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THE KILL ROOM takes on the cut-throat art world with a delightful, dare I say pointed, juxtaposition with the world of contract killers. This droll confection tells the tale of a clever money laundering scheme dreamed up by The Black Dreidel (Samuel L. Jackson) based on the pretention and FOMO of art as commodity. In it, struggling New York gallery owner Patrice, played by Uma Thurman, pretends to sell the very bad art created by a hit man who goes by the name of The Bag Man (Joe Manganiello). The plan doesn’t just succeed, it blows up as The Bag Man becomes the art world’s new darling with the requisite complications of promoting an artist with a great deal to hide.
The question Nicol Paone always gets about THE KILL ROOM is how Thurman, who plays the harried, desperate Patrice, asked Paone if Samuel L. Jackson was a possibility as a co-star. When I spoke with the director on November 3, 2023, I joined that bandwagon, but I wanted to know what the re-write was like to change the character from an old Yiddish-speaking Jewish deli owner from Brooklyn into a vibrant Yiddish-speaking African-American deli owner from Brooklyn named The Black Dreidel.
We started, though, with Paone, a gallery-owner herself, approached the script by Jonathan Jacobson, and particularly having a female lead character driven not by a search for romance, but rather by a will to succeed in the capricious contemporary art world.
She went on to describe what it was like to have a fine artist create the bad art that is used to launder money through Patrice’s gallery, the value of cachet, and FOMO.
We finished up with location, location, location.
The film stars co-stars Maya Hawke, Larry Pine, Amy Keum, and Debi Mazar as The Kimono. Paone directed from a script by Jonathan Jacobson, and her previous work includes FRIENDSGIVING.