AFI Movie Club: DESTROYER – American Film Institute



DESTROYER, a gritty thriller that exposes one woman’s reckoning with past demons, screened at AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi. The red carpet event featured a conversation between director Karyn Kusama and the film’s Oscar®-winning star, Nicole Kidman.

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DESTROYER – Reelgood

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, Nicole Kidman talks about her view of her character:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? DESTROYER marked the third collaboration between Karyn Kusama and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. The idea for DESTROYER originated when the filmmakers were working on their 2015 horror film, THE INVITATION. 

DID YOU KNOW? Karyn Kusama originally had not considered Nicole Kidman for the role, since the part was written for a 39-year-old woman. When Kidman read the script, she eagerly pursued the lead role, playing both the older and younger versions of her character, Erin Bell.  

DID YOU KNOW? DESTROYER editor Plummy Tucker has worked with director Karyn Kusama on every film since the director’s first feature, GIRLFIGHT. Both women had been assistants to filmmaker John Sayles. 

DID YOU KNOW? Nicole Kidman’s dramatic transformation in her physical appearance took surprisingly little time for makeup designer Bill Corso to achieve. Upon Kidman’s request to keep her time in the makeup chair limited, Corso was able to complete the process in under 30 minutes. 

DID YOU KNOW? Nicole Kidman’s signature leather jacket was designed specifically for her character. According to the film’s costume designer, Audrey Fisher, the star never wanted to take the coat off on set, as it “allowed her to enter the physicality of this character.” 

DID YOU KNOW? Nicole Kidman appears in every scene of the film. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-DESTROYER director Karyn Kusama told The Atlantic: “I was really hoping we feel a totality of character by the end of the film. That the mission of the film could be to slowly draw the audience into a layered and complex tale of crime and crime gone wrong.” Did you find humanity beneath the tough exterior of Erin Bell? How did the film help you to get to know her more intimately? Did you empathize with her story?

-DESTROYER follows a circular story that blurs time and overlaps the past, present and future. Were you surprised by the ending? Were you disoriented by the film’s manipulation of its non-linear timeline? How does Erin Bell’s physical appearance represent the misalignment of time’s passage?

-DESTROYER presents itself at first as a traditional thriller, but it proceeds to unveil two different and divergent mysteries. Can you identify these storylines? How does the movie reveal how Erin Bell’s murder investigation is representative of another complex mystery of her past?

-DESTROYER encourages audiences to internalize certain assumptions about Erin Bell, but over time it forces viewers to question these assumptions. What assumptions did you have about her character at the beginning of the film, and how did these beliefs change over the course of the story?

-The marketing for DESTROYER emphasized the transformation in Nicole Kidman’s appearance, from a beautiful movie star to a time-worn, brutalized, middle-aged cop. Why do you think the actress’ appearance provoked so much press?

-What does this imply about how gender is represented onscreen and in the media?

-Do you think her character in DESTROYER would have been believable if Kidman appeared as herself?

-Thriller genre films such as DESTROYER generally feature hard-boiled male detectives, and rarely focus on a female protagonist’s perspective. Does this change the way you view DESTROYER? Does Erin Bell seem like “one of the guys,” or does her specifically feminine experience come through?

-How would you rate DESTROYER?

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