game.
Sudeikis: Or your doctor. Sometimes that anonymity has the tendency to bring out the worst in us.
The Internet has unlocked our inner sociopaths. We can be too brutally honest.
Hathaway: I’m fine with brutal honesty. But I don’t like when someone says to me — and I haven’t had my coffee — “Oh my god, you are so much better looking in movies.” I don’t like it when people get high on hurting me. But if people represent themselves in an honest way that’s kind to both of us, that evokes grace and dignity, I’m fine with that.
“Colossal” also winds up touching on anxieties people have about returning to their hometowns. That’s even more pronounced now, to those of us who come from places that have turned into Trump Country.
Sudeikis: I would argue it’s maybe a good time to go home now. Both sides need to see each other. Not to be highfalutin’; I’m from Kansas, so I get it. But playing someone like Oscar, who hasn’t left home, it forced me to empathize with him. He’s someone one could judge. I’ve probably done that throughout my life.
Hathaway: I think there’s an inherent judgment on people like him — like, “Oh, you never went anywhere.” If you’re judging yourself or anyone else as a failure because of that, I would humbly suggest that your relationship with time needs some maturation.
Both sides talking to each other will happen at some point. Right now I think we’re still a little shellshocked.
Sudeikis: All the world is asking for is for everyone to get along. That might be why technology exists: not to push everyone away or snipe each other from afar, but to empathize. Maybe that’s what VR’s purpose will be. It won’t just be video games and porn, but actual true empathy — to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Hathaway: Think about that poor woman who was harassed online by that poor man. She was just trying to play a game, and he kept trying to grab her boobs. I don’t know what we’re going to get by calling that man a deviant and a pervert and shaming him. We need to find that dude, sit him down and say, “Do you know what you’re doing is disrespecting another human being?” And I’m not actually a bleeding heart person. I’m think I’m newly interested in having those conversations now that I’m a parent.
Sudeikis: That’s happened to me, too. Being a parent has made me think like that as well.