“Do Revenge” was in jeopardy of losing one or both of its stars when a twist of fate allowed director Jennifer Kaitlyn Robinson to cast her dream performers. In fact, she was able to move production to Atlanta a month before filming began in order to keep Maya Hawke, who was filming “Stranger Things” Season 4 at the time, as antagonist Eleanor in the film.
In the Netflix teen dark comedy, Hawke costars as Eleanor alongside Camila Mendes, who plays the other half of the deceitful duo as Drea Torres, the fallen “it” girl.
“We cast the movie in 2020. Cami and Maya both signed on, and then ‘Stranger Things’ pushed, which means that in our window where we were making the movie we technically lost Maya,” Robinson said in a recent zoom interview with TheWrap. “If we had waited for Maya to complete ‘Stranger Things,’ we would have lost Cami and Cami and I both were quite devastated.”
Robinson felt so strongly that these two actresses were right for the roles in her new film that when the opportunity came to keep them both in the production, she jumped at the chance.
“I was actually in Australia shooting ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, and I got a call from Peter Cron and Anthony Bregman who produced the movie, [saying] ‘Hey, so what do you think about moving the whole thing to Atlanta and getting Maya back?’” Robinson continued. “And I started crying and in two seconds I was like, ‘Yes, yes.’ And that was it. And then we moved the production six weeks before shooting.”
In the film, Maya Hawke’s Eleanor and Camila Mendes’ Drea team up to take down each other’s enemies in a swapped revenge scheme. Drea loses her status as popular girl in Rosehill Country Day School’s elite social group when her ex-boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) leaks a risky video she makes meant only for his eyes. Eleanor’s desire for vengeance comes from a childhood traumatic event in which a girl at summer camp (first thought to be Ava Capri’s Carissa Jones, but later determined to actually be Drea herself) outed Eleanor and spread a rumor that Eleanor tried to hold her down and kiss her.
“It’s a classic kind of beta and alpha story with a very fun twist,” Robinson said.
At certain points in the film, it is unclear who is the beta and who is the alpha, although from the beginning it seems that the positions are clearly established. In terms of the script, Robinson feels the story was always there, even if it’s structured differently than one of its inspirations, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” (1951), from which Robinson says “Do Revenge” is mostly a departure.
“Where it really changes and starts to become something really, really wonderful is when you cast it and you get to start to work with the actors who are going to embody these characters, and really starting to find kind of collaborate with them and find you know, the version of the character that makes the most sense with them,” Robinson said.
“Everyone is wonderful in all of the different [movies and shows] that they’re on. You’re always like, ‘Oh cool, they have this fan base and this fan base, we can bring them all together for ‘Do Revenge,’ but honestly, everyone was just perfect for the movie,” Robinson said. “Like Rish, for example. I took a really long time to find Russ, I re-read a lot of people, and ‘Ms. Marvel,’ had not come out. It was in the middle of shooting and he just did a tape and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this kid, he’s amazing.’”
Robinson credits the packed ensemble cast with making the film’s production easier.
“There was there was never a moment where I was like, ‘Oh, God, this is really hard.’ And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Camila and Maya are so talented and so amazing,” she said. “And the cast really was so keyed into who they were as these characters that everyday was really such a joy onset. It was like ‘Oh, we found the perfect ingredients and made the best meal ever. Cinematically ever.”
Robinson also worked with costume designer Alana Morshead and production designer Hillary Gurtler to create the colorful “Girl World,” which is their nickname for the neon, pastel, party high school setting that encompasses “Do Revenge.” In addition to composer Este Haim, she also worked with music supervisor Rob Lowry (“Gossip Girl”) to collect several songs that matched the young adult story.
“There were several songs that were written into the script. ‘Brutal,’ the Olivia Rodrigo song — I had that in my ear as I was shoot[ing] [and] directing Cami so that I could time it exactly. To when, I wanted her face to fall so that it would hit with the drop of the song,” Robinson said. “I really wanted the music to be the heartbeat of the film, and be able to bridge that 90s nostalgia and the Gen Z new and find that middle ground sonically in the soundtrack.”
Ultimately, after directing “Someone Great,” Robinson aimed to capture the roller coaster of adolescence and all of the emotions that come with it.
“Loneliness is spot on, because I think that [Drea and Eleanor are] both very lonely characters who find each other. It was really always about wanting the film, while the film is big and loud and fun, wanting it to really emotionally resonate and feel really real to that time of being young and feeling everything so intensely,” she said. “I want people to engage with it. I want people to feel. I don’t want to assign how they should feel. I just hope that they feel something. It can be good, it can be bad. I want to elicit something.”
“Do Revenge” is now streaming on Netflix.