MT: I picked every one for their talent, but yes, they’re a good looking bunch.
More: I loved Tell No One, the movie Guillaume Canet directed.
MT: That’s how I met him, at a screening of the film. He made a big impression; I knew he was the one.
More: Actually, Last Night seems like a foreign movie to me, in its sort of languid style, its attention to nuance.
MT: It’s hard to tell what the influence was. I’ve always been drawn to foreign films. Eric Rohmer, in college, that leaked into it. Goddard—his editing informed our editing. Truffaut, Antonioni. La Notte was definitely an inspiration.
I also like Mike Nichols, David Lane, Steven Soderbergh, Woody Allen. Those are the Americans I reference or try to watch.
More: And all of them are men! I had high hopes this year, because there seem to be many more movies directed by women than, say, 10 years ago. But when we checked into it, statistically, that’s just not so.
MT: It’s dismal, something like 7 percent. If you measure our progress against other industries, we have the lowest rate of growth in leadership positions. Why shouldn’t women direct? We are 50 percent of the movie-going public.
Kathryn Bigelow [the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, in 2010, for The Hurt Locker] changed the game. Women may not want the action films. One interesting theory that was posed by a reporter, Anne Thompson, was that a lot of female stories are execution dependent. There’s no shoot ’em up, no big sellable premise. Mine is on the surface a very simple story. Also, directing is 20 hours a day. More women with children are doing it. But it’s got to be hard.
The best thing for me was starting out as a writer. A lot of women have written their own stuff. My first scripts [Leo, The Jacket] had male protagonists, and I didn’t feel a bias, because you turn in a script, you are what you have written. Because of my name, I don’t even know if people knew I was a boy or girl.
More: You are Iranian-American, but it sounds like you had a pretty American upbringing.
MT: I’ve been here since age two. Farsi was my first language, but people always tell me I have a California accent. I hope I don’t sound like a Valley Girl!
More: Has that background influenced your movies?
MT: Not this film, but I think in future films, I will address that. I had immigrant parents, and having immigrant parents, I’ve always felt like an outsider. That’s a good thing for an artist. You feel a little to the side, and it’s helpful to identify as one watching.
But my love of film came from my dad. I watched a lot of movies growing up with him. I had strict parents, we weren’t allowed to go out much, but when we were home, we could pretty much watch what we wanted.
More: How did your parents react to the subject of your movie?
MT: They really like the film. My parents didn’t ask, ‘Why would you write this?’ They’re very objective in that regard. And they were more attuned to the directing style. They didn’t address the subject matter.
But it’s interesting—ever since I made it, people will tell me their relatable stories, and they’re usually something really private and surprising. I can’t tell you how many confessions I’ve heard, descriptions of affairs from people I wouldn’t think capable of them. It’s sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s interesting.
More: The only thing I found surprising in the movie was that Keira Knightly and Sam Worthington, who are like two of the hottest people on earth, would think about having affairs with other people.