Animal Kingdom puts the family in crime

The final days of Sundance see packed, final screenings of the more talked about films. For David Michôd, director of Animal Kingdom, it was a bittersweet moment. "I've been overwhelmed by the response," he said. "I've gotten a little choked up about it."

Michôd's film is a pitch perfect drama of a Melbourne family whose deep criminal roots come undone. During the Q&A someone asked if the story was autobiographical. While it was meant as a joke the audience may have been surprised at the answer.

"There's a whole lot of me in there. A lot of family stuff," said Michôd.  The writer/director said it was the family element that interested him. "There's a lot of love in families. Sometimes there's too much, to the extent that it's not healthy."

To cast the the film's most crucial and violent role of Pope, Michôd turned to Ben Mendelsohn. "Pope turned out to be the most interesting to me. Beguling and charming."

Yet Mendelsohn felt frustrated early in not being able to find the character. "So we spent two solid day going over the script," said Michôd. "Line by line. And it not only made the character better but gave us a shorthand to work with."

Another critical role of the elusive and smart matriacre of the family went to legendary Australian actress Jackie Weaver (Picnic at Hanging Rock). Weaver was eager to play a villain, an at-times loving mother whose great secret is her cunning, criminal intelligence. Michôd told her "I don't want anyone to know this stuff is inside you until you start you machinations."

Animal Kingdom marks a fresh start at the well worn crime genre, a style that Michôd wants to stay in. What's next? "I have some new ideas but they're barely sperm now," said Michôd, who is looking forward to exploring American crime soon.

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