If someone showed a keen interest in your work and happened to know everything you’d done, would you be flattered – or unnerved?
That’s the opening question in “Losing Alice,” a thriller premiering this month on Apple TV+.
“I think she’s shameless,” says Lihi Kornowski, the actress who plays Sophie, a writer who approaches Alice, a 40-something director who feels like her best days are behind her. “Suddenly out of nowhere, this young lady comes and starts talking about (her) career. She knows too much…and at the same time, she’s annoying.”
Ayelet Zurer, who plays Alice, doesn’t see the approach as that of a fan, but as that of an equal. “There are many sides to that relationship,” she says during a Zoom interview. “It’s a young fan who wants to be you, who maybe has more talent than you or is equally talented. You feel like you don’t have the guts and courage to do what they do…so there’s the complexity of it.”
Writer/director Sigal Avin says there’s very much an “All About Eve” relationship between the two but she never had anyone specific in mind when she started writing it.
“I usually start all of my projects imagining myself (in the roles),” she says. “And then I start looking for the right person to play the part.”
For the eight-part Israeli series, she only had one actor in mind – Yossi Marshak, who plays Alice’s neighbor.
For the key roles – Alice, Sophie and Alice’s husband, David – she held auditions. Zurer was among those she called. “She wanted me to read a certain line,” Zurer says, “but I felt so strongly about the scenes I needed a real actor opposite me (to make it work). I let it go and Sigal continued with the casting process.”
Because Zurer was living in the United States (and “Alice” was set to be shot in Israel), she figured it just wasn’t going to happen. “My mom came to visit me in the U.S. and broke her elbow and had to go back home,” Zurer says.
Accompanying her mother to Israel, she heard from Avin, who told her she had one more day of auditions. “I knew this was it…I read with Lihi and Gal (Toren, who plays David) and it was beautiful.”
In the series, Sophie shares a screenplay she has written that would be ideal for Alice to direct. Since David is an actor, it also would be ideal for him to play the male lead in the film. Naturally, Sophie is right to play the female lead. Quickly, the pieces fall into place and control begins to shift. There’s a Faustian angle, too, that makes the drama even more complicated.
While Kornowski says she never has met someone as bold as Sophie, Toren says he has – “and it didn’t end well.”
The story, he adds, plays on Alice’s insecurity. As with life, “it’s like 99 percent insecure and one percent the rest. The thrilling side is 'what people might give to take what they think is theirs' – which is self-recognition.”
The key to sidestepping a Sophie/Alice experience, Kornowski says, is to avoid contact with those who might want something more. “If you don’t have any contact with them or any interest in them, it’s easy to say, ‘Bye.’ That’s the end of the story.”
But, as Avin shows, if you let an outsider in who could taken advantage, plenty is possible.
"Losing Alice" begins streaming Jan. 21 on AppleTV+. The production features English subtitles.