In the new drama Trust, directed by David Schwimmer, Clive Owen and Catherine Keener portray Will and Lynn Cameron, the parents of a 14-year-old daughter Annie (Liana Liberato). When she makes a new friend online – a 16-year-old boy named Charlie, whom she met in a volleyball chat room – Will and Lynn don’t think much about it.
But after weeks of communicating, Annie secretly agrees to meet Charlie at the mall, and discovers he’s really a 35-year-old man. Their meeting ends in Annie having sex with Charlie in a motel room. When Will and Lynn find out what happened to their daughter, their whole family begins to disintegrate.
What was it about this project that interested you?
Clive Owen: It was a hugely impressive script, beautifully written. I have two daughters so I could relate to this father’s angst and found the script to be very uncompromising in how it explains one of the big topics of modern lives – children and the internet and how they relate.
This is a subject everybody should be thinking about and looking at really, the way our children use the internet, relate on the internet is a huge thing at the moment and I think that the whole thing has moved so quickly. My kids know more about how to use their computers than I do. And the things they can do on the computers are way beyond what I can do on a computer.
Catherine Keener: David and I have the same agent and have been friends for years, so I knew about the subject material. When I read the script, I was expecting something good; I just didn’t realize how powerful it was. It was very thought-provoking and completely upsetting. The script shows the internet in a certain way which we haven’t yet fully explored in movies.
Liana Liberato: I auditioned four times. When I first auditioned it was quite intimidating, but by the last time, it was a chemistry read where I read with Clive and Catherine. I got past [the fact] that these two actors in my last audition were well-known in the industry; they just became my mother and father in the scene.
Clive: It was hugely important to cast someone as close to the real age as possible. Liana is an amazing find because it’s big to ask a girl that age to explore the stuff she’s been asked to explore.
Audiences can smell experience. Since this movie is about the loss of innocence, with Liana in the role, she shows this youthfulness and fragility with this incredible maturity. I’m totally convinced that we are watching the beginning of something quite major when it comes to Liana.
Catherine: Liana’s part is so demanding. I really admire that she still is a young teenager, but she has taken on this role with such poise and courage.
How hard was it for you to do the motel scene?
Liana: It was tough obviously, it’s really tough material, but I believe that the director sets the atmosphere for the whole cast and crew and we all feed off of that. Any time the camera wasn’t rolling we were all just having a good time and laughing and we were just one big family on the set, so there was really no tension at all.
What was the most frightening aspect to this story for you?
Catherine: This is my opinion, but I realized that kids aren’t stranger-phobic. They talk to them all the time. One girl I know, she’s 17, was watching the movie and she said basically that Annie asked for it. She said, ‘I was aware of all of this and hip to it, and active at 11.’ I said, ‘I need to deprogram you!’ I think that was why I wanted to do this film, to try and educate people a little bit more.
This movie isn’t only about the devastation Annie goes through, it’s about the whole family falling apart.
Clive: A big part of the story really is about the fracturing of the family after the event. The cliché version of this film is that a terrible thing happens and all the family comes together and soldiers on, and give each other lots of love and get through it.
The reality is that people act differently under that kind of stress. I equate the incident itself to a bereavement and tracking the way it fractures what looks like a very healthy family in the beginning, was really one of the attractions of wanting to do the film. I thought it was so well-plotted in the script, and it felt very believable and real. For me the heart of the piece is to really try to [live through] all these very awkward real moments after an event like that.
One of the themes in this is the loss of innocence. Do you think that the internet is the cause of that, or is it just that times have changed?
Clive: The internet has changed radically the way kids relate to each other. When I was young we didn’t use the internet. When you talked and you had relationships you did it face to face, you saw people, you found things out through engaging with people. It’s not the same anymore.
Kids have incredibly intense relationships through what they think is the safety of just sitting there typing, and it’s kind of false, it’s not real, they’re not really experiencing the intimacy of the relationship.
What was your internet life like before this movie and what is it like now?
Liana: Prior to this movie I was obviously involved with the internet. I just remember getting on MySpace when I was 10 because my friend signed me on, and I really wasn’t aware how dangerous it could be. And then when I got involved with this film I really changed my perspective on things, and I’m definitely a lot safer on the internet.
I have a friend who actually was involved with someone on the internet and I gave her a long talk about it. It was shocking. So definitely it opened my eyes to things, and I’m definitely more cautious and I’m open with my parents about everything, my mom knows my passwords.