'Bones and All' Team on 'Unnerving' Challenge of Making Cannibal Love Story

Bones and All, at its heart, is about two teenagers who fall in love, a storyline that has been seen time and again and is beloved by many a moviegoer. The catch? Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet) enjoy eating people.

A cannibal film is one thing but making a love story through these characters' eyes was something that proved to be an "unnerving" challenge for writer David Kajganich, he told Newsweek.

Director Luca Guadagnino also shared with Newsweek how Kajganich's script, based on Camille DeAngelis' novel of the same name, held a "dream quality" to it that leant itself to the silver screen, though the more squeamish viewers may be shocked by the horror that is portrayed.

'Bones and All' Team on the 'Unnerving' Challenge of Making a Cannibal Love Story

Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell
Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell as Lee and Maren in "Bones and All," the film's writer David Kajganich and director Luca Guadagnino spoke to Newsweek about making the film. Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Kajganich enjoyed how intense and disturbing the story of Bones and All was, explaining that it was "those two things combined" that made him feel the drama would stand out amongst its peers.

"This a project that's obviously going to have a completely different kind of relationship to an audience than either a horror movie or a love story," the writer said. "And I think, for me, as long as the other collaborators felt the same way, which is that the horror story is really subservient to the love story, then it felt like it would be a really interesting thing to try to do together.

"What people are starting to talk about now [...] is really just how tender a movie it is, and so I was interested in that, is it possible to somehow get an audience through the horror experience, out the other side and think of this as a love story?"

Kajganich said it was "interesting" to try and balance Maren and Lee's love story with the horror of their actions as "eaters," the name Mark Rylance's fellow cannibal Sully gives their group.

"It was a bit unnerving at first because it's almost like if you were to write a satire, it's a bit dangerous, because if you don't actually pull it off, you're adding to the thing that you were intending to criticize in the first place," he explained.

"With something like this, if we somehow hadn't pulled off the tone correctly then you end up with a fairly brutal film without really something to elevate it, and so that was the challenge. And we all knew it was a challenge, it's one of the reasons we decided collectively to make this independently."

As well as being a writer, Kajganich is a producer alongside Guadagnino, Chalamet, and many others to ensure it could be as independent as possible.

"We didn't want the studio involved until it was finished because we knew that this tone is so precarious that if we had lots of people giving notes about what they thought, how they thought it should be rigged in relation to an audience, we wouldn't have all agreed, and we probably would have had to bend toward [one thing]," Kajganich added.

"I think we were all aware that that was the biggest danger to us, so we did it ourselves and what you see on the screen is what we intended. And thank goodness people are embracing it."

Guadagnino felt particularly inspired by Kajganich's work, telling Newsweek: "[The] script was so beautiful that it was unavoidable for me [to make it] because my process of working is that I have to have something to be inspired by, or something that I can see how to translate into something else.

"So, a great script is not necessarily for me a script where you have all the things in place, where you have the three act and the arc and everything, for me a great script is a script that sparked the imagination and brings me to the edge of my seat reading it, which is what happened."

The Suspiria filmmaker said that he enjoyed "the idea of making a movie that could encompass the dream quality of a fable, where you go through a world that is a world that might be uncanny, it might be dark, but it's about our quest for happiness and love through [many] difficulties and challenges."

David Kajganich and Luca Guadagnino
David Kajganich and Luca Guadagnino on set of "Bones and All," the pair discussed making the film and the challenge of creating a cannibal love story. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

On Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell and the Beauty of Horror

Guadagnino said it was "amazing" to reunite with Chalamet again after their last project, Call Me By Your Name, and he also explained that he knew Russell would be "wonderful" for the role of Maren the moment he watched her 2019 film Waves.

Kajganich concurred, saying that he was impressed by Russell's ability to show maturity and growth in a character that wasn't "an easy role."

"That performance, not only is she having to straddle a number of genres, she's having to grow an enormous amount but in such small ways, I don't think there's a scene in the film where you think this is where she grows up," the writer said. "She's spreading it very delicately through the whole performance so that was sort of incredible.

"But also, being number one on a call sheet comes with the potential for certain responsibilities in terms of leadership on a set, some actors choose to pick that up and embrace it, others don't. Taylor was the most generous, lovely leader of that cast and crew, just by the nature of the position she was on the call sheet.

"I just remember thinking that the amount of emotional intelligence one has to have, the amount of emotional maturity to be performing a role that challenging and central to the film, but also understanding that her responsibilities were even greater than that. She took them on and just accomplished something really beautiful in her performance."

But what was most important for the writer was to try and challenge the audience in a way they may not have expected, by making them question if they empathized with Maren and Lee, or not.

"If we are really trying to tell a story about how young people are disenfranchised, how they are, let's say, othered because of any number of reasons, but in this film it's that they're cannibals, it seems really important that you challenge an audience to feel what it feels like to other those characters," the writer explained.

"And so, when the cannibalism first starts in the film, we really wanted the audience to want to put these characters at a distance, and then find their way back into an empathetic relationship, and then have that pushed again."

Kajganich said that they had to refine the way in which they approached the characters to bring forth that empathy. "That push and pull in the film, between the characters who are in the love story, road story, coming-of-age story, versus the ones that are committing these acts, that is the film, that is the experience of the film that we wanted an audience to have.

"How far can these characters challenge an audience's empathy? And so, in terms of how the script was written, and how the film was shot and edited, it was important to find the right balance."

Bones and All is out in theaters now.

Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet
Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet as Maren and Lee in "Bones and All," writer Kajganich and director Guadagnino heaped praise on the actors for their performances in the film. Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures