After the Dance: Seven Questions with Benson Lee of "Miss Monday"
by Tom Cunha
"Miss Monday" tells the story of screenwriter Roman (played by James Hicks)
who is desperate to find some inspiration for creating a female character
to be the center of his latest screenplay. Roman decides to go undercover
in the financial world to find an ambitious, tough-as-nails corporate
woman. He stumbles into Gloria (played by Andrea Hart), who not only
epitomizes what he is looking for, but also happens to inadvertently drop
her cell phone and house key at Roman's feet. Taking ample advantage of
this opportunity, Roman goes into Gloria's apartment and finds her to be
quite a different person than he expected.
Writer/director Benson Lee creates an interesting premise which rails
against the tendency to stereotype people based upon first impressions and
appearances. Actress Andrea Hart, in her film debut, won best actress
honors at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered.
indieWIRE: Why were you interested in making a film about people's initial
Benson Lee: I think a lot of people have had the experience of meeting
someone and really disliking them from their first impression. But then
after they get to know them they end up liking them the more they learn
about them. It's always so ironic when that happens. I was always so
fascinated by how little we know about people, especially when you do
business, you always meet people and you always deal with surface
impressions. You know it's superficial, but it's business. Then on a human
relationship level its the same. You go to a party, you meet people and you
really don't get to know them like your best friend from high school or
I'm fascinated by meeting people and just trying to figure that out. The
world is such a big place that its just mindboggling to think about how
little we know about other people. Then we automatically stereotype people
with the groups that they associate with. Oh, he's an artist. He's a
corporate businessman, or whatever. He's a doctor. We have certain
associations but that never really justifies who people really are. That,
to me is very fascinating. I think our lives could be a lot more stress
free if we just try to understand people a little more.
iW: Do you think society trains us to think like that?
Lee: No, I think it's our psyche that has to make an immediate sense out of
the world or else we're going to go crazy. We need to figure things out
automatically in order to not have to ponder about it.
iW: The lead actress, Andrea Hart, is amazing. How did you come about
Lee: I auditioned over 40 women for that. And then suddenly Andrea walks in
and she just gives me this very mysterious portrayal of the character. I
couldn't figure it out. There is some kind of tension that she gives in her
acting that I couldn't pinpoint. She said I'm really intrigued by the dark
side of this character. And she was the only person who told me that, so
that's when I realized this is my woman, my lead actress.
iW: How did you handle her binge scene?
Lee: That wasn't rehearsed. You can't rehearse that. What you saw was
actually the first and only take. We got ourselves really pumped up for
that scene. She knew and I knew that this was one of the most important
scenes in the film. We deconstructed the psychological motivation behind
that scene. This is just like a fix, it's like a quick fix but let's make
it sexual. Let's really make it sexual. It's a substitute for loneliness.
When I told her that she just looked at me and she was like, "That's all I
iW: And the vomiting scene that follows?
Lee: The throwing up scene was actually filmed three weeks after the binge
scene. She's a fucking soldier. We really wanted to hit the nail on the
head with this bulimia bit. I've seen so many scenes in so many films that
portrayed throwing up and it's never believable. I really wanted to make
this believable. I wanted to show the nature of this eating disorder. We
know a lot a lot about bulimia, there are so many people inflicted with it.
When I auditioned all the actresses I said, "This is a bulimic, can you
take this to the extreme. Can you really vomit?" And I lost like ninety
percent of my actresses. But it wasn't a loss, because they couldn't
connect with the character anyway. It was a challenging role. The people
that I wanted for the role, they were like, "I can't go there." I was like,
"No problem. Thank you for your honesty. I'm going with Andrea." So when it
came time to do the vomiting scene, everyone on the crew was like why are
you doing this? Because we want to portray this realistically. That [scene]
looked pretty real, huh?
iW: Definitely. I had trouble watching it.
Lee: But the next time you meet someone and they say "I have a friend who's
bulimic", I hope that you understand maybe what they go through. There's
one out of eight women that go to college that are inflicted with this
problem. They binge everyday like that.
iW: I'm amazed that you were able to do that in only one take.
Lee: Only one take. It was the most beautiful scene in the film. For me,
the best acted scenes in the film is the bingeing and the vomiting. It's
beautiful to me because it's so fucking real. Anything that's so real that
can be reproduced in that way and effect people like that, to me, is
fucking beautiful...aesthetically beautiful.