Based on a true story, this film follows two teenage boys whose lives become intertwined via the internet. However, things aren’t what they seem — as is often the case with web relationships. Duplicity and loneliness lead to shocking events in this engaging British thriller.
Uwantme2killhim? is such a crazy story of manipulation using the internet. How did you come upon it? I found an article in an issue of Vanity Fair some time ago, written by Judy Bachrach. I had my agent reach out for the rights to it to find that [director/producer] Bryan Singer had a quicker and longer arm. I went in to his company and pitched a take on the material, which approached the story from Mark’s point of view. The intention was to transform the source material from a perplexing story about a weird world to more of a thriller where nothing is what it seems.
Bryan Singer, having made Usual Suspects, approved this approach. We never met the real boys as their anonymity is protected by British law but the writer, Mike Walden, and I did meet the journalist, Judy, several times to flesh out the story.
For me the story, as well as being fascinating just as it is, was also a vehicle to explore themes of addiction and loneliness.
Jamie Blackley (as Mark) and Toby Regbo (as John) both gave amazing performances. Did you have them in mind for the parts or did they audition?
It was a long audition process. I’m a big fan of [director] Shane Meadows’s films, especially This Is England, and I initially thought the best version of uwm2kh might use real people casting. But I quickly realized that the ideas in the script were so complex that real kids would not be able to sustain the various conceits, especially for John’s role. We met with lots of wonderful young actors but what our boys had was a kind of damaged quality that they could tap into — rare in kids so young. So Mark, for all his good looks and cockiness, could still express a loneliness that was crucial for an understanding of his journey. Toby the same, but in addition he had to overcome matinee idol good looks (if you see him in CW Reign on TV, he’s a heartthrob) to embody the lost duplicitous soul of John.
Is there any message you hope people take away from this film? Well certainly that truth is stranger than fiction. It’s also a little cautionary, but that was less important to me than to explore the lengths to which people will go to get what they need to feel whole — Mark to have a “mad life” to feel like a somebody, and John to have a friend to share stories and fight his corner.