“A Different Man,” a chilling story of identity and obsession with a dark sense of humor, debuted at Sundance with a well-received Sunday evening premiere at the Eccles Center.
The A24 film stars Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve and Adam Pearson in a tale of an actor who has facial reconstruction surgery and must come to terms with the fact that a theater role based on his life is given to another actor.
During the screening, the Sundance audience was rapt with attention at the twisty script, which included a strange and kinky sex scene that left people squirming in their seats, as well as some realistic gore that earned yelps from the audience.
After the premiere, writer and director Aaron Schimberg joined Stan, Reinsve and Pearson onstage for a Q&A to dive into the film’s themes. At one point, Pearson, who has neurofibromatosis, discussed how he was able to discuss common ground with Stan, who wears extensive makeup for part of the film in order to achieve a similar look.
“This was the hook that we gave to Sebastian,” he said. “‘You don’t know what it’s like to have a disfigurement, but you do know what it’s like to not have privacy and to have your life constantly invaded. You become public property.’”
Stan also discussed how he would occasionally walk around New York City in the prosthetics from set and watch how people would treat him, thinking he actually had a disfigurement.
“I interacted with people and it was really interesting,” he said. “It was sort of scary to see how limited the interaction is between two extremes: don’t address it or overcompensation. The only people that were the most honest were kids. I had this interaction with a little girl, and her mom is trying to do the right thing, but in doing the right thing she actually was preventing the girl from simply having an experience. She was brave and courageous, and that’s kids, right? They just want to know — they don’t have judgement. It was a learning lesson for me.”
Chatter in the lobby after the screening was largely positive, with several audience members calling it Stan’s best work yet, as well as others saying it was their favorite film of the fest so far.
A24 has not yet set a theatrical release date for “A Different Man.”