‘Beau Is Afraid’ Runs On Pepto Bismol: A Conversation With Ari Aster and Joaquin Phoenix

Beau Is Afraid

Ari Aster’s third feature film Beau Is Afraid is a divisive one. Opting for a more experimental perverted hero’s journey than your typical horror narrative, Aster’s latest, following Hereditary and Midsommar, stars Joaquin Phoenix as the titular character who just wants to go home to see his mother. But, that journey is full of challenges, from families who love to pop pills to musical-theatre-loving nomads in the woods. It’s by no means a film for everyone, but us here at Dread Central, we loved it.

Dread Central spoke with Aster and Phoenix as part of a small roundtable discussion and got a chance to pick their brains about this new nightmarish odyssey into the darkest recesses of a man’s brain.

Even with the chaotic amalgamation of subject matter in Beau Is Afraid, Aster and Phoenix ultimately bonded through their stomach problems. “This session is sponsored by Pepto Bismol, which should be the official sponsor of Beau Is Afraid,” joked Phoenix.

That levity extended to set, where Phoenix joked that he had them blasting music on set for him to get there as an actor. “I did have them play [Drake] on the speakers on set and I was like, ‘alright, I need this for the scene’. And then Ari would say, ‘But then we can’t record your dialogue’. So that’s why you can hear Lil Wayne [in the background].”

So readers, if you hear whispers of Lil Wayne in the background, that was purely Phoenix’s choice.

Conversely, Aster had very different musical tastes during the production. “I was listening to a lot of Harold Budd’s The Pavilion Of Dreams. That was really doing a lot for me at a certain point in pre-production.”

For those unfamiliar, Harold Budd is a minimalist composer who began recording music in the 1970s and often collaborated with Brian Eno. The Pavilion Of Dreams was his second album, recorded over a number of years. Give it a listen below and you may just get a glimpse into Aster’s mind.

But on a more serious note, Beau Is Afraid is the three-hour expansion of Aster’s 2011 short film Beau, starring the late Billy Mayo. “The short was just something I made on a whim because I was moving out of my apartment,” said Aster. “And I realized, ‘Oh, this is a location and those are hard to come by when you’re broke.’ So I wrote something very quickly, and we shot it with friends. Then later on I was just thinking about the idea of somebody leaving their key in the door to go grab something from the bathroom and then coming back to find that it’s gone.”

“How did you make a short? It’s good to know that you have that in you!” quipped Phoenix. Aster laughed and said, “For some people, discipline is something that they build <laugh>, But for me, I’ve just been chipping away at it.”

Aster went on to share that after making the short, the story stuck with him (plus he liked the name Beau), but ultimately, he views the short and the feature as two very different things.

“I’m always just embarrassed by things that I made in the past,” said Aster. But, the short does have a special meaning for Aster. “Billy Mayo is in [Beau] and he’s, he’s since passed and I really loved him. He was a really great actor and just a great guy. So that short has meaning for me in that sense.”

Beau Is Afraid is out now in theaters.



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