In Scott Foley's Let's Kill Ward's Wife, a dark comedy about getting away with murder, there is a surprising underlying theme: gender role-swapping. In the film — which Foley wrote, directed, and starred in — Ward (Donald Faison) is emotionally abused by his wife, Stacy (Dagmara Dominczyk), and through a series of unfortunate events, she ends up dead. In a killing that is much different than what Jake does in B-613 on Scandal, Foley's character, Tom, is the one behind the murder, and from there, he and his group of friends work to cover up the kind-of-accidental act. At first snuff, it may not look sound like a stereotype-breaking film, but as you dig a little deeper, the roles which husbands and wives play in the movie are swapped intentionally.
When I chatted with Foley about the film, he explained how his 12-day shoot on a "shoestring budget" had him surrounded by family and friends. No, really — the cast features a few pairs of husband and wife actors: Foley's wife, Marika Dominczyk, plays his real-life brother-in-law Patrick Wilson's wife; Wilson's wife plays murdered wife Stacy; and star and producer James Carpinello's wife, Amy Acker, plays Foley's onscreen wife. Now try to wrap your head around that in addition to the crazy murder cover-up.
At its core, Let's Kill Ward's Wife is a story about friendships growing apart as people get married and have kids. Foley says that the idea stemmed from his own experiences of his group starting to "fracture a bit," but it turned into a story about getting pulled apart to literally sawing a body apart. "When I looked up, I had a dark, very dry, sometimes gruesome dark comedy, and I kind of liked it," Foley explains. But he promises the idea of actually murdering someone's wife never crossed his mind. "There's never been any sort of real violence or desire to commit murder in my life," he says. "You know, aside from maybe a few haters on Twitter every now and then."
As for the murder itself, Foley notes that he's already seen Internet commenters abuzz with how killing someone's wife is an act of domestic violence, but he sees it in a different light.
"For people who actually go see this film, I think they'll see it as a role reversal with regards to domestic violence. And it's not, of course, the ideal way to get out of a situation like that. You never want it to happen. But it's a film, and it's a comedy. And in this film, that action of getting rid of the abuser turns the lives of this group of people around for the better, and it's a really interesting way — or at least I thought it was — to look at that. And it's honest. Sometimes bad things lead to new hope, and that's sort of what happens to all of these characters."
Domestic violence wasn't the only role reversal that Foley tackled. Overall, he had a "very intentional" message to get out about fighting against stereotypes:
"I hope that part of the interesting thing about the film is that there are very specific gender roles that we play. That men are the strong ones, that they are the sexually hungry, and that men are the abusers. And those are stereotypes. And to play against those stereotypes ... the men [in the film] are very representative of a lot of the men in my life. I like to think we're good people and treat our wives well, but there are times when we feel too put upon. We feel too tired for sex! There is a bunch of stuff that happens, and we're all human. Just because you're a man or a woman doesn't mean you have to feel one way or another way. We all have emotions, and I think you get too gender-specific with them sometimes."
With that being said, does Foley consider himself a feminist? Not quite, but he believes in equality.
"I don't consider myself a feminist. I'm pretty neutral and that sounds very boring, but I'm pretty boring. I consider myself an observer and a storyteller, and whether as an actor, a writer, or a director, I love to watch people and look at the roles that they play, the conflicts that they're in, what makes them happy, and what makes them sad. And how they treat their children and how they walk their dog. All of that finds their way into my f*cked up head and makes stories somehow. I advocate for the homeless and the hungry and kids and I work with UNICEF and the cancer research society, but no, I wouldn't consider myself a feminist. I wouldn't call myself… well, I'm an everythingist! I just don't know. I'm an equalitist, is that right?"
With stereotypes aside, the true center of the film is of course the murder, which Foley researched in depth — all online. His investigation was so intense that it actually instilled fear in him that the police would show up at his door.
"I'm amazed that no one showed up to my house like, 'Hi, Mr. Foley, we're just making sure you're not burring any dead bodies.' It is just a rat hole of information out there that you can go deeper and deeper and deeper on the internet," he says. The most insane was one that actually didn't make the script, but it will definitely make you shudder.
"If you cover a body in kitty litter, within 30 days it will completely eat it up. It depends on the type of litter, it has to have a certain chemical, but it will turn it into like jelly," he explains. "It's amazing. It's terrifying — kitty litter! Who the hell comes up with this?"
Let's Kill Ward's Wife is available on iTunes and On Demand now, and hits select theaters on Jan. 9.
Images: Tribeca Film (3)