Following acclaimed work like Timecrimes and Open Windows, Spanish filmmaker Ignacio "Nacho" Vigalondo has created his most outstanding work with Colossal. Starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, the film is a kaiju monster movie that uses familiar rom-com beats to develop dramatic tension about the ways men try to maintain control over women.
The film also features themes of alcoholism. Vigalondo caught up with Exclaim! on the phone the day after the film's Los Angeles premiere, and he admitted he had partied hard. "You can imagine how I feel now," he says. "Because of the nature of the film, having a hangover is part of the marketing campaign."
While Hathaway's Gloria manages to stand her ground in Colossal, the film doesn't explicitly resolve her obvious drinking problem. "I knew I wanted to turn Gloria into a flawed character — I didn't want her to be like a queen trapped in the forest. I wanted her to be real somehow, and be a person with struggles," Vigalondo says of his decision to give the character a drinking problem. "But I also needed the movie not to become like a redemption story. As you can see, the fight with alcoholism is going to be forever. That is sadly related to real life. If you are dealing with these kinds of addictions, or even if you win this battle, the war is going to be going on in the background."
Initially, Vigalondo had just wanted to try his hand in the low-budget monster genre. He started with a concept where a person could miraculously control a monster on the opposite side of the world. The final version of Colossal offers so much more than that initial pitch, dismantling the male ego and emerging with a staunchly feminist message.
"I didn't attempt to write this until I found out what was the movie about, and what was happening with the two characters," he says. "I'm a male, and I was born in 1977, and I tend to question myself and my ways. For me, the big transition was when I had the wit to turn the main character into a female character. Once I had that change, the movie had a different kind of power."
Placing social issues within the context of a popcorn movie puts Colossal in a similar position as Jordan Peele's wildly successful first feature.
"Get Out is an excellent film," Vigalondo says. "I remember back in the day, when I think of my childhood, it felt like you had to make either a genre film or a social commentary. It felt like those two kinds of films were separated. You can make a funny film with horror or monsters, or you could make a drama about social issues. It felt like there was a big frontier between those two choices. You have to choose one. But there's space for movies to be really funny and relevant at the same time."
The film's intricate balance of comedy, drama, action and social commentary was surely a fine line to walk, though Vigalondo says the tone wasn't the film's most difficult accomplishment. When asked about the biggest challenge presented in making Colossal, he has one quick answer: "Shooting fights with a pregnant lady. That was really, really, really scary to me. Anne Hathaway was like four months pregnant when we were filming the fights in the film, and I had to deal with that. As you could picture, I was really scared of things going wrong…. But I had a great team around, working with the costume department. We made it work."
Colossal opens in Toronto and Vancouver on April 21 before expanding across Canada on April 28.