Sundance 2015 Interview: Toni Collette on ‘Glassland’

At the introduction to his Sundance premiere screening of Glassland, writer/director Gerard Barrett said it was the story about a son’s love for his mother. Jack Reynor plays John, a Dublin man struggling to make ends meet when he discovers his mother (Collette) passed out in her own sick from an alcoholic binge. He struggles to get her into recovery, with some dramatic scenes including volatile yelling incident and a tearful confrontation in the car. 

Reynor was unable to make it to Sundance because he’s filming, but we got to meet Collette the day after her premiere, where she revealed that both she and Will Poulter shot their parts in four and a half days. Poulter had also taken on an American accent at the Q&A, but Collette cleared that up for us too. 


CraveOnline: I could not believe you did Glassland in four and a half days.

Toni Collette: Neither could I.

Is that the most intensely you’ve ever played out a full character arc?

You’d be surprised. A lot can happen in a short period of time, but certainly the most intense in a very long time.

You did “Hostages” for television where they shoot an episode in maybe eight days. Is there any comparison?

There’s no comparison, no. This film was fantastic and the experience was deeply satisfying, and “Hostages” was not.

Oh, so were you okay with it not going another year?

Very okay. This film, honestly, I live for challenges like this. When I read it, I couldn’t talk to Gerard quickly enough. It was just so exciting to me. I think opportunities like this come along very rarely. 

In four and a half days, which was the first scene you shot?

It was the first scene you see me in where I’m passed out covered in vomit in the bed. 

In that scene, did you just play dead weight?

Yeah, poor Jack. [Laughs.] 

How about the “this is not my mother” scene in the car. Was that an intense one to do with Jack?

Yes. It was not an un-intense scene. It was good in that we’d already shot the scene where I freak out at him, where he tapes me. Working with Jack, it was so easy. He was so open and just so present. There was no need to build up to anything. We were both so in the moment that things just happened. 

That’s an ideal moment at work where you don’t have to work for it. It’s almost like both of you have the same understanding and the connection is so great that things just occur. It’s kind of like a little bit of magic to be honest. We didn’t talk about things that thoroughly to make them the way they appeared. I think it was just a matter of energy to be honest.

The scene where he tapes you is so fierce and raw. Did you not have to work up to that?

That was quite exhausting because when someone is so animalistic and emotional, it generally comes from a very frightened state. You can’t really manufacture that so it was just a lot of energy output. A lot of what I had to do in this movie scared me, and the great thing was a completely accepting crew. They were just so relaxed. 

I think sometimes it takes a while to warm up to what you’re doing, because it’s very vulnerable to be in that state. It makes me feel vulnerable anyway. With this, A, we didn’t have time to fuck around and build up to anything. It was very quick, and also, a lot of it is so intensely emotional that you can’t quite repeat it. When you feel something that’s real, you’re never going to recreate it. Once we had it, we just moved on.

Was the take that’s in the film the only one you did?

I think I only did one take.