Director Dexter Fletcher may not have been personally party to the concept of “ghosting” before he signed on to direct “Ghosted,” but he certainly knew it didn’t involve actual ghosts. Not so for everyone else eagerly anticipating the AppleTV+ spy comedy, starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas, and thought it was, well, about dead people.
That confusion was cleared up when the film’s first trailer and official tagline arrived in March (and then an official synopsis followed, telling us that it follows “salt-of-the-earth Cole [who] falls head over heels for enigmatic Sadie — but then makes the shocking discovery that she’s a secret agent. Before they can decide on a second date, Cole and Sadie are swept away on an international adventure to save the world”). But for awhile there, even Fletcher’s own family thought it was a love story in which at least one of the paramours was dead.
“No, I’ve heard it from some people,” Fletcher said during a recent interview with IndieWire. “‘It was about ghosts!’ In London, I did a family and friends screening, because that’s what I like to do, I like to get my family and say, ‘Hey, look at me, I made a movie, come along and watch it.’ And they knew nothing about it as well, and I think there was a similar discussion going around with, ‘Which one of them was dead? Obviously one of them is a ghost.’ When I [heard] ‘Ghosted’ — not having done much ghosting in my own time or been ghosted — I thought that people in this modern age knew what it meant.”
And perhaps some of that confusion might play into interest for the “Rocketman” director’s latest feature, which he knows has been handled in a slightly secretive way, and which he chalks up to good, old-fashioned marketing by the streamer.
“I’ve got to be wise, because I would rather that everybody knew about it as much as possible, but there’s marketing people and they’re very clever,” Fletcher said with a laugh. “Apparently, there’s a strategy in place and that can’t be left to the likes of me who just wants to show off and wants to tell everyone everything all at once on the street.”
Also of some slight confusion: the kind of tone being struck in the film. While “Romancing the Stone” has been frequently mentioned as a strong comparison to Fletcher’s film, the director named a string of other features he thinks shares DNA with “Ghosted.” He called out everything from “North by Northwest” (“There’s a bit of a mistaken identity thing going on there, and espionage that I liked”), “Midnight Run” (“There’s these two people thrown together that are on a journey, and how do they figure it out?”), “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “disaster movies from the ’70s and ’80s.”
Mostly, though, the film’s biggest draw is the stars at the heart of it, as the action comedy reunites “Knives Out” co-stars Evans and de Armas in a flirty romance.
“Although the premise and the title suggests ghosting, which is a very modern phenomenon, there’s something still very honest and analog about the relationship,” Fletcher said. “They meet at a farmer’s market — and that’s a very unusual way nowadays, people generally meet online or through some device, but these two don’t. They meet eye to eye and there’s an immediate attraction.”
The pair’s characters, the more uptight Cole and the action-seeking Sadie, aren’t natural fits, but they gravitate toward each other (thanks, old-fashioned meet-cute!), which also appealed to Fletcher.
“I like that it was sort of old-fashioned in this way,” he said. “But she’s a very modern character, as is he really. I say he’s a hero in the film, but a hero of romance. He’s not an action hero. He’s a romance hero and she’s the action hero. She’s terrible at romance. She’s awful at it, but he’s really good at it because he goes above and beyond.”
Working with Evans and de Armas was easy, said Fletcher, who enjoyed the way their real-world friendship and natural chemistry helped fuel their work. “There’s a great friendship there and a familiarity,” Fletcher said. “They really appreciate each other’s work. They’re real fans of one another is what I quickly cottoned onto. He really makes her laugh. I suppose they both do, because she’s very funny as well. They sit in a corner telling jokes to each other and talking about, I don’t know what half the time, but they’re laughing and I’m like, ‘Guys, do you want to do this scene?’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah.'”
That comfort even led to Fletcher opting to mix things up in the script — again, no, not involving anyone dead — to heighten the romantic aspects of the action-driven adventure.
“It wasn’t in a script originally, but there’s a really nice love scene in the film,” he said. “There’s a moment when they get together and I try to shoot it tastefully and in a romantic way, it’s not gratuitous. And they were like, ‘Oh, that’s not in the script,’ and I was like, ‘I think we should see that,’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good idea!’ They were really cool about it. There’s that familiarity with each other. They’re both on the same page, as it were. The best was just leaving it alone. I just sat in the corner and let them get over with it.”
“Ghosted” starts streaming on AppleTV+ on Friday, April 21.