In “Wander Darkly,” Sienna Miller and Diego Luna star as a Los Angeles couple who get into a horrific car accident.
What happens after the crash, isn’t entirely clear. Maybe it was a fatal crash that left one or both of them dead or maybe not. The film is a series of flashbacks and dream-like sequences that takes the audience on a trippy roller coaster ride of emotions about love and family.
Writer and director Tara Miele’s script was partially inspired by her own experience in a car crash with her husband several years ago. Both survived, but Miele tells Variety, “There were some emotional points around the accident that were so resonant for me that they never went away. I kept talking about them after the fact.”
“Wander Darkly,” which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, is Miele’s fourth feature that she has written and directed. About a week after Variety chatted with her from her home in Los Angeles, it was announced that Miele will write and direct an upcoming Carol Burnett biopic based on the comedy legend’s bestselling memoir, “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story.”
You’ve said your accident was a jumping off point for “Wander Darkly.”
When our car first got hit, I just saw headlights and then I blacked out. I don’t remember the impact or any of that. When I came to I couldn’t see right away. It was such a strange sensation. I started screaming, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” And my husband didn’t say anything. I was so pissed that he didn’t reply. I was like, “I can’t fucking see,” but then all of a sudden, I heard him eek out, “I can’t breathe.” After I came to, I was so weird in my concussed state. Once the ambulance came, I was chitchatting with the EMT guy and then I was puking everywhere. Then later, I thought I was fine, but friends and family told me I was kind of weird and off a little.
There’s a lot of very emotional material in the film. How did you unwind after a day of filming? Did everyone go have a beer?
We only had 24 days to shoot. We were at a hospital and then the Day of the Dead and we were on the ocean. We were at LACMA and we were on rooftops. We never stopped moving. So there was really no opportunity to do that. Diego’s very first shot was in the morgue. It’s not what I would have wanted, but it’s how the schedule worked out. It was like a real morgue. It was so creepy. It was the worst. I could not wait to get out of it. Sam Houseman, the producer, and I joked that we were making “The Revenant.” It just wasn’t an easy one. There was a lot of love because we were all in it. There are a lot of photos of us holding each other up on set. There was a lot of female energy and lots of snuggles.
Tell me more about the female energy on set.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on sets with lots of women. But I know not everybody has had that experience. So I think maybe I took it for granted a little bit. But I’ve also done television shows up in Canada where it’s me and 200 lumberjacks. I think the women on set really helped in talking about trying to humanize this story and trying to keep it layered and trying to dig deeper into this woman’s experience, I think it was very helpful to have a lot of women on set. And even at the end of the day, I think we were about 50-50, which is just as it should be.
Was that a conscious decision to make sure it was at least 50-50?
I think I consciously when I’m hiring look to hire based on potential and not necessarily resume experience. Often, white men in particular are given a shot. Like they do the Sundance movie, and everyone is like, “Oh, great, you could probably handle this. I see potential.” But with women and people of color, I think a lot more often it’s, “Well, I know you can do that thing so I will hire you to do that thing.” I really like to look at those people and say, “If you’ve done that thing, let’s see what you can do next.”
You have directed episodes of “Arrow” and “Batwoman.” Is a big superhero movie next for you?
[Laughs] I loved “Wonder Woman.” I think Patty Jenkins is a genius. I cried when Gal Gadot leaned in. I was sobbing in the theater like a baby. I’m really curious about exploring that sort of big epic scope of a film. I also think I’ll want to make small character stuff forever and I’ll keep being curious about lots of different genres. I feel kind of like genre agnostic a little bit. So, yeah, I would love that. I think there are so many woman superhero characters who deserve the big screen.
I do love how passionate the fans are, but for me, look at someone like Diego, I couldn’t tell you the exact details where his character and story are in the scheme of all things “Star Wars.”
I do know more about “Star Wars” than I do about superheroes I had a big brother and we were definitely a “Star Wars” family. I had the “Christmas in the Stars” album. My kids still have to listen to it sometimes. If Diego could get me on to “Star Wars,” I would do that.
“Wander Darkly” is available now on digital and through on-demand platforms.