Hereditary Was The Hardest Job Of Toni Collette’s Life

Director Ari Aster's 2018 debut feature -- the psychological horror "Hereditary" -- is a raw and ruthless portrayal of grief. Seasoned actress Toni Collette ("The Sixth Sense," "Little Miss Sunshine") was brought on to play Annie, the matriarch of the Graham family, as she spirals into a disturbing emotional state of despair following the death of her daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro).

Collette is no stranger to portraying stressed-out and emotional characters. She's portrayed multiple personalities as a suburban mom struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder in "United States of Tara", worked as a single mom whose child could see ghosts in "The Sixth Sense", and fought to keep her family together while being attacked by evil Christmas toys and elves in "Krampus." To put it bluntly, Collette has been through multiple circles of Hell -- cinematically speaking. And yet, her role in "Hereditary" as a grieving miniaturist was her most challenging yet.

The Motherload Of Mourning

In an interview with Vulture around the film's release, Toni Collette was asked why she had mentioned to other outlets that her role in "Hereditary" was the hardest job of her life. Collette responded:

"It was just endlessly emotional — and there were lots of emotions. There were ones that are more 'acceptable' than others. And ones that feel better to experience than others. This involves none of those! It's one of the jobs where you get to go to work and roll around in ideas of grief and resentment and rage and all of these extremes in life, and we were dabbling in that area for weeks on end. There was no easy moment in this movie. In my very first week, I was shooting 14-take scenes, talking about great loss and difficulty in relating to my family."

Although it sounded like Collette was complaining, she continued, "Don't get me wrong, I f***ing loved it. Because it was just so satisfying as an actor to be able to deal with these extremes. It was never done gratuitously. It was always in this pure, honest, natural form. It's just such a funny combination of themes." The keyword there is "extremes". Collette's primal performance covers every corner of the emotional spectrum, multiple times over.

Fire, Phantoms, And Feminine Rage

Ari Aster addresses multiple ways of losing bodily autonomy under the guise of grief. He executes this in "Hereditary" by featuring spiritual possession, commentary on unwanted pregnancy, anaphylaxis from a nut allergy, and disassociation as a result of trauma. These thematic undertones about the physical body being a form of an emotional and dangerous vessel allowed Toni Collette to amplify her expressional range.

Annie's pain is tangible thanks to Collette's painstaking performance of a grieving mother. She unleashes a visceral performance that audiences can feel in their gut or from the goosebumps rising on their flesh. The amount of cortisol her body must've produced during those scenes is enough to exhaust a person in one shot, let alone perform several takes for months on end. I'm curious what her self-care regime was on set, honestly.

One dinner table scene hits particularly hard. Annie goes from zero to 100 -- yelling, cursing, and exploding into a dramatic rage while expressing her own pain to her son (played by the phenomenal Alex Wolff). As each family member deals with Charlie's death in their own way, Annie is plagued by the deeper ties of her ancestry and how the death of her daughter may not have been as random or accidental as she thought. This leads to an added layer of psychological turmoil and regrets rooted in motherhood.

Aster wrote a robust character for Collette to explore the dynamic challenges of being a female and mother who is relentlessly unleashing her pain, which is captivating even without the supernatural layer on top.

Read this next: The 95 Best Horror Movies Ever

The post Hereditary Was The Hardest Job Of Toni Collette's Life appeared first on /Film.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published