TORONTO — Brian De Palma’s latest pulpy thriller, “Passion,” pits Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace against each other as ad agency colleagues who are out for blood after McAdams takes credit for Rapace’s idea for an ad. There’s a lot craziness going on in the film, including more than a little intimacy between its female leads — most of which, De Palma insists, was all improvised.
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace both get the chance to really hit the crazy button.
That’s right. I mean, it’s like with Rachel — that phone call. When she gets the phone call about the guy who cancels the date, she heaved the phone [across the room]. I forget which take that was. (laughs) Wow! Unbelievable. And then she picks up the phone and figures out whatever she’s going to do next. She calls up an old lover and, “You want to come over?”
There is a lot of fluid female sexuality in this movie.
I just let the girls go with the scene and just sat back to see what would happen. The way that Dani [played by Karoline Herfurth] offered herself to Isabelle [played by Rapace] — “Kiss me!” — and then starts to undress her! (laughs) All the girls, all their intimate stuff, was all improvised. They just play it. They play it like they would play it if… They make it as real as possible. If something’s not working, we try something else, but they were all fantastic, and it was just fascinating to watch them.
Rachel McAdams’ character feels a lot like a grownup version of her character from “Mean Girls.” Had you seen that film already?
Of course. Oh, I knew Rachel could play it. I’d seen her play it before. Playing a dark, manipulative lady is a hell of a lot of fun, and she had a lot of fun doing it.
You use a split-screen during pivotal scene in the film. How have the reactions been to that?
It seems to work. Everybody seems to talk about it a lot. It’s not like I just have a paint box of things I want to stick in my movies. I look at the scene, and I think what’s the best way to shoot this? Also, I’ve never done a murder where you have a split-screen and you have these two fantastically beautiful women on each side, and then suddenly a knife slashes somebody’s throat and you see somebody with a mask splattered with blood. I’d never done it before.
Have you heard anything from the makers of viral video you recreated in the film?
I haven’t heard anything. But yes, I saw it on the Internet and I basically copied it for the movie. It went viral, everybody thought it was real, but in reality it was two advertising executives [in Australia].
You didn’t have to reach out to them about using the idea?
No. I think advertising copies everything, basically. I don’t think they get worried about being copied themselves.
What’s you take on festival audiences?
Oh, a festival audience is the best audience in the world, especially for a director like myself. There will be De Palma fanatics out there in the audience, so it’s not like you’re in front of a hostile audience. They’re the kind of people that love your movies and want to see what you’re doing. And Toronto especially has very enthusiastic audiences. Needless to say, I’ve brought so many movies here to the festival and seen the audiences’ reactions.
What do you like to see yourself at film festivals?
I go to see the obscure movies that will never get into Manhattan. I do it mostly by reading the descriptions, looking at the trailers, maybe getting some information or insights from some of my friends, and I just keep going and watching as much as I can.