Behind the scenes of the psychological thriller 'EILEEN'

Student journalists across the nation interviewed the directors of the psychological thriller film “Eileen,” featuring Thomasin McKenzie, Shea Whigham, Marin Ireland, Owen Teague and Anne Hathaway, in a Nov. 16 college press roundtable hosted by NEON.

“Eileen” is a film adaptation of a 2015 novel by the same name written by Ottessa Moshfegh, who was in attendance at the press roundtable. The film follows Eileen Dunlop, a woman working in a prison, and the development of her unhealthy and obsessive relationship with another woman named Rebecca. 

William Oldroyd, director of "Eileen," reflected on the production of the film: “As soon as I read Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel, Eileen, I knew I wanted it to be my next film. The characters, Eileen Dunlop and Rebecca St John, seemed cut from the same cloth as Lady Macbeth [Oldroyd also directed the 2016 film “Lady Macbeth”] - frustrated, funny, shocking, dark, vivid, and unafraid to go to extreme lengths to get what they want. I had met characters that I knew I would love spending the next couple of years with. I also knew that I’d love spending that time with Ottessa and Luke, and in them I had met two great collaborators. Traditionally, the transition from page to screen can be tricky - even moreso when the author is involved - but it’s been an absolute joy and we’re already working on future projects together.”

“Eileen” premiered Jan. 21 at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT; student journalists were given exclusive early access to the film in preparation for the roundtable.

Several college newspapers, including The Chronicle, were represented by student journalists at the press roundtable, including the University of Pennsylvania’s 34th Street, the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan, and Northwestern University’s WNUR News. Before the event, NEON requested that journalists submit questions to the directors that they would answer live; the submitted questions covered a wide array of topics, ranging from casting choices to surprises the directors faced during the creation of the film.

The Chronicle’s proposed question for the press roundtable centered around the choice in filming locations for “Eileen.” The novel takes place in a small Massachusetts town known as X-Ville, while the film changes the location slightly to Boston. However, the film was actually produced in New Jersey, particularly Metuchen. Oldroyd and Moshfegh shared their rationale for filming in Metuchen and other surrounding New Jersey cities during the press roundtable. 

Oldroyd attributes the choice of filming location to two major conditions: one being the sudden revival of the film industry after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the other being the aesthetic appeal and filming convenience New Jersey provided the crew. “At the time we shot it was after COVID… so the industry was very, very busy. We thought that by shooting in New Jersey, not only could we find the coast that we needed to create the small coastal town (X-Ville), but we could also draw our crew from New York and New Jersey.”

Moshfegh added onto Oldroyd’s comments with her own personal anecdote regarding her inspiration for the town of X-Ville: “I’m a native Bostonian, sort of. And X-Ville was sort of a composite of different coastal towns that I passed through in my childhood. And I think that we got what we needed to get; we got that really sort of vast and creepy view of the sea.”

Eileen” saw theatrical release in the United States Dec. 1 and worldwide Dec. 8.


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