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Mikey Madison on Being Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ in Twisted Cinderella Tale

Mikey Madison on Being Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ in Twisted Cinderella Tale

Director Sean Baker and his Anora star Mikey Madison have spoken about the “collaborative” process of portraying sex workers in a film that he acknowledged hearkens back to the captivating love story in Pretty Woman.

Baker spoke with his cast at Cannes’ press conference for the film, which follows Anora (Madison), a young sex worker from Brooklyn, who gets her chance at a Cinderella story when she meets and impulsively marries the son of an oligarch (Mark Eydelshteyn). But the fairytale is threatened when her fiancé’s parents set out to get the marriage annulled.

“Mikey had so much to do with the development of Anora,” Baker said as he lauded his lead actress. “I wrote the script for Mikey. We had a meeting and asked if she was interested, I said: ‘Okay, I’m going to write you a script and come back in three months.’ It took a year.”

Madison added: “I had never had anyone write a character for me before, I was in disbelief. We kept in touch the whole time that he was writing and talked a lot about the character and what we wanted to portray.”

Madison spoke about embedding herself in New York communities, talking with sex workers to understand her character better, and spending time with dancers to perfect her Brooklyn accent. Baker said: “Hearing her do the Brooklyn accent for the first time was such a sigh of relief, knowing that she nailed it.”

But press members in attendance rightly brought up the Pretty Woman-esque theme that shines through in the film, when Madison’s character gets asked to spend the week with her client and she negotiates upwards to $15,000, cash up-front.

“I grew up in the 80s,” Baker said, acknowledging the “effect” the 1990 classic, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, had on him. “Even though I was using tropes of romantic comedies, it was important to ground it in a true reality.”

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While there was no intimacy coordinator for the sex scenes, Madison said it ended up working perfectly. “I felt completely free in those scenes.” Baker added: “if someone requests one, of course. (But) if my actors are okay with it, we collaborate and we work together (without an intimacy coordinator).”

Baker touched on the theme of sex work in many of his films, such as in Starlet, and the “stigma” attached to their stories and lives. “There’s a million stories to be told in the world of sex workers… It’s livelihood, it’s a career, it’s a job and it’s one that should be respected. In my opinion, it should be decriminalised and not in any way regulated because it is a sex worker’s body and it is up to them to decide how they will use it in their livelihood.”

Supporting cast members include Yuriy Borisov as Igor, Karren Karagulian as Toros, and Vache Tovmasyan as Garnick. “My proudest credit on the film is casting,” Baker said. “This was primarily seasoned, experienced actors and to tell you the truth, it was incredible because of their incredible talent.”

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