Doctors and Patients
SIDE EFFECTS is one of actress Rooney Mara's first roles since her Oscar-nominated turn
in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO catapulted her onto the Hollywood A-list. But Soderbergh first
became aware of Mara when he saw an early cut of her previous film, THE SOCIAL NETWORK,
directed by David Fincher.
"When David was casting THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, he asked what I thought of
Rooney for the lead role," says Soderbergh. "I was very supportive, in part because I felt that
movie would be better served by someone not particularly well known. We became friendly
because she heard that I had encouraged David to cast her. When this role became available, I got
ahold of her."
"She's one of the great new actresses, and her range is just incredible," Gregory Jacobs
says. "We felt she was incredibly gifted and would be perfect for the part."
Mara says she found both the story of SIDE EFFECTS and the role of Emily riveting. "I had to read it
more than once. It's constructed so you often think things are one way, and realize later they're something
else. People don't really make thrillers like this anymore. It definitely feels sort of like a throwback to
"Plus Emily is such a complex and interesting character," the actress continues. "I don't read
many parts written for women like this. Usually you're playing a girlfriend or a wife, sort of second fiddle
to a guy. When a part comes along that has this much meat to it, it's really exciting."
Emily left the Midwest for New York City hoping to study graphic design, but ended up
bartending, Burns explains. "When she meets a really wealthy Wall Street guy, she makes a
decision to jump on that train," says Burns. "She does love Martin, but when you come from a
place of that much insecurity and fear, love is experienced in a lot of different ways. Martin offers
her security and safety. She is as seduced by that as he is by her beauty and mystery."
That air of mystery seems to come naturally to Mara, according to the writer. "There's
something about her that makes you curious. From the first time we met with her, I wanted to
know more. The way she plays Emily always has you leaning forward and listening. That can be
as powerful as liking someone. You want to know what's going on inside of them. Inscrutability
can be very sexy and very dangerous."
When Martin was sent to prison for insider trading, the rug was pulled out from under
Emily, according to the actress. "They lived in a gorgeous house on the water with a boat. It was a lavish lifestyle. He swept her off her feet and took care of her. Now she is in small one-bedroom
apartment, which is a huge step down from the way she lived. She has to go to work every day.
She's paying her own bills. She's had to take care of herself."
Having her husband back upends everything all over again. Emily makes a half-hearted suicide
attempt and ends up under the care of a sympathetic psychiatrist. "She struggles with anxiety and
depression," says Mara. "I think it's too much change for her."
The actress, who is rapidly finding her footing in Hollywood, found the experience of working
with Soderbergh to be a bracing change. "It was a very different experience," says Mara. "It was such a
small crew, with very little set-up time, very few takes. The days are much shorter than what I am used to.
Steven controls every aspect of his movies. He has a complete vision for the film in his mind when he
comes to the set."
Mara and Soderbergh mapped out her character's difficult and sometimes contradictory arc with
great deliberation. "I think Rooney was excited about playing two sides of a coin," says the director. She
has enough of a sense of humor to appreciate the darkly comedic aspects of what she was being asked to
do. It's a tricky balance to maintain and make it work as a whole, especially since, as is always the case,
we were shooting out of sequence. Rooney did a great job of tracking where her character needed to be at
every given point."
In the emergency room, after she deliberately drives her car into a wall, Emily is assigned to Dr.
Jonathan Banks, played by Jude Law. An up-and-coming doctor in a successful practice, Banks suspects
Emily's accident is a cry for help, but he agrees to release her from the hospital if she accepts medication
and counseling after the accident.
"Jude is really attractive and charming and, well, he's Jude Law," says Burns. "He looks like a
movie star, but he's very convincing as a scientist who is a little awkward personally. As time goes on,
Banks becomes completely unhinged by this patient. His whole life is going off a cliff and there's nothing
he can do. He goes to a very dark place and he is punished for it."
Soderbergh had just finished working with the two-time Oscar nominee on CONTAGION
before approaching him about the role of Dr. Banks. "Jude is really good at playing an obsessive,"
says the director. "He has a very watchable quality when he's on a quest for something. I thought
it would be an added element if the character weren't an American, so I asked him not to change
his accent. In addition to everything else Banks has to deal with, he's also from a different culture,
which will come back to haunt him later."
"Jude's really great at playing that guy under pressure," adds Jacobs. "He's got great
leading man charisma, and it seemed this would be a perfect part for him."
Law was immediately intrigued by the part. "Dr. Banks is at a point in his life where it
seems like everything is falling into place," says the actor. "He's moved into a wonderful new
apartment with his family. His stepson's gotten into a good private school. His practice is doing
well enough that he is sought after by pharmaceutical companies to run studies for them on new
drugs. He certainly doesn't see what's coming."
The script gave each of the actors a chance to pull out all the stops, says Law. "We get to
be incredibly meek and mild and wounded, as well as fierce, rough and powerful. Rooney is
formidable as Emily. She has an unreadable sort of depth of character that is not often found in an
actress her age. And she also has an ability to turn on a fire, which is just perfect for this role."
Law describes the film as a sophisticated adult thriller set in the world of psychiatry and
prescription drugs. But, he adds, "What's very clever about the script is that it doesn't
overemphasize the issue of drugs. It's really about someone who has everything to lose and who
loses everything. There's a great whodunit element as well. The twists are going to keep people
guessing, and maybe even want to come back and see it again."
Channing Tatum, who plays Martin Taylor, makes his third appearance in a Soderbergh
film. "Channing was Steven's idea and it was great one," says Burns. "I initially pictured Martin
as older than Emily, but Steven felt that would make it more a Lolita type of story. Channing is
just right as a young, materialistic guy on the make. Martin is a good-looking frat boy who went
Wall Street to make the American dream come true -- even if he had to steal it."
The role is a departure for Tatum, which is one of the reasons Soderbergh selected him. "I
said, let's put him in a suit for a change. I wanted him to speak differently and he worked very
hard with a dialect coach to create a much more clipped, enunciated manner of speaking. If you
compare it to MAGIC MIKE, the last movie we did together, he sounds really different. Channing is
very appealing and very much a movie star, which works really well for the character."
"Chan was really the first person we thought of for the role," says producer Gregory
Jacobs. "We felt it would be great to see him play a part that we hadn't seen him play before."
Tatum was not expecting to be tapped for the part of a white-collar criminal. "I'm from the
South and I definitely didn't go to college," he says. "But Steven felt I would lend the story a different perspective, as opposed to casting somebody we've seen play similar parts a bunch of
"Martin is a guy who wanted it all and took it," Tatum observes. "He convinced himself
that it wasn't cheating. With Emily, he fell in love with the idea of an innocent, fragile flower he
could put on a pedestal in a castle. She's another trophy he won."
Whatever the part, the actor says he would have signed on just to work with Soderbergh
again. "Steven is one of the smartest, most creative, most original people I've ever met in my life,"
says Tatum. "We get along personally and artistically to the point where if he called me up and
said, 'I want you to play Waiter No. 2,' I'd do it.
"His work is different from everyone else's," the actor adds. "Steven is a student of life
and people's contradictory qualities. Maybe because he's so full of contradictions himself, he likes
to shine light on other people's quirks."
Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones is also working with Soderbergh for the third time on
this film, playing the icy and sophisticated Dr. Victoria Siebert. "I loved the idea of her in this
kind of movie," says the director. "If I'm going to make a psychological thriller set in New York
City, she is one of the people who has to be in it. She was actually Scott's suggestion, and I
immediately thought, why didn't I think of that?"
A psychiatrist who first treated Emily for depression shortly after her husband went to jail,
Dr. Siebert provides a different perspective on what's happening with the patient. "There's a
dramatic conflict between her and Banks," says di Bonaventura. "She seems quite straightforward,
but you begin to suspect that she's covering her own ass and making sure that if any one pays the
consequences, it will be Banks."
According to Zeta-Jones, SIDE EFFECTS is the kind of material that showcases Soderbergh's
talents to best advantage. "This is a beautifully written script, with great dialogue and storyline, as
well as a socially relevant theme. It has so many twists and turns. I read a lot of scripts and I
usually know just what's going to happen. But with this, I didn't. The mysterious cat and mouse
game between my character and Jude Law's character is quite fascinating."
Like Tatum, Zeta-Jones says she would work with Soderbergh anytime, anywhere. "One
thing he does extremely well is casting," says the actress. "He uses actors that work well with his
process of filmmaking. It's very hands-on: no rehearsals, just blocking and we go straight in, but
I'm always secure with Steven behind the lens."
According to Gregory Jacobs, Soderbergh regularly attracts exceptional talent for several
reasons: "Number one, his body of work speaks for itself. And number two, he's a true
collaborator. He's really interested in what the actors can bring to the movie."
To research their roles, both Law and Zeta-Jones read up on psychopharmacology and
worked closely with Dr. Bardey. "We talked a lot about the legal issues around mental illness,"
says Zeta-Jones. "Psychiatrists are asked to judge exactly what is insane and what isn't. And Sasha
is really good at pronouncing and explaining these long prescription drug names we had to
Bardey also advised the actors on body language, as well as the unique relationship
between doctor and patient. "It's the balance between sympathy and empathy," Bardey explains.
"Jude's character's need to help his patient has unintended consequences. In his zeal to help her,
boundaries are crossed. I spent a lot of time with Jude and Catherine discussing the inner conflict
they'd be struggling with in that situation. They were incredibly thoughtful and committed to
understanding the process."
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