As a tangent to this idea of fleshing things out, I loved how you showed the “logistics of fame” in this film. If people around the world really did begin to have recurring dreams of this one person, how would that person’s family and life change? What prompted you to focus on these “initial” moments of fame before the crescendo into madness?
I wanted this feeling of being at the eye of the storm, and how those initial moments of virality are often private. As you mentioned, there’s a public part to Paul’s fame where he shows up and does interviews and meets with the companies that want to use his image, but I didn’t want to overlook the very private parts of this phenomenon happening within his own house. There’s a debate between him and his family. I wanted to know more about that than the culture of his fame outside. Even when Paul embraces his platform, I wanted to stay in the private sphere and explore that interiority. When he is being flown to New York to have his branding meetings, after those meetings we follow him back to his hotel room where he’s by himself. There’s this loneliness that comes with him suddenly feeling like a product and feeling alienated from himself.
Seeing scenes like that made me also think of Signe, the main character from “Sick of Myself”. You shared at one point how both of these characters “make themselves miserable in the absence of potential.” For both Signe and Paul, they really just want to be seen and loved for who they are. There’s a gaping hole they have inside even if they have families, jobs, not so perfect partners etc., and it’s from that lack that they sort of go down their respective and destructive paths in the film.
Yeah, I mean they each have their incentives for why they act the way they do. For Paul, he accidentally stumbles into everything. In “Sick of Myself,” Signe orchestrates everything. She’s the catalyst, while Paul responds to what happens to him. Yet Paul’s response to everything that happens to him is motivated by his entitlement. He feels he is being robbed of academic success and has an image of himself that doesn’t match his image in the world. It’s interesting that while he has this midlife crisis, that’s when everyone starts dreaming about him. He’s so starved for attention that he conflates being seen in this way with success. While he has integrity that he’s trying to hold to, in the end, he ruins his own life. He loses perspective over his values and at the film’s conclusion, you see a man who finally understands what is important, but at the cost of having lost everything.
When we first meet Paul, he may be nothing exceptional, but there’s an earnestness and sincerity to him. You could have easily written Paul to be more malicious or unsavory to make the downfall easier to stomach, but Cage portrayed him with a bumbling warmth. You paint fame in this film as a fairly bleak tool that in one sense can help you get ahead but it’s also one of those things that slips away the more you try to control it. Do you think the celebrity and fame that comes with it is redeemable in its current form?