In director Luca Guadagnino's just-released Bones and All, Taylor Russell (Waves, Escape Room) plays a 1980s teenager who sets off in search of her mother after her dad abandons her — because of cannibalistic tendencies.
"I play this character called Maren, this girl at the brink of adulthood, who has a very specific affliction," says Russell, who this week received a Best Lead Performance nomination by the Independent Spirit Awards for her work on the film. "That affliction has isolated her, and imprisoned her in some ways from most of the people in her life. At the same time, it's a mystery to her, what the affliction even is, in some capacity. She's on a journey of self-discovery, and the question [is]: Can she live on the earth in a way that seems sustainable for the rest of her life?"
Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Taylor Russell in 'Bones and All'
Russell says she had never before read anything quite like the film's script, which was written by frequent Guadagnino collaborator David Kajganich.
"I knew that the script through Luca's lens would be something wholly original and fascinating," she says. "I would have done any role in the movie, just to be in the movie, and luckily I got to play Maren. I got to explore a lot of the themes that were really interesting to me at the time in terms of connectivity, or lack thereof, and what we get passed down from our family, generational stuff, and how we break that."
Early on in her quest, Maren meets another somewhat sinister "eater," portrayed by the Oscar-winning British actor Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The BFG).
"He's so brilliant in Bones and All," says Russell. "He is so present, so available and giving. He just made me feel very safe every time we worked together, which maybe would be surprising based on our characters, but it was so the opposite of that. He taught me to play dice — he gave me his dice from the film and it's a special little totem that I carry with me. Every time I travel anywhere, I have the dice of Mark Rylance in my pocket."
The actress also has fond memories of acting with Dune star Timothée Chalamet, who portrays another eater named Lee, with whom Maren forms a romantic bond.
"Similarly to Mark, I felt just so protected and safe and loved," says Russell. "There was a lot of artistic freedom, there was no fear of going to a certain place. It felt very open and you always want to feel that way working with actors."
While director Guadagnino insists his film is a romance, the director does not shy away from depicting his characters' consumption of human flesh. So what exactly was Russell eating when she shot those sequences?
"It was some combination of those maraschino cherries and dark chocolate sauce and things like that," she says. "They were very kind about us having, I guess, some tastier sweet treats."
Bones and All premiered in September at the Venice Film Festival, where Russell won the Marcello Mastroianni Award, which recognizes emerging talent.
"Venice was an absolute dream," Russell recalls. "It was a total fantasy world, and I had the best possible experience. It felt like a fairytale. I cried every night because I just couldn't believe my life, and how special it was."
Bones and All is now in theaters. See the film's trailer below.
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