Annie Baker Says ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Was ‘Retrospectively Influential’ on Her ‘Janet Planet’

George Miller’s high-octane prequel film “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” doesn’t have a ton in common with “Janet Planet,” the quiet, small-scale indie darling from playwright-turned-filmmaker Annie Baker. The films were only released a month apart, so any real influence is pretty unlikely. But according to Baker, she can still see a connection.

Speaking in a recent interview with Letterboxd, Baker was asked what fascinates her about mother/daughter stories. She denied that “Janet Planet” was influenced by any one story in particular. But she did just see “Furiosa,” which centers on a daughter losing her mother and trying to find her way back home, and Baker felt it definitely made an impression.

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“I really liked ‘Furiosa,’” she said. “I can’t say it was an influence on ‘Janet Planet’ since I saw it last weekend, but I’m a big fan. I’m a big fan. ‘Furiosa,’ retrospectively influential on ‘Janet Planet.’”

Putting jokes aside, Baker did share that she found inspiration in images produced by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

“There’s a way Bergman photographs and thinks about motherhood and relationships just between female relatives, period, between sisters, too,” Baker told Letterboxd. “And there’s a kind of sensuality, there’s a kind of eroticism to the closeness between mothers and daughters and between sisters and between friends that I think he gets at that I definitely talked about with my DP [Maria von Hausswolff].”

In constructing the dynamic between mother Janet (Julianne Nicholson) and daughter Lacy (Zoe Ziegler), Baker tried to stay relatively hands-off. In a previous interview with IndieWire, Nicholson shared that she spent time off-camera with Ziegler, just doing mother-daughter activities, but that once they started shooting, both became completely different people.

“I feel like something just happened when the cameras were rolling because Zoe was incredible,” she told IndieWire. “She was not playing herself, she was playing a character and I was too, and something just sort of happened between us whenever the cameras were rolling.”

Baker elaborated on this with Letterboxd: “I learned very quickly to not try to describe the character too much to Zoe, which is not to say she’s the same person or even that similar to this character, but I realized very quickly that she understood the material in a bordering-on-telepathic way. If I got overly psychological about it or overly analytical, I would ruin her performance. So we did not talk about the character at all; if I tried to, I saw it go wrong very quickly.”

“Janet Planet” is in theaters now.

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