‘The Kill Room’ Interview: Director Nicol Paone

Opening in theaters on September 29th is the new comedy thriller ‘The Kill Room,’ which was directed by Nicol Paone (‘Friendsgiving’).

What is the plot of ‘The Kill Room’?

The movie follows an art dealer (Uma Thurman) who teams with a hitman (Joe Manganiello) and his boss (Samuel L. Jackson) for a money laundering scheme that accidentally turns the hitman into an Avant-Garde sensation, forcing the dealer to play the art world against the criminal underworld.

“Crime is an art form.”

R1 hr 38 minSep 29th, 2023

Showtimes & Tickets

A hitman, his boss, an art dealer and a money-laundering scheme that accidentally turns the assassin into an overnight avant-garde sensation, one that forces her… Read the Plot

Who is in the cast of ‘The Kill Room’?

Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Nicol Paone about her work on ‘The Kill Room,’ her first reaction to the screenplay, the art world, if the plot could happen in real life, location scouting, working with Uma Thurman, pairing her with her daughter Maya Hawke and reuniting her with ‘Pulp Fiction’ co-star Samuel L. Jackson, and why Joe Manganiello was perfect for his role.

Director Nicol Paone on the set of Shout! Studio's 'The Kill Room.'

(Center) Director Nicol Paone on the set of Shout! Studio’s ‘The Kill Room.’

You can read the full interview below or click on the video player above to watch the interview.

Moviefone: To begin with, what was your first reaction to the screenplay and the humor jump off the page or did you find that in production?

Nicol Paone: Jonathan Jacobson wrote a brilliantly fantastic script. So in the first scene, he had something at the end, like the legs kicking to the music, and I thought, “Oh, this isn’t just one of those, shoot them up, kill them, male, we’re going to kill people movies.” It has this clever tone to it. Then once I got my hands on it, Jonathan and I explored that even more. But to be fair, it was all there on the page.

MF: The story follows an art dealer who uses her gallery to launder money. Has that ever happened in real life? Do you think it could?

NP: Personally, I think it could happen. The reason why Jonathan wrote the script was because he read an article where this woman was stabbed at Art Basel, and she walked around for, I don’t know how long, but people thought it was an art piece. His wife owns an art gallery, and so he’s ensconced in the world. He thought, “What a great way to kind of send up the world.” Truly, I think it could happen, actually. I mean, the ridiculousness of it is, I don’t think people going to an art fair would even think that that could happen. But strangely, we were supposed to shoot at Art Basel and they didn’t really have a problem with the murder (in the script), they had more of a problem with the tax evasion, which I thought was very interesting. Thou dost protest too much.

Samuel L. Jackson as Gordon Davis and Uma Thurman as Patrice Capullo in Shout! Studio's 'The Kill Room.'

(L to R) Samuel L. Jackson as Gordon Davis and Uma Thurman as Patrice Capullo in Shout! Studio’s ‘The Kill Room.’

MF: How would you describe the unusual alliance and eventual friendship that forms between Patrice, Gordon and Reggie?

NP: They definitely have a kinship. Well, I think where we are in the world now with strikes and everything kind of getting a spotlight on it, I keep saying art and creativity is more than just art and creativity. It can solve anything if we come to the table with our gripes, grievances, fears, wants, needs, desires, and work it out, like the human beings and the family that we are. So that’s truly what Reggie and Patrice do. They’re both in predicaments, and Gordon, even though he’s kind of leading the charge, pulling some strings, he is a soft sweetheart too. The three of them are all really in a predicament, and they are pushing each other’s buttons and forcing each other to kind of go to the next level. Patrice is forcing Reggie to see himself as something different, and he does through the art world, and through the art that he accidentally makes, they get through it. I think it’s analogous to what we should be doing right now in this world.

MF: What was your experience like working with Uma Thurman?

NP: She is an icon. I think she’s one of the greatest actresses of our time. I think her performance in ‘Kill Bill’ is legendary. There was nothing, really, that she wouldn’t try or do. She was up for anything. It was fun. She brought so many levels to this character that, truthfully, on the page, it was all there. Patrice is a complex character, and that’s what attracted Uma to it. So there are many times in the movie where I take the dialogue out of one take and put it in Uma’s mouth on another, and the camera’s on her. So Uma gave varied performances, but with the same rhythm and it matches the words. That is just other level mastery that I don’t know how many people achieve. But she was a champion of the project from the start, and I am truly grateful for her for saying yes.

Uma Thurman as Patrice Capullo in Shout! Studio's 'The Kill Room.'

(Center) Uma Thurman as Patrice Capullo in Shout! Studio’s ‘The Kill Room.’

MF: Can you talk about pairing her with her daughter, Maya Hawke? What was it like shooting them together in the same scene?

NP: It was brilliant, and it was lovely. It was fun to watch and experience, and help navigate and guide. Maya is wise beyond her years, and she has so many layers to herself and her craft. I love the way they both are coming on screen together. It’s not some precious mommy-daughter role. It’s two acerbic women, strong, capable, three-dimensional characters coming together on screen. I think there was one point when we were filming, they were both holding their hands the same way, and it was funny.

MF: You also had an opportunity to reunite Uma Thurman with her ‘Pulp Fiction’ co-star Samuel L. Jackson. Can you talk about their chemistry and what they were like together on set?

NP: It was thrilling. I remember our first rehearsal, Uma, she went and she locked the door. She turned and she was like, “Let’s get Sam.” It took all the air and any of the nervousness that I had had out. Just getting to work with them, it was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, in that as a director, you hope that your team and the people behind you support you and get on board. They were on board from the start. Whatever I wanted and needed, they gave me. Not only in the way in which I thought I wanted, but they took it maybe five, ten steps further, and gave me everything and more. They’ve seen it all and they know it all. So just being in that rarefied air, and not having to explain what I need. They anticipated everything I needed and more, and that only comes from experience. They’ve truly seen it all, and they put it all out there on screen. Truly, I could’ve kept a lot of the scenes just in the masters, just watching them in the quiet moments. Even with adding Joe to that layer, there were several three shots that I truly could have just had the scene play out in a master, because they were all just giving me so much.

Related Article: Samuel L. Jackson and Joel Kinnaman Starring in Presidential Action Thriller ‘The Beast’

Uma Thurman as Patrice Capullo and Samuel L. Jackson as Gordon Davis in Shout! Studio's 'The Kill Room.'

(L to R) Uma Thurman as Patrice Capullo and Samuel L. Jackson as Gordon Davis in Shout! Studio’s ‘The Kill Room.’

MF: Sam Jackson’s character has a very specific look and style. Was that in the script or did Mr. Jackson create that on his own?

NP: No, it was all talked about and all discussed. That character started out as Herschel, a 72-year-old Jewish man. Then when Uma came on board, she was like, “Is Sam Jackson an option?” That was her question to me. I was like, “Yes, Sam Jackson is most definitely an option.” So Jonathan and I, over one day, right before the Christmas break, rewrote the script with Sam in mind. So that’s when he became The Black Dreidel, and spoke Yiddish. With that information, then we talked about the look. Sam has an incredible team, and they came with the beard, and we all just kind of went from there. That’s what ended up on screen and I think it’s perfect.

MF: For you as a director, why was Joe Manganiello the right actor to play his role?

NP: Joe is a brilliant, classically trained actor, and I don’t think many people know that. I thought it would be really fun for people to see that, because it’s all under there. We were very careful not to keep him in t-shirts, and I didn’t want him shirtless or any kind of anything. We just wanted Joe to be Reggie, like we knew Joe could. I thought he played it so well, and his layers were fantastic. There are some tonal shifts for him as a character. He’s funny. He gave certain funny looks. When Gordon says, “Who would pay for that crap?” He’s like, “Hey.” Just all of those things that Joe gave, I think the audiences are going to really eat it up. I think when you’re a fan of someone, you want to see them in different tones and layers and levels, and I think this is real fun for the fans of Joe Manganiello to go and see.

Joe Manganiello as Reggie Pitt in Shout! Studio's 'The Kill Room.'

Joe Manganiello as Reggie Pitt in Shout! Studio’s ‘The Kill Room.’

MF: Finally, can you talk about location scouting and which location was the hardest to get access to and shoot?

NP: That is a great question. I think the hardest, there were two. So the first program gallery, from LA, I was online and looking, and there were so many galleries in New Jersey that I knew were perfect, so that’s why I was like, “Yeah, we can definitely shoot this in New Jersey.” I’m a New Jersey native, and so I wanted to bring Sam and Uma home. So from LA, I was like, “Absolutely, we can shoot this in New Jersey.” But then when we got on the ground, it was like one place burned down, the other place, it was sort of like a commune. There were so many reasons why we couldn’t shoot in the places that I thought we could. The place that was called Field Colony in Hoboken, that was a workspace, like a co-working space. My production designer, Maite Perez-Nievas, she turned it into an art gallery, and she did it so quickly and so brilliantly. But we were down to the wire on that one, and it was important to have a space that was connected to the street, that also had the office where she could see. So that’s really specific. Thankfully, the folks at Field Colony were 100% up for us just coming in and completely changing their space around. Then the second one that was hard was the Art Basel space. We ended up shooting at a production space. It was basically large and almost looked like an airport hangar. So again, my production designer, we had to do 3D renderings and build the walls, and build that inside room within that Art Basel space. It was very challenging, but I think she did an incredible job with what little money we had, and I think it looks incredible.

Director Nicol Paone on the set of Shout! Studio's 'The Kill Room.'

Director Nicol Paone on the set of Shout! Studio’s ‘The Kill Room.’

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