Chloe is something of a departure for anyone familiar with director Atom Egoyan’s work. For one thing, it’s a remake, of Anne Fontaine’s art-house drama Nathalie (2003), and it’s scripted not by Egoyan but Secretary’s Erin Cressida Wilson. It’s cast with movie stars (Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson) and unfolds in chronological order, which for an Egoyan movie is virtually unheard of. In many ways, it’s his attempt at a mainstream thriller in the vein of Fatal Attraction.
Coupled with Egoyan’s somewhat underrated Where the Truth Lies (2005), Chloe suggests that the idiosyncratic director of Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter may be venturing toward more commercial fare. But he doesn’t see it that way.
‘I think this one is linear, so you’re able to follow it in a different way, and your relationship with it as a viewer is very different. But I think in terms of the psychology of the piece, it’s as complex as anything I’ve done,’ explains Egoyan.
Sitting with Moore (it’s their first time doing an interview together), the director and his star explain that what attracted them to the material was the main character’s behaviour. The protagonist thinks she’s taking control of a situation, when in fact she’s always one step behind those around her. ‘One of the things that Atom plays with a lot in his films is this notion of what is perception and what is real,’ says Moore. ‘The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter to any human being whether or not anything is real. What we perceive is real to us. If a person comes to a room and claims to have seen a ghost, you say to them, “Ghosts don’t exist.” They say, “I just saw one.” Then who’s right? In their life, that’s what they saw.’
Suspecting her husband (Neeson) of infidelity, Moore’s character, an obstetrician, hires Chloe (Seyfried) to seduce him and report back on what happens. As the charade goes on, the women’s relationship takes unexpected turns, and the film grows less classifiable as it goes along.
The difficulty of pinning down the main character is part of what attracted Moore to the project. ‘I’m not as much drawn to movies about people who’ve achieved great things or made the first airplane,’ she says. ‘There’s all that stuff out there and it’s very entertaining, but for one reason or another, psychological drama has always been most compelling to me.’
Egoyan had seen and liked Nathalie, but it never occurred to him to remake it. He views the new film as a fascinating study in what happens when you keep the same basic plotline but tell a story in a different style (if that’s what Chloe does). For the moment, at least, he’s enjoying the pleasures of having crafted a mostly mainstream thriller. ‘At the premiere there were these moments where – in intimate, dramatic scenes – there was a gasp, and that was great,’ Egoyan says. ‘That’s rare for a film I make, so I enjoyed doing this. I try to think of traditional Hollywood scripts, it’s just they’ve never really fit.’