Dominika Egorova is many things. A devoted daughter determined to protect her mother at all costs. A prima ballerina whose ferocity has pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit. A master of seductive and manipulative combat. When she suffers a career-ending injury, Dominika and her mother are facing a bleak and uncertain future.
That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust.
Red Sparrow is a 2018 American spy thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence, based on the novel of the same name, written by Jason Matthews. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, with an ensemble cast made up of Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Joely Richardson, and Jeremy Irons. It is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2018.
Production started in Budapest and Dunaújváros in Hungary on January 5, 2017. Other filming locations include Festetics Mansion in Dég, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Vienna, Austria. On May 3, 2017, Jennifer Lawrence was spotted shooting some scenes at London’s Heathrow Airport. Red Sparrow is scheduled to be released by 20th Century Fox on March 2, 2018. The first trailer for the film was released on September 14, 2017.
Francis Lawrence talks to Red Sparrow
How and why did you take on this movie?
I got it from the studio. The studio sent me the book, and I loved the story. I was attracted to the story of the character, specifically, Dominika, the part that Jennifer’s playing. I’m attracted to the journeys of isolated characters.
I thought Dominika was a really unique character. I find the spy genre very interesting. And what’s interesting to me about this is that it doesn’t seem to fall into a category that’s too polarizing, the kind of John le Carré political genre or “gadgety” Bond or “Mission Impossible.” It’s somewhere in between.
Why do you see Jennifer Lawrence as Red Sparrow?
As I read the book, I pictured Jennifer in the role. Actually, before we even started working on the script, while we were in post for “Mockingjay,” I was already talking to her about the character and picking her brain to see if she would be interested. I’ve also found that she feels and looks Russian. So I thought she’d be believable.
What training did you make Jennifer go through to prepare for her role as a ballet dancer?
She trained between three and six hours a day with dancers, dietitians and workout coaches to limber up her joints. We had a fantastic team of trainers from New York and Justin Peck, who’s with the New York City Ballet. We also have a dance double for Jen because even with her three months’ training, it would be arrogant to think that anybody with no dance training could dance like a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi.
How has Jennifer evolved as a person since the first time you worked with her?
I met Jen when she was 20 or something. Obviously, her life has changed immensely over the course of the movies that I did with her. She’s much more of a woman now than she was. Her life has changed in that sense.
In terms of being an actress, she’s always been very intuitive. She’s not big on rehearsals. She will talk a little about things but really takes my guidance in terms of where we are in the story, what’s happening in the script and what the relationships are. But she really waits for the moment and has always remained that way.
The story couldn’t come out in a more appropriate time, given the US-Russia relations these days. That line about the Cold War not really ending just becomes much more relevant. That was an idea in the story that we questioned when we began this [two years ago] because it just didn’t seem as timely.
Speaking of being relevant, Matthias looks like Putin in the footage. It’s amazing because, in real life, he really does not. He’s like a teenager with his mussy hair. In this movie, with the way we shaped his hair and clothing, it’s uncanny how much he looks like Putin.
What makes a thriller work is the unpredictability factor. How did you navigate that to keep the audience in suspense? A big element of this movie is trying to keep up with Dominika, specifically. She’s a very complicated character with very complicated motivations.
Talk about casting the impressive international cast. Who did you cast next after Jennifer?
There’s a young woman (Sasha Frolova) who plays a character named Anya, who’s in Sparrow School. She was the second person cast. In terms of the major cast, Joel Edgerton was the second person after Jen was involved. He’s one of the greatest male actors right now.
There’s a lot of sexuality based on the footage. That’s a new territory for you. It’s important to be as blunt and upfront as possible. So, I was clear with everybody involved from the beginning—what was going to be needed, what the scenes were going to be like. Because then, once you’re there and on the day, everybody knows what’s expected. There are no questions, no surprises—and you just do it.
Red Sparrow (2018)
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Mary-Louise Parker, Charlotte Rampling, Ciarán Hinds, Matthias Schoenaerts, Joely Richardson, Jeremy Irons, Douglas Hodge, Sergei Polunin, Sakina Jaffrey
Screenplay by: Justin Haythe
Production Design by: Maria Djurkovic
Cinematography by: Jo Willems
Film Editing by: Alan Edward Bell
Costume Design by: Trish Summerville
Set Decoration by: Adam Berces, Zoltán Frank, Sophie Phillips
Art Direction by: Amber Brabant, Laszlo Demeter, Zsuzsa Kismarty, Tibor Lázár
Music by: James Newton Howard
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: March 2, 2018