Filmmaker James Gray’s “Armageddon Time” opens in limited theaters on October 28. The drama, a 1980s period piece, sees Gray return to his roots in New York. But instead of a crime drama, like his early New York films, “Little Odessa,” “The Yards,” and “We Own The Night,” his latest is a deeply personal, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale about family, privilege, the American dream, and saying goodbye to the past.
Based on his own childhood in 1980s New York, “Armageddon Time” centers on the Graffs, a middle-class Jewish family living in Queens, with the story largely being told through the eyes of 9-year-old Paul Graff (Banks Repeta). His father, Irving (Jeremy Strong from “Succession”), is a working-class plumber, his mother, Esther is played by Anne Hathaway, and his empathetic grandfather—the moral conscience of the film—Aaron Rabinowitz (Anthony Hopkins), is always encouraging Paul to never give up on his dreams in the face of semi-strict parents always concerned with his grades.
READ MORE: ‘Armageddon Time’ Review: James Gray Reflects On Privilege & Says Goodbye To The Past With Great Empathy [Cannes]
Much of the drama and inner turmoil for Paul in “Armageddon Time” is being separated from his best friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb), a Black kid at his local public school. When the two of them are caught smoking marijuana in school, Paul’s parents panic and put him in a private school, the distance and social milieu of it all pulling the two friends apart.
We spoke to Gray, Repeta, and Webb about the film, and during the end of the interview, he revealed he hopes to make a sequel at some point,” this time focusing on his mother, the character played by Anne Hathaway in the film.
“You know what I would really love to do? I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly yet. Because there are a lot of things I’m interested in. There’s something about Norman Mailer I’m interested in. But that’s a very long process, this TV stuff,” he said, alluding to the Normal Mailer TV series that he’s working on that sounds like it’s still gestating.
“But I’m really interested in making a kind of ‘[Armageddon Time’] sequel about what happened to my mother,” Gray added. “The story goes in a very unexpected place because my father actually did achieve some financial success but wound up getting it all confiscated by the government when he got into legal trouble. At the same time, my mother found out she was dying. And so, it’s going to be, I think, something about that period.”
Gray’s mother died of brain cancer, and Repeta chimed in, noting that Gray had put in a kind of nod to that in the movie.
“There’s a scene where she has a headache in the kitchen,” Repeta said, alluding to the moment.
“That’s exactly why I put that in [the movie],” Gray said. “Yep, you’re quite right. So hopefully, we’ll get to do that. And so I’m going to have to con the boys and everyone into coming back. The only person who can’t come back is [Anthony Hopkins], but maybe through flashbacks.”
Gray stressed he hadn’t even started writing the film yet, but it’s definitely something currently percolating in his mind at the moment. Focus Features will release “Armageddon Time” in select theaters on October 28, 2022, and in theaters everywhere on November 4. More from this interview soon.