Superhero movies live or die on casting decisions. IRON MAN might not have been the success Marvel needed it to be if Tom Cruise played Tony Stark instead of Robert Downey Jr., as was originally intended. And can you imagine anyone else in the role of Wolverine instead of Hugh Jackman?
Casting is key and not just in the lead roles, but in supporting parts as well. This fact was realized by director David Yarovesky as he was putting together his upcoming BRIGHTBURN, a movie that looks to mix the superhero origin story genre (specifically that of Superman) with the recognizable beats of the best horror-thrillers.
And while Yarovesky sings the praises of young Jackson A. Dunn, the actor he cast to play super-powered Brandon Breyer in the film, he recently raved to AMC in an exclusive interview about how lucky he was to recruit actress Elizabeth Banks to play Tori Breyer, the boy’s mom.
“The first time I read the script, she was the only person I could see in my mind. I was like, ‘It has to be Elizabeth Banks,’” Yarovesky said. “We were incredibly fortunate. As a director, you can only be so lucky to have someone like her to work with. She’s also a director, so I can communicate with her in a way that is multifaceted. She understands things on other levels. She's also a powerhouse of an actress. There are some scenes in this movie [laughs], and she is incredible in them. I learned so much from her, from watching her do things. I felt really fortunate and kind of humbled the entire time working with her.”
BRIGHTBURN takes the basic idea behind the Superman mythology and turns it on its head. It follows an alien baby who mysteriously crash lands in a Midwestern corn field and is discovered by human parents who grow to realize that their “adopted” child has extraordinary powers.
Only, we’re not in DC’s Kansas anymore, and that’s the moment where BRIGHTBURN detours away from the Superman plotline. For where Clark Kent used his otherworldly powers for good, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) definitely uses them for evil.
“We've all been indoctrinated to believe that if someone can hover off of the ground or shoot lasers out of their eyes that they’re going to use those powers for good,” Yarovesky said. “And I think this movie is just far more realistic based on what is most likely to happen if you give someone those powers … It's like, why would you ever believe that it would be OK to adopt an alien child? Why would you ever believe that it would be OK for someone amongst us to have superpowers? It's crazy.”
Elizabeth Banks plays a very important role as Brandon’s mother in BRIGHTBURN. She cannot ignore the atrocities her son is committing with these powers he has. But she also can’t reject him because she loves the alien “boy” as her child. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk in order to ground the story, but lucky for Yarovesky, Banks has been doing exceptional work in genre films like this for years.
BRIGHTBURN stems from the producing prowess of James Gunn (and is co-written by one of Gunn’s brothers). And Banks collaborated with Gunn many years ago in the smarter-than-expected creature feature SLITHER. Banks also dabbles in high-brow comedy and has directed her fair share of crowd-pleasers. She’ll next be directing the CHARLIE’S ANGELS sequel that will reach theatres in November.
Yarovesky told AMC that Banks actually excels in these types of movies because she legitimately loves these stories and wants to find inventive ways to tell more of them.
“She was really excited about, like, how crazy the movie is, you know? [laughs] … That's what you want. As a director, you want a cast that reads a script, hears your vision and is behind it — is a teammate. I've heard horror stories of people who don't have that, but I have not experienced that. On this movie, it was a team. We worked together. There was this shared direction we all walked in, and we all kind of helped each other get there.”
Soon enough, we will be able to see what their dark and sinister collaboration looks like. Tickets for BRIGHTBURN are on sale as we speak, with the movie pounding its way into theatres on May 24 from Sony Pictures. Will it give the mighty heroes of Marvel’s AVENGERS: ENDGAME a run for their money?