Indie moviemaker Amy Seimetz pulls off the ultimate heist in “No Sudden Move.”
Though relatively unknown to most viewers, Seimetz slyly steals the star-studded film out from under the likes of Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro with her portrayal of a housewife who gets caught up in a dangerous plot to steal a priceless document.
The Steven Soderbergh film is now streaming on HBO Max, and Seimetz is nothing short of a revelation. Her character, Mary Wertz, is kidnapped by a group of small-time crooks who want to force her philandering, auto executive husband (David Harbour) to break into his office safe in order to give them some trade secrets. Just as she finds herself and her children staring down the barrel of a gun, Mary also discovers that her marriage is a sham when one of the robbers casually notes that her husband is sleeping with his boss’ secretary. Seimetz expertly plays her fear and mounting resentment, while nursing an ever present cigarette, providing a masterclass in slow-burn outrage. Her performance is likely the one that will linger longest with audiences.
“No Sudden Move” marked a reunion of sorts for Soderbergh and Seimetz, who previously collaborated on the Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience.” Seimetz co-wrote, co-directed and executive produced the show, which was based on a film of the same name that Soderbergh made. Seimetz has continued to forge a multi-hyphenated path, starring in the likes of “Pet Sematary” and “Alien: Covenant,” while also directing the 2020 indie thriller “She Dies Tomorrow.”
Why did you want to make the movie?
Well, I mean it’s Steven Soderbergh. He executive produced “The Girlfriend Experience,” so I knew that he liked my filmmaking, but it had been years since we’d worked together. I started thinking maybe Steven doesn’t think I’m a good actor. But then he texted me and asked if I had time to be in something. Since my background is in indie filmmaking, I thought he’d put me in something like “Bubble” or one of his experiments. Then he sent me the script and I realized it was much more expansive. It was fun and twisty and I was excited to be a part of Steven’s heist universe.
What’s Steven like as a director?
Steven is a man of few words. He’s very dry. He didn’t explain much. I told Carmen Cuba, the casting director, who is a good friend of mine, that I was going to do an accent. And she was like, “don’t tell Steven because he’ll tell you not to do it.” I showed up the first day and did the scene with an accent and he didn’t say anything, so I thought I’ll keep doing it. Then two weeks later I got a text from him, because he goes home and edits the movie at night, and he wrote, “your accent is killing me.” So I thought, oh shit, he’s going to want me to stop and I’ve already shot all these scenes. He’s going to turn the camera on somebody else or edit me out. I asked him if he wanted me to drop the accent, and he said, “Not at all. It’s hilarious.” So we kept it.
The film is set in Detroit. How did you create your Midwestern accent?
My dad is from Indiana and my grandmother, Jane, who passed, was the template of finding the voice. My grandma Shirley, who lives in Pennsylvania, was helpful in terms of creating the character. She represented this complicated, interesting, funny woman who showed some disdain for her husband. My grandmothers helped me discover the layers of emotion of what it was like for a woman living in the 1950s. These women didn’t like the 1950s. They were welcoming of the changes that came in the 1960s. That’s when they were able to get their own jobs, and that was something they loved. They loved having jobs.
The film implies that your character is not satisfied being a homemaker. When she’s introduced, the dishes are piled up in the sink, the laundry isn’t done, and the house is messy. Was that something that the movie tries to convey, that she’s not as interested in domestic tasks as society at the time wanted women to be?
Yes, and that was very much true of my grandmothers. It’s not that they weren’t maternal or anything, because they loved their children and their grandchildren, but they had their own existential crises. They didn’t want to be homemakers, so to speak, but they felt like they didn’t have other options. I used that. Fortunately, we live in an age now where there are so many other opportunities available for women and they don’t have to only be concerned with what people are eating for dinner and getting their kids off to school.
Not to make a plug for onscreen smoking, but you do some wonderful things with a cigarette in this movie. You can read your character’s emotions, her fear and anger, by the way she stubs out a cigarette or exhales smoke. How essential was that prop?
Steven and I knew it was appropriate to the period. It’s always great as an actor to have a prop and my cigarette was my talisman. Of course, my mother made note of it. She was like, “you’re smoking furiously in this trailer. I don’t like it.” My mom has notes that she would like to give to Steven if he lets me on one of his sets again. She does not want me smoking. She also had notes on my accent. She has notes on everything. She’s my harshest critic.
Your character is thrust into this insane situation where she’s being held hostage at gunpoint while having to process the revelation that her husband has been having an affair. What was it like to portray that?
Steven’s films always have all these layers. They’re heist movies, but they’re also really funny with these nuanced characters. I just really approached it by thinking what is a version of my grandma in a Soderbergh movie? I’m not an actor that immerses myself in character, but I approach it as a filmmaker. How can I react well in the moment? How can I support my other actors? So, my way in is always how do I not get cut out of this film?
Did you take things from the way Steven directs that will influence the way you approach the films you make?
He’s fascinating. I’ve never been on a set for a film that’s shot this way. He only shoots what you need. He knows you have limited resources, so he does one or two takes and then moves on. He doesn’t always run the entire scene. He sometimes just shoots the first few lines in the way he wants before he moves on to the next exchange. That keeps you present and in the moment. You’re not thinking where does my character have to land by the end of this scene. Personally, maybe twenty years from now, I’ll trust myself to do that, but I’d be too anxious to work like that. I do like to discover things in the edit.
You shot this film in September before COVID vaccines were available. Were you nervous about returning to a film set?
It was the first movie I’d done since coming back. But he knows a lot about infectious diseases from his time making “Contagion.” He was in touch with people he’d met from that movie — scientists and doctors and professors to figure out how to do this safely. I knew he wasn’t going to do anything unless he knew he could pull it off. We were in good hands.