The autobiographical movie stars Hathaway and Jeremy Strong as Gray’s parents, who are raising their young son (Banks Repeta) during Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980. At the New York Film Festival premiere for the film, Hathaway exclusively told IndieWire that working with director Gray changed her approach to acting for good.
“Oh god, James made me a better actor. I know it sounds kind of hyperbolic to say that, but it is true,” the Academy Award winner said. “He doesn’t let you get away with nonsense for whatever reason, whether you’re insecure as an actor and you kind of feel like, ‘OK, I’ll fill up this moment with stuff.’ He just wants the truth from you.”
Hathaway continued, “He really, really wants to break down the wall between you, the character, the concept of the character, the art, and he really wants transparency, and it really does require a very fine level of craft and work. I loved the way he kind of got me out of my comfort zone to get me there. I wanted to give him everything that I had.”
Gray’s “Armageddon Time” was nearly 30 years in the making, with the “Ad Astra” director telling IndieWire that he needed to “have enough distance” to fully reflect on his upbringing.
“I know you’re seeing it now but I didn’t just write it now, I wrote it years ago,” Gray said. “Why is now the time? Maybe because I’m getting old and I have lower back pains, I don’t know. But I think it’s probably because you now have enough distance that you can look back with an unjaundiced view, warts and all, at what the past might have looked like.”
Gray said, “It’s hard to do that, it’s a challenge to do that, and you don’t want to say that you have catharsis because you’ll never get it. It’s just a way to look back at the past with enough distance so you can see it clearly.”
The “Immigrant” helmer previously explained that bringing “Armageddon Time” to the big screen was part of his process to “rediscover my love of actually making films.”
“I had wanted to do something about my family and about that episode of my life,” Gray said. “It was my way to rediscover a kind of passion for the type of movies that I like.”
Read about Gray opening up about returning to his hometown in Queens to film the feature here.
Additional reporting by Vincent Perella.