'Love Lies Bleeding' director, writer wanted Kristen Stewart movie to be 'sweaty,' 'violent' and 'pulsating'

"It's sort of trying to make the familiar seem alien, and the alien seem familiar," Rose Glass said.

For filmmaker Rose Glass, the idea for Love Lies Bleeding, starring Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian, just began with one particularly physically strong woman.

"In the beginning, it was literally just kind of something about a really muscly woman, and I wanted it to be really sweaty, and violent and visceral, and textures of sweat and dirt, and darkness and violence, and dark humour," Glass told Yahoo Canada. "That was the tone, something about this woman, and then the story all came from there, very gradually."

Set in the 1989, Love Lies Bleeding introduces us to Lou (Stewart), who works at a gym. Stewart's first scene is quite literally Lou trying to unclog an incredibly dirty toilet.

But when wayward bodybuilder Jackie (O'Brian), who had been hitchhiking in the Southwest U.S., comes into the gym to train, Lou can't take her eyes off of her.

Unbeknownst to her at the time, Jackie starts working for Lou's estranged father, played by Ed Harris, at a local gun range. JJ (Dave Franco), Lou's sister's abusive husband, works there as well.

Jackie has one goal, to compete in a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas, and Lou wants to help her get there. That includes introducing Jackie to steroids and making sure she has a supply in the days leading to the competition.

That's when we set off on this captivating, twisted, violent, bloody, emotional and sexy romantic journey.

'Love Lies Bleeding' director, writer wanted Kristen Stewart movie to be 'sweaty,' 'violent' and 'pulsating'
This image released by A24 shows Katy O’Brian in a scene from "Love Lies Bleeding." (Anna Kooris/A24 via AP)

'The homogeny of what we're used to seeing in films'

O’Brian as Jackie is absolutely alluring and magnetic the second we see the character on screen.

But in an interview with GQ, the actor spoke about how many roles are given to actors who look more "feminine."

"You still have a difficulty seeing a more androgynous or masculine-looking representation in queer film or media, where it's not almost like a stereotype or caricature of a queer person," O’Brian told GQ.

Glass said it's "ridiculous" that it's still quite rare to see a woman who physically look like O'Brian's Jackie on screen.

"There's so many women who are incredibly muscular and go to the gym, and all this kind of stuff, it's more the homogeny of what we're used to seeing in films, which is just really not representative of reality," Glass said. "Neither her or Kristen's character would look particularly radical I think in real life, you're maybe not used to seeing them in the middle of a film."

"The contradictions, all the sort of contrasts, are what I find interesting. ... The big, tough, strong looking woman, of course, isn't necessarily big, tough and strong in every aspect of them, and we all contain multitudes, et cetera. Kristen's character, who seems to be the physical weakling, actually she's sort of the one who has a bit more power, in different ways, ... maybe it's privilege and the security that her family offers her. Even though she hates them, she still has that kind of safety net, I guess, that Jackie's character doesn't have."

This image released by A24 shows Katy O’Brian, left, and Kristen Stewart from
This image released by A24 shows Katy O’Brian, left, and Kristen Stewart from "Love Lies Bleeding." (Anna Kooris/A24 via AP)

'I was a bit nervous of setting it in the '80s'

While Love Lies Bleeding has quickly become one of the most impactful, unique and innovative films we've seen recently, part of that has to do with the way that Glass was able to push through everything we've been conditioned to thinking makes up a movie set in the '80s.

"To be honest, I was a bit nervous of setting it in the '80s," Glass said. "It sort of felt like it made sense for more thematic, story reasons, but as an aesthetic and the music of the '80s, it's not one that I'm particularly like, 'Yeah I'd love to set something in the '80s,' because it's sort of just been so done to death."

"So with all the departments, it's kind of trying to figure out how to make it real, but I think it's sort of almost set in the '80s, but with a contemporary or maybe sort of '90s kind of feel."

As you may expect, a core element of that strategy is the music, especially with Love Lies Bleeding being particularly filled with music. 

"But yet again, just to avoid the sort of pastiche-y feel of just really familiar," Glass said.

Rose Glass, left, director/co-writer of the film
Rose Glass, left, director/co-writer of the film "Love Lies Bleeding," poses with cast members Kristen Stewart, center, and Katy M. O'Brian at the Four Seasons Hotel, Monday, March 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The film's music consultant, Yigit Bülbül, came up with several playlists, including playlists for Stewart and O’Brian to listing to when they were shooting.

"I was trying to think of it as stuff that Lou might listen to, so just less familiar, more left field, "Glass explained. "There's a lot of slightly industrial kind of stuff in there."

"A lot of the film, I think, in terms of the characters and story, it's sort of trying to make the familiar seem alien, and the alien seem familiar. So it has that sort of '80s palette, but hopefully in a slightly more interesting way. And then that kind of feeds into the sound design as well. And the the score. ... Everything just had to be kind of throbbing and pulsating."

Even more broadly speaking, "rubbing," "pulsating" and "visceral" elements were what Glass had on her mind when writing Love Lies Bleeding with co-writer Weronika Tofilska.

"I don't know if that's influence from lockdown and everyone not being allowed to touch each other, or something," Glass said. "I feel like I would have liked to have seen these characters when I was a teenager."

"Cinema and seeing sex in film and stuff as a teenager, those things sort of stick with you. ... It would be nice, in hindsight, if some of those kinds of early exposures to subversiveness and sexiness in films, if there was a little more variety, maybe. I think maybe as a slightly confused teenager, I think it would have been cool to have seen hot, weird gay girls."

Love Lies Bleeding is now in theatres