Cult filmmaker Miranda July on her big-screen comeback ‘Kajillionaire’

The Cannes favourite's new film is her first in nine years – we find out why

Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) isn’t like any other filmmaker – she’s also an author, artist, live performer and actor. In her latest film as writer-director, July presents one of the most fascinating queer stories of the year.

Kajillionaire, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January, stars Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) as Old Dolio, the only daughter of a couple of scammers (played by Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins).

To celebrate its release, NME was lucky enough to have a brief chat with July about her career – and how navigating the current global crisis has changed her life.

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‘Kajillionaire’ feels particularly personal – are there any autobiographical elements?

Miranda July: “Not in a literal sense, but this is the first movie I’ve made as both a mother and a daughter. The things about parenting that used to seem seamless and godlike, are now – from a parent’s perspective – like a series of random decisions I’ve made during a weird time in my life. You realise that there is an inherent betrayal in that parent-child relationship. You’re accidentally deceiving the child about the world, because their world won’t be the same world as yours.”

The parents in the film are quite exploitative – do you see them as villains?

“I’m interested in parents being tricky, especially mother characters. It’s not how we like to see them, but I do believe that they think they’re right and are loving their child the way they know how to. It’s not exactly sympathy, but I can understand them on their own terms.”

Were you a fan of Evan Rachel Wood before working together?

“I just admired her, I thought she was a really, really good actress. When we finally met, over dinner, she gave me just the right signals to let me know she could draw from something quite deep for this character, and all the rest she would learn. So the character work that we did, all the physical work was sizeable. I felt I was being picky, but in her interviews, it’s clear she loves that; that’s what she’s doing the job for.”

Kajillionaire
Gina Rodriguez and Evan Rachel Wood in ‘Kajillionaire’. Credit: Alamy

It’s been nine years since your last feature-film – why is that?

“It takes as long to write a book and see it out into the world as it does to make a movie. I also perform and make art that I’m serious about. I’m a little bit of a workaholic, but I do understand that if you’re just looking at these movies I must seem incredibly slow-paced. I wish I was just kicking back, but I ‘m doing this as fast I can!”

The music in the film, by Emile Mosseri, is fantastic – how did you two meet?

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“I had burned through a bunch of people I still really admire, and I was quite desperate. Then he suddenly appeared at Sundance with The Last Black Man in San Francisco. I was a little wary, and we only had five weeks, but the first pieces of music he made for me took my breath away, and I just sat there with him in the studio every day. Sometimes the pressure can really make a diamond.”

Miranda July
‘Kajillionaire’ arrives in cinemas this week. Credit: Alamy

Are you sad to be missing the festival circuit, due to coronavirus?

“I don’t allow myself to think about that anymore. There was a lot of disappointment – I’m quite alone in much of my process and my next thing is a novel, so I did want to see real people. You take those things for granted and it’s actually quite meaningful.

How might the pandemic shape what films get made?

“As filmmakers and distributors, we’ve had the tools to do different things with this medium, but as an industry, it’s so expensive and so overblown that maybe the pandemic puts those tools to new uses and makes more people understand how much power they have to create new systems or even redefine what a movie is.”

‘Kajillionaire’ will be screening as part of the 64th BFI London Film Festival on October 7 – and on UK general release from October 9

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