One of the surprise hits from this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Shirley,” a fictional story inspired by the life of celebrated writer Shirley Jackson. Director Josephine Decker won the US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking at the festival. NEON, fresh off their first Oscar win for Best Picture, subsequently bought the rights.
Set in the early 1960s, “Shirley” tells the story of a young newlywed couple, Rose (Odessa Young) and Fred (Logan Lerman) who are invited to stay with Shirley (Elisabeth Moss) and her husband, Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg). Stanley mentors Fred as a new professor at the university, while Rose helps Shirley research her latest novel. The clash of personalities and marital challenges make this a compelling and sometimes chilling ode to the 1966 classic, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?”
After working in television for several years, Sarah Gubbins makes her feature screenwriting debut with the adaptation of the novel, “Shirley,” by Susan Scarf Merrell. Once she met Josephine Decker, the two knew they needed to work together on the film. Decker has directed several projects, but it was 2018 indie hit “Madeline’s Madeline” where she broke through as a director on the rise.
Emmy and Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss got her start in TV and voiceover work in the 90s. One of her early breakout roles came as the daughter of the President in “The West Wing,” before “Mad Men” turned her into a star. Three seasons into award-winning series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” she is also focused on her big screen work, with four films this year, including pre-pandemic hit “The Invisible Man.” Later this year, she will also appear in “The French Dispatch” and “Next Goal Wins.”
Michael Stuhlbarg has been a steady presence onscreen for over 20 years. His breakthrough came in the 2009 Coen Brothers film, “A Serious Man.” For the next decade, Stuhlbarg would appear in such films as “Hugo,” “Lincoln,” and “Arrival.” In 2017, Stuhlbarg co-starred in three Best Picture nominees, including that year’s winner, “The Shape of Water.” On the small screen, he was also celebrated for his work on “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Looming Tower,” and Season 3 of “Fargo.”
In a short amount of time, Odessa Young has built up an impressive resume, appearing in quirky and inventive projects like “Assassination Nation.” She will soon be seen as Frannie Goldsmith in the upcoming limited series, “The Stand,” based on the novel by Stephen King.
We recently spoke with these talented individuals about their work, about Shirley Jackson, and about why this film was such a special experience.
“Shirley” was released on June 5, but out of respect for worldwide protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, we have waited until now to share these interviews with you.