Sophie Mas and Natalie Portman met by chance at the Cannes Film Festival 15 years ago. Portman was on the jury, Masa was introduced by a friend, and they immediately became friends. A decade and a half later, they were back on the Croisette, this time for the premiere of the first project of their newly formed production company, MountainA (named after the myth of Sisyphus, their shared love of the mountains, and the first letter of all their children’s names).
May December, Todd Haynes’ melodrama about an actress (Portman) exploring the real-life subject of her next role won rave reviews at a French festival and was quickly sold to Netflix for $11 million. Ahead of the film’s North American premiere at the New York Film Festival, Mas says: TPP about the fateful path to the big screen.
How did you and Natalie go from friends to co-producers?
Our friendship has always been more important to us than our work, so although we gave each other advice about our careers or projects, we did not consider the possibility of formal collaboration – until I quit my last job at RT Features in 2019, and she called me and said, “Why don’t we start something?” Natalie knows better than any producer how to recognize an interesting project.
Do you remember your first reaction to the script? May December?
We loved how unexpected it was. Many of those who have experienced the film so far have described it as campy, and I don’t know if we agree with that, but you really don’t know if it’s worth laughing, if it’s ironic, and it comes through. unique.
What was it about Julianne Moore and Charles Melton playing the couple at the center of the film?
Todd (Haynes) suggested Julianna right away, and Natalie had never played with her, so it was very interesting. We cast several people for the role of Charles. Being from France I didn’t know Riverdale “Todd and Natalie told me about it,” but his audition went flawlessly. He completely understood this man and his extraordinary journey. I’m really excited that he’ll have this moment to show the world the diversity of what he’s capable of.
What were your hopes for the world premiere?
When you make a film, you bet on the script, and we were convinced of this, but in Cannes we played late in the evening, after Killers of the Flower Moon. Julianne has an early line where she says, “I don’t think we have enough hot dogs,” and the audience knew to laugh, so we felt like they got the tone. We knew the market, especially with the strike, would be tight – we financed the film ourselves, but selling to Netflix felt like a testament to our work.
Given that the New York Film Festival premiere will take place during the actors’ strike, do you feel like a lot of the promotion falls on your shoulders?
I think this really feels like Todd’s moment. We shot it in 23 days because that’s all we could afford, and Todd nailed it. Plus, the premiere is truly special – and given all the great films Todd has made in his career, it feels like a chance for audiences to truly celebrate him, not just for May December, but as a director in general. I am very happy about it.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in September. Issue 27 of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.