Quotes from the Q & A (Sundance 2014)

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Stewart, on hand for a post-screening Q&A, said she spent hours watching GITMO documentaries and was even trained by a “really awesome marine named JB who…whipped me into shape.”

“She had aspects that I am and really felt,” the actress said of her character in the movie. “My prep was figuring out who she was.”
Stewart also participated in the Q&A but kept her comments more focused on her character. She said she met with military people and "watched a lot documentaries to prepare" for the role.
Stewart and Maadi rehearsed together for more than a week, Maadi said at the screening’s Q-and-A session.

"Most of my scenes were with Kristen," Maadi said. "It was very important to get the vibe."

Stewart said the role was a lot closer to her personality than many she has played. "She had aspects that I am, that I really felt," she said.

Much of the role is in the tiny details of daily life for a Gitmo guard. For example, her character regularly does "the walk," circling the small cell block to check on each detainee every three minutes.

"I forgot how to turn left," Stewart joked.
During a Q&A after the film’s premiere, the actress told the audience at the Eccles Theater just how she prepared for this particular dramatic departure. “There were multiple documentaries that we watched,” she explained. “I hung out with this really awesome Marine, J.B., for like three days and he kind of, in a very accelerated way, whipped me into shape. It’s not a very physically strenuous role, [but] obviously you should be able to see that I have training.”

“Just putting on the uniform was a huge transformation," added Strattler. “We did so much drilling, because it completely affected your posture.”

Maadi, who shares the film’s most poignant scenes with Stewart, said that the two rehearsed as guard and detainee for over a week, even opting to stay inside the prison “for hours at a time” to get a better sense of their roles. Stewart, whose character has to walk circuitously through the camp’s halls on suicide watch, peeking in each detainee’s window and making sure they are still alive, joked that she had a hard time “learning how to turn left” after all of that right-ward circling.

And as different as her character might seem from Kristen Stewart, Twilight star, the actress said that she was “not necessarily playing someone so far outside of [herself].” In fact, they share some of the same “feelings.”

In other revelations, Strattler said that he originally wrote Stewart’s character as a man, but decided to make her female once his wife became pregnant with a daughter, causing him to contemplate issues of gender strength. Strattler also said that he was first inspired to write his script after “watching footage of a detainee and a guard in some documentary talking about some books on a book cart. ‘What is that book? Is that a good book?’ It was one of the most surreal exchanges I’ve seen in my life.” (In the film, a surprisingly funny exchange occurs when a prisoner, a rabid Harry Potter fan, suggests that the Gitmo guards’ refusal to stock the final book in the J.K. Rowling series constitutes yet another form of torture.)

Strattler says he wanted to approach the prisoner-prison guard dynamic from a new angle. “For me,” Strattler said, “it seemed like a cool way to address Guantánamo Bay indirectly.”

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