Advertisement

Sundance: ‘A Different Man’ Premiere Reveals Surprising ‘Avengers’ Connection in Sebastian Stan’s “Provocative” New Film

The Sundance Film Festival on Sunday night hosted the world premiere of Aaron Schimberg’s A Different Man starring Sebastian Stan, Adam Pearson and The Worst Person in the World breakout Renate Reinsve in her first American film.

Stan toplines the A24 release as an aspiring actor, Edward, who undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But a new face turns into a nightmare when it causes him to lose a dream role he was born to play when the playwright/object of his affections, Reinsve, replaces him with someone who looks nearly identical to his former self, Pearson, a man with a disfigured face.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

As for Pearson, he lives with neurofibromatosis (type 1), a rare genetic condition that causes excess body tissue to grow predominantly on his face. The condition fuels the plot of A Different Man and the actor, Pearson, actually inspired the film after having worked with Schimberg on his most recent film, 2018’s Chained for Life. That indie explored similar themes to A Different Man as it centered on a beautiful actress who struggled to connect with a disfigured co-star (Pearson) on the set of a European filmmaker’s English-language debut.

In Chained for Life, “he plays a shy, kind of quiet person more based on myself, and I felt that for that reason, his performance was a little underrated because people thought he was playing himself,” Schimberg explained during the post screening Q&A. “And if you know Adam, he’s quite gregarious, so I wanted to show off his range and show something that was a little more inspired by him.”

Amusingly enough, Schimberg’s official Sundance bio states that “he made two commercial disastrous features, but the second one, Chained for Life, was well-received by critics.” It’s true and backed up by a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Hollywood Reporter called it “bizarre and beautiful,” the New York Times’ Ben Kenigsberg wrote that the “film is odd, darkly funny and — when it means to be — a little frightening.” (A Different Man is sure to inspire some creative ink. The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer called it “provocative.”)

In the official Sundance literature, A Different Man is described as both “a surreal, singular tale” and “a unique psychological thriller.” Schimberg directed from his own script and Christine Vachon, Vanessa McDonnell and Gabriel Mayers produced.

Backing up a bit, Schimberg explained how he encountered the actor in the first place by seeing his feature film debut as “the deformed man” in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. The 2013 critically acclaimed film, which made the rounds at film festivals including Telluride, Venice and Toronto, stars Stan’s MCU colleague Scarlett Johansson.

“Aaron first got in touch with me regarding Chained for Life. Under the Skin had come out stateside and had done quite well by all accounts,” Pearson detailed. “Then he went to see Under the Skin and saw me and he said, your words not mine, ‘acting circles around Scarlett Johansson.'”

The quip got laughs from the Eccles Theater audience, and from co-stars Stan and Reinsve. When it came time for the pair to field questions, Stan also looked back on his career to explain why he took on the role in A Different Man.

I, Tonya, for me, was a very big moment in my realization of things, in terms of what I thought I wanted the process of this experience to be,” he said of Craig Gillespie’s 2017 film starring Margot Robbie and Oscar winner Allison Janney. “Ever since then, I’ve really tried my best to make it a point to seek out filmmakers that I feel like have visions and are not afraid to ask difficult questions and are really specific. They know what they want, they’re after something specific, whatever it may be. And that’s how I felt about Aaron when I read this.”

Though Stan achieved global fame thanks to a Marvel run in the Avengers movies as Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier, he has regularly investigated more challenging art house fare in such films as I’m Not Here, Destroyer and Endings, Beginnings. He also played a cannibal killer in Fresh and earned raves as Tommy Lee in Pam & Tommy. He next stars as a young Donald Trump in The Apprentice and will be seen in Marvel movie Thunderbolts.

Stan said when his “great agent,” CAA’s Shauna Perlman, sent him Schimberg’s script, he was immediately blown away. “You can all see how great the writing is. It’s unbelievable,” praised the actor. “Obviously, it was something that doesn’t usually come my way.” Stan said he reached out to the filmmaker and “kind of courted him and fortunately he said yes.”

He went a step further and suggested who should play the female lead. “I told [Aaron], did you watch Worst Person in the World? And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I was like, ‘OK, we got to get her.’” Reinsve in turn received the script and had questions. “I was like, what is this? But it was so much heart and it was so weird and it was so fun and I’m still shocked from seeing it again, those scenes,” said the actress who also has another film at Sundance this year with Handling the Undead. “It is my first American or international movie. I’m very proud that it’s this one.”

Stan, who wears extensive prosthetics created by Renaissance Prosthetics throughout the first chunk of the film, also revealed that he wore his disguise while walking around New York where they filmed. “It was really interesting and sort of scary to see how limited the interaction is,” he said. “It just really is limited between two extremes, which is either [people] won’t address it, or overcompensation. The only people that really were the most honest were kids.”

He continued by offering an anecdote of an encounter with a little girl and a protective mother. “Her mom was just being a parent and trying to do the right thing, but in doing the right thing, she was actually preventing the little girl from just simply having an experience. She was just being inquisitive, and she was brave and courageous and that’s kids, right? It’s like they just want to know. They don’t have judgment. It was a learning lesson for me, really.”

Best of The Hollywood Reporter